How to Use this Blog

Howdy! We've amassed tons of information and important history on this blog since 2010. If you have a keyword, use the search box below. Also check out the reference section above. If you have a question or need help searching, use the contact form at the bottom of the blog. Contact Trace Hentz, blog editor.
ALSO, if you buy any of the books at the links provided, the editor will earn a small amount of money or commission. (we thank you)

Search This Blog


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Aboriginal Health in the Aftermath of Genocide

Genocide and the intergenerational trauma that it produces have had a demonstrable effect on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples.

The federal government worked closely with mainline Canadian churches, who were together responsible for running most schools until the 1950s. The Catholic Church ran approximately 60 percent, the Anglicans about 30 percent, with the Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Churches running most of the remainder. From 1920 until the 1950s, attendance for children aged five to sixteen was compulsory (Milloy, 1999; Miller, 2004, p. 84; MacDonald, 2007). At least 150,000 children passed through 125 institutions, the last of which closed only in 1996. There are approximately 75,000 Survivors alive today, and many face a myriad of social, economic, and other problems as a result of their experiences, on which this chapter later focuses.
A number of recent studies allege that genocide occurred within the IRS system, claims which this chapter supports (Chrisjohn and Young, 1997; Grant, 1996; Neu and Therrien, 2003; Woolford, 2009; Powell, 2011). The term genocide was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, who described it as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves” (1944, pp. 27-28). 

The 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, which flowed from Lemkin’s efforts, defines genocide as follows:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
   (a) Killing members of the group:
   (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
   (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
   (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
   (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

If you can't access this paper, I can send it to you. Email me:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Saints and Strangers: Natives on the set (Nov. 22, 23)

Queypo, Trujillo, Means on the set of 'Saints & Strangers.' Courtesy National Geographic Channel.

“Saints & Strangers” is a four-hour, two-night movie event billed as the “real true story of the Mayflower passengers, the founding of Plymouth and their relationship with the Native Americans.” The film, produced by Sony Pictures Television with Little Engine Productions, will air November 22 and 23.


Natives on the Set! Means, Trujillo, Queypo Filming Mayflower Movie in South Africa

National Geographic Channel has released the first photos from the set of Saints & Strangers, a film that tells a more accurate version of the Mayflower/Pilgrims story, and three Native American actors are prominently showcased.

In the still, Kalani Queypo, Raul Trujillo, and Tatanka Means are featured in costume; the trio play, respectively, Squanto, Massasoit, and Hobbamock.

"Saints & Strangers isn’t your grandmother’s Thanksgiving pilgrims story," according to Yahoo News. "National Geographic Channel’s upcoming original four-hour movie event digs deep into Plymouth lore, telling the sometimes-harsh, often-uplifting tale of 101 men, women, and children who crossed the fearsome Atlantic Ocean to settle into the New World."

The three-month shoot is still underway in South Africa. Tatanka Means tells ICTMN that the target premiere date of the four-hour movie event is in November. "The language we will be speaking is Western Abenaki (Eastern Algonquian)," he adds, "and it's being taught by dialect coach and speaker Jesse Bowman Bruchac."

Trujillo (Apache, Comanche, Pueblo and Tlascalan) is one of Indian country's most accomplished actors, having appeared in the films The New World, Apocalypto, Cowboys & Aliens and Riddick. He's also a regular on TV, having appeared in recurring roles on acclaimed series True Blood, Da Vinci's Demons, and Salem. Means (Oglala Lakota, Omaha, Navajo) is known for his co-starring role in Tiger Eyes, and his recurring appearances on Banshee and The Night Shift. Queypo (Blackfeet, Native Hawaiian) can be seen in Slow West, a 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner. Non-native co-stars include Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Ron Livingston (Band of Brothers) and Ray Stevenson (Rome).


Monday, November 16, 2015

Native American culture feels effects of boarding schools decades after system closed

Here, from the Grand Traverse Record-Eagle.

Paul Raphael was just a kid in first grade when it happened.

He attended the Holy Childhood of Jesus School in Harbor Springs — a boarding school among hundreds nationwide that operated for more than a century — where Native American children were sent to become “civilized” by nuns.

The nuns were teaching table manners. One asked: What happens after you butter your bread and cut it into four pieces?

“I said, ‘you eat it,’” said Raphael, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. “I remember the nun coming over and smacking me. She smacked me hard and I fell out of my chair.”

Raphael was so upset he never did learn the answer; he’d never been hit before. But he did take one thing away from watching nuns abuse his classmates over the next several years: “I knew that if I had kids, I wouldn’t treat them the way they were treating us,” Raphael said.

Not just a relic

Memories of Holy Childhood and other Indian boarding schools are still fresh in the minds of Grand Traverse Band members. The three-story building in Harbor Springs operated until 1983, long after other Indian boarding schools run by non-natives closed down.

Some families, like Raphael’s, sent their children to the schools because they thought it was the only way to keep their family together. Some sent their children to the schools because they thought it was the best way to feed their families, and others sent their children so they would learn to read and write.

