When you’re born on land your ancestors stole, can you live here with integrity? IN THE WAKE OF OUR ANCESTORS (95 minutes) follows filmmaker Angela Watrous and her aging father on a cross-country reckoning with their 400-year history of settler-colonizer ancestry.
From the California home their family could only legally buy in 1951 because they were “wholly white,” to the Santa Fe Trail junction in New Mexico renamed for their virulently anti-Native grandfather, to the Connecticut site of the genocidal 1637 Pequot massacre enacted by eighty Englishmen including their ancestor—the filmmaker and her father learn about their ancestors’ harm and their resulting responsibilities today.
IN THE WAKE OF OUR ANCESTORS resists the self-forgiving myth that all Americans are immigrants, instead grappling with the dilemma of being descended from settler-colonizers—people who violently imposed an invasive society on an existing and long-standing people, culture, and thriving ecosystem. The film also explores the psychospiritual dilemma at the heart of our culture wars: How do you make peace with your ancestors—and thus your own existence—if you acknowledge the full ongoing force of their violence, and how do you live in right relation with the descendants of those they harmed and still feel good about your people? How much of our widespread depression, addiction, and family violence are an intergenerational wake of cultural trauma? And what can we do to heal our open festering wounds?