Producer/Host: Meredith DeFrancesco
This week, the heads of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, MicMac, Maliseet and Maine state governments signed a Declaration of Intent to Create a Maine/Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Process. This process will create a commission to address the damaging history and repercussions of federal and state child welfare practices on the Wabanki tribes. This process is the first of its kind in the U.S.
An excerpt of the declaration reads:
“Beginning in the late 1800’s, the United States government established boarding schools intended to solve the “Indian problem” through assimilation. Henry Richard Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, described his effort as an attempt to “kill the Indian and save the man”. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America created the Indian Adoption Project which removed hundreds of native children from their families and tribes to be adopted by non-native families. In 1978, the US Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which codified higher standards of protection for the rights of native children, their families and their tribal communities. Within the ICWA, Congress stated that, “No resource is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children” and that “Child welfare agencies had failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the culture and social standard prevailing in Indian communities and families.”
Important progress has been made with the passage of ICWA. There has been positive collaboration between the state of Maine and Wabanaki tribes to bring lasting positive change. Since 1999, this effort has resulted in ICWA trainings for state workers, an Indian Child Welfare policy and a better working relationship.
In spite of this progress, Maine child welfare history continues to impact Wabanaki children and families today. We have come to realize that we must unearth the story of the Wabanaki people’s experiences in order to fully uphold the spirit, letter and intent of the ICWA in a way that is consistent and sustainable.”
We speak with Esther Attean, Passamaquoddy tribal member. She is with the Muskie School of Public Policy and part of the convening group for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We also talk with Denise Yarmal Altivator, Passamaquoddy tribal member. She is a commissioner with the Maine Indian Trial State Commission and a member of the convening group.
For more information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: