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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Signs of Poverty: Lost Kids

By Trace A. DeMeyer

It’s easy to pop a pill these days. It’s even easier to bury what bothers us because our minds will do that without drugs, with something as simple as memory loss. Street drugs are one way to self-medicate. Recommended medical treatments for emotional distress are pharmaceuticals.

It’s work to analyze where we disconnect, where we feel bitter, sad or disappointed, or when we seemingly lose all hope.

It’s also less work to lock a person in a prison cell. Across the US in the last 50 years, mental hospitals have been replaced by jails and prisons. In Massachusetts alone, 16 hospitals that treated mentally ill patients closed their doors. There was 7,000 mothers (with a combined 16,000 children) incarcerated in Massachusetts in 2007. The majority of women are there for non-violent offenses. Some 85% in prison in Ludlow, Massachusetts, have an addiction problem. Their crimes were prostitution or drugs. Social, economic and health problems are billboards, obvious signs of poverty.

“When women are locked up, there’s another group of people who are adversely affected: their kids. Across the US, there are 1.3 million kids whose mothers are under some form of ‘correctional supervision,’” according to journalist Christina Rathbone, author of "A World Apart, Women, Prison and Life behind Bars."

“Give maximum affection to your children,” the Tibetan holy man, Dalai Lama told a gathering here in Massachusetts. He understands the tragedy when people have children then neglect or abuse them. One broken child becomes a mother or father who may create another broken child. These cycles must end.

To shine light on any crisis, it will take sensitive people and serious money. Yet it always comes back to poverty, who has money and who doesn’t and who cares.


Pathways to Prosperity:

Northwest Area Foundation Awards Grant to United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

ST. PAUL, Minn.-- The Northwest Area Foundation announced the award of a two-year, $3.5 million grant to the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) located in Seattle, WA. UIATF will utilize the funds to implement the 'Pathways to Prosperity,' project, a holistic community development initiative designed to systematically address the determinants of poverty faced by urban Native American populations. This initiative is a union of in-depth community-based research and cutting edge community development theory. 
"We are working from a cultural and spiritual foundation that recognizes poverty as much more than simply a lack of money," states UIATF CEO Phil Lane, Jr. (Yankton Dakota/Chickasaw) "Poverty is many things braided together. It's an interdependent web of social, cultural, political, economic and personal factors that combine to trap families, and whole communities in patterns of ill health, deprivation, and dependency. The only way out of the trap is to truly engage these same families and communities in a journey of learning, healing and building."
"We believe, and experience is demonstrating, that poverty reduction initiatives have greater chance of success if they are owned by the community," said Kari Schlachtenhaufen, interim president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation. "We are excited to make this grant and hope other funders and partners will join in this effort to reduce poverty long term." Source: U.S. Newswire, October 10, 2007


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Colonizer and Assimilation (great quotes)

Kenn Richard, director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, and the man who commissioned the “Our Way Home” report:

“British colonialism has a certain process and formula, and it’s been applied around the world with different populations, often Indigenous populations, in different countries that they choose to colonize,” says Richard. “And that is to make people into good little Englishmen. Because the best ally you have is someone just like you. One of the ones you hear most about is obviously the residential schools, and residential schools have gotten considerable media attention over the past decade or so. And so it should, because it had a dramatic impact that we’re still feeling today. But child welfare to a large extent picked up where residential schools left off....

“The lesser-known story is the child welfare story and its assimilationist program. And you have to remember that none of this was written down as policy: ‘We’ll assimilate Aboriginal kids openly through the residential schools. And after we close the residential schools we’ll quietly pick it up with child welfare.’ It was never written down. But it was an organic process, part of the colonial process in general.”

"...Even now, researchers trying to determine exactly how many Aboriginal children were removed from their families during the 60s Scoop say the task is all but impossible because adoption records from the ‘60s and ‘70s rarely indicated Aboriginal status (as they are now required to).

Those records which are complete, however, suggest the adoption of native children by non-native families was pervasive, at least in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. In her March, 1999 report, “Our Way Home: A Report to the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy on the Repatriation of Aboriginal People Removed by the Child Welfare System,” author Janet Budgell notes that in the Kenora region in 1981, “a staggering 85 percent of the children in care were First Nations children, although First Nations people made up only 25 percent of the population. The number of First Nations children adopted by non-First Nations parents increased fivefold from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Non-First Nations families accounted for 78 per cent of the adoptions of First Nations children.”

Quote from news article: STOLEN NATION (article posted on this blog! use google to find it)

[Child welfare is (in fact) the permanent and closed adoptions of North American Indian Children by non-Indian parents... these quotes are from my archives... Trace]

Alaska tribes win adoption court case

Alaska tribes win adoption court case: "FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that tribes share jurisdiction with the state in most child custody issues, providing the second major victory for tribal sovereignty advocates..."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jesuits settle with American Indians on Sex Abuse cases


Jesuits settle Indian Sex Abuse Suit
January 4, 2008

An order of Roman Catholic priests announced a $5 million settlement January 3, 2008 with 16 people who said they were sexually abused while attending a boarding school on an American Indian reservation. The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Order of priests, will pay $4.8 million in cash to the abuse victims and raise another $200,000 for the homeless in the area, the Jesuits and lawyers for the accusers said. The Jesuits operated St. Mary's Mission and School near Omak (Washington) for more than 60 years until turning it over to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in 1973.

