For decades, Native American children in Maine were taken from their homes and forced to attend residential schools or live with white foster families.
Last Thursday, with tears, a few angry remarks, and a traditional folk song, some of those children came together at the University of Southern Maine to share their experiences.
More than 100 people turned out to hear Passamaquoddy tribal members Esther Ann Altvater and Denise Yarmel Altvater discuss the plight of Maine's Wabanaki people in the state's child welfare system.
The meeting also educated the public about Maine's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission, signed into law in June, is the first such group formed between Indian nations and a state government.
Truth and reconciliation commissions are fact-finding groups that investigate past wrongdoings by government. One of the most well-known commissions was created to study the effect of apartheid in South Africa. Only one other commission has been organized in the United States, a group that examined the 1979 massacre of five protesters in Greensboro, N.C.
The goal of the Maine commission is to record the experiences of the Wabanaki ("dawn land people") with the state's child welfare system, provide feedback on how the system can improve its work with Wabanaki children, and help native people heal.