Thursday, January 1, 2015

What my adoption cost me #validvoices #whoamI #adoption

(posted on lost daughters blog on 2012 and on this blog in 2014) (i want to share again in 2015, edited a little)

By Trace Hentz (author-blogger)

Someone asked me what had adoption cost me personally. What a loaded question, I shot back in my email. I said I needed to think about it.

Obviously, first of all, I didn't ask to be adopted!

This situation was thrust on me by a damaged 22-year-old small-town Wisconsin girl who loved Chicago-clubbing and partying too much. She didn't want me after my 28-year-old father (also a big drinker) kicked her out. He moved back to his Illinois farm-town and found a new wife. She went to an unwed mothers home in Minnesota and signed me away to Catholic Charities. (Both had new kids right away.)

If my soul wanted a big test this lifetime, this was clearly the route to take. I am not miserable knowing the truth, not at all. I am better knowing the truth.

Finding out neither parent would ever look for me? That discovery cost me.

Who would tell a woman she cannot keep her own baby? Who made them think this way? Belief systems, religions, social workers, neighbors, parents, judges, priests? 

Even your own family can be so damaged, it's risky to find them. There were times I wished I had never looked but I had to know why I was abandoned, handed off. Taking those risks to find out the truth cost me years but I am not sorry.

Being told by my natural mother to never contact her again? That rejection cost me about two years and added grief since I'd have to contact her again for my fathers name. (No one told me this was somewhat common to be rejected again.)

I made all the moves, made all the calls, did all the travel and took all the risks to find both my birthparents. I put myself out there to join a family who didn't even know I existed or cared that I did. That cost me. The fact is they do not understand what I went through and didn't bother to ask, this cost me and confused me. But I do know people focus on their own pain. No one really cared about mine.

The adoption trade in babies was booming in the 1950s. In my opinion my adoptive parents were not carefully screened. Despite his raging alcoholism and their marital discord after two miscarriages, Catholic social workers still qualified them to be my parents. Very young I was sexually molested by my adoptive dad. That betrayal cost me.

I had to pretend for years I was alright when really I wasn't. I tried to live up to their expectations and be the baby they lost. That impossible situation cost me.

My adoptive parents didn't know adopting kids won't fix a marriage and could even make it worse! I had to suppress my shock and disappointment in them for too long. It took me years to find and get therapy and counseling that worked.  This delay cost me.

My lack of trust and being able to love someone cost me a marriage.

Many years later I learn my ancestry. My father, who had the Native blood, didn't intervene to keep me. How did that make me feel? Betrayed. I had no idea what to think about being "part-Indian" since there was no one in my dad's family to reconnect me to my tribal culture. That cost me.

How can you measure cultural loss when there is no dollar amount or apology that can undo what happened? There is no easy way to get that back. Those years are lost and cannot be returned.
What did adoption cost me? Everything.

What did adoption give me? Strength! And the determination to urge others to seek adoption reform and end all closed adoptions permanently.

My birthmother Helen died in 2007. This story ran in a Florida newspaper. I am nothing like her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Third Mom: Honor adoptees by honoring their privacy

Little Trace, age 3
Third Mom: Honor adoptees by honoring their privacy: There has been a lot of talk this week in my online circles around a post by a popular adoptive parent blogger about her kids... Holidays should not be about schedules and stuff, they should be, as author Terra Trevor so beautifully says, about love.

I add my two cents on adoptee privacy HERE...and it started a firestorm of comments! Trace

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adoption Survivor, not Victim #adoption #torture

Note from Trace: Because of spam attacks, I am reposting this and deleting the original. Can I win the war with spambots? I guess I will try by deleting the old posts and win that way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Von Coates interviewed me about my adoptee and my writing experience in my memoir ONE SMALL SACRIFICE, published in 2009 - I wanted to share an excerpt of this interview:

VON:  In your life was there a pivotal event that changed you from being a victim of adoption to a survivor?
Trace, 1st grade

Trace: That is a great question because lots of people won’t recognize there is a definite shift from victim to survivor.
When laws restrict opening adoption records, these policymakers make us victims. There are many adoptees ready to know their family name, meet relatives and have reunions, but cannot because of adoption laws.  Other adoptees, lulled by gratitude, may fear upsetting their adoptive family, and may not see themselves as victims of a corrupt unjust system.   
The adoptee moves from victim to survivor when they decide to break the law, when they decide to regain and restore their own identity, and get their name. That’s a giant leap forward.
My becoming a survivor happened in stages, in a sequence of events. As a child I grieved. I promised myself as a teenager that I would find answers but it looked impossible with sealed records in Wisconsin.  I felt overcoming my low self-esteem was first. In my 20s, I realized there would be “emotional processing” I’d need to do, slowly, over time.  Opening my adoption records was very important in 1978 but troubling since I had no help to locate my parents. This was before the internet.  I also had to face reality that I might not find them or my parents might not be willing to meet me.  I never met my mother Helen which felt like a second rejection in the 1990s. I was 38 when I met my father Earl in 1996. Reunions (or not having a reunion) take time to process.  Over the years, other adoptees were great teachers for me since there are no guidebooks for dealing with adoption and the trauma. There is so much to understand, obviously.
Writing and remembering everything again and research changed me most – like a light bulb went on. I started to see adoption as an industry and a measure of control over a mother’s maternity and placed orphans in a state of emotional disgrace.  Recognizing adoption as an institution, one that has outgrown its purpose, one that is damaging for mother and child, was perhaps my biggest transforming moment.  (It was actually magical…)

VON:   You say in your book adoption involves many traumas, not just the one of the loss of a mother. Many of the things that happen to us, the damaging relationships, breakdowns and illness result from those traumas. How do we move from being vulnerable, to strength and survival?

Trace: In my book, I mention four distinct traumas for adoptees and I know there are more. Adoptee and natural parents are vulnerable to the billion dollar adoption machine that still manipulates us. I felt manipulated. Restricting us from meeting, laws which prevent our meeting, then add a dose of shame, judgement and misunderstanding, all deeply affects and even harms adoptees.  I do write about this in depth.
Adoption is very isolating.  Many adoptees like me suffered in silence. I see many adoptees create stories for their missing parents. If they do not know the truth, and never meet them, adoptees can stagnate emotionally and get trapped in illusions, lies and excuses. That is a very hard way to live. It’s very difficult to tell an adoptee what to do, or how to heal and overcome this vulnerability.  I took small steps on my own and finally realized that there was only one solution for me – find the truth.
A closed adoption is the ultimate act of disruption. Because of my disgrace and orphan-status, I was not living emotionally well. I was not empowered as a human since the very act of adoption removed my identity.  I made a decision to not live this way or accept the fantasy-land my adoptive parents and adoption industry created for me. I had to open my adoption, period.  I would not give up.
It took me a long time to see how I failed myself with very troubling decisions and blamed Helen my birthmother for misery I had as a child.  I fought the idea of being a disgrace.  I fought feeling rejected by Helen when I finally found her.  I fought very hard to heal myself, know myself and release judgment.  Even as a teenager, I thought it was ridiculous to be expected to live a fantasy and project gratitude.
Finding the truth and meeting relatives moves you from feeling vulnerable to empowered, from victim to survivor.  

ENDNOTE: I view adoption as torture. It's cruel and inhumane to force adoptees to live this fantasy life, with lies, with falsified records.
The blog Once was Von was actually deleted by Google because of complaints from anonymous readers who were in disagreement with Von's views on being an adoptee. 
It might happen to me, too, but I hope not. Trace

Monday, December 15, 2014

Siksika First Nation first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory

'A lost tribe': Child welfare system accused of repeating residential school history, sapping Aboriginal kids from their homes

Homes on the Siksika Nation Reserve in Alberta on pictured in 2009. In 1973, the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, became the first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory and start their own agency.
(Leah Hennel / Postmedia News)  Homes on the Siksika Nation Reserve in Alberta on pictured in 2009. In 1973, the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, became the first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory and start their own agency.

Elders from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in north-western Ontario remember the bus that drove around their reserve picking up children and shuttling them to a waiting plane for a 345 kilometre flight north to Sandy Lake, a remote community with no outside road link, except for ice roads built on frozen lakes and rivers during the winter.
“When the planes landed at the dock, families there were told they could come down and pick out a kid,” said Theresa Stevens, executive director of Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, the current child protection provider for Wabaseemoong.

Such mass apprehension of children from troubled Wabaseemoong, including those flights in the 1970s, have been draining the reserve of its youth for decades, until in 1990, the community had had enough.
A band council resolution was passed: the Children’s Aid Society was forbidden from entering the reserve.
“They stood at the reserve line on tractors with shotguns saying ‘You aren’t coming into our community and taking any more of our children,’ ” said Ms. Stevens.

The situation was desperate: a third of the reserve’s kids were in foster care; the dip in school-age children made teachers redundant.
“From that day forward they’ve assumed more and more control over their children,” said Ms. Stevens.
In that community near the Ontario-Manitoba border, known in English as Whitedog, standoffs and feuds preceded a new sense of stability. Ms. Steven’s agency has been handling child welfare since 2001, and doing it with the province’s approval since 2006.
“We went from having almost 300 children in care to where we are down to just slightly over 100 for that community. And that is huge,” she said.

A Wabaseemoong elder, Eli Carpenter, poignantly told her the difference it has made. One day he was struck by the uplifting sound of children playing; so many kids had been taken it had been years since he had heard that.
“That’s when we finally started to know we were making inroads and changing the tide of what had happened,” said Ms. Stevens.

Wabaseemoong is not yet a place to be pointed to as a universal model of success in tackling the problems of aboriginal child welfare, but it stands as a marker of hope and a portrait of the hard journey native child welfare reform takes.

Today, after the public apologies and restitution over the government’s residential school system, disproportionately high rates of aboriginal child apprehensions continue across Canada.
“There are more First Nation children in care today than during the height of residential schools,” said Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “We cannot lose another generation to the mistakes of the past. First Nations are the youngest and fastest growing segment of the population. We are the future. This is about Canada’s future.”
Goyce Kakegamic, a residential school survivor who is now deputy grand chief for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation — covering two-thirds of Ontario in an arc from Quebec to Manitoba — said it is the missing children of today, not just of the past, sapping vitality from native communities.
“So many of our children have been taken away they are like a lost tribe,” Mr. Kakegamic said.
While all child welfare systems in Canada face challenges, the added complexities of aboriginal child welfare bring a seemingly unbearable quandary.
About 15% of kids in care in Canada are aboriginal, despite natives comprising only 3% of the population; children on reserves are close to eight times more likely than other children to be taken into care.
These statistics alone suggest a problem worthy of attention, but they are coupled with studies saying a majority of native child apprehensions are not over allegations of abuse but, rather, concerns of neglect — with serious questions of what role culture and poverty plays in defining neglect.

“The child protection system for aboriginal children and youth is broken,” said John Beaucage, who was the first Aboriginal Advisor to Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services.
“We see the same type of things repeating: aboriginal children taken away from their community, taken away from their culture and usually … these children find themselves, as adults, trying to figure out who they are, where they belong and are somewhat lost.
“We, as a country, have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again.”
Among those mistakes: not doing enough to tackle root causes that lead to legitimate child apprehension; not finding ways of keeping more native children out of state care by ending unnecessary apprehensions; and finding a balance between meeting demands for aboriginal cultural integrity while maintaining critical standards of care.
“If we keep on doing the same old stupid things, we’re not going to see it stop,” said Mr. Beaucage. “We’re going to see it continue to rise without real benefit and without real change.”
In 1955, the federal Indian Act was changed to allow provincial laws to apply on native reserves and the provinces then went into the business of providing aboriginal child welfare services, although funded by Ottawa.
“We had social workers untrained in the experience of First Nations people; they’d walk onto these reserves, see all this poverty and devastation and children from the residential school system — who are now parents — in a lot of trauma and, instead of seeing that for what it was, they removed the kids all over again,” said Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the and an associate professor at the University of Alberta.
Shaughn Butts / Postmedia News
(Shaughn Butts / Postmedia News)   Cindy Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

The federal policy ushered in what is referred to now as the “60s Scoop,” when an estimated 20,000 native children were taken for foster care and adoption, primarily into non-aboriginal families in Canada, United States and Europe.

In 1973, the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, became the first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory and start their own agency. Manitoba bands soon followed.

There are now 108 aboriginal agencies in Canada mandated to handle child welfare services; at least one in every province except Prince Edward Island and with none in the northern territories.
More are on the horizon. In Ontario, for instance, the seven mandated aboriginal children’s aid societies will almost double if six “pre-mandated” agencies gain full authority; two are on the verge of full mandate status.

Meanwhile, the demands to recognize native culture in child welfare are becoming codified.
In Ontario, the Child and Family Services Act was amended in 2006, requiring child protection workers to ask whether a child has Indian status so that it can be taken into account in care decisions.

In Manitoba, where 80% of children in care are aboriginal, the Authorities Act now states that values, customs and traditional communities must be respected in cases involving aboriginal people.

And last year in Nunavut, where the population is mostly Inuit, the Child and Family Services Act was revised to allow interpretation according to Inuit societal values.

Along the way, the federal government has tinkered with funding in a patchwork approach with provinces: Ontario struck the Indian Welfare Agreement in 1965, allowing the province to bill Ottawa for services it provided for First Nations, although at about 93-cents on the dollar. A funding directive covered the rest of Canada from 1991 until 2007 when Ottawa unveiled an Enhanced Funding formula that brought new money to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
All child protection agencies across Canada start their cases based on a range of suspected maltreatment, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Increasingly, children are apprehended without evidence of actual maltreatment but, rather, for concern over neglect, substance abuse, lifestyle or living conditions.

That can hit native families particularly hard.
“It is quite heartbreaking,” said Katherine Hensel, a lawyer who has represented First Nations and aboriginal organizations across Canada.
“First Nation families are still experiencing the wrongful taking of their children on spurious grounds. There is still widespread, unnecessary and unwarranted removal of children.
“Many, many loving and perfectly good aboriginal homes don’t meet a province’s standard of requirements for being foster homes. There are different cultural norms on how children should be raised,” said Ms. Hensel.

