Column: Commission takes on truth and reconciliation in Maine

The Maine-Wabanaki Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission hosted a "Genocide and ME" seminar in November. Photo from Facebook

After four years of work, the Maine-Wabanaki Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission is presenting its final recommendations for improving child welfare policy in the state:
Imagine living in a nation where extermination of your race and culture has been official government policy — a country where vestiges of those policies linger.

Imagine living in a state that once paid bounties for the scalps of your relatives — a state that did not allow your people to vote until 1967.

Twenty-two non-Native American men and women gathered in the basement of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Houlton on April 11 to seek a deeper understanding of their shared history and future with members of Maine’s Wabanaki communities: Micmac, Maliseet, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy.

They had come from towns in the St. John Valley, central Aroostook County and the Houlton area. Some came with experience in social services, juvenile justice and foster care, but all were there as individuals, not professionals, to educate themselves and support each other enough to create change in their communities with the goal of justice for Wabanaki people.

Led by Barbara Kates and Paul Strickland of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, a cross-cultural collaborative of state and tribal child welfare organizations, the group viewed a film about U.S. government relationships with Native Americans, discussed the meaning of “white privilege” and brainstormed ways participants could function as allies for Wabanaki people.

“You have to be invited,” Kates and Strickland cautioned those who aspire to be allies.

“Allies cannot be self-defined. They must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with,” Kates said, quoting a sourcebook for a collective in Minnesota seeking justice for Dakota tribes.

Get the Story:
Kathryn Olmstead: Aroostook County residents work to ally with Wabanaki people (The Bangor Daily News 4/24)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Maine governor fails to treat sovereign tribes as equals (4/23)
Donna Loring: Being Native in Maine means living with racism (4/21)
Opinion: Penobscot Nation fights state to regain control of river (03/16)
Maulian Smith: Indian people are not your mascots or costumes (03/10)
Tribes in Maine face opposition to jurisdiction over non-Indians (02/24)
Town in Maine approves new name for road after controversy (10/08)
Opinion: Town sends wrong message with street after R-word (09/24)
Mark Chavaree: Penobscot Nation fights to save namesake river (08/20)

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