Truth, healing and 'Bad River: A Story of Defiance'

Man and his son at Waverly Beach. © Richard Schultz 2022. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films.

The documentary “Bad River: A Story of Defiance” was released in March. With it, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration lean into the commitment to recognize our complicity in historical trauma. Engagement in the implementation of unjust policies and doctrines at St. Mary’s Boarding School in Odanah, Wisconsin, resulted in the displacement, assimilation and genocide of countless Indigenous communities. The Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibwe was one of them.

The documentary, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio, focuses on the fight of the Bad River Band against Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline. This project threatens the waters and the tribe’s legacy. The film also explores historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples — including the many generations affected by St. Mary’s.

Isthmus, a news source based in Madison, Wisconsin, published the article “A history of defiance” about the film. “Extraordinarily, only four non-Natives have a voice here,” reads the story, including that of Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Eileen McKenzie. She appears in the film and acknowledges “complicity in ‘cultural genocide’ in [FSPA’s] treatment of Bad River school children. ‘Our congregation as well as other congregations were involved in a system of white supremacy,’ she says. ‘It was racist.’”

The FSPA community is committed to the ministry of Truth and Healing by continuing to research and educate all about the history and impact of the boarding school era. Cultivating relationships with Indigenous peoples with whom we share a history and/or occupy  ancestral lands is our priority. Sisters, affiliates and FSPA partners in mission who have viewed the film are sharing reflections of their experience.

Left and middle: Danny Wiggins at the Bad River Pow Wow. © Richard Schultz 2022. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films.
Right: Jingle dresses at the Bad River Pow Wow. © Richard Schultz 2022. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films.

Georgia Christensen, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

“I was fortunate to be able to view the Bad River documentary at the theater in Ashland, Wisconsin, along with members of the Bad River Band, Diocese of Superior Bishop James P. Powers and Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Roselyn Heil, who serves at St. Mary’s Parish. We were very well received and appreciated for providing the film for the tribal members. The negative effects of the Enbridge Pipeline on the Bad River people are very real.”

Karen Lueck, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

“I was profoundly moved by the film! While it documented the suffering that the Bad River Tribe has endured through the years, it is a powerful reminder of the resiliency they have shown as people. They are grounded by their tribal rituals and drumming, and propelled forward by their love and concern for their seventh-generation descendants.”

Meg Paulino, affiliate, FSPA Archivist

“Bad River brilliantly unveils the enduring struggles of the Bad River Tribe and the ongoing environmental injustices they confront. The documentary amplifies marginalized voices with its masterful storytelling, cultivating a profound understanding and empathy for the tribe's resilience in adversity. It is a poignant testament to the formidable challenges Indigenous communities face in safeguarding their land, heritage and cultural identity. Moreover, the documentary skillfully sheds light on the deep-seated intergenerational trauma inflicted by the boarding school system, leaving an indelible mark on the Tribe's social fabric and collective memory. Ultimately, it  compellingly urges viewers to acknowledge their shared responsibility in addressing these injustices, underscoring the interconnectedness of humanity and the Earth in fostering healing, clean water and justice for all.”

Lynn Wegner, FSPA Life Enrichment Director

“Bad River is a powerful testament to the resilience of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, despite generations of systemic abuse and trauma. May white people be inspired to join them in their fight against Enbridge Energy to preserve clean water for everyone.”

To learn more about the film, visit


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