Discovering Dominga: Indigenous Migration and the Logics of Indigenous Displacement


  • Floridalma Boj Lopez



This article examines the ways in which Indigenous migrants are folded into the logics of settler colonialism through an analysis of the human rights film Discovering Dominga (2003). The documentary follows Denese Joy Becker/Dominga Sic Ruiz, who was adopted by a white family as a child, as she comes to learn that she is a survivor of the 1982 Río Negro Massacres committed in Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, against the Maya Achí people. Through visual analysis I examine how Indigenous displacement and transnational adoption are contextualized within the film to reproduce settler-colonial logics of Native elimination. Through a transnational reading of Indigeneity, this article argues that the film emphasizes Indigenous genocide as something that occurs only in other countries and not in Denese/Dominga’s U.S. hometown of Algona, Iowa. As a result, the film erases Algona’s own history of Indigenous dispossession and absolves everyday white U.S. citizens of extending to Indigenous migrant people the genocidal practices produced through settler colonialism.