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Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Panel Discussion

The University of Southern Maine and Portland Friends Meeting will cohost a panel discussion about the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission in celebration of Native American Awareness Month. The discussion will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 15 in USM’s Talbot Lecture Hall in Luther Bonney Hall on the Portland campus. All interested educators and students from Greater Portland high schools, community colleges and universities and social workers are encouraged to attend.

During the panel discussion, Passamaquoddy tribal members Esther Altvater Attean and Denise Altvater will speak about and need for truth and reconciliation for native children. Also speaking will be Wabanaki poet Mihku Paul. A basket made by master basket maker and Micmac elder Richard Silliboy will be raffled during the event, and Wabanaki historian and author Peter Lenz’s books will be available for purchase.

Since the signing of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Mandate in Augusta on June 29, this will be the largest educational event about the Mandate and the Commission. Through this event, the audience will gain greater understanding and sensitivity to issues affecting Maine Wabanaki communities.

There will be educational resources for teachers and credit for contact hours for both teachers and social workers. Those who attend this discussion will not only gain a historical overview and context for how the Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Mandate came to be, but will also hear personal stories of aboriginal Mainers who experienced the consequences of flawed government policies and practices. The goal is to begin the healing process for those who have been affected and issue recommendations for the best child welfare practice with Wabanaki children and families.­

Most Maine residents are not aware that there has been an intentional policy of assimilation of native peoples by the U.S. government since the 1800s. By stripping them of their culture, language, family and community, the avowed intention has been to “kill the Indian and save the man.” Forced residential schooling as well as adoption/foster arrangements with non-Native families set in motion a chain of intergenerational losses, as children without a strong sense of self, community, and culture passed on their trauma to their children. These wounds and losses are still felt in Maine native communities today.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is being formed in Maine to discover the truth about the experiences of Wabanaki people with state child welfare programs, and to promote healing and lasting change for the children taken and their families.