UPDATE:
Catholic Order Reaches $166 Million Settlement With Sexual Abuse Victims
By WILLIAM YARDLEY [New York Times March 25, 2011]
SEATTLE — A Roman Catholic religious order in the Northwest has agreed to pay $166 million to more than 500 victims of sexual abuse, many of whom are American Indians and Alaska Natives who were abused decades ago at Indian boarding schools and in remote villages, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Friday.

The settlement, with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, known as the Northwest Jesuits, is the largest abuse settlement by far from a Catholic religious order, as opposed to a diocese, and it is one of the largest abuse settlements of any kind by the Catholic Church. The Jesuits are the church’s largest religious order, and their focus is education. The Oregon Province includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

“There is a huge number of victims, in part because these Native American communities were remote and vulnerable, and in part because of a policy by the Jesuits, even though they deny it, of sending problem priests to these far-off regions,” said Terry McKiernan of Bishopaccountability.org, a victims’ advocacy group that tracks abuse cases.

The province released a statement saying it would not comment on the settlement announced by the plaintiffs’ lawyers because it was involved in bankruptcy litigation. The bankruptcy stems from previous abuse settlements, totaling about $55 million, reached several years ago. A small group of victims and their lawyers have been negotiating the current settlement for more than a year as part of the province’s bankruptcy-ordered restructuring.

An insurer for the province is paying the bulk of the settlement, which still is subject to approval by hundreds of other victims and by a federal judge.

John Allison, a lawyer based in Spokane, Wash., represented many clients who were abused in the late 1960s and early 1970s while they were students at St. Mary’s Mission in Omak, Wash., near the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes, one of the largest reservations in the country. The Jesuits ran the St. Mary’s school until the 1970s, when federal policies began to encourage more Indian control. St. Mary’s is now closed, though its building stands beside a new school.

Mr. Allison noted that English was not the native language for some of the students at the time of the abuse. Some were 6 and 7 years old and came from difficult family situations. Some were orphans. At the same time, many Jesuit priests were not happy to have been assigned to such remote places.

“They let down a very vulnerable population,” Mr. Allison said.

Lawyers representing some of the victims initially suggested they would go after assets of some of the region’s large Jesuit institutions, including Gonzaga University and Seattle University. But the settlement does not involve them, and their future vulnerability is unclear. Mr. Allison said some of the accused priests, now in their 80s, live at Gonzaga under strict supervision.

Mr. Allison and another lawyer, Leander James, of Idaho, said the settlement required the province to eventually apologize to the victims.

One of the plaintiffs, Dorothea Skalicky, was living on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in northern Idaho in the 1970s when she said she was abused by a Jesuit priest who ran Sacred Heart Church, in Lapwai. Ms. Skalicky, now 42, said that her family lived across from the church for several years, and that she was abused from age 6 to 8.

“My family looked up to him,” Ms. Skalicky said of the priest, who is deceased. “He was somebody high up that was respected by the community and my parents.” The church, she said, “was supposed to be a safe place.”  [Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York.]

[I ask you all to say a prayer for the survivors. Money cannot alleviate the memory....Trace]



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old World Lie

Here are my thoughts on Divinity:

In Indian Country, a human being is as divine and sacred as any other living thing on our planet.

It’s apparent the sacred divinity of humans didn’t apply to all people and didn’t exist in ancient history like Rome, or in many religious settings. Divinity didn’t apply to both sexes or to the racial constructs of Conqueror, Slaveholder and Pilgrim either.

In Ancient Rome, one tenth of one percent held all political and social power, with senators, governors and knights its ruling class, much like today in America. America, the land of opportunity, will pollute the land, sky and water and even rob others, to make rich people richer.

Arrogant aristocratic Romans enjoyed savagery, feeding people to lions and other animals, as punishment for breaking the laws. Poor people, poor slaves did nearly all the work - like then, like now.

As Gandhi said, poverty is the worse form of violence.

“Owning or killing people was as natural to Romans as water running down hill… Who can comprehend a father tossing an infant into the village dung heap for being female, sick or a surplus mouth to feed. The Romans were not offended, especially if the father followed the law and invited five neighbors to examine the baby before he left it to die,” according to Lewis Lord, author of “Bread and Circuses in the Year One: Life Under Augustus was dirty, brutal and short” (page 76 – 79, The Ancient World, Mysteries of History, US News and World Report Special Edition, 2004.)

Children were not considered human until they walked and talked in Roman times. It doesn’t seem that much has changed.

