NORWAY — Eight area residents gathered at the Common Arts Collective Gallery on Monday to light a candle in a prayer and meditation circle to support the work of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Emily Ecker of Bryant Pond lit the candle.

According to its website, the commission was established to investigate what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system.

The commission’s goal is to document what happened and give Wabanaki people a place to share their stories and have a voice. It will also give the Maine child welfare system suggestions on how it can improve its work with Wabanaki people.

On Tuesday, the commission was seated. Commissioners include Matthew Dunlap of Old Town, who serves as Maine’s Secretary of State; gkisedtanamoogk, a Wampanoag from the community of Mashpee in Massachusetts and an instructor with Native American Studies at the University of Maine Orono campus; and Dr. Gail Werrbach of Bangor, a faculty member of the University of Maine School of Social Work, whose work includes Indian child welfare services.

Also serving on the commission are Sandra White Hawk, a Sicangu Lakota
adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and founder and director of First Nations Repatriation Institute, and Carol Wishcamper, who has an organizational development consulting practice, working primarily with nonprofit organizations in Maine.

According to a statement released by Elaine Doble-Verrill, a participant in the local ceremony, the Rev. Sarah Shepley read a prayer, “The Journey Home: a Prayer for Healing” by Lucy Duncan. The reading was followed by sharing.

The group passed around a “talking stick,” and most everyone offered a reflection.

Quoting from the joint resolution to acknowledge Feb. 11, 2013, as a day of reflection, Doble-Verrill said, “The hope is for the TRC to deepen human respect and compassion in hearing the truth of our shared history; to pray for the healing of deep and ancient wounds; and to call for courage, clarity of purpose and openness.”

In support of its work, the commission cites the centuries-old attempt by the United States government to resolve what the government called “the Indian problem.”

The government’s “resolutions” included an attempt in the 1800s by church groups to take Indian children away from their families to essentially take away their own culture and make them into white children in their clothing, language, education and other mannerisms.

The commission states that in Maine, Indian children were taken from their families and placed in white foster homes at a higher rate than most other states.

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