Press Release

‘Americans Who Tell the Truth’ unveils portraits of Passamaquoddys Denise Altvater and Esther Attean

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine artist Robert Shetterly has added the portraits of  Denise Altvater and Esther Attean, Passamaquoddy Citizens and members of  Maine Wabanaki REACH,  to the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” project, which promotes “Models of Courageous Citizenship” in schools and communities around the country.

Most Maine citizens are not aware of the official policies of the U.S. Government to forcibly assimilate native people with the intent to “kill the Indian to save the man”. In the 1800s, native children were removed from their communities, brought to boarding schools and stripped of their culture, language and spirituality. The child welfare practices of the 1950s and 1960s carried forth the mentality that native children were better off being raised in white homes. Into the 1970s, Maine removed native children from their homes at a rate higher than most other states.

To shed light on this important history, Maine-Wabanaki REACH established a truth and reconciliation process, and now advises the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission,(TRC)  to ensure that truth-seeking activities around these issues are directed by Wabanaki people. The TRC was officially mandated by the five Wabanaki Chiefs and the Maine Governor in June 2012 and has until November 2015 to investigate and document what happened to Wabanaki people involved in the state child welfare system and make recommendations for best child welfare practice while promoting healing for those impacted and support for native communities.

After learning about the ground breaking Commission, the first of its kind in the entire country, Shetterly decided to paint the portraits of two of the truth tellers involved in the project, Denise Altvater and Esther Attean. These portraits will join more than two hundred others on the AWTT website and as a traveling exhibit that presents people throughout American history who have worked for social, economic and environmental justice. The portraits are used as teaching tools in classrooms at all educational levels.

“Denise and Esther embody the courage and determination of Wabanaki people who speak hard truths in an effort to bring healing for their people, deeper understanding between Maine and Wabanaki people and a better future for us all.  People just like Denise and Esther will come before the Commission to speak out for truth, healing and change,” said TRC Commissioner Carol Wishcamper.


The portraits will be unveiled at the Hall of Flags in the State Capital Building in Augusta on Wednesday, December 4th from 11:30-1:30.  Shetterly will speak as will TRC Commissioner and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and portrait subjects Denise Altvater and Esther Attean.

The event is open to the public.

A reception with light refreshments and conversation will follow.


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