A small Maine town decides the fate of its
American Indian mascot after facing public allegations of racist behavior at a high school football game.
Recipient of the 2023 Tourmaline Prize for
Best Feature made in Maine
26th Maine International Film Festival
9/21 8pm - Global Peace Film Festival - Orlando, FL
9/23 6:30pm - The Gem Theater - Bethel, ME
9/29 2pm - Monadnock International Film Festival - Keene, NH
For nearly sixty years, students and alumni of Wells High School in Maine have called themselves the “Warriors.” Their yearbook is named for the Abenaki, the Indigenous people the town’s settlers first encountered in the 1600s. The school’s mascot, variations of a stoic Native American head in profile with braids and feathered headband, has drawn both support and criticism in the past. However, during the 2017 fall athletic season, an incident shocks the town and reignites the debate.
After a home football game, a story appears in the Portland Press Herald reporting that Warriors fans mocked Native culture – that they made “Indian” whooping calls and donned “war paint.” The witness to these transgressions is the mother of the visiting team's quarterback, herself an Abegweit Mi’kmaq from one of the five sovereign Wabanaki Tribal Nations of what is now called Maine and the Canadian Maritime provinces. Pressure mounts as other press outlets pick up the story and the town is compelled to respond, forming a committee to investigate the incident and consider the fate of the community's beloved mascot.
We Are The Warriors follows the citizenry of Wells, a population that includes Indigenous Peoples, as they convene to speak, hear each other, and seek consensus. And by inviting Wabanaki voices from across the state to join the conversation, including the mother whose experience ignited the debate, the residents of Wells work to better understand the lasting effects of their colonial past and how it relates to the present day impact of their good intentions.
WHY IT MATTERS
From small school districts across the country to professional sports teams, the caricatures, costumes, chants, and team names that reduce and generalize Native American peoples and culture are being challenged like never before. During this era of divisive rhetoric and refusal to compromise, the quality of dialogue required to navigate controversial issues often seems impossible to achieve. How the approximately 1,200 schools across the country that still use American Indian mascots and names handle the seemingly inevitable conflict remains to be seen.
As for Wells, We Are The Warriors chronicles the Mascot Advisory Committee's difficult work as modern sensibilities collide very publicly with a small town’s traditions. The film shows the good faith felt by those who've joined the dialogue, and in the end, as intrusive or painful as the process seems, the community remains bound – even in the absence of imagery once revered as essential to its identity.
We Are The Warriors (72 minutes) premiered at the 26th Maine International Film Festival in July of 2023 where it won the Tourmaline Prize for best feature made in Maine. Applications to additional festivals are underway, as are plans for an hour-long version of the film for public television. Funding for the development of an online learning curriculum has been secured, and outreach to communities and public school systems using Indigenous names and imagery will begin once completed.
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Portland Press Herald
Producer/Directors David Camlin and Megan Grumbling are both graduates of Wells High School who grew up on Tatnic Hill and over by Ell Pond, respectively. They remain good friends to this day and each live in Portland, Maine.
David (Producer/Director/Editor) is an independent filmmaker, editor, and video producer who is drawn to stories about human connection. His more recent work as an editor includes Welcome to Commie High (2020), a feature length documentary about the founding and legacy of an alternative public high school with an hour long PBS version that has been aired more than 1,400 times on national PBS stations. El Lobo y La Paloma (2019) is a flamenco inspired live performance about loss, grief, and our connection to the spiritual world. The film and accompanying educational material is currently available in corrections facilities nationwide via the tablet based learning system Edovo, and through online and theatrical screenings. After nearly twelve years of continually producing and editing independent documentary films, David is looking forward to a few months of downtime before finding his next project.
Megan (Producer/Director) is a writer, editor, teacher, and writing mentor. She earned her Master’s Degree in cultural reporting at New York University, and since then has written regularly about film, theater, and social issues for the Portland Phoenix, Dispatch, The Chart and other journals. Her recent publications include Persephone in the Late Anthropocene, a collection of poetry exploring environmental crisis and the nature of story itself; and Booker's Point, an oral history-inspired portrait-in-verse about an old Maine woodsman and his home on Ell Pond. She also wrote and co-directed the short film Carrying Place, an allegory about cultural amnesia that was featured as part of Best of the Maine International Film Festival and screened on Maine Public Television; and she shares writer-director credit on the immersive film installation She Dives Down, about the fluid nature of narrative.
Joanna Weaver is an editor and grant writer for Sunlight Media Collective. Her recent work includes co-directing and editing "This River is Our Relative" and editing "Kihtahkomikumon (Our Land) - #IsLandBack in Passamaquoddy Territory." Originally from Gouldsboro, Maine, Joanna now lives in southwestern Colorado and is producing an independent film about the impact of storytelling.
Johnny Gagnon Jr. runs Tomekin Media, a production company based in Portland, Maine. He is the great-grandson of Leslie and Val Ranco, a Penobscot couple who started the Indian Moccasin Shop in Wells that is still run by the Ranco family today. Johnny named his production company after his great-grandfather Leslie's nickname, "Chief Tomekin." In addition to running Tomekin Media, Johnny is a big family person. He loves walking his dog, supporting his wife in her career, and helping to raise their two amazing children.
Sierra Henries (Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck) is a birch bark artist and member of Sunlight Media Collective living at the intersection of Passamaquoddy & Penobscot homelands (Sullivan, Maine). Her work has allowed her to participate in Indigenous arts events throughout New England, the Deep South, and Canada. She is a videographer and consulting editor for Sunlight Media Collective’s film "This River is Our Relative” and a production assistant for "Kihtahkomikumon (Our Land) - #IsLandBack in Passamaquoddy Territory."
Mali Obomsawin is a citizen of the Odanak (Abenaki) First Nation. She is a musician, educator, racial justice advocate, writer, and #landback organizer. Mali plays music professionally as Mali Obomsawin (bassist, singer-songwriter, composer), and with the band Lula Wiles (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings). Her debut album Sweet Tooth (Out of Your Head Records, 2022) has garnered international acclaim, named in ‘best of the year’ lists from The Guardian, NPR, and JazzTimes upon its release. As a writer, Mali works for Sunlight Media Collective and has recently published freelance work in The Boston Globe and Smithsonian Folklife Magazine while serving as the Executive Director of the Wabanaki-led nonprofit Bomazeen Land Trust.
Additional Camera & Audio
Osihkiyol (Zeke) Crofton-Macdonald (Wolastoqey) serves as the Tribal Ambassador for the Houlton Band of Maliseets and is a member of Welamukotuk First Nation in New Brunswick and the Houlton Band of Maliseets in Maine. He is currently writing a thesis on Wabanaki Treaty history while pursuing a Master's in History at the University of New Brunswick. Zeke is the Houlton Band of Maliseets' Tribal Co-Commissioner on the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission and has spent his life advocating for Wabanaki People; for Wabanaki Public Health as the Nikan’usk (Youth) Coordinator for the Maliseet and Micmac Nations in Maine, Indian Child Welfare Services at the Houlton Band of Maliseets, and Resource Development Consultation at St Mary’s First Nation and Oromocto First Nation.
Donald Harrison (Consulting Producer) launched 7 Cylinders Studio in 2012 and serves as lead producer & director, working on client projects in all aspects of production, strategy and outreach. As an independent filmmaker he’s produced and directed two feature documentaries—Welcome to Commie High and The Rockstar of Real Estate—and previously served as Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival from 2008 – 2012 through its historic 50th season.