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Panel announces names of Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commissioners
COMMISSIONERS NAMED — Commissioner Dr. Werrbach, Commissioner gkisedtanamoogk and Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation convening group member Esther Attean.
PENOBSCOT INDIAN NATION — Recently, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Selection Panel, the group tasked by the Wabanaki Tribal Governments and the State of Maine to select five Commissioners to serve on the TRC, announced the names of the five Commissioners it had chosen.
TRC Interim Director Carolyn Morrison announced that the 13-member Selection Panel had unanimously chosen Matt Dunlap, Old Town; gkisedtanamoogk, Otter Clan, Mashpee Wampanoag, Orono; Gail Werrbach, Bangor; Sandy White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, St. Paul, MN and Carol Wishcamper, Freeport.
Selection Panel member Lisa Sockabasin, Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, commented, “This work was incredibly rewarding.
"We came together as individuals who didn’t know each other for the most part, and we were able to solidify as a group and complete this task of choosing, by consensus, a Commission of five people that all the signatories agreed upon. We took this work very seriously. We all understood the critical nature of our role within the larger TRC process. I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity.”
“I am very proud of the TRC process and privileged to have been able to participate in the selection process. It was one of the most difficult tasks I have been part of; to choose five out of the many qualified, passionate, dedicated people that came forward was a daunting task that we didn’t take lightly.
"We are honored that so many individuals shared their time with us and let us into their lives through this process. I am truly moved to know that such people exist here in our state,” stated Molly Newell, Director of Sipayik Human Services, and a Selection Panel member.
The TRC represents a historic agreement between Wabanaki Tribal Governments and the State of Maine to uncover and acknowledge the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine Child Welfare system, create opportunities to heal and learn from the truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children, a goal shared by all the signatories to the TRC Mandate.
The work to organize a tribal-state TRC started in 2008. It has been carried out by the Truth and Reconciliation Convening Group, individuals representing Maine Tribal Child Welfare, Maine State DHHS Office of Child and Family Services, and staff from the Muskie School of Public Service, American Friends Service Committee, and Wabanaki Health and Wellness.
“When the Convening Group researched other Commission selection processes and began creating a process that would work for this TRC, we understood the magnitude of this task. We also knew that the Selection Panel was going to face challenges being such a large group whose members represented diverse entities and were not centrally located geographically.
"I admire them for not only completing this task, but for having done it with the utmost respect and reverence for those that applied. I applaud the integrity of this group,” said Esther Attean, staffperson to the TRC working through the Muskie School of Public Service and a key participant in all the TRC deliberations since its inception.
Last June all five Wabanaki Tribal Government Chiefs and Governor LePage signed the Mandate document and accompanying Selection Panel description delineating how the TRC Commissioners would be selected. Today’s announcement fulfilled the first part of the agreement signed by the six collaborating governments on June 29.
Selection Panel members remarked how much they enjoyed serving on the body and how many of them found it a highlight of their professional careers.
Selection Panel members included Libby McCullum, representing the Maine judicial system; Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig, representing the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature; Beth O’Connor, representing the Health and Human Services Committee of the Maine Legislature; Lisa Sockabasin, representing the Executive Branch of State Government; Janice Stuver, representing the Maine Attorney General’s Office; Stephanie Bailey, representing the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkmikuk; Norman Bernard, representing the Aroostook Band of Micmacs; Mark Chavaree, representing the Penobscot Indian Nation; Tina Downing, representing the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik; Connie Smith, representing the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians; Molly Newell and Martha Proulx, representing the TRC Convening Group and Paul Thibeault, representing the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission.
The Commission process represents the first truth and reconciliation effort within US territory that has been collaboratively developed between Indian nations and a state government. This announcement completes the TRC Selection Panel’s work.
Next steps for the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission include the swearing in and formal seating of the five Commissioners expected to take place in the first quarter of 2013, hiring of a staff to work with the Commission, orienting of the Commission to be done by the TRC Convening Group and others, and the Commission establishing its operating procedures.
Under the Mandate document, the Commission has 27 months from the date of its first meeting to complete its work with the possibility of petitioning the six governments for an extension of up to six more months.
For more information about the TRC, visit the website at http://mainetribaltrc.org.