Practices by many aboriginal people — such as parent-child co-sleeping, shared housing and multi-generational responsibility for childrearing — are often seen in social work as signs of dysfunction.
“If we deem a home to be a good home and a safe place for a child — but it might not meet all the provincial standards — we try to be as flexible and creative as we can,” said Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services.
First Nation families are still experiencing the wrongful taking of their children on spurious grounds. There is still widespread, unnecessary and unwarranted removal of children
While such flexibility and creativity may solve short-term problems, Ms. Blackstock wants long-term solutions. Her organization, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007 with the aim of prying more money from Ottawa. The complaint says the government discriminates against aboriginal children living on reserves by providing less funding than is available for non-native children.
Ottawa funds child welfare for on-reserve First Nations while the provinces fund child welfare for non-native children. The gap between the two funding models is estimated to be 22%, the hearing heard.
Ottawa fought to quash the case but the tribunal pressed ahead, holding 72 hearing days in Ottawa ending in October. A decision is expected by the spring.

Answers may come from other directions, too.
Mr. Kakegamic was born in Keewaywin First Nation in Northern Ontario and has experienced a spectrum of native life, raised on the land in a traditional lifestyle by his extended family and also placed in a residential school. He is university educated and now responsible for social services for member bands across northern Ontario — most remote, fly-in only reserves with poor infrastructure.
“We don’t need someone with a PhD to come and tell us what the problems are. We know what the problems are. Because they end up in child care, they end up in drugs and alcohol,” he said; feelings of “futurelessness” lead to high youth suicide rates. “It wounded us to our core and sometimes it is hard to move forward when you are wounded.
“But the answers do not all come from Ottawa.
“We need to look at ourselves. We can do more as a community. We can do more as parents… it’s not only more money and more resources.”
He wants to strengthen and expand aboriginal child welfare agencies in his territory and push more resources into prevention and early intervention.
“We have the skill, we have the capacity, we have the experience — now give us the way to help our own people.”
Moving toward aboriginal jurisdiction over child welfare is not a quick fix.
Last year, a joint Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation found that, proportionately, more children died in the care of an on-reserve Delegated First Nations Agency than in Alberta’s Children and Family Services Agency.
Tyler Anderson / National Post
Tyler Anderson / National PostLandon Kakegamic (left), 6, leans on a fence while watching a game of baseball at Keewaywin, a First Nations community in Northern Ontario in 2006.

The continuing problems of aboriginals in the child welfare system also became a focus in Manitoba with the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a 5-year-old native girl who died in 2005 after abuse in her mother’s home on Fisher River reserve, north of Winnipeg, three months after returning to her mother’s care.
Even after the intense public attention of the inquiry, gaps in native child welfare still invite tragedy, including 15-year-old Tina Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation who was in the care of a Child and Family Services agency in Winnipeg and, within a month, her body found sexually abused and wrapped in plastic in the city’s Red River.

Galvanized by another tragedy, the government has announced another round of changes.
Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii, said aboriginal agencies have two concurrent goals: “We have a mandate that is both from the government but also from our First Nations. We’re not just in the business of child welfare, we are also in the business of rebuilding our nation by rebuilding our families.”
A year ago, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, released a scathing report on the province’s aboriginal child welfare, calling it a “colossal failure of public policy.” She said the province spent at least $66 million on “talking” about problems “without a single child being actually served.”

Moving toward new aboriginal agencies is part of the adjustment agencies need to make, said Mary Ballantyne, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, where the boardroom is decorated by a quotation from Sitting Bull, the Indian chief who led the native resistance at Little Big Horn.

Darren Stone / Postmedia News
Darren Stone / Postmedia News  Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth in 2012.

“More and more, there is recognition that we need to find unique solutions in unique community circumstances.
“But we also need to make sure that the kids are OK. Aboriginal parents don’t want their kids in appalling conditions anymore than anybody else wants their kids in appalling conditions.”

Nico Trocmé, director of the McGill Centre for Research on Children and Families in Montreal, said he supports First Nations control over child welfare services—“with one enormous caveat: Simply dumping those services on First Nations communities and not providing the funding and resources needed is not going to change much of anything.”
“It is not going to be a quick and dirty solution,” said Mr. Beaucage, the former Ontario aboriginal advisor. “A lot of governments, they want a solution before the next election. You have to gauge your success by a different timeframe.
“The solution is not measured in months or years but maybe in ten years, or tens of years.”

Spammers Besiege this Blog

By Trace Hentz

I'm having to remove some of the posts that are being heavily attacked by spam. If you look at the right sidebar, you may notice the story about the Taylorville adoptee in Illinois has been removed. I hope you had read it prior to now. It was read by over 1,000 people but has been hit daily by spammers.
Sadly, I am going to have to remove more posts with the highest readers since they are generating spam daily.
This siege is annoying. Since the internet is monitored heavily by spambots, this blog is popular and has a big audience and is getting more hits.
So read the posts now. They may not be there tomorrow. (Print them out if you want to save them for future reference.)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Canada: Vatican Crimes #adoption #validvoices

Christmas is not a good time for many of us adoptees, or mothers of loss... many of us feel loss and anger over human trafficking and loss of family... Trace

Vatican and nun crimes happened in Spain - research "Spain Stolen Babies" by BBC and this atrocity also took place in Australia (so much so that the government even forced the nuns to issue an "apology" in 2012 for stealing babies). The news program "Dan Rather Reports" did a story on this topic called "Adopted or Abducted?" highlighting the fact that this also took place in USA.
Now this video highlights that this also took place in Canada. In fact, we encourage viewers to look for the book called "GONE TO AN AUNT'S" where reporter and author Anne Petrie further discloses how this took place in Canada.

The Protect Your Children Foundation is committed to exposing all the lies and crimes of religion worldwide to alert the nations of the dangers these criminal organizations pose in our communities. For more information, visit: and

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NPR Coverage of DOJ’s Commitment to Enforcing the Indian Child Welfare Act

Here is “Justice Department Vows To Fight States That Violate Indian Child Welfare Law.”
An excerpt:
This summer the Justice Department intervened for the first time in its history in a federal district court case in South Dakota, concluding that the state has violated the rights of Native American parents.
Two of the state’s largest tribes argued that the state has removed children in hearings where parents were rarely allowed to speak and often lasted less than 60 seconds. The children were then placed indefinitely in largely white foster homes.
Stephen Pevar, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit along with the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes, called the hearings “kangaroo courts.”
“There was nothing — nothing — that any of the parents did or could have done,” Pevar said. “It was a predetermined outcome in every one of these cases.”

Janice Howe fought the state of South Dakota for a year and a half to bring her grandchildren back home after they were placed in foster care.  
2011 coverage: READ MORE

Sadly, the comments on NPR in 2014 are stunningly bad, racist, belaboring the same myths about alcoholism, but not poverty or real concentration camps, and absolutely nothing about the reality and loss we face as children removed from our tribes...Trace

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Colonization is always war: A War for Territory #Adoption

By Zig-Zag,
(Originally pub. 1999 as Colonization is Always War, Revised 2012)

“If anyone is trying to destroy you, STOP HIM!” Karoniaktajeh – Louis Hall, Warrior’s Handbook p. 1