Tribal children from the region for the most part were not allowed to wear their own clothes or speak their language, Anishinabemowen. Many Indian schools like Holy Childhood started as church-run mission schools designed to teach children in their own language, but their objectives changed in the late 1880s. The federal government took control of Indian education in the U.S. and the facilities shifted from mission schools to boarding schools, said Eric Hemenway, the director of archives and records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. He focused his studies on the school in Harbor Springs.
“As long as the family nucleus was kept intact, they’d keep speaking their language and keeping their traditions,” Hemenway said. “The government wanted to break this, essentially.”

The schools often used brutal tactics to impose mainstream culture on children and left a legacy of abuse from Pennsylvania to California. Nationwide the schools’ student population didn’t peak until the 1970s when more than 60,000 Native American children were enrolled, according to Amnesty International.

John Petoskey, general counsel for the Grand Traverse Band, said the schools weren’t enough to whitewash the culture. The government then adopted the Dawes Act of 1887, which divided reservations into allotments for individuals. Excess land was given to outsiders, he said.
Now members of the community are focused on healing the wounds left by the schools and other abuses.
Tribal offices shut down for two days this month for a Gathering of Native Americans. The event allows native people to reclaim their histories, stories and ceremonies. It spotlights the community’s resilience.

Raphael, who worked with tribal members battling addictions and became a peacemaker for youth in trouble, said he’s seen many tribal members turn to alcohol or drugs to forget the trauma of boarding schools.

He said the abuse at the hands of nuns likely contributed to some former students’ abusive behavior toward women.

“I think that spilled over into the community,” he said.

He said boarding schools often are discussed at native gatherings, and it always bothered him and his classmates that sometimes they’re talked about as institutions of the past, something that was only experienced by people who are now dead.

“There are people still alive who went to boarding school, who it had a negative impact on them,” Raphael said. “There are those who went to boarding school who are living in fear.”

Raphael recalls one encounter with a former classmate who’d often been called on by the nuns to dole out punishment. The man saw Raphael and immediately stood to fight.

“He said, ‘ever since I left boarding school, I’ve been afraid you guys were going to come back and get me at some point.’ He said, ‘I was so afraid I started drinking. I became an alcoholic out of fear,’” Raphael said.

He assured the man that was not the case. It’s the kind of long-lasting cultural ripple many tribal members have become accustomed to in the three decades since the school in Harbor Springs closed.

A community void

JoAnne Cook, a Grand Traverse Band Tribal Council member, was the first in her family not to go to boarding school. Her mother, grandmother and older siblings all attended the schools.
Cook, who graduated from Suttons Bay High School in 1985, said she didn’t know much about boarding schools until one of her friends was sent to one. They were 10 years old, and Cook thought the pair would have fun if they went together. She asked her mother if she could join her friend at boarding school.
“I just remember the look my mom had on her face. I knew immediately I just asked her something that I shouldn’t have,” Cook said.

Cook said she learned more about the schools as she grew older. Many families believed their children would be placed in foster care if they didn’t send them away to school.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978, after Congress reviewed policies and found that Native American children were being taken from their parents at what John Petoskey described as an “alarming rate.” The act gave tribes more opportunities to intervene in parental rights cases.

Both the boarding schools and foster care left behind a community devoid of children, and damaged a culture centered on family. Grandparents traditionally taught children values and language, but that system eroded while children were banned from speaking the language in school, Cook said.

“Then you get to my generation that has had to live through that. We are kind of picking that all back up,” Cook said.

She said the community has to remember its history but not get stuck in it.

“A lot of native people say you have to know who you are; you have to know your story,” Cook said.

Different experience

Not everyone had a negative experience at boarding school.

Elsie Dudley remembers her time at one as a needed escape from Suttons Bay when she was young. Other children and most of the teachers at the public school were prejudiced against natives, she said. She refused to go to class, and when the bus dropped her at school she wouldn’t follow her classmates.

“I’d get off and walk back home, about three miles away,” she said.

Dudley’s father decided to send her to Holy Childhood for the sixth grade in the late 1940s. She spent the next three years there.

At first she tried to pull the same stunts, but one day a nun pulled her aside and explained they could teach her, as long as she was open to it.

“I wanted to learn after that nun sat me down,” Dudley said. “They made it fun.”

Dudley said that unlike others’ experiences, she was never discouraged from speaking her language. In fact, nuns taught her beading, leather work and other cultural crafts. Dudley never experienced abuse or saw any. She even wanted to be a nun when she left school, and later passed on what she learned to her children.

“I showed them structure and that’s what I learned up there,” she said.

Later generations

Eva Petoskey said tribal members had a range of boarding school experiences. Some of her family members ran away, while others appreciated the food and structure.

She considers herself a survivor of boarding schools, even though she never attended one. She knows people her age who were sent to them. Her mother went to a school in Mount Pleasant, and her grandmother to another in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

“I think as a public policy, as a policy of the United States government, it was misguided and harmful,” she said. “It was, I think, a violation of our human rights.”

The Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Pennsylvania was established in 1879 by Richard Pratt, an army officer who is remembered for his philosophy: “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Petoskey said her grandmother made the trip by boat and train when she was 8 years old. She expected to find comfortable beds “like the white people” had, but found uncomfortable army-style barracks instead. Many children got sick and died, Petoskey said.

Petoskey is a member of the Grand Traverse Band and the director of the Anishnaabek Healing Circle Access to Recovery Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, a group that helps people struggling with substance abuse.

She experienced the inter-generational trauma left in the wake of the boarding schools that’s common in the region’s tribal community.
“You have this underlying feeling you’re always fighting, about being inferior or insignificant,” she said.

She said many women her age were raised in foster care, orphanages or boarding schools. Petoskey and her husband swore off drugs and alcohol, but not all tribal members were able to make such a commitment.

“I think that some of that internalized oppression that’s resulted from these violations of our human rights has resulted in those widespread problems,” she said.

Cook said there’s still hope the tribal community can get through the boarding school era and become a healthier community.

“We have things that our grandparents were trying to get for us and we were able to finally receive some of that,” Cook said. “Sometimes we’re kind of focused on what we don’t have, versus what we do.”

Now Native Americans have to balance the push and pull between preserving the past and protecting the future.

“Most of the time, society doesn’t set it up where you can really do both,” Petoskey said.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Terrorism is Personal #BabyVeronica #FlipTheScript #NAM

Guest Post


We were shocked again today, as incomprehensible violence was unleashed upon Paris. While the newscaster reported as gently as possible that we still did not know the extent of the casualties, my daughter pointed out that forty-three people in Beirut were also killed today, and wondered why that didn’t seem to matter. I said: Because we expect it in Beirut, not in Paris, but that to the people involved I’m sure it didn’t matter where they were.

I wondered about what to write today for Flip The Script on National Adoption Month, when everything else seemed to pale in comparison. If those forty-three in Beirut don’t matter, then speaking about against unethical adoption seems little more than whining.

But I thought again of what I said to my daughter – that to those involved it matters greatly. So I am writing this for them. As we (rightfully) grieve over terrorism in the city of lights, there are thousands of children in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere who have been unjustly ripped from their families, and who are living – right now – in fear. To them, Paris must seem very far away. They are experiencing their own personal terrorism, but we don’t see it.

Children who have been taken by CPS (or whatever equivalent of that you may have) are at far greater risk to suffer abuse of every kind under their “care” – physical, sexual, medical, and psychological – than with their own family. Putting children into foster care is too often the beginning of the nightmare, not the end. Considering that the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) recently calculated that for every one truly abused child that is rescued by CPS, there are seventeen who never should have been removed at all, one might wonder why this happening.

The answer is simple: Money. Kids are a cash crop. Adoption and foster care are a huge industry. And since women and girls are not so easily shamed into relinquishing their children nowadays, the baby brokers had to think of another way to keep those little orphans coming down the pipeline.

Their jobs depend on it.

So now children are taken for these reasons:
  • Poverty, or, just not having as much money as the prospective adoptive family
  • Asking for a second opinion after a medical diagnosis is made regarding your child
  • Being Native American
  • Being short
  • Considering adoption then deciding against it
  • Going to the ER for any reason
  • Using medical marijuana
  • Being a single parent
  • Disagreeing with anything a teacher or other authority figure says about your child
  • Not adhering strictly to the recommended vaccine schedule
  • Being exceptionally attractive
  • Not putting your child into preschool
  • Allowing your child to play in your own yard
  • Having an unusual birthmark
  • Your neighbor or some awful relative just wants to hurt you
  • CPS meeting their “children in care” quotas
  • And I’ll say it again, because this is the #1 reason: You don’t have the money to fight back.
Remember Veronica Brown? Kidnapper-mommy Melanie Capobianco said, when asked by a judge why she and her husband should have the child over the natural father: “We love her more.” They loved her so much, they were okay with tearing her crying and screaming from the perfectly capable family of which she was an integral part. The Supreme Court of the United States agreed. As did lower courts and the governors of two states, as well as many lesser players who earn a paycheck by the misery of others.

You may look at Veronica now, and think, “She looks fine to me. She’s not suffering.” And I certainly hope it is true that she is not being physically abused. But I am certain she is being systematically terrorized in lesser ways. Daily micro-aggressions – the little digs made about her original family, the stipend the wealthy Capobiancos collect for Veronica’s non-existent “special needs”, the primal memory of her father who loved her, of her mother who didn’t, of her sister and grandparents and countless others who are considered unworthy because she’s Matt and Melanie’s plaything now.

We compare the Capobiancos with the Browns and make judgements on which are the better parents, when that never should have been an issue. There should have been no legal battle. There should have been no contest after her father said, “I want to raise her.” That should have been the end of it. But because children are thought of things instead of people, and because the Capobiancos had the money to fight, little Veronica was awarded to them just as if she was a trophy.

