State Government

Truth and reconciliation commissioners talk plans and new hires

by Cora Smith, Community News Service

File photo.

Vermont’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formed by legislators last year to document and examine state-sanctioned discrimination against historically oppressed groups, is in the process of hiring an executive director, legal counsel, an administrative assistant and research staff. 

Those planned hires come after the announcement of the state body’s inaugural three commissioners in late March. The commission also plans to bring on interns from Vermont’s universities to support its work looking at instances where the state allowed or caused discrimination against Black and Indigenous people, people of French-Canadian descent, people with disabilities and others. 

The commission has three years to gather testimony from Vermonters and research past and current harm done by the state. It will then present a report to the Legislature in June 2026.

Much of the work will come from listening to Vermonters’ stories — something the commissioners hope to make easy and comfortable for people. 

This is about telling your truth, and that is reopening wounds,” said Mia Schultz, one of the commissioners and president of the Rutland-area NAACP. “And when you reopen wounds and you become vulnerable, we need to provide space and place and safety and follow-up. And I feel like that’s an important part of this process.”

Taking great care with that process is especially important because, Schultz said, the commission will be listening to “people who are invisible.”

And those are Vermonters that don’t get their stories heard and sit and suffer in silence,” said Schultz. “And I think it’s important for all Vermonters to understand that there are people that are being harmed.” 

Melody Mackin, another commissioner and secretary of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, said collaboration will be key, and she hopes that the commission can facilitate discussions that give people a sense of peace and will be therapeutic.

All three commissioners bring backgrounds working with issues impacting different discriminated-against groups.

Patrick Standen, the third commissioner and professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s College, has worked in the disability community for more than 40 years. 

“I come from a personal experience of having lived with a disability and actually experienced some discrimination and prejudice over the years,” said Standen. 

Standen grew up in rural Vermont and heard stories from people with French-Canadian heritage — a group that was ostracized by people and by policies. He gave up his teaching to accept the full-time commissioner position.

“I felt that I had a duty and obligation to use my skills to provide this very important work so that we could hear these stories and begin the process of social healing,” said Standen

Schultz, in her role with the Rutland-area NAACP, has experience pushing for policy changes that protect vulnerable communities — something the commission may look to do through recommendations to officials. 

“I’m challenging laws on a regular basis — how they affect our people and have affected our people for generations,” said Schultz. “And so it seems like a natural fit for me.” 

She also said that her experience as a mixed-race Black woman with neurodiverse children will shape her work as a commissioner. She hopes to address structural change in Vermont. 

“I feel like these are the ways that I can really show up, not only to provide community and safe places for people to be able to tell their stories but to also offer place and space within our institutions and our systems to have to push for change and push for the society and democracy that we all are promised,” Schultz said. 

Mackin’s work has also centered on addressing injustices. On the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, Mackin said she has worked to assist tribes with state recognition and protecting their heritage. 

“Basically the key to all of this is listening and communication,” said Mackin. “So what does justice look like to everybody who’s been impacted?” 

Truth and reconciliation commissions have been established across the country and the world in recent decades, including in South Africa, Canada, Maine and North Carolina. 

There’s lots of ways that truth and reconciliation has shown up in the United States,” said Schultz. “But when you look at it in terms of being funded and promoted by the state itself, that’s a rarity right now.”

Commissioners said they’re aware their mandate could court controversy. “There’s going to be people who just object to it from the beginning — people who might believe it’s an overreach of government, people who might want to let bygones be bygones, others who might not want to revisit that trauma in their family or their population,” said Standen.

He hopes the commission’s recommendations to the Legislature will be incorporated into the school curriculum and the state’s history. 

It is vital that our history — warts and all — be available for our future generations,” he said. 

Schultz said the commission can be a starting point for building compassion between Vermonters. 

This is not a one and done,” said Schultz. “And so we’re going to need the participation of all of the people in Vermont — and that includes the media — to be able to spread the word that these things are happening and to pay attention and to maybe look at your neighbor a little bit differently in terms of their humanity and what they may or may not be experiencing.” 

Categories: State Government

13 replies »

  1. Long overdue. It was about time we had a commission for a commission’s sake.

    With the increasing number of such commissions, given Vermont’s population, we will be just about ready to run out of marginalized peeps to be on these committees . Perhaps we can staff it with people doing double duty from the multitude of the same committee by another name already in existence seeking “ the warts and all”. Or, since we already have oppressed coming up from Springfield, MA or New York we could impress them to cover any potential shortages.

    Great to see the Vermonters of French Canadian descent added. Just a question of time before we see appropriate reparations accorded to this nearly overlooked group.