War & Colonization
Just slightly over 500 years ago, in 1492, three European ships under the command of Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of what has come to be known as the Americas. With this began a genocidal war aimed at destroying Indigenous nations, occupying our ancestral territories, and plundering the natural wealth of the earth. How many tens of millions of Indigenous people were killed in this war will never be known, although the methods of massacres, biological warfare, executions, torture, and the enslavement of entire nations, has been well documented by historians.
Similar invasions were being carried out in Africa and parts of Asia during this same period. This systematic campaign of genocide and colonization was a total war waged against Indigenous nations by European colonialist nations. No one can deny this historical fact.
Colonization can be defined as the practise of invading other lands for the purpose(s) of settlement and/or resource exploitation. When the land is already occupied by another people, the result is usually war. In fact, colonialism occurs in a similar manner to many military conflicts between nations: there is a reconnaissance, an invasion, occupation, and then assimilation (the same methods can be seen in Iraq and Afghanistan).
War can be defined as, “a state of hostilities that exists between or among nations, characterized by the use of military force… a violent clash between two hostile, independent, and irreconcilable wills, each trying to impose itself on the other. “The means to that end is the organized application or threat of violence by military force.” Warfighting, p. 3
Here in North America, military violence can be said to have characterized the imposition of colonialism & the establishment of settler-nations up to 1890. That year, 300 Indigenous men, women and children were massacred by US military forces at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. By the late 1880s, the use of gun-boats to destroy villages had ended along the Northwest Coast. In the southwest, Apache guerrillas had also been defeated. At this time, the military domination of Indigenous peoples was virtually complete. This was only slightly over 100 years ago.
Mass grave at Wounded Knee, 1890; the massacre was carried out by the reformed 7th Cavalry

Is There A War Against Indigenous Peoples Today?
Today, there are some who believe that military force and violence does not characterize our present-day reality here in N. America. But this is not entirely correct: The selective use of military/police violence can be clearly seen in recent examples from the last 30 year period.
Thousands of soldiers and police, using military equipment, weapons and tactics, have been deployed against Indigenous movements and communities.

The most notable examples being:
• the 71-day siege at Wounded Knee, S. Dakota, in 1973. Hundreds of police, FBI and paramilitaries, with military assistance including armoured personnel carriers, weapons, ammunition, etc., engaged in fire-fights with warriors in bunkers and trenches. 2 warriors were shot & killed.
• the re-occupation of Ganienkah by Mohawks in New York state in 1974. Hundreds of state police laid siege, and gunfire was exchanged with white vigilantes. NY state eventually retreated & negotiated a parcel of land still occupied today.
• the blockade at Cache Creek, BC, in 1974.
• the re-occupation of Anicinabe Park near Kenora, Ontario, in 1974.
• the 1975 shoot-out at Oglala, S. Dakota (two FBI agents and one warrior killed). Hundreds of FBI agents were deployed to Pine Ridge in a massive search for AIM members.
• Restigouche, 1981: over 500 Quebec police raid the Mi’kmaq community of Restigouche, carrying out assaults & searches for ‘illegal’ fishing.
• the 77-day standoff at Kanehsatake (Oka) and Kahnawake, near Montreal, Quebec, in 1990. Over 4,500 Canadian soldiers were deployed. One SQ police officer was killed in an initial raid by a heavily-armed police tactical unit on Mohawk road-block, July 11.
Kanehsatake/Oka 1990: a 77-day armed standoff between warriors and military.

• the month-long siege at Gustafsen Lake, BC (Ts’Peten), in 1995. Over 450 RCMP ERT members were used, with 9 Bison armoured personnel carriers from the Canadian military. During the siege, RCMP used an explosive charge to disable a vehicle, then rammed it twice with an APC. In a fire-fight which occurred, as many as 20,000 rounds were fired by police, yet only one defender was wounded (1 dog killed).
• the re-occupation at Ipperwash (Aazhoodeena), Ontario, 1995. A police tactical unit opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing Dudley George and shooting a 15-year old youth in back (1 dog killed).
• Burnt Church 2000-01. Hundreds of heavily armed DFO & RCMP officers (inc. ERT units) in boats, helicopters, & planes were used against Mi’kmaq lobster fishermen & security escorts (inc. Westcoast Warrior Society).
• July, 2001: over sixty RCMP were used to dismantle a road block at the Sutikalh re-occupation camp near Mt. Currie, BC. Along with a helicopter & dog teams, heavily-armed ERT members were used to arrest 7 (unarmed) people. The blockade had shut down all commercial traffic on Highway 99, a vital link between Vancouver & the southern interior.
Wounded Knee, 1973

• Sun Peaks (Skwekwekwelt), where RCMP arrested approx. 80 elders & NYM’ers from 2000-08. These arrests resulted from occupations, road-blocks, & protests against expansion of the Sun Peaks ski resort (near Kamloops, ‘BC’).
• September 21, 2002: RCMP from the Integrated Security Enforcement Team (INSET)—an anti-terrorist unit created after 9-11— along with ERT, raided homes of Westcoast Warrior Society members on Vancouver Island (BC).
• April 8, 2003: RCMP with ERT & helicopter raided NYM member homes in Bella Coola & Neskonlith (BC). They seized computers, discs, address books, & printed materials.
• October, 2003: a convoy of approx. 100 RCMP in over 30 large vehicles & vans, with ERT units, riot cops, and dog teams, rolled through Cheam as a show of force (Cheam had blockaded a CN railway cutting through their reserve in protest against logging in Elk Creek).
• June 27, 2005: over 30 Vancouver Police & RCMP (including ERT & INSET members) arrest 2 members of the Westcoast Warrior Society in Vancouver. They confiscate 10 rifles that had been legally purchased at Lever Arms. No charges are laid and the weapons kept as part of an ongoing investigation (shortly after, the WWS announces its disbandment).
• Spring, 2006: hundreds of Ontario Provincial Police are deployed against the Six Nations reserve near Caledonia, Ontario, after a housing development & highway are blockaded as part of a land reclamation. On April 20, police attempt to remove people from the reclamation site using batons & pepper spray but are forced back. This begins months of blockades and sabotage.
During these incidents & the time periods in which they occurred, hundreds of people were assaulted, arrested, and jailed. At least six Indigenous people died during these incidents; in S. Dakota, between 1973-1976, nearly 70 members/associates of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were killed by paramilitary groups & BIA police, acting under the direction of a corrupt tribal president, with the complicity of local, state, and US federal law enforcement agencies. FBI agents supplied training and equipment to these paramilitary & tribal police forces.

At roadblocks or re-occupation camps, heavily armed police ERT’s are also frequently used for surveillance and over-watch for regular police making arrests. When the Lil’wat road block at Mt. Currie was dismantled in the Fall of 1990, the large RCMP force which arrested over 60 people was covered by ERT snipers.
During a Spring 1995 road block near Merritt, BC, (Douglas Lake Ranch), an RCMP ERT unit was discovered conducting surveillance.
RCMP Emergency Response Team pose in front of Bison armored personnel carrier.