We compare and judge and divide. We tear down and blame. We think it can’t happen to us, and that there must have been a reason we don’t know about when it’s our neighbor. And when the threat is thrown into our face, like it was today, we think either that it’s them, meaning “not us” as victims, or it’s them, meaning “anyone who isn’t like us” as perpetrators. The truth is, there is no us and them.

It’s all us. We are us. They are us.

Meanwhile, children are carrying another trash bag of their meager belongings to yet another foster home. They are meeting strangers who are their new parental stand-ins, wondering what they did wrong, wondering if they will be abused here like the last place, wondering if they will be separated from their siblings too, wondering if they will ever see their parents or their pets again. They are being conditioned to accept whatever happens to them, like good hostages, hoping that will win their freedom. Their native language will eventually be squelched, as will their faith, and their memories.

They are not people, they are children and therefore commodities. They are living in their own personal hell, while we reassure ourselves that at least bombs are not dropping on them.

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread and contributor of The Adoptee Survival Guide

Friday, November 13, 2015

GUEST POST: Reactive Attachment Disorder by Levi EagleFeather

CLICK: AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES: GUEST POST: Reactive Attachment Disorder by Levi E...: Levi EagleFeather (Lakota) 

This is one of the most read posts on this blog, please click to read... We thank you... Trace...
"...We're the evidence of the crime. They can't deal with the reality of who we are because then they have to deal with the reality of what they have done. If they deal with the reality of who we are, they have to deal with the reality of who they aren't." - John Trudell - See more at:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Children of the Dragonfly

Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education

Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education


Sometimes the losses of childhood can be recovered only in the flight of the dragonfly. Native American children have long been subject to removal from their homes for placement in residential schools and, more recently, in foster or adoptive homes.  The governments of both the United States and Canada, having reduced Native nations to the legal status of dependent children, historically have asserted a surrogate parentalism over Native children themselves.  Children of the Dragonfly is the first anthology to document this struggle for cultural survival on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.  Through autobiography and interviews, fiction and traditional tales, official transcripts and poetry, these voices— Seneca, Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo, and many others— weave powerful accounts of struggle and loss into a moving testimony to perseverance and survival.  Invoking the dragonfly spirit of Zuni legend who helps children restore a way of life that has been taken from them, the anthology explores the breadth of the conflict about Native childhood.   Included are works of contemporary authors Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, Luci Tapahonso, and others; classic writers Zitkala-Sa and E. Pauline Johnson; and contributions from twenty important new writers as well.  They take readers from the boarding school movement of the 1870s to the Sixties Scoop in Canada and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 in the United States.  They also spotlight the tragic consequences of racist practices such as the suppression of Indian identity in government schools and the campaign against Indian childbearing through involuntary sterilization.

Part 1. Traditional Stories and Lives
Severt Young Bear (Lakota) and R. D. Theisz, To Say "Child"
Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Sioux), The Toad and the Boy
Delia Oshogay (Chippewa), Oshkikwe's Baby
Michele Dean Stock (Seneca), The Seven Dancers
Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey (Cherokee), Goldilocks Thereafter
Marietta Brady (Navajo), Two Stories
Part 2. Boarding and Residential Schools
Embe (Marianna Burgess), from Stiya: or, a Carlisle Indian Girl at Home
Black Bear (Blackfeet), Who Am I?
E. Pauline Johnson (Mohawk), As It Was in the Beginning
Lee Maracle (Stoh:lo), Black Robes
Gordon D. Henry, Jr. (White Earth Chippewa), The Prisoner of Haiku
Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), The Snakeman
Joy Harjo (Muskogee), The Woman Who Fell from the Sky
Part 3. Child Welfare and Health Services
Problems That American Indian Families Face in Raising Their Children, United States Senate, April 8 and 9, 1974
Mary TallMountain (Athabaskan), Five Poems
Virginia Woolfclan, Missing Sister
Lela Northcross Wakely (Potawatomi/Kickapoo), Indian Health
Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene), from Indian Killer
Milton Lee (Cheyenne River Sioux) and Jamie Lee, The Search for Indian
Part 4. Children of the Dragonfly
Peter Cuch (Ute), I Wonder What the Car Looked Like
S. L. Wilde (Anishnaabe), A Letter to My Grandmother
Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), It Goes Something Like This
Kimberly Roppolo (Cherokee/Choctaw/Creek), Breeds and Outlaws
Phil Young (Cherokee) and Robert Bensen, Wetumka
Lawrence Sampson (Delaware/Eastern Band Cherokee), The Long Road Home
Beverley McKiver (Ojibway), When the Heron Speaks
Joyce carlEtta Mandrake (White Earth Chippewa), Memory Lane Is the Next Street Over
Alan Michelson (Mohawk), Lost Tribe
Patricia Aqiimuk Paul (Inupiaq), The Connection
Terry Trevor (Cherokee/Delaware/Seneca), Pushing up the Sky
Annalee Lucia Bensen (Mohegan/Cherokee), Two Dragonfly Dream Songs
I found this book back in 2004 and read it...very moving stories...  A few of these writers are good friends to me... Lawrence Sampson contributed to the anthology CALLED HOME, published last year... Trace 

Monday, November 9, 2015

American Indian Children Still Removed From Homes at High Rates

Screenshot 2015-10-27 19.28.25 
OCT. 30

Almost 40 years after the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) passed, American Indian children are still being removed from their homes in highly disproportionate numbers– at a rate almost three times higher than any other ethnicity, excepting African American children.

