5 Picked for Group to Examine Child Welfare Practices That Split Native American Families

By McCrea, Nick | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), December 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

5 Picked for Group to Examine Child Welfare Practices That Split Native American Families


McCrea, Nick, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


INDIAN ISLAND, Maine -- An unsettling piece of Maine's history will be examined closely during the next three years by five people selected to investigate church and government assimilation practices that tore American Indian children away from their families and culture.

Members of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission were announced Tuesday during a news conference on Indian Island, and their work will begin early next year. The members are:

Matt Dunlap of Old Town, who on Dec. 4 was tapped to serve as Maine's secretary of state, a post he also held from 2004 to 2010. He was named Maine Public Administrator of the Year in 2008 and served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives.

Gkisedtanamoogk, a Wampanoag from the community Mashpee on Cape Cod, Mass. He is a family member of Nkeketonseonqikom, the Longhouse of the Otter, and is married with three children. Now of Orono, gkisedtanamoogkhas been an adjunct instructor with the Native American studies and the peace and reconciliation programs at the University of Maine since 2005.

Gail Werrbach, a 25-year faculty member at the University of Maine School of Social Work. She now is director of that school. She has researched and published articles on child mental health, community mental health training, Indian child welfare services and international social work.

Sandra White Hawk, a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. She founded the First Nations Repatriation Institute, an organization with the goal of creating resources for First Nations people affected by foster care who want to return home, reconnect and reclaim their identity.

Carol Wishcamper has an organizational development consulting practice that works primarily with nonprofit organizations in the state. She has served as chairwoman of the state Board of Education and as a member of several gubernatorial and legislative study commissions.

The goal, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission mandate, which Gov. Paul LePage signed in June 2012 alongside Maine tribal leaders, is to "acknowledge the truth, create opportunities to heal and learn from that truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children. …

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