For those in the Middle East, Christ’s arrival brought change and peace. Christianity, the world’s largest religion with some two billon followers, gave hope to a hopeless world. The teachings of Christ confront and challenge the disparities between the rich and the wretched, teaching his followers “blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

In my humble view, the Roman Catholic Church actually did more to divide and conquer the sexes than it did to convert a sinner to sainthood. The Roman Catholic Church is the richest in the world, quite a contrast to Christ’s teachings during His tumultuous journey on earth.

American does little to ease suffering of the poor or weak. It’s more a haven of greed, fear and corruption like Rome.

If you watch the Discovery Channel, you’ve learned by now there is no such thing as “race,” per se, but this truth is not widely acknowledged, since most people don’t grasp that skin color and pigment is a product of ultraviolet exposure, rather than being about one’s superiority or supremacy, or who is more eligible for heaven.

I also have to remind myself that Indigenous knowledge is ancient and America is just a couple hundred years old. So why is the truth about “race” so scandalous?

“New World Order, Old World Lie,” Santee Sioux musician John Trudell said this about exploiting human beings, with one group dominating another.

Even now, men rule and manage their institutions, except in Indian Country where women are sacred and honored. Even the Earth is a woman and called Mother in Indian Country.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Self Love (how many adoptees don't have enough)

My definition of a narcissist is someone who is totally in love with themselves. Every child, not adopted, has this love of self. Ask a five, six or seven year old about love and they will say I love who I am, how I feel, I love my parents and I am happy – they might even act giddy, unaware their focus is on themselves and not other people. An emotionally-healthy child typically is self-centered until they grow to learn compassion, interest and respect for other life forms.
When a narcissist doesn’t grow up, they show an excessive interest in their own appearance, comfort, importance, and abilities – you might say self-centered and selfish to an extreme. It is unhealthy, actually, and all too common! It's often the "Me Generation."
There is a Greek myth about Narcissus, a beautiful youth, who after Echo’s death, is made to pine away for love of his own reflection in a spring and changes into a narcissus (a lily with narcotic properties.) It’s interesting the word narcotic is anything that has a soothing, lulling or dulling effect and narcosis is a condition of deep stupor which passes into unconsciousness and paralysis, usually caused by a narcotic or certain chemicals.
Being in love with yourself is intoxicating and quite healthy if you are a child.
Sooner or later reality will knock on your door and change this perception and sensible adult behavior will take hold.
I totally believe adoptees are not as narcissistic as they should be in childhood. We are worried, sad, watchful and we blame ourselves for everything, especially our abandonment.
I hated myself. I truly did.
This was a consequence of my adoption and my abandonment.
The adoption business will again downplay: Most of the patients in psychiatric care are adoptees!  One doctor calls it “severe narcissistic injury.”  Emotions, even extreme emotions, can be expected at some point in time in an adoptees life. Some thing or some event or someone can and will trigger a reaction.  Adoptees face facts eventually.  The adoption system is hardly aware of the damage it causes – or else they would change it or stop it altogether! Adoptees are locked out of reality and given an illusion to embrace. And we must never expect to know our origins? Yes, this is true. Sealed court documents and secrecy prevent knowledge and truth in adoption.  When will the world wake up?

Reunion: What you need to know about rejection

Perhaps one of the best analysis of the “reunion of adoptee and birthparent” I have found is called The Second Rejection, Part 1 and 2 by Marcy Wineman Axness (available on the website: www.reunite.com/adoption-records/the-second-rejection.html)