Minnesota leads the list of states with the worst rates of disproportionate removal– where American Indian children are overly represented in the foster care system– according to a June 2015 report from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.  Other states with high numbers of disproportionate removal include Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, Wisconsin, Washington, South Dakota and Oregon.

Even in states without dramatic removal rates– like Arizona and New Mexico– many American Indian children find themselves removed from their families and placed in group homes, treatment centers or foster care.

In McKinley County, New Mexico,  American Indian children make up 73 percent of all children in foster care, according to a 2015  third quarter report from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).  And in Arizona, over 1,300 American Indian children were in the foster care system as of March 31, 2015, according to a Department of Child Safety Child Welfare Report.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 applies to any child of American Indian descent who is an enrolled member or eligible for enrollment in any federally recognized tribe. When an American Indian child enters state custody, the state must contact the child’s tribe, and the tribe has the right to transfer the case to tribal court or to participate in court proceedings.

In order to help American Indian children stay connected to their tribal cultures and identities, ICWA also established a placement preference that starts with the child’s extended family and clan relatives and then progresses to enrolled members of the child’s tribe and enrolled members from any tribe– with placement of the child in a non-Indian family as a last resort.

“Any child who might be Native American, they have a [cultural] identity,” said Regina Yazzie, Program Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services.  “It’s a benefit.”

Yazzie added that across the country, state agencies struggle to find American Indian foster families for children.  Finding placement families on reservation land can prove equally challenging.

Data from the Children, Youth and Families Department of New Mexico shows there are currently 43 American Indian foster care providers who have 79 placements available– nowhere near enough for the 262 American Indian children in New Mexico’s foster care system.  Melissa Otero from also said through an email correspondence that less than 1 percent of all AdoptUsKids placement families identify as American Indian.

When speaking with the Navajo Post, several tribal members mentioned hardships on reservations that negatively impacted families’ ability to foster– including poverty, poor housing, poor mental health care, suicide, and addiction.

“Part of what’s going on [is] drug and alcohol numbers are sky high,” said one tribal member, who wished to remain anonymous in order to be able to speak freely. “There are not a lot of healthy families. There are tons of families that care, but it takes structure, it takes money [to foster], and so many families are overwhelmed with the day to day living, how could they bring another child into their home?”

For the San Carlos Apache Tribe, methamphetamine poses a particular devastating problem.   Social services Director Terry Ross said that the reservation currently has an “epidemic of mothers with meth-exposed babies.”

“We try to work with the family, but when mothers are addicted to meth… it’s hard,” Ross said. “We can’t make people do anything. They have to want to change for their child.”

Many tribes offer social services like counseling, parenting classes, detox centers and emergency supplies to American Indian families in need. But representatives from several tribes mentioned that funding is limited and resources are stretched thin, so that American Indian children continue to find themselves in foster care– where many undergo significant trauma and loss of identity when growing up separated from their tribes, communities, and cultures.

A Sense of Belonging

Sandra White Hawk, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe,  was adopted into a white missionary family when she was 18 months old in the days before ICWA. The only Indian girl in her community, she grew up with a sense of being “different.”

“My adoptive mother constantly reminded me that no matter what I did, I came from a pagan race whose only hope for redemption was to assimilate to white culture,” wrote White Hawk, now executive director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute, on her website.

White Hawk added that people in her community were ignorant of her culture when she was growing up; they would ask her to do rain dances or give war whoops.  Susan Devan Harness, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was also adopted into a non-Indian family at 18 months. Harness said she was called “Squaw Girl” growing up and that she had trouble finding dates in high school because her male classmates’ mothers believed stereotypes that American Indian women were promiscuous– and that dating one would get their sons in trouble.

“I have had privileges,” said Harness of her adoption. “Living in a nice neighborhood, going to college, I have a Master’s Degree…a place at the table. But I have paid a huge price for those privileges."

As part of that price, Harness said she was always fighting for a place of belonging, and that many adoptees exist in an “in between place” between their tribal communities and their adoptive families. White Hawk’s website states that many adult adoptees also show traits of survivors of trauma: anxiety, impulsivity, nightmares, guilt, and unresolved guilt– and that much healing of these issues takes place for adoptees when they reconnect with their tribal identities or “come home.”

“In the beginning I didn’t see the importance of why anyone would want to know my story as an adoptee because I didn’t understand the prevalence,” said White Hawk. “I get it now.”

White Hawk added that reconnecting with her biological family and tribe later in life allowed a “whole new part” of herself to awaken.  She sees similar transformations in the adoptees she works with– as does Karen Vigneault, a librarian who uses her research skills to search genealogy records and connect adoptees with their families.

