This River Is Our Relative
November 9, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.
Collins Center for the Arts
FREE Admission

This River Is Our Relative

Thursday, November 9, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.
Collins Center for the Arts

     “This River is Our Relative” is a new Sunlight Media Collective documentary about the Penobscot Nation’s intrinsic kinship connection to and tireless environmental advocacy for the Penobscot River. The story is told through the voices of 24 Penobscot people, who share their experience of historical, physical, and spiritual connection to place; of cultural identity and survival. Their narratives are interwoven with a traditional Wabanaki story about how The People and Glouskap defeated a greedy monster frog, Aklebemu, who was hoarding all the water. This story parallels both historical and present day environmental concerns, and is also the origin story of the Penobscot family Clans. “You can point to any aspect of our culture from a riverine perspective,” says Penobscot Cultural and Historic Preservation Dept. Director James E. Francis, Sr.

      This documentary shows the Penobscot Nation’s dedication to environmental justice and their efforts to minimize pollution, demonstrates the importance of respecting inherent Tribal sovereignty, and celebrates Penobscot peoples’ ongoing river-based cultural traditions. As people who have lived in reciprocity with the Penobscot River for over 10,000 years, there is nobody more committed than the Penobscot people to protecting the health of this watershed. “It is our responsibility to care for that River, for all of us,” explains Penobscot activist and filmmaker Dawn Neptune Adams. Despite many obstacles including ongoing territorial theft and a rapidly increasing number of pollutants, the Penobscot Nation and its people continue to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the health of their beloved Relative, the Penobscot River.  “I always come back to the water because that’s where I belong. It’s my Relative,” explains Penobscot Elder Kathy Paul, “and I want to stay and support that Relative.”

The film is free to watch online and Sunlight Media Collective encourages public screenings. Please join us for an Aftertalk



  • Jennifer Neptune — Panawahpskewi (Penobscot), Basketmaker, Beader, Herbalist.
  • • Jus Crea Giammarino, ND — Panawahpskewi (Penobscot) and Naturopathic Doctor.
    • Gabe Paul — Panawahpskewi (Penobscot), Penobscot Language Instructor at Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation Department.
    • Jan Paul —Panawahpskewi (Penobscot), Water Resources Field and Lab Technician at Penobscot Nation Department of Natural Resources.
    • Kathy Paul (Panawahpskewi (Penobscot) Elder, Co-Director of This River is Our Relative, member of Sunlight Media Collective.
  • Maria Girouard — (Panawahpskewi (Penobscot), Penobscot Tribal Council Member, Historian, Executive Director of Wabanaki REACH, Founder of Dawnland Environmental Defense, Co-Founder of Sunlight Media Collective,Senior Advisor/Writer/Consulting Editor for This River is Our Relative.
  • Darren Ranco, UMaine Associate Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Native American Research


University of Maine Land Acknowledgement:

The University of Maine recognizes that it is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation, where issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are ongoing. Penobscot homeland is connected to the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations — the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’kmaq — through kinship, alliances and diplomacy. The university also recognizes that the Penobscot Nation and the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations are distinct, sovereign, legal and political entities with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination.

Trailer for This River is Our Relative:

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