About the Film

The Wabanaki come to the blueberry barrens of Maine to participate in the largest wild blueberry harvest in the world. 

This migration is part of their traditional sustenance life-style, a way of gathering from the earth. Families and extended families arrive at company owned camps and live in cabins on the remote barrens of Washington County. During the weeks of the harvest they hand rake the blueberry gullies and fields and at day’s end share camp activities.

Conversations in the cabins and the fields are interspersed with stunning views of the glacial barrens of Down East Maine as the film follows the rakers’ lives. In interviews with the tribal owned company and elders from the Canadian Wabanaki the film documents the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s struggle to find a necessary balance between traditional work and the realities of tribal financial independence.

Nancy Ghertner, documentary director, began research into the hand harvesting of blueberries in Down East Maine in 2013 with field videography, interviews, and visits with blueberry companies in Washington County. The unique story that became “Voices from the Barrens” began with an invitation by an Eskasoni First Nation family from Cape Breton, to visit their camp. This led to Nancy’s meeting the Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Company and filming their harvests. Through encounters and interviews with ninety people the story unfolded. The production team visited First Nation communities at Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, Eskasoni, Nova Scotia and the Passamaquoddy communities of Sipayik and Motahkomikuk in Maine to meet tribal elders and hear their personal stories of this gathering tradition.

Blueberry Raker Camp.

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About the Film