Vigneault said that adoptees face many obstacles back-peddling through their pasts: opening sealed court documents, misspellings in their ancestors’ names or lack of names which makes tracing families difficult, and apprehension at returning to their communities and families decades later. Despite the challenges, Vigneault provides her help to adoptees free from charge.

“If Creator has people asking me for help, I can’t charge them for that,” Vigneault said. “To help them come home… it should be a free ride.”

A 2009 report published by the Annie E Casey Foundation found that resilience– the ability to bounce back after a traumatic or difficult experience– increases dramatically for American Indian individuals who have seven protective factors in their lives, including: a sense of belonging to a culture, spirituality, connections to the tribal language and extended family, a sense of humor, a mindset of forward thinking or “moving forward to the seventh generation,” and what authors Charlotte Goodluck and Angela Willeto describe as “responses from the culture”– which could include beadwork, drumming, sweat lodge, talking circles, smudging, pow wows and other ceremonies.

The association between resilience and strong rootedness in tribal culture have significant implications for American Indian children within the foster care and adoption systems today.

Tania Valdez, associate director of the voluntary treatment foster care program La Familia-Namaste, Inc in New Mexico, described the change she saw occur in a young woman in care when an ICWA worker sent her music and books from her Oklahoma tribe.

“I think it plays a tremendous role in her cultural identity. It’s part of who she is,” Valdez said. “She’s removed from her community, but it gave her a piece of her culture, and she embraced that.”

Nikki Kull, executive vice president of The Ranches in New Mexico, said that children in care struggle to transition from one culture to another, regardless of their race.

“We had some siblings from the Yuni tribe who were very connected to their culture… and it was hard for them to be separated from their culture. It’s heart-breaking to see,” Kull said. “I desperately understand the need for kids to stay within their culture, but the fact remains there aren’t enough homes.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act Today
Several judges who spoke with the Navajo Post said that ICWA was meant to be a gold standard for family law cases– that active efforts to work with families before removing children from their homes would be in the best interest of all children regardless of their race.

But lawsuits in several states– Minnesota, Arizona, Oklahoma and Virginia– challenge the constitutionality of ICWA. Common arguments include that the Act’s language discriminates against American Indian children on race alone and that the Act violates due process and privacy rights guaranteed by the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Judge Tim Connors, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School and helps train new judges in handling ICWA cases, said that family law is mainly an issue for state courts, so that applying  ICWA– a federal law– to American Indian family cases is a “foreign concept” for many judges.  But he added that American Indian children are particularly harmed when removed from their families.

“Data shows the trauma when we separate children from their communities and their culture and their lineages,” Connors said. “And it is particularly harmful for Native American children.”

Judge William Thorne, vice-president of the National Indian Justice Center and a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said that while some judges and lawyers see ICWA as a violation of their code of ethics regarding fairness, ICWA was created with American Indian children’s best interest in mind.

“In tribal communities, if you cut a child off from their family, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, that really is almost active abuse against that child, because in Indian communities things happen based on relationships,” Thorne said in a video produced by the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts.

Judge Leonard Edwards, a retired judge who served for 26 years as a Superior Court Judge and six years as Judge-in-Residence at the Center for Families, Children & the Courts, stated that the adversarial processes prevalent in courts– where two or more sides argue their cases and then a “winner” is declared– go against traditional American Indian practices of resolving conflict.  Edwards said that the intention behind ICWA was to help make sure that all of an American Indian child’s resources were being considered.

“Social workers can be creative,” Edwards said. “It’s not mum and dad, it’s the extended family and community. It’s different [in tribal communities] and that can be difficult for our judges to understand.”

While ICWA has been acknowledged by many judges as a difficult law to understand and implement, tribes across the country insist keeping American Indian children connected to their tribes is of utmost importance.

“[If not] They lose the language, the culture, the integrity of what it is to be Native American and the values system,” said Doris Bailon, director of Social Services of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Sandra White Hawk and Susan Devan Harness had a suggestion to reduce the number of American Indian children entering the foster care system: providing “front end services.”

“Instead of the money going to clothe and feed kids in foster care, have that money going to strengthen Native families and communities,” Harness said.

See more about Karen Vignault in the top tabs on this blog - she assists adoptees in their search - Trace

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Justice Department Sues South Dakota State Agency for Discrimination Against Native American Job Applicants at Pine Ridge Reservation

DOJ Sues S. Dakota DSS for Discrimination Against Tribal Job Applicants

DOJ Press release here.

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) alleging that at its Pine Ridge Reservation Office, the state agency repeatedly discriminated against Native American job applicants because of their race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, alleges that in failing to select well-qualified Native American applicants for several positions in DSS’s Pine Ridge Reservation Office, the state agency engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

“Federal law provides all Americans with equal opportunity to compete for jobs on a level playing field free from racial discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “When employers discriminate against qualified job applicants because of what they look like or where they come from, they violate both the values that shape our nation and the laws that govern it.”

