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Monday, March 14, 2011

Federal Policy & Forced Sterilizations (1972-1976)

U.S. federal policy toward the Indian tribes was made without knowledge or consideration of the values of the Native people themselves. In addition, educational curricula (school books and lesson plans) and teaching came from a Eurocentric-White perspective and completely neglected any mention of tribal ways of life.

American Indians, especially those who live on reservations, are among the poorest groups in the country. In 1999, 26 percent of the American Indian/Alaska Native population lived below the official poverty level, compared with 12 percent of the total population. Factors such as geographic isolation, limited opportunities for upward mobility in rural areas and on reservations, and low labor force participation rates contribute to a continuous poverty cycle among American Indians. This poverty is often accompanied by a range of social problems —injuries and violence, depression, substance abuse, inadequate health care and prenatal health care, unhealthy or insufficient diets, and high rates of diabetes — that can greatly affect the ability and desire to pursue education. 
[Path of Many Journeys, www.aihec.org/resources/documents/ThePathOfManyJourneys.pdf]

Here is an excerpt from a report
A History of Governmentally Coerced Sterilization: The Plight of the Native American Woman, published on May 1, 1997 by Michael Sullivan DeFine, University of Maine School of Law:


The United States General Accounting Office Investigation of the Indian Health Service (IHS) Procedures and the Meaning behind Statistics of Population Growth:

Complaints of these unethical sterilization practices continued, but little was done until the matter was brought to the attention of Senator James Abourezk (D-SD). Finally, affirmative steps were taken - specifically the commissioning of the General Accounting Office - to investigate the affair and to determine if the complaints of Indian women were true - that they were undergoing sterilization as a means of birth control, without consent. The problem with the investigation was that it was initially limited to only four area Indian Health Service hospitals (later twelve); therefore, the total number of Indian women sterilized remains unknown.

The General Accounting Office came up with a figure of 3,400 women who had been sterilized; but others speculate that at least that many had been sterilized each year from 1972 through 1976.

The General Accounting Office confined its investigation to Indian Health Service records and failed to probe case histories, to observe patient-doctor relationships, or to interview women who had been sterilized. This deplorable lack of thorough investigation only served as an attempt to placate the concerns of Indian people.

The General Accounting Office investigators concluded that Indian Health Service consent procedures lacked the basic elements of informed consent, particularly in informing a patient orally of the advantages and disadvantages of sterilization. Furthermore, the consent form had only a summary of the oral presentation, and the form lacked the information usually located at the top of the page notifying the patient that no federal benefits would be taken away if she did not accept sterilization. The General Accounting Office notified the Indian Health Service that it should implement better consent procedures. Some Indian Health Service Area Directors were pressured by local Indians and by Indian physicians and staff to suspend certain nurses and to move the hospital administrators to another post. Other than that, however, there was little else done by government officials.

Outraged by the level of governmental inaction, Indian people accused the Indian Health Service of making genocide a part of its policy. For the Indian Health Service, this was a serious accusation, as the purpose of this agency was to somehow alleviate the terrible health conditions in Indian communities. The Indian Health Service defended itself by relying on the inaccurate sterilization figures provided by the General Accounting Office. In reality, however, the accusation of genocide was not far off base.

As Thomas Littlewood stated in his book on the politics of population control, “non-white Americans are not unaware of how the American Indian came to be called the vanishing American . . . [t]his country’s starkest example of genocide in practice.”

From a statistical point of view, the reality of the devastation of Native American women victimized by sterilization can be observed through the comments of Senator Abourezk himself: “given the small American Indian population, the 3,400 Indian sterilization figure [out of 55,000 Indian women of childbearing age] would be compared to sterilizing 452,000 non-Indian women.”

Conclusion: Science has provided a means of categorizing and victimizing those in society deemed unworthy of continued existence. Its influence in academic and political circles has created a pervasive social bigotry that rewards extermination over reform. The failure to embrace the racial and cultural diversity of this country has left a wake of destruction and oppression in minority populations. It is time for the pundits of social change to rearrange their thinking and give back to the people the power to choose what is right for themselves.