In May 2001, near La Loche, Saskatchewan, an RCMP ERT unit was discovered conducting surveillance on a blockade camp. The camp was alerted to the presence of camouflaged police by a dog. After being confronted, they ran back to an old cabin, where other ERT members were brewing coffee. In their retreat, they left behind several items, including a tear gas canister and a 9 mm pistol.
Following September 11, 2001, and new anti-terrorist measures, the RCMP have become even more aggressive in their repression of Indigenous resistance. As noted, in September 2002, RCMP INSET & ERT units raided the homes of Westcoast Warriors. In April 2003, RCMP & ERT raided the homes of NYM members in Bella Coola & Neskonlith, BC. Then, in June 2005, the arrests of WWS members in Vancouver (after legally purchasing weapons) by INSET officers & ERT.
In 2006, a draft copy of the Canadian Forces new counter-insurgency manual included a description of the Mohawk Warrior societies as an example of domestic insurgents:
“The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims. Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve (‘First Nations’) level, through the threat of, or use of, violence.”
Because of Native protests, the CF removed the reference to warrior groups. Despite this, it is clear that the military continue to train and prepare for future domestic operations against Indigenous defenders.
Considering all this, it must be acknowledged that the use of military/police force, or the threat of violence by military/police force, has in fact continued, directed against and mostly limited to, those Indigenous people who become involved in protest or resistance activities.
Tyendinaga Mohawks at blockade, Arpil 2008

Psychological Warfare
Because of the focused use of state violence against Indigenous resistance, some people believe these confrontations are the result of “extremists”, and that this use of military\police force is used only to resolve “criminal” matters.
This view reveals the success with which the state has isolated resistance, in the minds of some, as being the work of Indigenous “criminals” & “terrorists”, etc. In fact, after the 1990 Oka Crisis, an analysis of the siege concluded that the use of the military gave the Mohawk warriors a ‘moral victory’ in the eyes of the public. This was seen to contribute to widespread sympathy for the warriors across the country. One report recommended the use of heavily-armed police to reinforce the view of Indigenous rebels as “criminals.” This tactic was successfully used at Gustafsen Lake & Ipperwash in 1995 (along with strict control of the media).
Leonard Peltier, an Anicinabe-Lakota involved with AIM in the 1970s and imprisoned for over 30 years, has observed that,
“If white society’s attempts to colonize people meets with resistance, it is called war. However, if the colonized Indians of N. America unite to rise up and resist, then we are called criminals.”
Portraying resistance as “criminal” is a primary method by which our enemy seeks to undermine our movement. Other common smears include “terrorist,” “thugs,” etc. These terms carry negative & anti-social meanings. When attached to a group, terms such as these influence public perception & loyalties. Corporate media play a big role in disinformation campaigns & counter-insurgency operations.

War by other Means
Some may agree that the selective use of military force is used, but argue that this is the result of the imperfect society we live in. They might add that in other parts of the world, Indigenous people live with deadly violence on a daily basis. In N. America, we may be oppressed, but it is not a war, because military force is not used against our people as a whole.
This perspective, however, is based on a narrow definition of war, characterizing it as purely military. A broader definition of war states:
“War involves the use of all the elements of national power, including diplomacy, military force, economics, ideology, technology, and culture.”
Warfighting, p. 25
Wars can be of either high- or low-intensity, depending on the overall objectives & the means available to wage that war. By its very nature, because it is a struggle between two opposing wills, war is both uncertain and constantly changing. Because of these factors, different means of waging war will tend to dominate in certain conditions.
Native children in Residential School.

Here in N. America, as our military ability to resist was overcome, other means besides a military one came to dominate colonialist strategies and methods. The suspension of military campaigns did not, however, mean the end of colonization.
Colonization is an ongoing and continual process that does not end so long as the territory and people are occupied by the colonialist nation. Just as war cannot be said to be purely a question of military force, neither can colonization. The imposition of special laws contained in the Indian Act, including the reserve and band council system; the residential school system and religious indoctrination; distorted and incomplete depiction’s of our people & history in the public education system, etc.; these are some examples of colonialism using legal, political, ideological, and cultural means.

Colonization is War
Colonization, the occupation of a territory and the domination of the Indigenous people, can be characterized as a clash between two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature, with one attempting to impose its will onto the other. It is a life & death struggle. This characterization fits our definition of war as previously stated.
It is therefore correct to say that colonization is a condition of war, and is it itself a form of war to gain territory for resources &/or settlement.
Because colonialism continues to this day, it follows then that a war is being waged against our people at this time. This war of colonization is conducted by the state of Canada using all the elements of national power at its disposal, including diplomacy, military/police force, economics, ideology, technology, and culture.
1995, siege at Ts'Peten (Gustafsen Lake) in south central interior of 'BC'.

Identifying The Effects Of This War And Combating Them
“There is another type of warfare waged on the native… It is waged against the mind of the natives. This type of warfare is every bit as dirty and deadly as the ones with guns. The casualties are the drunks, dope addicts & suicides. The casualty rate is high. There are Indians walking around dazed and confused suffering from identity conflict. This is one of the wars the modern… warriors have to fight. To fight any kind of war, one needs courage, gumption knowledge of the enemy and strategic planning. The biggest single requirement is FIGHTING SPIRIT.”
Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall, Warrior’s Hand Book, p. 10.
The more that a war of colonization comes to rely on political, economic or ideological means, and the less it uses military force, the more difficult it is for the Indigenous people to comprehend and understand that a war is in fact being waged against them.
In this way, the inferior condition of the Indigenous person in all aspects of life, and little progress towards remedying this oppressed condition, cannot be accounted for, except as an “unfortunate” result of history. Yet, despite continual inquiries and special commissions & constitutional debates & new government programs — all aimed at uplifting the Indigenous people, we are told — the fundamental conditions which keep Indigenous people oppressed do not change.
This lack of change is not due to history, it is because our enemy actively prevents any movement towards fundamental changes to its system. It in fact seeks to prevent even the thought that fundamental changes are necessary.
Ideology and psychological warfare, transmitted through the public education system, corporate media and entertainment industries, and political institutions, serves to obscure and make incomprehensible the full nature and extent of a war of colonization.

Know Your Enemy
Unable to comprehend this war, the Indigenous person is then incapable of defining an enemy and the means by which they are oppressed. This understanding can only come through education & consciousness. The identification of the colonial system as an enemy of Indigenous people must therefore be clearly communicated. Another important part of de-colonization is the history of Indigenous resistance to colonialism. As well, people need to be exposed to the realities of the global capitalist system, its use of military force to impose imperialism, the role of white supremacy & patriarchy in this process, etc.
St. Michael's Residential School in Alert Bay, 2011

Casualties of War
The effects colonization has had on our people must be acknowledged. Indigenous peoples have the highest rates of suicide in the country; the highest infant mortality rates; the lowest life expectancies; disproportionately high rates of AIDs, cancers, and imprisonment; the lowest income level; the highest unemployment rates, etc.
Many have suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse in the residential school system; the effects of this have resulted in inter-generational patterns of abuse in our communities. How many tens of thousands of Indigenous children have been taken from their families, and their people, and fostered out in non-Indigenous family units may never be known, and still continues.
The overall physical and psychological effects of these oppressed conditions can never be fully known, for the casualties and deaths of such a war do not appear as bodies on a battlefield, but instead as suicide statistics, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, and slaves. Many become apathetic to these conditions, while some attempt to assimilate themselves even further into this system and its way of life, a form of self-destruction in itself. Unable to see colonization as the fundamental condition which oppresses them, many not only lack a will to resist, they can even lack a will to live (i.e., disproportionately high rates of suicide among Native peoples).

Fighting Spirit
A primary aim of Indigenous resistance must be to strengthen the fighting spirit of our people and their will to resist. Fighting spirit can be strengthened and affirmed in many ways, i.e. through the use of certain language and concepts, graphics, clothing, crest animals, songs, etc. A fuller understanding and practice of our own Indigenous cultures would also contribute to raising fighting spirit, and in & of itself is a form of de-colonization. Our people’s history of resistance, and especially the last thirty year period, should be maintained and communicated.
Masked warriors at Kanehsatake, 2004, after shutting down the police station.