U.S. v. S.D. DSS Complaint here.
According to the complaint, in October 2010, Cedric Goodman, a Native American with supervisory experience as a social worker, as well as several other well-qualified Native Americans, applied for an Employment Specialist position at DSS’s Pine Ridge Office.  The complaint alleges that after interviewing Goodman and the other Native American candidates who met the employer’s objective job qualifications, DSS removed the vacancy and hired no one.  The next day, however, DSS reopened the position and ultimately selected a white applicant with inferior qualifications and no similar work experience.  The complaint alleges that DSS discriminated against Goodman and other similarly-situated Native American applicants based on their race.
In addition, the complaint alleges that denying Goodman’s application was part of a pattern or practice of race discrimination by DSS, where the agency repeatedly removed job postings and used subjective, arbitrary hiring practices to reject qualified Native American applicants for Specialist positions.
Over a two year period beginning in 2010, DSS posted 18 Specialist vacancies for its Pine Ridge Reservation Office.  Even though the agency received nearly 40 percent of its applications from Native Americans, DSS hired 11 Whites and only one Native American, while removing six other openings entirely.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Hard Journey #NAAM #FlipTheScript

By Trace Hentz, reunited adoptee, blog editor

It's November. It's Adoption Awareness Month and Native American Heritage and History Month.

Man, that's too bad. Each deserves more than a month of attention. They deserve ALL our attention.

First up, READ: Lost Daughters: The Journey of Searching. I met Jenn earlier this year at a conference in Boston. She's a gentle soul with a strong courageous spirit.  Read about her journey. I do read Lost Daughters blog, often...

NOW - it's time to THINK HARD about adoption in general.

There is something awkward about being adopted that will challenge you - one, you want to know who you are; two, you are a mystery.  The hard journey to find out who you are is (from my own experience):  intense, epic, scary, challenging, unwritten, a path with an unknown destination, a way to test your patience and courage, and it will be the hardest thing you will ever do or experience. 

It's a path full of hurdles and emotional landmines.

TRUST ME on this!  You find out that the experience is lined with people who will hate you and love you when you go searching to find your identity, your first parents, your first families. There are brick walls called sealed records you'll have to break open or jump over. Emotions and secrets will blow up - yours and theirs.

Love and Hate? Yes, both.  Some people don't want to be found. Some people won't like you. Adoptees do face this and some face the fact their parents are already gone when you're finally able to find them.

The general public has no idea what it feels like to be adopted and live your life as a mystery with a fake identity.  Every time I look at my fake birth certificate, I laugh. It's a joke. The people who are adopted me are NOT my biological parents. But this paper says they are. It's official. It's got a seal on it. It's like a "bill of sale" and a purchase agreement. I have to be this new person because these people "procured" me through adoption. I take their name and be their kid.

But I am not their kid. They don't own me.

If the general public had any idea of the fandango and farce we adoptees live with and under, then the adoption laws could change faster. The laws are changing but very slowly.  There are several years of adoption propaganda written by a billion dollar adoption industry to make money.  It's a BUSINESS! You will rub up against it when you see the words "Forever Family" --- and the public chooses sweetened propaganda: It makes it sound so good. It makes all adoption good.

The Indian Adoption Projects were cultural genocide so they won't mention it, or us, or they'll deny it ever happened in the USA.  THE STOLEN GENERATION is called that for a reason and the governments in North America are still denying the public the truth. If there are 6 million adoptees living today, MANY of them are First Nations and Native American adoptees.

If you are not adopted, take a moment to consider how adoptees are given a big lie to live with --then we're expected to be grateful to the people who want us to be something we're not?  You'd have to be crazy to think anyone can live like that!

No wonder being adopted is so emotionally destructive.

To survive, I took on adoption like a college class. I got real good at chasing ghosts. I got good, like private detective good!  Read One Small Sacrifice, my memoir.  Because I started doing research on adoption back in 2004, I decided to find out even more on orphanages, trafficking and illegal adoptions. It's a bloody battlefield of coercion and greed and scandal.

Now I am posting here as well:  I'm also posting some of the best blogging on this adoption topic all month, so please take a read...

Like this:

We Clock You from a Mile Away

by Snarkurchin
Dear wealthy, white, entitled moms of adoption: Adult adoptees see you, and some of us don't find your words "inspirational."
The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
++++++++++++++++++  ====================

So strap on your reading glasses - this is the month for ADOPTEES to #flipthescript on adoption propaganda.

Epigenetics: Scientific Evidence of Intergenerational Trauma

archive photo

By Ruth Hopkins 
Originally published November 26, 2011 

Shortly after his second birthday, my son stopped talking. The onset of symptoms was just that abrupt. After nearly two years of visits to doctors and specialists, he was finally diagnosed with atypical autism.

Autism encompasses a spectrum of psychological disorders in which the use of language, reaction to stimuli, interpretation of the outside world, and the establishment of social relationships are difficult and unusual. One in 110 children have autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and males are more likely to have it than females. Autism is a complex disease with no single known cause. The range of disorders that autism comprises is such that no two children who’ve been diagnosed with autism are the same. Autism arises from a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, which as of yet, have not been clearly delineated.

