Today, the Wabanaki tribes and the state of Maine implement the first United States-based Truth & Reconciliation Commission around Native American rights violations ever. It’s an exciting, historic moment for justice. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have been used around the world—mainly in Africa and Latin America—to help victims and perpetuators of genocide, racism, war crimes, and other violence heal from wrongdoings and reach the truth of traumatic situations through restorative justice techniques.
The Maine TRC is centered on issues of Native children being forcibly taken from their families on reservations and put into white foster care families. Simply for being indigenous, tribal children were taken by the state and forced into foster care, where they were often physically and sexually abused.
These human rights violations perpetuated against Native Americans are not a thing of the past. Survivors are living out the trauma of such injustices right now—having to endure mental and physical wounds from state-sanctioned abuses—causing generational trauma to be passed down to descendants of victims in various ways.
Truth telling enables reconciliation and healing of life—when stories can be talked about, shared, understood and seen as truth by others, victims can move on from trauma and forgive.
There’s a documentary film about another Native American reconciliation effort, Dakota 38, here.
It tells the story of the 38 Dakotas who were hanged by the US government in Minnesota after a battle in 1862, the largest mass execution in US history. The film traces the journey of present day tribal members who take a journey from South Dakota to Minnesota by horses to honor the lives of the 38 murdered tribal members. The film is moving in how Native Americans involved seek the high road throughout, offering peace and accepting hospitality in the communities they travel through. Dakota 38 also highlights groups who continue to be heavily marginalized–the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is one of the most impoverished communities in the US. The riders in the story try to act with compassion & bring forgiveness to all they meet, hoping to spread reconciliation and healing.