Taken: Maine addresses native child welfare issues
Condensed by Native Village
Maine: Imagine being
taken from your family at an early age and growing up in a
place where no one looks like you, speaks your language or
shares your beliefs.
It happened to generations of Native Americans
"I remember two station wagons coming to my house and
collecting all our belongings in garbage bags and herding us
into the station wagons and leaving my home," says
Passamaquoddy Denise Altvater. "My mother wasn't there when
they took us.
Altvater and five of her sisters spent seven years in foster
care. They were sexually and physically abused ... but
Altvater says the separation from their culture and
pressure to deny their heritage was most
Today, the State of Maine admits to its role in
the saga and is taking unprecedented actions: it has agreed to a
Reconciliation Commission with its four Wabanaki tribes.
Maine is the
first government to ever do so in format where all
parties work together from the start.
"Its about truth, healing and change," says Martha Proulx
from Maine's Dept. of
Health and Human
"And its really about hearing those stories of people who
went through the system ... how it effects their families today
with their own children."
State workers will also be invited to testify at hearings.
"Caseworkers at the time were really doing what was believed
to be best practice," says Proulx. "I don't think anybody
enters the social work field with bad intentions and wanting
to cause more harm and trauma to families. [People
doing the best with the knowledge at the time. Unfortunately
this knowledge ... wasn't the best and did impact
native families in a negative way."
Among the goals of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Educate all Mainers about a dark chapter in
their collective history
Provide a framework to ensure it never happens
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