Epigenetics, a relatively new field in science, could help define the causes of Autism and offer up new modes of treatment for the disorder, as well as other diseases like cancer, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression governed by the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of our genetic code. The epigenome does not change the genetic code inscribed in our DNA; rather, it activates or silences genes through the mobilization of molecules called methyl groups. These chemical changes are triggered by our environment. Toxins, pollutants, changes in diet, deficiencies in prenatal nutrition, and exposure to stressors alters the way our genes are expressed through the epigenome. Furthermore, epigenetics has proven that these changes in gene expression are passed down to our offspring, for at least one generation.

Epigenetics renders the argument of nature vs. nuture moot because it establishes that the two are are inextricably intertwined. In regards to human development, one is as important as the other. We know that negative behaviors like smoking cigarettes, poor diet, or drinking access amounts of alcohol shortens our lifespan, but now epigenetics is confirming that these behaviors can predispose our children, and even our grandchildren, to similar diseases and decrease their longevity too.

Research in epigenetics reveals that both paternal and maternal toxic environmental exposures play a role in the development of disease in their offspring and future generations. Parental exposure to the popular herbicide Roundup has been linked to birth defects in their offspring. Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide agent orange, like my father was, pass on an increased risk for spina bifida and other diseases to their children. The prenatal nutrition of mothers has been shown to have an impact on an offspring’s risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

A study on the eating habits of multiple generations of families in Sweden revealed that grandfathers who went from a normal diet to regularly overeating had grandsons who died an average of six years earlier than the grandsons of those who didn’t. The bottom line is this: your grandparents’ and parents’ behaviors, and any toxins or trauma they were exposed to, affects your health directly.

Likewise, your behaviors and any toxins or trauma you’re exposed to could affect the health of your children and grandchildren. Epigenetics may provide hard scientific evidence of intergenerational trauma among American Indians and link it directly to diseases that currently afflict us, like cancer and diabetes.

The term “intergenerational trauma” has been used to describe the cumulative effects of trauma experienced by a group or individual that radiates across generations. For natives, intergenerational trauma has presented itself in the form of genocide, disease, poverty, forced assimilation via removal of children from their families to boarding schools, the seizure and environmental destruction of homelands, and other routes of European colonization.

The effects of intergenerational trauma include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and a variety of other emotional problems. Emotional stress has also shown to effect gene expression via the epigenome. Studies show that the withholding of affection by a mother elicits brain changes in her infant that impairs their response to stress as an adult.

Epigenetics offers remarkable potential for the prevention of disease among American Indians as well. We can use epigenetic inheritance to restore the action of our genetic code from one generation to the next.

Once environmental stressors are removed and behavior is corrected, our DNA will revert to its original programming. We could cure diabetes through behavioral changes that allow our epigenome to operate correctly. The elimination of toxins and pollutants could greatly reduce the incidence of cancer and birth defects. Such modification of environmental exposures and behaviors will restore and even improve the overall health and capacity of our genetic line.

As for my son, further research in epigenetics may soon decipher the specific mixture of genetics and environmental exposures that lead to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Along with other scientific discoveries, we are hopeful that such studies will develop treatment that will lessen the severity of the symptoms that make his life difficult.

Until that time, we’ll continue to love and nurture our son, and thank the Creator for entrusting us with such a miraculous, artistically talented child, whose brave struggle to learn how to express emotions like anger and love inspires everyone around him.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, a pro-bono tribal attorney, a science professor, and a columnist for the Indian Country Today Media Network. She can be reached at 

Read more: 

PUBLISHED here on this blog in 2014: HERE


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

60s Scoop Adoptee

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

on Facebook

Mark Hagland on Transracial Adoption

Here is a thought that I've been feeling the need to express for a long time, both in this group and in our TRA 101 group (where I have just posted this same post). White parents: the extent to which you refuse to listen to the voices of adult transracial adoptees and other people of color, based on their lived experiences, is also the extent to which you will prove deaf to the pleas (spoken and unspoken) of your own children of color. And those of you who absolutely and steadfastly refuse to listen to our voices, will find years from now that you've missed tremendous opportunities to truly hear your own children's voices--again, unspoken as much as spoken--but it will be too late to do anything about the missed opportunities. When we adult transracial adoptees and other people of color share in this group, in TRA 101, and in other forums around transracial adoption, it is a gift that we offer freely to you. Please consider that some of what you might perceive as "harsh truths" are simply our sharing with you glimpses into our own lived experiences--which will be the lived experiences of your own children. A gift is a gift even if it doesn't come from Tiffany's and isn't diamonds wrapped in silk. Thank you for reading and considering this!

Three Books on Lost Birds


ICWA headlines

ICWA headlines
click to read

Truly One of a Kind Website

Truly One of a Kind Website
click to read

Search Safely


Native American writers!