The Second Rejection
Your phone call takes too long to be returned. Your letter goes unanswered for an unnerving number of weeks. You concoct exaggerated scenes inside your overtime mind, clamoring to make sense of it all, to somehow feel sense of it all.
Ah, reunion.
Now that we as a movement have gotten past the reunion-as-panacea stage, we are beginning to address the very complex issues imbedded in the process, the relationship, the roller coaster experience that attends reunion. And the big old elephant sitting squarely in the middle of this room, the one almost everyone sees -- or rather feels, trampling their already-bruised toes -- but hates to mention for fear of making it real, is named Rejection. But whether we name it or not, it’s very real.
For many adoptees, it’s experienced as The Second Rejection. My friend Amy’s birthmother, upon being found, said that she needed time to adjust. She told Amy to call her in six months, and upon doing so Amy found that she had moved to Germany. Amy has channeled her renewed feelings of abandonment into her own healing, thereby transforming what might have been an immobilizing turn of events, but she still knows frustratingly little about what’s at the heart of her birthmother’s rejection.
Dr. Randolph Severson explains that behind many kinds of reunion rejection lies a sort of grieving for the might-have-been. And people respond to that grief in different ways.
“I think there is a stage that some people go through where they feel rejected, really, by life. That all these things that could have been, or, along a different kind of life trajectory, would have occurred, simply aren’t going to be -- too much of life has already been lived. And people withdraw. The anxiety is just too great, the disappointment is too great.”
This kind of withdrawal can happen on the part of the adoptee as well. “What a lot of adoptees seem to go through is a stage where they realize that the birthmother or birthparents are really not going to be able to answer to their wish when their fundamental wish is ‘I wish none of this had ever happened to me.’"
Dr. Severson says that an underlying desire of many adoptees -- subconscious, irrational, and understandable -- is that through reunion they will somehow become un-adopted, become like everyone else.
“The second rejection sort of occurs when folks realize that this just simply can’t happen. And sometimes it creates a little bit of a distance that the birthparent then complains about, too. It’s like an almost impersonal rejection that occurs as a result of finding that the reunion simply can’t erase, eliminate or undo everything that’s gone before. The wounds still exist.”
It is the different way we address these wounds that is at the heart of my own experience with the second rejection. As long as I was still in the deep sleep of denial over how adoption etched me, my birthmother felt safe to be very forthcoming in our relationship. The fact that I’ve come to address these issues, these wounds of mine, holds a certain terror for her, I think, since she has always minimized her adoption experience, as in “I had a great pregnancy, I knew I was carrying you for Bee and Bob, and I’ve never believed in ownership of children.”
In her blithe attitude about this profound experience -- one we intimately shared -- I experience a certain basic rejection, a dismissal of the part of me who doesn’t regard it blithely in the least, the part of me who feels fundamentally shaped by it.
My birthmother’s response is a variation on a theme that Dr. Severson says often occurs in the reunion experience as birthparents encounter the fullness of their children’s emotions and responses. “They can be overwhelmed about the intense, deep sorts of needs and yearning that adoptees often have. And they can just withdraw, it’s just too frightening. I think most second rejections that occur literally, occur out of fear, mostly, and not knowing how to respond.” (It can also happen vice versa, with the adoptee overwhelmed by the needs of the birthparent.)
Sometimes the birthparent -- most often the birthmother -- doesn’t feel free to respond to her newly-returned “child” in the way her instincts would guide, hamstrung as she is by allegiances to her existing family, especially her husband, notes Dr. Severson.
“When the full weight of what this means bears in on a spouse, and for awhile the birthparent becomes almost a stranger, that spouse can put a whole, whole lot of pressure on the birthparent.”
This can lead to painful choices that pit a birthmother’s instincts and heart’s desires against the harsher demands she may feel pressing in on her. In this way, the birthmother - or birthfather --experiences another kind of second rejection, of the sort that occurred when she had to reject an entire realm of response within herself -- and indeed felt it rejected by those close to her -- in order to relinquish her child for adoption. This can stir up old anger, another elephant in the reunion room, who sits in many laps.
Whenever I attend our local support group, I can count on hearing at least one birthmother complaining about her adult child’s confusing, ambivalent, “push-pull” behavior, which she will often perceive as rejection. I usually offer some insight into primal anger, for notwithstanding the old debate regarding Did-We-Or-Did-We-Not-Abandon-Them, I believe that regardless of how we -- including adoptees -- frame it within our adult, intellectual perspective, there is rooted in the adoptees’ experience a profound sense of rejection registered on the most primal level, at our most tender marrow. Dr. Severson cautions against regarding the anger as simply a “stage”, which implies some sort of term limit.
“It co-exists with all these other feelings, and it doesn’t go away. It exists because it’s reality-based. It’s human. And then when it comes boiling out it frightens everybody, especially if they’ve not read anything or talked to anybody, are not in therapy or a support group, and it’s kind of like ‘Where’s this anger coming from? It shouldn’t be there because after all, we’re having this nice, happy reunion.’"

Marcy Wineman Axness, an adoptee, lives in California with her husband and two children. She writes and lectures nationwide on adoption and pre- and perinatal issues. She welcomes correspondence at her e-mail address: axness@earthlink.net

[I am posting this from my research on adoption and what I learned while writing my memoir...Trace]

Understanding impact of past adoption practices: Australian research (2009)

Current needs of women affected by past adoption practices (part 3 of their report)

Marshall and McDonald (2001) noted that there is considerable (emotionally charged) debate around the effects of adoption with, at the extremes, some extravagant claims for and against adoption as a practice. The purpose of this review is not to debate the merits or otherwise of adoption or what the research says about how current adoption practices could be improved. Instead, the focus is on understanding the impact of past adoption practices, and the evidence from the research literature that can be used to assist with understanding and developing appropriate responses to the needs of women affected by past adoption practices.


Many writers (including autobiographical accounts and collections of case studies) either indirectly or directly identify that one of the crucial issues for mothers affected by past adoption practices is for their experiences to be publicly recognised. For example, in her recent edited volume of mothers' perspectives interspersed with documentary material, Cole (2008) quoted the following response from a psychiatrist, Dr Geoff Rickarby. In response to an interview question on his expectations of the NSW inquiry into adoption practices (which reported in 2000), Rickarby stated:

I would have liked to have seen a huge exposure of what was actually done ... you know ... for the adoptees to actually see what a helpless isolated position their mother was in, what drugs were given to them, what coercion, what brainwashing, what illegal things happened and how they were taken from their mothers. (cited in Cole, 2008, p. 173)

This points to a common theme across all of the research: the pervasiveness of the silence and shame, and the impact this has had in terms of isolation, lack of support and specific services. Marshall and McDonald (2001) argued that long-term pain for relinquishing mothers could have been relieved if they had had help in dealing with the relinquishment, accompanied by support and the opportunity to know something about the child (p. 73).

