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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Broken Circle: What is an orphan?

Adoption was invented for orphans, children who lost their parents and needed immediate attention and help - to save their lives literally. The family circle was broken with the death of parents.
Children were orphans because there were no other relatives to care for them.
We know how "adoption" created new families for these orphans. That makes sense - it was a safety net.

Ask yourself:  how is the word orphan to be interpreted today?
In the Third World and Indian Country, those places on Earth where the most destitute live in poverty, an orphan is not necessarily without parents: some of these children are without necessities: food, water, medicine and clothing.
We know Americans will rescue the child but not their parent. Americans will call these children orphans. Is that true? Is it not selfish for an American to choose a child over the parent of that child?
Are Americans OK with separating that child from their parent via closed adoption?
The numbers of adoptees (7-10 million) today answers that question - yes.

In Indian Country kinship adoption means an orphaned child is raised with an auntie, grandparent or other relative.  Families remain intact and the child will not lose their family, language or their culture.
America's closed adoption model for Indians was purely destructive, severing a child's contact with culture, language and tribal kin, erasing their sovereign membership and their treaty rights. A few Americans involved in the Indian Adoption Projects have apologized, so we know they admit they did this heinous thing.
Can you imagine - Native children (thousands!) removed by the Indian Adoption Projects for the sole purpose of destroying families and tribal nations? It happened and yes, it was devastating.

America still places a stranglehold on Indian people with its judgement of us. This has gone on many years. Every treaty that was made was broken; all because American leaders wanted to secure more land and what was on those lands (minerals, water and food).
Plot after plot, year after year, you see the American government screwing Indians and stealing from tribes, or turning us against one another, one way or the other.
It's about control. It's about creating poverty and making us fight each other over scraps. This America goverment does not want us to be united in our struggle. They'd prefer us fighting each other over what little we're lucky enough to be granted or given by them.
A Northern Cheyenne friend said they start a fire in your front yard so you don't know what they are doing in your backyard.  They divert our attention this way, and have used it many times successfully.
That is why states historically do not deal with Indians - only the federal government. This is supposed to mean the feds are more fair or the feds have a better grasp of treaties and history - yet they control us with their beauracy, laws and delays.

Fast forward. Do you see American kids being sent to Africa or Russia for adoption? No.
Americans are the biggest adopter in all the world.  It's their savior complex. Americans believe they offered a better life for Indians, International and Third World adoptees.
As an adoptee, it was real pain for me. I cannot grasp how deep that pain went or my confusion and fear when my mother disappeared after I was born. She never returned.  Eventually I stopped crying. I blanked out the hurt yet that deep pain reached into every aspect of my life. It took many years for me to step into the circle and rejoin my relatives... My mother was not dead but I was orphaned.

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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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