Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Indian Nation talks about the purpose and goals of the Maine/Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Day of Prayer to Precede Seating of Wabanaki-Maine's Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners

Gale Courey Toensing
2/4/13

 

When the Wabanaki tribes and the State of Maine signed an agreement in the spring of 2011 to create a Maine/Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Process to heal the past abuses of Indian children in the state child welfare system, they envisioned a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the process. Now the TRC members are calling for a day of prayer to help prepare them for the difficult work ahead.

The Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission announced in a press release that A Day of Reflection, Meditation and Prayer will take place on February 11 when people all over the state will be asked to pause at 11 a.m. to think about the importance of the TRC process and how everyone can support its three-part objective to uncover the truth, promote healing, and make recommendations for the best child welfare practices.

The following day, February 12, the five TRC members who were named in December by a Truth and Reconciliation Selection Panel will be officially sworn in at a ceremony at Morgan Hill Event Center, Hermon, Maine, beginning at 10 a.m. The commissioners are Matt Dunlap, Old Town, Maine; gkisedtanamoogk, Otter Clan, Mashpee Wampanoag, Orono, Maine; Gail Werrbach, Bangor, Maine; Sandy White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Carol Wishcamper, Freeport, Maine.

The TRC is a historic and unique partnership in the United States between tribal and state governments to deal with the trauma of a negligent and brutal government child welfare system that separated Indian children from their families and communities. Maine’s child welfare system derived from a policy aimed at assimilating Indians into the dominant society, a process that has its roots in the federal boarding-school program defined by the slogan, “Kill the Indian to save the man.” In Maine, Native children were removed from their homes and tribes almost 20 times more frequently than other children placed in foster care. The truth and reconciliation process will encourage Wabanaki people to come forward and share their childhood stories of abuse and neglect. The idea is to acknowledge the wrongdoings in order to work toward healing and reconciliation, reparations and institutional reform to ensure that the abuse and neglect never happen again.

In May 2011, the chiefs of the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point and Indian Township, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed the agreement to move forward with the TRC process. Last June all five Wabanaki tribal government chiefs and the governor signed a mandate document specifying how the TRC should be conducted.

The Commission has 27 months from the date of its first meeting to complete its work with the possibility of petitioning the six governments for an extension of up to six more months. More information about the TRC is available at MaineTribalTRC.org.

The official swearing in and seating of the TRC Commission will include remarks from the six governmental signatories, lunch, learning sessions, a commission listening session, and a closing Tobacco Ceremony and song. The public is invited to attend the event.

People who want to organize an event to acknowledge the Day of Reflection, Meditation and Prayer are requested to provide details about it to TRC Interim Director Carolyn Morrison. She can be reached at carolynnmorrisontrc@gmail.com or (207) 896-3042. People planning to attend the TRC Commissioner seating event should register with Esther Altvater Attean at eattean@usm.maine.edu or call (207) 615-3189.

The commission has this video posted on its website:

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