MLK Day speakers to discuss native child welfare

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WINTHROP — The Winthrop Area Ministers’ Association in conjunction with Sen. Patrick Flood and Rep. Craig Hickman will host a breakfast celebrating Martin Luther King Day at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at the Winthrop Congregational Church, 10 Bowdoin St.

Although King is most often recognized for his role in fighting segregation, he was, in fact, a strong advocate for all forms of justice and equality for all citizens. In his Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963, Dr. King stated “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

It’s from that perspective speakers will address this nation’s history and Maine’s role with removing Wabanaki children from their homes and placing them with white families or in boarding schools.

At this event, two Passamaquoddy tribal members, Esther Altvater Attean and Denise Altvater will explain the unprecedented and historic Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A TRC is a group of people chosen to investigate a problem and make suggestions about how to make the situation better.

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The speakers will give an historical overview and context for how the Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to be, and show how forced assimilation has impacted Wabanaki people today.

A signing ceremony of the Mandate for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was held in Augusta this past June. The next step in this process will be for the selected commissioners to be announced soon.

This TRC represents the first TRC to address native child welfare issues in this country. It also represents the first TRC in the world that has been developed collaboratively between a state and Tribal Nations.

Most Maine residents are unaware there have been numerous intentional policies of genocide and forced assimilation of native people by the U.S. government since first contact. These policies were carried out by stripping them of their culture, language, family and community. Forced residential schooling and forced adoption/foster arrangements with white families set in motion a chain of intergenerational losses, as children, now parents themselves, without a strong sense of self, community and culture passed on their trauma to their children.

This Truth and Reconciliation Commission is being formed in Maine to discover the truth about the experiences of Wabanaki people with state child welfare system and to promote healing and lasting change for all Wabanaki children and families.

More information about the TRC can be found at mainetribaltrc.org.

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