Documentary on Penobscot Nation River Case Nominated for New England Emmy


Published June 3, 2016

INDIAN ISLAND, MAINE — On Saturday June 4th, representatives of the Sunlight Media Collective will travel to the Boston/New England Emmy Awards Ceremony in Boston. In April, the Sunlight Media Collective was nominated for a Boston/New England Emmy for “The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory,” a documentary film that illustrates the history of the Penobscot Tribe’s fight to retain their sustenance fishing rights and territory in the Penobscot River, from the 1700s to current day. The film also focuses on the Tribe’s environmental stewardship, including the current work of the Penobscot Department of Natural Resources. The film was broadcast on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network in December 2016.

“The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory” highlights the currently unfolding story of the controversial and historic case Penobscot Nation v Janet Mills, in which Maine’s Attorney General claims the Tribe’s territory, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include the river itself. Since the film was completed, US District Court Judge, George Singal decided on the case in December 2015, affirming that the Penobscot Tribe does have sustenance fishing rights in the Penobscot River surrounding their reservation’s islands. However, on the issue of river jurisdiction, Judge Singal sided with the State. In April, the Penobscot Nation and the US Department of Justice filed to appeal the US District Court decision.

“For the Penobscot, this is one of the most important issues facing the tribe today,” says the film’s co-writer/director, Meredith DeFrancesco. “It not only impacts Penobscot  territory, but Penobscot sovereignty and cultural identity.”

The Sunlight Media Collective is a collaboration of Wabanaki and non-Wabanaki media makers. This is Sunlight Media’s first film. They continue to create content  on the river case, and related issues, including the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, the only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, is featuring the Sunlight Media Collective’s work in their new core exhibit , People of the First Light, which opened May 1st.

The documentary can be viewed in full at

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