Channel 2 (WLBZ), Channel 7 (WVII) and the Bangor Daily News reported on the Feb. 12 swearing in ceremony held in Hermon for the new five-member Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which includes University of Maine School of Social Work Director Dr. Gail Werrbach. Over the next 27 months, the Commission will work “to uncover and acknowledge the truth, creating opportunities to heal and learn from the truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children.” In the 1800’s children were forcibly removed from their Native families and communities and placed in boarding schools where they were not allowed to use their Native language, customs or practices. In the 1950’s the Child Welfare League of American began the Indian Adoption Project, an initiative created to “save” American Indian children by placing them into white American households. Justification for removing Indian children from their families was based on poverty – the ultimate result of the US Government’s racist and colonization policies against Native AmericanTribes. This “experiment” was proved wrong. In fact, the Native children were victimized by the loss of connection to family, community, culture, identity, and a sense of belonging. The Commission is seeking to uncover the lost truths of the past “creating a common understanding of what happened.” This will be done in a community-based, supportive, healing environment for those who were affected. The TRC will issue a final report that is also a means for the Wabanaki Tribal Governments, and most importantly the Maine government, to reflect and improve upon the child welfare process in the state to ensure American Indian children are never placed in the same position again. For more information see the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Image Description: Gail Werrbach