[from my archives and research...Trace]

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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.

“Cherokee Nation ICW (Indian Child Welfare) is supporting the campaign #DefendICWA developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Our department is asking individuals to express their support by writing down how and why they support and defend ICWA, with a snapshot of their self holding their document of support. Cherokee Nation is the largest federally recognized tribal nation. We also have the largest ICW department. ICW has around 130 employees who work continuously to ensure our Native families and children’s rights are protected and the ICWA is enforced. The BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) has published ICWA regulations, which will be in full effect this December 2016. These regulations address issues in the past that were misinterpreted by state courts and blatantly ignored. The regulations make the ICWA stronger, give it teeth and (makes) more clear for state courts understanding. The regulations also address the so-called ‘existing Indian family doctrine.’ This doctrine is no more. Unfortunately, there is still misconception and misunderstanding as to why the ICWA is so significant to tribal nations. There is a constant struggle with the media whom paints tribal nations so horrific and develops a very negative perception of ICWA. We are here. We are not going anywhere, and we will continue to fight for ICWA to ensure our future by taking care of our children. Every Cherokee child matters no matter where they reside. This campaign puts a face to supporters’ words. This campaign shows Indian Country’s strong supports of ICWA.” Heather Baker, Cherokee Nation citizen on the “I support and defend the ICWA because” Campaign #RealPeopleSeries

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Customer Review

Thought-provoking and moving 11 October 2012
Two Worlds - Lost children of the Indian Adoption Projects

If you thought that ethnic cleansing was something for the history books, think again. This work tells the stories of Native American Indian adoptees "The Lost Birds" who continue to suffer the effects of successive US and Canadian government policies on adoption; policies that were in force as recently as the 1970's. Many of the contributors still bear the scars of their separation from their ancestral roots. What becomes apparent to the reader is the reality of a racial memory that lives in the DNA of adoptees and calls to them from the past.
The editors have let the contributors tell their own stories of their childhood and search for their blood relatives, allowing the reader to gain a true impression of their personalities. What becomes apparent is that nothing is straightforward; re-assimilation brings its own cultural and emotional problems. Not all of the stories are harrowing or sad; there are a number of heart-warming successes, and not all placements amongst white families had negative consequences. But with whom should the ultimate decision of adoption reside? Government authorities or the Indian people themselves? Read Two Worlds and decide for yourself.

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Hilary Tompkins, adoptee

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“I came to California in 1956. I am 83 years old. I will be 84 in October. I was born in 1932. I am one of 12 children. I am the great-great-great granddaughter of Chief Richard Fields of the Texas Cherokees, and also my grandmother, who married Walker Fields, (1876-1902) was Annie Bushyhead (1885-1902). Her father was Jesse Bushyhead(1854-1906). Jesse was the first cousin of Ned Bushyhead (1832-1907), the first editor of the San Diego Union newspaper. Ned Bushyhead went to California in 1849 for the Gold Rush. The Cherokees did not do too well in the gold fields. The Cherokee women did excellent because they did laundry and things for the miners, and they made more money. I moved to San Diego from Grove, Oklahoma, actually Peter’s Prairie. I was born one-half mile from where John Ridge died, murdered or assassinated, whatever you want to call it. I was also born only a half-mile from the cemetery (where John Ridge, his father Major Ridge and Gen. Stand Watie are buried). It’s called the Polson Cemetery (Delaware County). It’s now a National Historic monument, and my parents and grandparents, and my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and my great-grandmother Bushyhead are all buried in the cemetery. All of my relatives were allotted land in that same area. I still own 16 acres of my dad’s allotted land. My ancestor on the Fields side came (to Indian Territory) with Major Ridge before the Trial of Tears.They came in 1837. The Ridges had slaves, and one of the slave’s names was Peter, and he cleared this prairie. It’s called Peter’s Prairie. I was born right in the middle of that prairie. Our house was a three-room house that daddy built in 1922. Six of us were born there, and the last six of us wereborn at the Claremore Indian Hospital.” Etta Jean Fields, Cherokee Nation citizen from San Diego #RealPeopleSeries

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