At Last, Truth and Reconciliation for Maine's Indian Adoption Project Legacies


Friday, June 29, was both a "great day and a sad day" for the US state of Maine, in the words of its governor, Paul LePage.

It was a great day because Maine was taking an historic step to address the legacies of the 1950's and 60's Indian Adoption Project, a program which removed hundreds of Native American children from their families and tribes and placed them in the state-run foster care system.

“The truth commission, by making visible what happened, can galvanize political commitment to overcome the legacy of what happened.”

It was a sad day because "we have to be in the first place," LePage said.

On June 29, the government of Maine joined chiefs from the state's five tribes to sign an agreement creating the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The commission will examine the child welfare practices that acted to forcibly assimilate Indian children and seek to address the lasting impact of the practice on Maine’s communities.

"I think that the truth commission, by making visible what happened, can galvanize political commitment by leaders to do the right thing, to contribute to overcome the legacy of what happened," said Eduardo Gonzalez, director of ICTJ’s Truth and Memory Program.

Gonzalez attended the signing ceremony, and spoke about its importance—both local and global—in an interview with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

"It would be a big mistake to assume that this truth commission is something of the interest only of the indigenous peoples of Maine,” Gonzalez said. “This is something that affects the history of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples… By learning what happened in this particular case, Maine can prevent these issues from happening again.”

Listen to the interview