Members of the The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission discussed their experiences at a ceremony held in Hermon June 14. They included (from left) gkisedtanamoogk, Matt Dunlap and Sandy White Hawk. The group has been based in Ellsworth for the last year. PHOTO BY TOM REYNOLDS OF MAINE-WABANAKI REACH

Wabanaki Truth Commission issues final report



HERMON — The group tasked with examining the truths about Wabanaki experiences with child welfare issued its final report here last Sunday, June 14.

The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been headquartered in downtown Ellsworth while carrying out its investigation.

On June 14, it shared its findings and recommendations during a closing ceremony, attended by nearly 300 people. Among its findings were that Native children in Maine are 5.1 times more likely to enter foster care than non-Native children.

The group also looked at federal data collected between 2006 and 2009, which indicated up to 53 percent of Native children didn’t have their ancestry verified before entering the state system. That made it hard to track those eligible for the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which is meant to help keep Native foster children with American Indian families.

The ceremony concluded the first truth and reconciliation effort within U.S. territory collaboratively developed between tribal nations and a state government. The work has been passed on to Maine-Wabanaki REACH, a cross-cultural group that will help to ensure that the commission’s recommendations are considered and implemented.

Those recommendations include developing training protocols for members of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, as well as law enforcement and judicial officials, that go beyond the basic checklists and toolkits to recognize bias and build cultural awareness at all levels of leadership.

“This was a day of celebration, ceremony, endings and beginnings,” said TRC Executive Director Charlotte Bacon. “We shared not just an overview of our findings and recommendations, but a chance to come together — as Wabanaki and non-Native people — for this powerful and historic process.”

More of the TRC’s findings can be found at MaineWabanakiTRC.org/report.