Consider (Source)

It was to remove the ignominious portrayal of the Native American as savage and wild that historians adopted 1992 as the year to depict them in their true light as members of civilizations worthy of study and respect.

Q1: What does in their true light mean here?

Q2: I cannot justify the role of as the year in the sentence.

Q3: I can guess, in their true light means what they are actually and indeed. In this regard, can we construct sentences like:

  • This documentary shows the ancient people in their true light

or, depict something in its true light is a idiom in which depict must be included.

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    For what they truly are. It was decided that 1992 would be the year devoted to the goal of depicting them in their true light. 1992 was chosen as the year (in which) they would be shown in their true light. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 28 '16 at 9:18
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    Something can be {depicted, shown, portrayed, presented, etc} in its true light and be {seen, observed, beheld, perceived, etc} in its true light. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 28 '16 at 9:26
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    Sunday was set aside as the day of rest. (its role, or that to which it is devoted, the purpose it serves). 1992 was set aside as the year of showing them In their true light. "He served as mayor". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 28 '16 at 9:27

Showing something in its true light is largely similar to something showing its true colours. It does indeed means to show it as it truly is. It will usually be combined with show, depict, or similar, but because there is a choice of words there I would not say those words were part of the idiom.

As to your secondary question regarding as the year, that applies to 1992. 1992 was adopted as the year to show them in their true light. "The year to" do something, or indeed "the day to" do something, or "the place to" do it (etc. etc.) means the appropriate point in time, space (etc.) to do it. So these historians determined that 1992 was the right year to depict them in their true light.

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