A new documentary film that explores the conflict between the state of Maine and the Penobscot Nation over contested river territory will be shown Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m. in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

The screening of “The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory” 2015, USA) will be introduced by Maria Girouard, who also will lead a follow-up discussion of the film and the issues it raises. She is a Penobscot historian and co-founder of the Sunlight Media Collective, which has just released the film.

This screening is jointly sponsored by the Waldo County Peace and Justice League and 350 Waldo County. The documentary explores stories from the 1700s up through the present-day legal battle of Penobscot Nation v. Mills; and illustrates the Penobscots' centuries-long fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations.

The documentary release closely follows a meeting between Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis and President Obama in which they discussed the Penobscot Nation v. Mills case. The Penobscot Nation is suing the state of Maine in response to a decision by former Attorney General William Schneider that the Penobscot Indian reservation, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include any portion of the water — a decision that amounts to territorial theft by the state. Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for Oct. 14 at the US District Court in Portland.

The case is taking place in the context of a larger state battle over river jurisdiction and water quality standards. In February, the federal EPA ruled that Maine must improve its water quality standards to protect Penobscot sustenance fishing rights. Gov. Paul LePage has called the ruling “outrageous” and threatened to relinquish state regulatory responsibilities to the federal EPA if the ruling was not reversed. “The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory” chronicles the Penobscots’ struggle to maintain their centuries-long stewardship to ensure a healthy ecosystem for all of Maine, a struggle exemplified by these contemporary legal battles.

According to Francis, the Penobscot v. Mills case “is really not about controlling the river system, or controlling individuals within the system. It’s really about our ability to manage a subsistence resource that we have a responsibility for, for multiple generations.”

Funded by Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, the film is available for free online at sunlightmediacollective.org. The Sunlight Media Collective is a collaboration between Penobscot and non-native filmmakers. The film is just one example of a surge of activism and work on issues affecting the Wabanaki tribes. In October, Upstander Productions also will release a short documentary titled “First Light,” about the recently completed Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

For more information about “The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory,” contact sunlightmediacollective@gmail.com. For more information about the Belfast screening and discussion, contact Bob Shaw at bshw86@gmail.com or 338-4450.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.