Based on her advocacy work with mothers who have been separated from their babies by adoption, Lindsay (1998) identified some of the needs that she recognised as being part of the healing process (which she sees as a societal responsibility):

•availability of ongoing counselling with highly skilled psychologists;

•provision of trauma counselling services pertaining to mothers and children traumatised by adoption separation;

•establishment of advertising campaigns encouraging mothers to speak out;

•provision of education programs for GPs and other health services providers; and

•avoidance of statements that are likely to re-traumatise (e.g., referring to 'unwanted babies', 'your decision', 'birth mother', 'think about how the adoptive parent feels').

At the conclusion of their groundbreaking Australian empirical study, Winkler and van Keppel (1984) recommended that two things were most needed for these women:

•counselling and support; and

•increased information.

The efficacy of these various services or actions have not been empirically tested in relation to the specific population group; however, they are consistent with the broader theoretical and empirical literature on other forms of trauma, such as the field of child abuse and neglect or adult sexual assault (see Astbury, 2006; Connor & Higgins, 2008). Consideration should also be given to the difference between generalist services, and specialised mental health and other support services for this particular group. As with other groups who have experienced pain and trauma, having society recognise what has occurred (i.e., naming it, and understanding how it occurred and its impact) is an important element in coping with and adjusting to the deep hurt they have experienced.

Winkler, Brown, van Keppel and Blanchard (1988) noted:

Many older adoption practices were cruel and insensitive, reflecting older, harsher social attitudes; the scars left by these practices have never really healed for many people. The probability, therefore, is substantial that adoption-related problems will occur over a person's full life course. (p. 3)

Given that past practices cannot be 'undone', one of the steps in the journey for both mothers and children given up for adoption is the choice around reunion. Given the variability in responses provided in the case study literature, and the absence of any systematic empirical evidence, this is an area where further research would be of particular value. Services attempting to support those affected - including professional counsellors, agencies and support groups - would all benefit from a greater understanding of typical pathways through the reunion process, estimates of the number of reunions that have occurred, the perspectives of those involved, and factors that are associated with positive and negative reunion experiences.

Apart from these issues relating to reunion, the research material—supported strongly by the case studies and autobiographical material (see Appendix, Tables A2 and A3)—points to other ongoing issues for mothers affected by past adoption practices. These issues include:

•personal identity (the concept of 'motherhood' and self-identity as a good mother);

•relationships with others, including husbands/partners, subsequent children, etc.;

•connectedness with others (problematic attachments); and

•ongoing anxiety, depression and trauma.

(note: I added the italics and highlights for emphasis...This study could certainly be applied to First Nations mothers who lost children in North America.  The lack of support for us is a further betrayal... Trace)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hopi Elders: offer prayers for Japan

View on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buMD1Qi_fNw

“Hopi” means Peaceful People. The greatest power is the strength of peace. Peace is the will of the Great Spirit, God....Trace

Friday, March 18, 2011

YOUR VOICE


archival photo
 Here in America, many many Indian children were taken and given to white people or missionaries. Every single Indian reservation has a story. Some say Indian reservations were prime locations for social workers to fill their orders. The Indian Adoption Projects (there was more than one) was indeed a genocidal act against our humanity but few seem to know this story. 
In the words of a Cree elder, “you must know where you came from yesterday, know where you are today, if you’re to know where you’re going tomorrow.” [That is not easy for an adoptee to hear.]
If the Native American population was just 2 million and one quarter of all children were removed before the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, then (on-paper) 80,000+ children were removed from their families during the early to mid-1900s. If the population was 3 million, then over 100,000 were removed and relocated. (You do the math = genocide). Where are all these children now?
The 2000 census in the USA says there are 2.5 million Indians. I’d say there are many more if you count up all the invisible adoptees removed from their Indian Nations and
reservations across North America.

Work is underway on book 2, stories from the lost children adoptees. The book title is: “Split Feathers: Two Worlds.”
If you want to write about your being an adoptee, and if you are indigenous to
North America and First Nations, you are invited. You may or not be in reunion with your tribe. That is the point. You need to be able to open your adoption and find your relatives. Simply email me: tracedemeyer@yahoo.com.

Submissions are due the end of April 2011. No later. Please do this for all the other adoptees. Your voice needs to be heard. Your story needs to be told and will be respected.
Only you have the power and voice to tell the world what happened to you.
Mitakuye oyasin. We are all related. All our relations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My prayers for Japan

Prayers for you, Japan, in this great time of crisis. I have smudged cedar and offered tobacco for you. The world watches during this time of your great suffering. I know your great strength will only grow. We are all related. All Our Relations. Mitakuye oyasin.
Trace

Monday, March 14, 2011

Northern Exposure (the best tv series ever)

Miscellany Adoptee: Northern Exposure: "By the way, one of my very favorite (well, my favorite, really) shows in the history of EVER is Northern Exposure. You can buy the seasons ..."

