Indian Country 52 #18 – Removal
“For more than a century, Native American children were taken from their families and communities in systematic forced assimilation. As many as 35 percent of Native children were placed in non-Native homes and boarding schools. Some suffered abuse and neglect, and many were left with lifelong psychological scars. Extended families were irreparably fractured.
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 attempted to reverse the state-sanctioned practice by mandating tribal jurisdiction over Native child custody cases. But a federal review in 1999 found Maine to be severely noncompliant, with Native children continuing to be removed from their homes at a much higher rate than white children.
A committee was formed with representatives of the state government and the Wabanaki tribes. They found that new regulations and cultural awareness training were not enough.
“We weren’t talking about what happened in the past,” said Esther Attean, a Passamaquoddy woman and a co-director of community outreach organization Maine-Wabanaki Reconciliation Engagement Advocacy Change Healing (REACH). “We were trying to do reconciliation work without the truth.”
In 2008 the committee began discussing the idea of creating a truth commission modeled after those in South Africa and Latin America. Canada and Australia have established truth commissions to deal exclusively with the treatment of indigenous peoples; the Maine Wabanaki TRC is the first to do so in the United States.
“It is innovative in the U.S. to start this kind of process,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, the director of the truth and memory program of the International Center for Transitional Justice. “But in my view, this should be seen as the avant-garde, something that should happen more extensively in all of the country, because by no means is what happened in Maine unique.””
– Al Jazeera, ‘Without our children, what are we?’ Maine cited for removing Native kids.
Download the 18″x24″ poster (.pdf), Indian Country 52 #18 – Removal.
Indian Country 52
Indian Country 52 is a weekly project by David Bernie that uses the medium of posters that promote issues and stories in Indian Country.
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