Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker responds to transfer of custody of Veronica Brown

Statement from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker:

"There is no word for goodbye in the Cherokee language.  We say dodadagohv’I - we will see each other again.  It was with a heavy heart that we watched Veronica Brown leave her home, her family and the Cherokee Nation Monday night.  History is repeating itself, as a Native American child is being forcibly relocated to South Carolina against the will of her father and her tribe.

Once again, a Native American is being told where to live.  Once again, a Native family is being torn apart.  And once again, a young Indian girl will not awaken in the home of her elders.

Our prayers go out to Dusten and Robin Brown, Tommy and Alice Brown, Veronica’s sister Kelsey, and their extended family which includes 320,000 Cherokees. This brave man who served our country simply wanted to raise his child—a child who shares his genes and his heritage. A child who looks like him—and by all family accounts—acts like him too. Veronica may have left the Cherokee Nation, but she will always be a Cherokee citizen.  Perhaps one day she too will have her own children, and they will share her and Dusten’s DNA, and those children will be Cherokee as well.

Our Nation did everything possible to stop this family from being torn apart.  We used every legal avenue at our disposal to keep this family together. But the Cherokee Nation is also a nation with a longstanding history of obeying the rule of law, so that is what we did on Monday. We also have a long standing tradition of adoption within our culture and know that adoption is a good thing when it is ethical and moral.   We will continue to advocate for a greater understanding of and adherence to laws by the courts and adoption agencies to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated.

Dusten Brown packed his daughter’s suitcase, and told her he loved her before sending Veronica off to live with those who wish to adopt her.  This is something a father should never have to do, but for the sake of his daughter, Dusten handled himself with courage and dignity and grace, and we could not be more proud of the way he conducted himself.

And to Veronica— one day you will read about this tumultuous time in your life, and understand why we fought so hard alongside your father to keep your family whole. We hope at that time you understand how special and significant it is to be a Cherokee citizen. You will always be welcome in Tahlequah and in homes across the Cherokee Nation.  Whether we see you sooner or later, we know we will see you again.  In the meantime, we will carry you in our hearts."

Wado,

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

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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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