[please friend me on Facebook since I post a ton of great things on it! Trace]

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]

Saturday, March 12, 2011

END THE CRISIS: Congressional testimony 1974 (archives)


archival photo of Residential Boarding School students
 William Byler at hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Program, April 1974

The National Institute of Mental Health publication, “Suicide, Homicide, and Alcoholism Among American Indians,” reports:


The American Indian population has a suicide rate about twice the nation’s average. Some Indian reservations have suicide rates at least five or six times that of the Nation, especially among younger age groups. While the national rate has changed but little over the last three decades, there has been a notable increase in suicide among Indians, especially in the younger age groups.

The report then singles out nine social characteristics of Indians most inclined to completed suicide. I think two of these are pertinent here: He has lived with a number of ineffective or inappropriate parental substitutes because of family disruption, and he has spent time in boarding schools and has been moved from one to another.

In our efforts to make Indian children white, I think it’s clear that we’re destroying them. In attempting to remove Indian children from communities of poverty, I think we help to create the very conditions of poverty. When we remove children from the home or disrupt family life -- with families as the basic economic, health care, and educational unit in human life -- when you break that up, you impede the ability of the child to grow, to learn, for himself or herself, to become a good and responsible parent later.

We have certain recommendations, in a general sense, that we would like to lay before you.

Mr. Hirsch will present some more specific recommendations that we believe could be acted upon by Congress this year without any kind of significant question of committee jurisdictions, and we believe are uncontroversial.

We offer the following summary recommendations. Congress should enact such laws, appropriate such moneys, and declare such policies as would:

(1) Revise the standards governing Indian child welfare issues, to provide for a more rational and humane approach to questions of custody; and to encourage more adequate training of welfare officials;

(2) Strengthen due process by extending to Indian children and their parents the right to counsel in custody cases and the services of expert witnesses, subjecting voluntary waivers to judicial review, and encouraging officers of the court who consider Indian child-welfare cases to acquaint themselves with Indian cultural values and social norms;

(3) Eliminate the economic incentives to perpetuating the crisis;

(4) End coercive detribalization and assimilation of Indian families and communities and restore to Public Law 280 tribes their civil and criminal jurisdiction;

(5) Provide Indian communities with the means to regulate child-welfare matters themselves;

(6) Provide Indian communities with adequate means to overcome their economic, educational, and health handicaps;

(7) Provide Indian families and foster or adoptive parents with adequate means to meet the needs of Indian children in their care;

(8) Provide for oversight hearings with respect to child-welfare issues on a regular basis and for investigation of the extent of the problem by the General Accounting Once;

(9) End the child-welfare crisis, both rural and urban, and the unwarranted intrusion of Government into Indian family life.

The ultimate of responsibility, of course, must properly rest with the American Indian tribes and urban communities, the Indian people themselves.
 
[source: www.liftingtheveil.org/byler]
 
[Again, I am posting information and research from my archives...Trace]

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Wonder Adoption Agencies are Nervous About OBC Access! (from my archives)

by Jo Swanson, October 25, 2010 
I was looking for a quote in my 1989 'mini-book' The Adoption Machine and came across something I had forgotten about. It fortifies what we've known all along about why agencies fight so hard to keep adoptees and birth families from locating one another. The agency is in Michigan - it's the one my daughter was placed through. I'll quote directly from the book:

A birthmother who placed her child through our same "Christian" agency contacted me for search help. She had kept in touch with her social worker throughout the years, even after the woman retired, as a way of somehow staying connected to her child. In recent visits, the former social worker had become quite upset about the birthmother's desire to be reunited with her daughter. "Give it up," she admonished her, suggesting that she was merely having a "bad day." "Cheer up! You have another family now! Besides, I checked the phone book recently, and the family isn't living in the area anymore."

Mother and daughter did meet, however, and upon comparing information provided to each by the agency at time of placement and later with the real story, found:

Claim: Birthmother was told by her social worker at time of relinquishment that her infant was perfectly normal and healthy.

Fact: Records indicated the child was diagnosed in the hospital, right after birth, as having a severe hearing impairment (95% loss), possibly due to exposure of mother, unknowingly, to German measles during pregnancy.

Claim: One year after relinquishment, birthmother was sent a letter by the agency, informing her that her child was "in a happy home" and that the adoption was finalized.

Fact: At the time the social worker wrote that letter, this child was back in foster care after a failed adoption. "The adoptive mother was having a nervous breakdown and couldn't handle a handicapped child." A second placement had been made at thirteen months, and fortunately it was a very good placement.

Claim: The adoptive family no longer lived in the area.

Fact: Adoptive father was deceased, but the mother still lived in the same home as at the time of adoption, and was still listed in phone directory. (Adoptive mother was supportive of her daughter's desire to meet her birth family.)

Claim: The adoptive couple had been told by the agency social worker after placement that the child's birthmother had died subsequent to the birth! (Common practice, we now know, as was telling birthmothers their infants died before or after birth.)