The purpose of this article has been to expose the reader to a view of colonization as a war for territory. It is believed that this view is critical to understanding the true nature of our struggle and the intentions, strategies, & tactics of our enemy.
That state security forces will be used to enforce colonial rule & corporate access to resources is an already established fact. As economic & environmental conditions decline, as resources become more depleted, the potential for ever-greater social conflict increases. For these reasons, fighting spirit must also be augmented by preparations for militant defense of land, resources, & communities, in the years to come.

 [The chapter of the Indian Adoption Projects and ARENA are also part of this pattern of colonialism. We are living proof of what these governments did...Trace]

Friday, December 5, 2014

#60sScoop case moves forward as class action lawsuit

The Ontario Superior Court has dismissed an appeal by the Canadian government to strike a landmark case on the deprivation of cultural identity — also known as the “Sixties Scoop" of First Nations children.
The case can now proceed as a class action lawsuit.
Goyce Kakegamic
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

“For the first time in Western law, a court has recognized our First Nations’ connection to our culture as a whole, and not as specific Aboriginal land, fishing or hunting interests, and that our peoples’ connection to our culture is an interest that cannot be disputed,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic.
Between 1965 and 1985 an estimated 16,000 Aboriginal children in Ontario, including members of NAN First Nations, were removed from their homes and placed in other — mostly non-native — communities, NAN said in a press release issued Wednesday.
“An entire generation lost its Aboriginal identity and culture through what is known as the “Sixties Scoop,” the release stated.
“This is the first time a court in the Western world has given this importance to cultural identity and granted permission for a legal case to proceed where a people were robbed of their cultural identity.”
Beaverhouse First Nation Chief Marcia Brown Martel. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

Marcia Brown Martel — now Chief of Beaverhouse First Nation — and Robert Commanda launched a lawsuit in February 2009 against the Attorney General of Canada under the Class Proceedings Act.
Prior to Tuesday’s decision, two judges had ruled in favour of the class action proceeding, allowing Chief Brown to be a representative plaintiff for Sixties Scoop survivors in Ontario.
“It has been a difficult path to litigation for these courageous plaintiffs and we will continue to support their efforts to hold the federal government accountable for transgressions that  have permanently scarred countless First Nations,” Kakegamic said.
“It has taken a long time, but it is a beginning.”
So far there has been no comment from the federal government on the ruling.
Decision here.

[And we can hope that American Indian Adoptees are NEXT! ...Trace]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Children in the Crosshairs: The Emerging Battle Over Alaska’s Native Children

Richard Lincoln III left his foster family and returned to his coastal Yup'ik village on the western edge of Nelson Island in the Bering Sea.

Richard had made up his mind. By the time he was 16, the Yup’ik boy had been bounced around in foster care for years when he made the life-altering decision to escape. His four younger siblings had already been adopted out of the tribe, scattered among three white families, their whereabouts unknown to him and his village. But he was determined to remain a part of his community, no matter what the cost.
“The last straw came when my foster parents started hinting around and asking me how I felt about changing my name,” he recalls. “That’s when I decided that I was done. I told them that my name is Richard Lincoln III. I am the third. I am the oldest boy in my family. I was named after my father and his father. I was not going to change my name for anyone or anything. That is who I am. I didn’t want to be adopted. I wanted to go home.”
And so he walked away from foster care. Upon returning to his village, a coastal Yup’ik community on the western edge of Nelson Island in the Bering Sea, he called his foster parents and told them that he was going to stay in Tununak. From that day on, Lincoln made it a mission to find his four brothers and bring them back home as well.
Richard’s escape from a child welfare system that continues to ensnare hundreds of thousands of Indian children across the United States, and that his foster parents consented to allow him to stay with his village, is nearly unheard of. Considering that Native children usually outnumber their non-Indian counterparts by a ratio of up to 9:1 in foster care in some parts of the United States, Lincoln is one of the lucky few who managed to make it back to his home community. In spite of federal laws meant to protect the tribes, Indian children continue to be swept into foster care in non-Indian homes in huge numbers. Many are adopted out of their tribes or languish in foster care, aging out of a system that generates millions in federal subsidies for the states.

The Event Horizon
Today, Richard Lincoln III is 27 years old, and is now the ICWA worker for the Tununak Village, a position he took over in 2012, though he had no experience with the byzantine federal law and its requirements. But he did have one thing in his favor: As a Native child who had been through the never-ending carousel of foster homes and makeshift families, often feeling out of place and homesick, he understood precisely what it was like from the child’s point of view.
On his first day on the job, The Native Village of Tununak v. The State of Alaska landed on his desk, a case in which an Inupiaq grandmother has been fighting for custody of her now 6-year-old granddaughter since the girl was 4 months old.
Last September, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against the village and the grandmother, noting that, despite the clearly defined placement preferences outlined in the Indian Child Welfare Act, neither had stepped forward to formally adopt the child known in the proceedings as “Dawn.” In its decision, the court cited points made in last year’s United States Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (commonly known as the “Baby Veronica” case), as helping establish parameters behind its decision for denying Dawn’s maternal grandmother, Elise, the right to raise her granddaughter.
The ensuing outrage among tribal advocates over Tununak and the resultant headlines have put the case—now more than likely headed for another appeal—at the forefront of the efforts of Indian nations to firmly establish adherence to ICWA in states that seemingly circumvent it with few signs of improving and suffering scant legal consequence. In response to Indian Country Today Media Network’s presentation of grandmother Elise’s account of her many struggles, Assistant Attorney General Jackie Shafer of the Alaska Department of Law delivered a lengthy rebuttal to Elise’s and the village representatives’ story. (Note: the original story has been edited to reflect the fact that the mother of Baby Dawn was not ‘sent’ to Anchorage, but lived there, gave birth to Dawn, and was not moved to a rehab facility—she did not attend any in-patient treatment. Also, the reason the court rejected the state’s appeal of Tununak I hinged on a “burden of proof” requirement, and was not related to any decision in the Adoptive Couple case as originally stated.)

RELATED: Children in the Crosshairs: Alaska Native Grandmother Fights ICWA Ruling

