PLEASANT POINT RESERVATION (NEWS CENTER) -- Long awaited hearings are now underway for The Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
PHOTOS: Opening ceremony for Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The first of a series of hearings opened this morning at Sipayik, the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point.
The Commission will collect testimony and records on how several generations of native children were taken from their homes and sent to white boarding schools, work farms and white foster or adoptive homes - often without advance notice or their parents consent. Such forced assimilation was part of State and Federal law over the past 170 years and continued in Maine in some form until 1999.
ONLINE: Find out more about the Maine Wabanaki - State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission
51-year-old Debbie Yarmal is one of the people testifying before the TRC. She was taken - along with her six sisters - from her home on Pleasant Point at age 5. Her memories of the white foster home in Old Town are traumatic. "I remember running away to go find my mom and then being made to be kneelin on a broom stick while they pulled my hair. And being put downstairs to go to sleep."
Hearings will be held in natice communities around the state over the next 6-9 months. Hearings will also be held to collect testimony from state workers, police and court staff who were often doing what was required under State and federal policy.
The five TRC commissioners will issue recommendations on how tribal and State child welfare workers can avoid trauma in the future.
Several tribes and states around the country are considering similar commissions.