    I am sure we missed some others and hope this committee ferrets them out. Give me a call , I may be wanted to add myself to the list.

  2. What an utter waste of MY tax money. And is the commission examining the historically oppressed groups such as females (who comprised the majority of the population & who were “systemically” discriminated against in education & the workplace?), or Italians (especially since Vermont took away their national holiday due to still long-held ethnic prejudices?) or Catholics (since the current DOJ/FBI considers the group “domestic terrorists” and their places of worship are routinely desecrated & vandalized?) OF COURSE NOT!!!

    The Commission, in and of itself, therefore, obviously harbors intrinsic prejudices and bias and ought to be disbanded before it ever starts.

    • Agreed!! If I knew the complete number of committees in the state of Vermont, I’d probably have a mental breakdown. I would expect the state to form a NEW committee to look into my breakdown and then break it down into subcommittees because the New committees will overburdened breaking down my breakdown. I also expect replacement committees incase the New committees handling of said breakdown goes beyond 1-1-2024. Which at THAT time, a Brand New committee will be formed. Rinse and repeat.

  3. Multi-generations of government policies, government mandates, government funded programs, and the military industrial complex keeps the People in endless servitude. The government will now commission a committee to study the government’s actions and make the people pay for it. A grifter’s paradise indeed! My ancestors were Irish. They were starved out of their country by the Crown. Do you think the Rothchild’s will throw us American-Irish decendents a few reperation crumbs? Why don’t they start with the most recent government sponsored genocide tactics? Where are the reperations for health problems due to masks surpressing oxygen intake, mandated experimental, untested, vaccines, and DNA collecting test swabs. Where is our cut for selling our DNA to biolabs? Retribution and judgment is coming upon all of them for their thievery, lies, and deception.

  4. And I’m a female, half Italian, and Catholic —— and I want MY REPARATIONS NOW, VERMONT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Same here!! Half Italian, half Irish. Female and Catholic. Everybody thinks their entitled to something, so we may as well add our names to the list.

  5. @Ms. Gaffney: We could be siblings!

    Considering that Montpelier is a ghost town and has been one since The Usurpers took over, (just like D.C.) who is making these decisions?

    And since Montpelier IS EMPTY, would someone please explain to me why The Usurpers were justified in giving themselves a raise????

    And with all these decisions being handed down, while NO ONE is working, who is REALLY calling the shots???

    OH-that’s right, CHINA.

  6. Perhaps the commission will consider the current warts growing on the Vermont government’s shoulders: harmful, experimental hormone blockers administered to children; abortions on demand until birth; graphic pornography and sex training for young children; destruction of private daycare; regressive taxation of low income Vermonters; and a racist cult much like that of the eugenics movement this committee will doubtless investigate. That’s a lot of present warts ignored, while scrounging warts from yesteryear….

  7. Historically, the most oppressed people have always been the poor, and I definitely fit into that category as does most of Vermont. Especially after all these wonderful economic actions the government took to protect my health and safety from the flu (seriously, where did the flu go for 2 years?).

    So why don’t you send the reparations where the reparations are due, back to the citizens of which you stole.

    Their answer: Nope, we’ll steal some more, akin to “Just use a blanket”

    Just stop paying these people. They’re not responsible with your money, they don’t have your interest at heart, and they’re destroying your children’s families and your land’s future no matter how many times they tell you otherwise.

  8. Vermont’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission–What a bunch of Orwellian BS.

  9. 1984 was 39 years ago and a warning for us all, We didn’t listen and now we will be confronted with the truth. Who’s truth will it be? The people who dream this BS up wouldn’t know the truth if it chased them down and slapped them in the face.

    This is a commission to sanction more lies to squeeze more money out of the already broke people of Vermont. This will morph into a demand for more rules, regulations and fees for the state to distribute funds to those who will keep them in power, the dependent class.

    This will be no different than a propaganda mechanism for the useful idiots who think that the state will coddle them and pay their way without contributing anything of value.

    All of these commissions, committees, studies and boards can be easily taken down and disbanded by voting the overlords out of Monpeculier. It’s past time to rip down the curtain like the one in The wizard of Oz to find out who is running the Vermont show government. The 1984 warnings were thought to be fiction and we ignored them, but here we are!

    Take back your life, your future, your land, your children, your property and your rights! Take back Vermont from the purveyors of this insanity and vote these usurpers out of Vermont. 2/3rds of your legislators are not from Vermont. It’s time to send them home to wherever they came from!

    Take Back Vermont!