Several nations have used Truth and Reconciliation Commissions or similar processes to try to acknowledge and heal from the traumas colonial powers inflicted on Indigenous peoples. In the United States, such work is long overdue, both for Native Americans and other people of color.
An article published in Yes! Magazine this month discusses efforts to push Truth and Reconciliation forward at a national level.
Examples of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions from other countries include Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. In the United States, there have been at least one statewide effort and one citywide effort. The Maine Wabanaki – State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission has the goal to: “Uncover and acknowledge the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system.” Greensboro, North Carolina used a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the mid 2000s to address the Greensboro Massacre of 1979.
According to the Yes! article, nearly two dozen leaders met in Richmond, Virginia in February to plan a national commission on racial violence against black people.
The meeting’s participants divided into three working groups. One is drafting the commission’s vision and goals. Another is focused on infrastructure: Will this be a network? A nonprofit? A consortium? When and how will the organizers reconvene? The last group is responsible for mapping out racial healing initiatives across the country, with the goal of creating a shareable database.
The Kellogg Foundation has announced a similar effort at truth telling and reconciliation, but one that encourages healing for all racial groups. (It is working with the Richmond effort.) Kellogg calls the initiative the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Enterprise: “an adaptation of some of the most recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) models.”
Kellogg’s initiative seeks to connect with similar truth and reconciliation efforts around the country. It has a lengthy list of partners, including key Native American-led organizations: First Alaskans Institute, the Maine-Wabinaki reconciliation effort, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
The website continues:
This is a multi-year effort designed to engage local, regional and national organizations in both the public and private sectors to explore historic patterns and structural racism, so that we may begin to identify both short- and long-term strategies for meaningful change across the country.
Our goal is to bridge deeply embedded divides and generate the will, capacities and resources required for achieving greater equity across the nation. We believe, if we are able to tell a story broader than the dominant narrative about our country’s history, we can heal our communities for a stronger future for all children.
While these ideas are not new, they do appear to be getting more traction.
As a Post Script, Healing Minnesota Stories friend Mark Charles (Navajo) has been calling for a Truth Commission for several years. He wrote a piece in 2014 for IndianZ.com in which he articulated why this country needs to start simply with the “truth” part of “truth and reconciliation.” In an opinion piece headlined: Helping our nation move on from an incredible pain, he wrote:
The United States is not ready for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for reconciliation requires an acknowledgement of past wrongs as well as a commitment to repentance moving forward. So far, our leaders have demonstrated no desire to do that, as was evidenced by the toothless US Apology to Native Peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. It ended with a disclaimer and was never announced, publicized or read by Congress or the White House.
But a Truth Commission? A significant platform where our native elders and boarding school survivors can come forward and share their stories? This is completely doable and would shed some much needed light on the injustices that have been hidden for decades, even centuries.