Fact: This agency social worker had spun so many lies that she was in a virtual panic that the two parties might actually meet one day and learn the truth!

     We're getting the truth out drop by drop. But we've been doing it for so many decades - when will legislators begin to "get it" and realize how power has been abused by adoption brokers at the expense of children and their mothers?

[Lies...This is one example of the difficulties in dealing with the adoption industry, social workers and lawmakers on passing unconditional "no consent clause" access to our OBC (original birth certificate) and our adoption records...   Trace]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chinese author Xinran on their Lost Daughters

Xinran said, "Meeting American adoptees in 2006 helped me decide to write this book. I met adoptees of all different ages, but they all asked me the same question: “Why did my Chinese mother give me up?” When an adoptee finishes the book, I hope they will understand a little more about their secret mothers, especially the challenges these mothers had to fight against their government, their families, and even themselves to have to give up their daughters."

It's important to think of adoptees and first mothers as one large group, spanning all boundaries and ethnic lines. We are not divided in the adoption experience.
Please read this interview with Chinese author Xinran: http://www.bookslut.com/features/2011_03_017338.php

Monday, March 7, 2011

UNCOVER YOUR HISTORY (Thanks to everyone at the Pequot Museum)

Having just visited the Pequot Museum on Saturday [March 5] to read from One Small Sacrifice, I know the history of American Indians and First Nations is one of the most neglected (or blatantly ignored) in these United States.
Few Americans care about the Pequot or other Native Americans or our struggle or our truths of what happened since First Contact. The Pequot in Mashantucket built a museum to tell the world their story of their bravery and their survival, despite the odds stacked against them by various invaders and colonizers.
The genocide of the Pequot didn’t happen. The genocide via assimilation of American Indian adoptees didn’t happen either.
I am proof of that, along with the many Lost Children/adoptees I talk to regularly. The colonizers did attempt to erase us (via SEALED ADOPTIONS) but they didn’t succeed in erasing our blood. In fact, they failed miserably. Like I told the audience about my friend Jess, if your Mormon adoptive mother says “you are no longer Lakota, you are a Mormon” – in fact she is wrong. You are Lakota forever, despite her adopting you and converting you to her Mormon religious beliefs.
Our Indian blood is our memory. It can never be erased.
Adoptees who are American Indian are regularly getting around the laws of sealed adoption records and many find their tribe, despite the odds stacked against them.
I was happy to see friends in this audience and I made many new friends. There were people who already read my book. This was good to hear. One beautiful Taino man asked me how my book can become a best seller. I told him my book was written for Indian people – so that they learn about what happened to Lost Birds/adoptees. I told him my book will not be a "bestseller."  I never expected my memoir to hit the New York Times bestseller list.
It's ironic I found this advice on a blog today and it struck me how true it is -- for adoptees!
This was the quote: “Uncover your history to discover your current mystery. Patterns and habits can be deep. Look at your early childhood experiences. Are you a people pleaser? Why? How did this start? Are you shy and withdrawn? How did this start? Finding the root of your emotional habits will equip you to make different choices. Conscious choice is incredibly empowering.”
OK. Many ADOPTEES are not exactly able to uncover their history. We were supposed to remain a mystery, right? Our status as adopted human beings is a monster of a mystery. I hated being that mystery. I opened my adoption at 22 to solve my mystery. Then I did years of self-study to see how my patterns set me up for low self-esteem and deep dark attachment issues. I was a shipwreck, sinking and suffering many years.
YES, I was a “people pleaser” – but not anymore. I think I was a “people pleaser” because I feared more rejection. I didn’t want anyone to not “like” me. This is serious stuff for adoptees to overcome.
Writing about your life helps to reveal patterns and habits. I found that sitting with a pen and paper at 4 a.m. could release some very painful memories of my childhood. I had years that were blank. I know other adoptees with this same experience.
Uncovering your history is so important. If you start with the idea you began your life at Chapter Two, something rapper Darryl McDaniels recently said in an interview, then you realize you need to find out what is in your Chapter One. You must open your adoption to do that.
I did open my adoption and it did change me. In fact, since I started writing One Small Sacrifice and doing this blog, I found there are ways to open your adoption and get around these inhumane archaic  laws. There is plenty about this in my memoir. And I have found search angels who do this work and help adoptees (and first families) for free or for small fees.
Please know adoptees, you are not alone. There are perhaps 10 million adoptees in America. 10 Million! If we stand together for open adoption records, we can win this human rights battle.
Many thanks to all who came to hear me read at the Pequot Museum. It was a day to celebrate my book was even published and how adoptees do survive against the odds, just like the brave Pequot did.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Survivor of Boarding School (and a true hero) passes

Residential school survivor overcame ordeal
By Mark Lemstra, Special to The StarPheonix
March 3, 2011

