Truth and Reconciliation- Part One

Joy Hollowell

Updated 1 year ago

Tuesday, history will be made when the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission is sworn in.The group was formed after a declaration signed by the five Wabanaki chiefs and Governor Lepage in an effort to address Native American child welfare issues.Foster care is a familiar word in the Wabanaki tribes. Generations have memories of being removed from their home, their culture, and placed with a white family.It’s a sad history that includes physical and sexual abuse.Joy Hollowell shares some of the stories.===”I was six or seven at the time. Mr. Watts came from the state and took me, my brother and my sister.”Aubrey Sockabasin never knew why. He was sent to live with a white family in Dennysville, a short distance from his reservation in Princeton.”In that foster home, I got sexually abused,” says Sockabasin. “If we did something wrong, I’d have to stand on my hands and knees on the floor for maybe an hour, hour and a half. And when he felt like it, he’d come right back and just kick you if he wanted to. I’ve been kicked, like lots. You know, just standing there and doing what I was told and then, a big kick would come. And my face would land on the floor and he’d tell me to get the blank up. And I did.””I kept asking them to get me away from there, take me away from there, but they never did.”Sockabasin ran away. When he was found, the now 8 year old was placed with another white family in Bangor.”That’s when everything took a mad turn in my life,” says Sockabasin. “This guy just beat the heck out of me all the time.”He also witnessed the sexual abuse of another foster girl living in the home.”I was thinking to myself, WOW, you know?”Sockabasin again asked his case worker to get him out. But he says his words fell on deaf ears.”One day it was my turn to take the trash out,” says Sockabasin. “I got some matches and I said, You know what, I know how I can get out of there.’ And then I burnt down the barn.”Sockabasin turned himself into police and ended up at the Maine Youth Center.”I kept getting in trouble, I was always in lock up,” says Sockabasin. “Because all I wanted to do was just be home with my mom and dad, that’s all I wanted.”He spent almost four years at the center. Sockabasin was eventually transferred to the Bangor Mental Health Institute where he spent many days heavily sedated. At the age of 16, he served time in the Penobscot County Jail. When he turned 18, Sockabasin aged out of the foster care system. It was then, he made a life-changing decision.”I went back to the foster home of the person that molested me,” says Sockabasin. “I had a gun, but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.” He shakes his head. “It’s not me. I mean, I might have been hurt, I might have had something taken away from me but you know what, I figured I was going to make it through this.”++++”I was very much in my culture when I was a child,” says Tyneshia Wright. “We would always go to POW WOWs, we would always dress in our native clothes around the house. But once I went to foster care, that changed for me.”Wright and her older brother were removed from their home when she was five. Wright spent much of her childhood in foster and group homes.”It was chaotic,” she says.She ended up cutting herself while in her teens and also got involved in drugs. Wright spent time at Acadia Hospital in Bangor. When she was about to turn 18, Wright’s biological mother invited her back home. She also revealed a secret to her daughter.”Her and her two brothers were taken from the reservation in Canada and brought to the U.S., to Maine, to a white family.”For Wright, it was a bittersweet revelation.”She’s like, ‘I tried so hard to raise you guys in your culture because I lost that when I was a kid and I didn’t want you guys to lose that.’ And I thanked her for that.”Wright and Sockabain say their experiences weren’t all bad. 20-year old Wright now volunteers at the Wabanaki Health and Wellness Center in Bangor and is working on re-connecting with her culture.54-year old Sockabasin ended up marrying someone from his Passamaquoddy tribe. Going back to his heritage though, has proven more difficult.”I don’t know what it is, just something in my head stops me from feeling good about going to see my people. You know, it’s always been like butterflies every time I go down there. It’s hard to miss something that you’ve never had, but you still miss it because you know it’s not there.”====Monday was designated as a Day of Reflection, Meditation and Prayer to support the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.If you’d like more information, log onto www.mainetribaltrc.org


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