Though many points of the case are in dispute (if they were not, there would be not disagreement), in the interest of clarity and to offer our readers the state’s position as accurately as possible, we present here the unvarnished bulk of the rebuttal. To wit:
“Early on in the case, the mother informed OCS and the grandmother that she strongly did not want the child placed with the grandmother in the village.
The statement that Dawn was placed with the Smiths after her mother went to the rehab facility is true only in the limited sense that it ignores that Dawn was placed with several other placements before the Smiths. She was removed from her mother’s care in 2008 and the Smiths were her fourth placement since birth.
Even though Elise twice visited Anchorage in 2011, she never visited Dawn during those visits, nor did she write her any letters, send photos, or call. This was despite the adoptive parents’ efforts to keep in touch with Elise.
Elise participated in Dawn’s CINA case, had access to a lawyer through Alaska Legal Services, who represented her and the Tribe for free, Elise waited over three years to tell the court that she had an interest in taking custody of Dawn.
‘Early in the case, Elise says, OCS workers came to her village to inspect her home.’ That wasn’t an OCS worker, that was someone from AVCP—the organization that represented the tribe.
‘She had her home cleared of some fishing equipment and made a room ready for her granddaughter.’ That is inaccurate. Even at the placement hearing she said she had not completed these things. From the Court’s opinion: “In December 2009 a representative from the Village Council Presidents visited Elise’s home on OCS’s behalf and completed a Foster Home Visit Worksheet as part of the foster-care licensing process. The report noted a number of potential hazards in the home that needed to be addressed before placement could occur, including unsecured fuel, guns, medicine, and cleaning supplies, as well as plastic bags and “clutter” in Dawn’s potential bedroom. In February 2010 OCS discussed these concerns with Elise, and she said that she planned to address them. OCS asked Elise to arrange for a second home visit once these tasks had been completed.” At the placement trial, she testified that her home was still not ready.
‘On subsequent visits the OCS workers would find other requirements.’ This is inaccurate. No one ever went to her house again because she was supposed to notify OCS when she had fixed the problems identified by AVCP. She had not yet remedied those things by the time of the placement hearing, so that is probably why she did not notify AVCP/OCS to do another home inspection.
‘Elise found him [her son] another place to live.’ That is not true. From the Court’s opinion: “Elise also testified [at the placement hearing] that her son lived in her home again and helped out with chores, such as carrying water, shopping, cooking, and subsistence hunting. According to Elise, her son could not afford to return to Anchorage to complete the required alcohol treatment program, but he did not drink anymore and alcohol was not available in the village.” The adult son living with her had a bench warrant out for his arrest. This was one of the issues that AVCP notified Elise about regarding why her home was not currently a safe place to transfer a child.
‘At the time, Elise’s husband was dying of lung cancer.’ That’s not what she testified to—at the placement hearing she said he was in remission.
‘The adoption process was moving forward with no prior notification to the child’s grandmother or her tribe.’ That is not true at all. The Tribe had been a party to the case since the beginning and received notice of all the developments in the case, including OCS’ updates to the court about Dawn’s placement and pursuing an adoption home study.
‘By the time of the placement hearing in November 2011, however, Dawn’s fate had already been determined.’ This is incorrect. The placement hearing was a major turning point in the case and involved extensive testimony and presentation of evidence by both sides. The trial court devoted an entire day to the placement hearing and issued a 20-page substantive order describing all of the evidence at the hearing. Then that decision was appealed, and Dawn’s fate has been in limbo ever since.
‘I can’t afford the legal fees to fight this.’ Alaska Legal Services Corporation represented her for free.”
Elise, the tribe and their lawyers all firmly maintain that the state and its Office of Childrens’ Services (OCS) knew full well she intended to raise her granddaughter after her daughter’s parental rights were involuntarily terminated in 2011 and that she did everything humanly possible to make that happen including applying for a foster license, which she was not legally required to do. The state contends that by failing to file adoption papers, which neither she nor the tribe were ever told they were required to do, she had not met the requirements under the placement preferences because of the outcome in the Baby Veronica case.
Both Elise and the Association of Village Council Presidents strongly take issue with the court’s findings on Elise’s efforts to properly clean and secure her home, sharing the consensus that OCS and the state had made up their minds early on about Dawn’s fate that hindered Elise’s ability to gain custody of her granddaughter. (And, regarding another of the AG’s points above, it should also be noted that Elise’s husband, in fact, later died of lung cancer.)
“They knew all along that Elise wanted her granddaughter,” says Carol Brown, general counsel for the Association of Village Council Presidents, a consortium of Alaska Native Villages. “The attorney general, the social workers, prosecutors and guardian ad litems (GALs) are all on their own track and they’re very motivated to ‘win.’ The GALs, rather than doing what’s best for the child, will just defer to the legal counsel, and many don’t even bother going to the villages to assess the families. Oftentimes, these life-changing decisions are made from afar.
“I went to a hearing once where the guardian ad litem actually forgot the name of the child he was representing. So the reality is subverted. It’s not a ‘formal’ policy, but it’s definitely a reality on the ground.”
Cori Mills, the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Office of Children’s Services, denied allegations that their social workers are told off-the-record that the state “does not follow” ICWA as previously reported in ICTMN.
“OCS closely adheres to the Indian Child Welfare Act, throughout its policy manual and as a pillar of agency culture. Supervisors do not tell staff to disregard or that we do not ‘follow ICWA’,” said Mills, via email. “ICWA compliance has been and continues to be a top priority at OCS and an issue of daily conversation. OCS conducts significant trainings on the subject, and continue to support staff to explore race, ethnicity and culture in an effort to continually improve best practices when working with Alaska’s families.”
Many of the nearly dozen Native families contacted by ICTMN for this story who have been through the state’s child welfare system, including Elise’s, vociferously deny the state’s official position on the enforcement of ICWA, citing many of their futile efforts to reunify with their children. They believe Elise’s case is only unusual in the sense that she has stood up to a system that they feel is stacked against them.
“I don’t care what the state said, they’re lying,” said Elise, upon hearing the state’s response. “That’s what they do. They lie and intentionally keep moving these kids around to different homes and make it nearly impossible for the parents to reunite with their kids. My granddaughter lived in five different homes before she was 4. Five homes. How is that more stable than being with her own grandmother and her people?”
Previously, the tribe had agreed to allow Dawn’s placement in foster care with non-Indian foster parents in Anchorage so that she could be near her birth mother while she attended outpatient rehab. But after Dawn’s birth mother lost her parental rights, the Village of Tununak, as the party in the case, argued that there was no longer “good cause” to deviate from the placement preferences outlined in section 1915 of ICWA. By then, however, Dawn had been placed in her fifth foster home with Kim and Harry Smith in Anchorage, who according to insiders within social services, had been told by OCS they would be able to “keep” Dawn if they wished to adopt her.
From the beginning, the relationship between Elise and the Smiths was tense, particularly with Mrs. Smith. According to Elise and Tarzwell, it deteriorated even further after the couple filed adoption papers for Dawn four days before the placement hearing commenced in 2012 with no prior notice to the grandmother or the village. By that point, tribal officials said they began to realize the Office of Children’s Services had never intended to return Dawn to her family or village; they say, and Elise maintains, that there was no notice to the grandmother or the village when adoption papers were filed. Over the objections of Elise and the village, the girl was adopted by the Smiths in 2012. The tribe, represented pro bono by Sydney Tarzwell and James Davis Jr. of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, appealed the adoption to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The case is a perfect illustration, say Indian child welfare experts, of the size of the gulf of the cultural divide between Natives and non-Natives, as rural, traditional communities run up against the legal doctrines and bureaucracy of official state government. It is indicative of the emerging battle over the rights of Indian children and their tribes under the Indian Child Welfare Act that was passed in 1978 to keep families and children together. Because of the widespread diaspora in the previous centuries, in which Indian children were often rounded up en masse and shipped off to colonial mission schools and later government boarding schools, tribes lost hundreds of thousands of children who never returned to their communities.
Within one generation, languages were broken, traditions and oral histories died, ceremonies became extinct. ICWA was passed to prevent another lost generation of children. Instead, experts and tribal leaders say it has just created more tension between states and tribes, who are usually at odds over the purpose and intent of ICWA and the legal standard of what constitutes “best interest” for tribal children.
“The state plays ‘hide the ball’ when faced with issues regarding Tribal jurisdiction,” said Brown. “[And there is] frustration with the constant barrage of litigation and narrowly-construed arguments to thwart Tribes’ efforts to self-govern, as demonstrated in this case.”

