By Mia Tocas


On accepting identity, raising cross-culture awareness, protecting ICWA, and unraveling historical trauma. “Daughter of a Lost Bird” is a documentary that educates audiences about issues affecting contemporary Native people and the effects that “settler privileges” impose on the intricate cultural genocide of Indigenous people.

CASCADIA will bring back “Daughter of a Lost Bird” for an encore screening at the Pickford Film Center in downtown Bellingham on Monday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. for Native American Heritage month. CASCADIA will also present the film online on Thursday, Nov. 17- Sunday, Nov. 20 and Thursday, Nov. 24- Sunday, Nov. 27.  Click here for the trailer. 

In the film, director Brooke Swaney explores the social justice issues that plague Indigenous communities while simultaneously taking viewers through a bittersweet story of an Indigenous woman, Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, reconnecting with her birth mother, April. Her mother is also a Native adoptee who was out of touch with her heritage. Together, they unite with relatives to learn more about their roots and learn what it means to be Native and to belong to a tribe from the outside looking in.  Much of the film was shot in and around Lummi Nation. 

Kendra, right, with her birth mother, April, in a scene from the film.

Through the journey, Potter discovers generations of emotional and spiritual glory and grief and unpacks the realization that she is living proof of the impacts of U.S. assimilationist policy.

Prior to the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a disturbingly high percentage of Native children were separated from their families. 1 in every 3 or 4 Native children (25%–35%) was being removed from their parents; of these, 85% were placed outside of their families and communities.  The U.S. Supreme Court has a challenge to the ICWA on its current docket and will hear potentially the most important Indian law case in a generation when it decides whether Congress exceeded its constitutional powers when it enacted ICWA in 1978.

In areas with higher Native population rates, the number of Native children in foster care is over represented— most Native families have been caught in the cross-hairs of adoption and foster care in some way. 

Starting with the trauma of boarding schools, moving to the 1950s and 1960s adoption project, leading to the current foster care crisis—people are left trying to pick up the pieces of their divided families. 

Although she has told Native stories before, this is Swaney’s first story delivered as a feature documentary. Swaney is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and is a descendant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. She holds an MFA in Film from NYU.

Tickets for the Pickford screening are available here through the Pickford Film Center. Tickets for the online screening may be purchased through CASCADIA here

Funding for this event made possible in part through a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

CASCADIA Executive Director Cheryl Crooks, right, with director Brooke Swaney and Kendra Potter.