The Ripple Effect of Baby Veronica on ICWA
“The Alaska Supreme Court incorrectly interpreted the Baby Veronica decision and has turned ICWA on its head,” said Troy Eid, Chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC), a nine-member bipartisan, volunteer panel that submitted its report, “A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer,” to the President and Congress in November 2013. In the report, Alaska is singled out among the 50 states with a stand-alone chapter outlining its poor treatment of tribes.
Eid, a former United States Attorney who is now in private practice in Denver, spent more than a month with his team visiting every section of the state whose system of governance he has characterized as “colonial” and outdated. The “Baby Dawn” case, he says, only reinforces his opinion of the state’s position on Native foster care.
“The foundational purpose of ICWA is to prevent states from improperly removing Native children from their parents, extended families, and tribes,” said Eid, whose firm represents the Association of Village Council Presidents, a consortium of Alaska Native tribes. “Nothing in ICWA—or for that matter, Baby Veronica—[says that] unless some eligible person, such as the grandmother here, has formally filed an adoption petition. This has the practical effect of gutting the statutory preferences, forcing Tribes and their citizens to file adoption petitions in order for those preferences to have any legal effect.”
This case, he maintains, returns Indian children to the pre-ICWA days when state laws presumed Native people to be unfit parents. By forcing grandparents and other family or tribal members to prove their worthiness runs headlong into the original intent and purpose of the federal law—“Even though Congress has said that the law is supposed to keep Native families together whenever possible, and not break them apart.”

Lost in Translation
Carol Brown, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa from Wisconsin, has served as general counsel for the AVCP since 2010. Like Richard Lincoln III and Sydney Tarzwell, the Baby Dawn case came to her attention almost as soon as she hit the door at AVCP.
“We’ve been monitoring this case from the beginning,” said Brown. “When I was growing up, the Lac du Flambeau was one of the first tribes to have our own court systems. [In] Alaska and they are, through no fault of their own, 30 years behind many tribes in the lower 48. We’re past the Termination Era, but it’s like the 1950s they way they treat Indians here.”
Brown says she has witnessed many of the same problems in Alaska that tend to plague tribes in the lower 48 states: Cultural, linguistic and behavioral misunderstandings that often lead to bitter resentments and disputes between the Native inhabitants and their non-Indian neighbors.
“For example, they put out these little sheets in the Yup’ik language for the courts to use in ICWA hearings,” said Brown. “But you have to understand that there are many Yup’ik dialects and what may mean one thing to one band, may have a totally different meaning five miles away. So you can’t rely on a sheet of paper with words on it—you have to have the right interpreter in the room with the proper context of what’s actually being said.”
Brown concurred with the ILOC’s written opinion that “...the problems in Alaska are so severe and the number of Alaska Native communities affected so large, that continuing to exempt the State from national policy change is wrong. It sets Alaska apart from the progress that has become possible in the rest of Indian Country.”
On this particular point, the State of Alaska seems to agree.
“The State recognizes that the message of the report is sound, and that the State can and should be doing more to address the problems outlined in the Indian Law and Order Commission Report,” said assistant attorney general Jackie Schafer. “We are actively working on local solutions.”
Schafer pointed out that some of the solutions included negotiating “Civil Diversion Agreements” (CDA) with “several” Alaska tribes, but did not specify what, if any plans, were being made for the hundreds of other villages. Under these agreements, said Schafer, tribes would handle violations of certain state law misdemeanors and offenses in tribal court, including alcohol offenses, minor consuming or in possession offenses, as well as local option possession offenses in communities that have voted to ban alcohol, among others. But, apparently, none of the CDA’s would address specific tribal concerns with regard to the promulgation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
In response to questions regarding the importance of self-determination and local governance that are crucial to the cohesion of tribal life, Schafer said the state is making efforts to collaborate with its tribal communities.
“Absolutely. This is one of the main reasons that the state is seeking to enter into the Civil Diversion Agreements with Alaskan tribes,” said Schafer. “One of the highest priorities of the State is to work as partners with tribes and Alaska Native communities to address the numerous challenges facing rural Alaska. The State, tribes, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) corporations, and nonprofit entities are all diligently working to improve life in Alaska’s tribal communities.”

Returning Home to the Nest
When Richard Lincoln made the decision to stay in Tununak rather than return to his foster parents, he also made another, more personal decision: To find his brothers and bring them home.
“It took until we were all adults,” said Lincoln, who searched databases, made phone calls and wrote letters, searching for four people—all of whom now had different last names. “But we all wanted to go home. All five of us.”
Richard Lincoln III is seen here with his grandparents and three children. (Richard Lincoln III)
Richard Lincoln III is seen here with his grandparents and three children. (Richard Lincoln III)

Over the years, he managed to locate three of his brothers and bring them back to their ancestral village that sits on the Bering Sea.
“I made sure all my brothers came home—except one,” he said. “There is one still out there and I don’t even know if he’s alive. But I hope that one day we find him or he finds us. Because he is our brother. He is one of us. We want him to know we’re here, we’re home, and we’re waiting for him.”
For Lincoln, and many other Alaska Natives, the case of Baby Dawn has ignited a long simmering anger over the state’s recalcitrant attitudes toward what constitutes “best interests” for their children. But he continues his work as Tununak’s ICWA coordinator, because his tribe is small—with only about 400 members—and by now he has gained valuable experience that is crucial to the long-term survival of his people.
“This case has brought back some hard memories,” said Lincoln. “And it’s a situation that’s prevalent and it’s been this way for years—our children being adopted out to white families. But I won’t be surprised in 15 or 20 years if this little girl shows up in our village. And when she does, we will be here for her. Waiting.”


Obama Unveils Plan To Help Young American Indians

Obama Unveils Plan To Help Young American Indians
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Three Books on Lost Birds

ICWA headlines

ICWA headlines
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Good Words

Mila @yoonsblur: What can non-adopted people do to help adoptees feel respected in our spaces? Remember that they are guests. Remember that they are visitors. Remember that they will NEVER know what it's like to live an adopted life. Remember that they are visiting our home, our land, our territory. And hence, they need to act and behave accordingly. I like to use the analogy of a heart transplant patient. A heart transplant patient is the only one who knows what it is like to undergo transplantation. They are the only ones who know how it feels to be a transplant patient. The doctors, nurses, family members, etc. do not know what it is like to live life as a transplant patient and none of them would insist that they know what it feels like. They can help take care of the patient, they may even have valuable knowledge that may be applicable, but they still have no clue what it's like to live life as a transplant patient. Even the doctors and nurses can only help if they listen to the patient. Assumptions are dangerous and could even lead to death. Hence, knowledge is never equivalent to experience. A White person who has a Ph.D in African American studies will never know what it's like to live life as an African American. That Ph.D does not make the White person an "expert" on being African American. Similarly, unless you are an adoptee--no matter how many books you've read, no matter how many adopted children you've raised--you will NEVER know what it's like to be an adoptee. So, respect that. Sit down. Listen. Acknowledge. Validate. Do not presume. Do not dismiss. Do not negate. Do not pit adoptees against each other by saying, "Well, I know this one adoptee who..." Turn your mouth off and your ears on. That's what non-adopted folks can do if they truly want to understand and respect adoptees in our spaces.
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