On Tuesday night, Doreen, a close friend of mine, passed away.
She was a survivor of residential schools. Doreen's story is remarkable not only for the trauma to which she was exposed as a child, but for the way she chose to respond to such adversity.
Instead of quitting, she rose to obtain a university degree in social work and spent her time counselling other victims of residential schools.
Residential schools were first conceptualized in 1820 by the Sir Peregrine Maitland, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, to gain "influence over children." The Department of Indian Affairs rationalized that the government needs to "kill the Indian in order to save the man," and that to do so, "It is to the young we must look for the complete change of condition."
The Gavin Report of 1879 recommended forcibly removing children from their parents, placing them in custody of the government and church, and maintaining separation from parents for as long as possible -"the better for success."
The other justification was to maintain order. After the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, Superintendent James McRae from Indian Affairs concluded: "It is unlikely that any tribe would give trouble of a serious nature to a government whose members had children completely under government control."
To keep parents away from their children, the secretary general of Indian Affairs, Edgar Dewdney, in 1891 authorized "the employment of the police to keep the visitors off the precincts."
The goal was to take Indian children from their parents "at earliest age possible," which was deemed to be six years of age. Removal from the parents for 10 years was needed to ensure that "all the Indian there is in the race should be dead."
Duncan Campbell Scott, superintendent of Indian education, declared before Parliament in 1920: "I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question."
The first major problem was chronic underfunding of residential schools. It took $185.55 per student per year to provide basic services. Regrettably, only $115 per student was allocated. Thus the underfunded schools were poorly built and maintained, and over-crowded, resulting in a crisis of sanitation and health.
It also forced the children to work extreme amounts of physical labour in order to pay their own way. The Indian Affairs Department labelled the residential schools "a disgrace to anybody."
Dr. P.H. Bryce, chief medical health officer for the department, wrote in 1922: "Fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education they had received therein." Bryce concluded that these schools were a "criminal disregard" and " a national crime" of the responsibility placed on the government and its thirdparty provider.
In fact, the legal opinion from S.H. Blake to cabinet minister Frank Oliver was that: "The appalling number of deaths among the younger children appeals loudly to the guardians of our Indians. In doing nothing to obviate the preventable causes of death, brings the department within unpleasant nearness to the charge of manslaughter."
For example, the death rate from tuberculosis in residential schools was 86.1 per 1,000 children, compared to 0.09 deaths per 1,000 children in Canadian cities.
To save costs from the high death rates, Indian children were buried two per grave.
The second major problem was physical and sexual abuse committed against the children. Children were often strapped, whipped, chained to beds and locked in cold, dark rooms. Reviews conducted by Indian Affairs of the abuse concluded that "beating was the norm, more or less, in every boarding school in the country."
Approximately 80 per cent of the children were routinely physically abused and 50 per cent sexually assaulted. The last school closed in 1986.
Doreen was kind enough to share her personal stories and wisdom with me for about half an hour at a time, almost daily, for two years. She gave me an education I could never receive by reading books.
As well, she often attended my university classes to share her stories with graduate students. When she got to the part about how she was prepared by the nun, and what she was forced to do with the priest, there was never a dry eye in the room.
Perhaps most surprisingly my friend believed in forgiveness. Instead of hating the government or the church, she believed it was the work of individual failings.
Doreen also believed in the spiritual world. I have no doubt that she is there now. I will never forget her.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Dry the Eyes of Indian Adoptees (Daily Yonder, 3-16-2010)

Before 1978, most Native American adopted children were taken into non-Indian families. Some of those "Lost Birds" have found a way to make peace with the past and reclaim their native culture.

By Mary Annette Pember (published in the Daily Yonder, March 2010)

The story about the arrest of white missionaries trying to adopt allegedly orphaned Haitian children struck a chord with me. Similar media stories about well meaning white celebrities adopting pretty babies of color from poor third world countries have also rubbed me the wrong way. You see, American Indians have a long history of white folks trying to help us by taking away our children.  It is estimated that between 1941 and 1978, white parents adopted 35 percent of American Indians in the U.S., often forcibly.  Indians have learned that no amount of good intention can wipe away the painful loss of our culture.

Not long ago, I traveled to Minneapolis as I worked on a story about the Lost Birds. The Lost Birds are those Indian people who were adopted by non-Indian families prior to 1978. More personal than I had realized, this story caught me by surprise; it touched the center of who I am as an Ojibwe woman and as a mother. 

We adopted our son Danny from my tribe in 2005 when he was 7 months old.  Danny came into our lives as though directed by an outside force. Both my husband I felt that he was meant to be raised by us and that he was meant to know he is an Ojibwe man. That “knowing” has been a deep wordless tie between us and one to which I feel all people, non Indian and otherwise, are entitled. 

So, it was with some trepidation that I began a story about Rachel Kupcho, an Ojibwe women and her adoptive white parents. Would I be able to keep my feelings about interracial adoption in perspective?

I worried about this and other things during my flight to Minneapolis. Unexpectedly, I noticed the Mississippi River or Great River in the Ojibwe language as the plane descended into the Twin Cities.   The power of that great water caught me by surprise, pinching my heart in a nameless, primordial way and I felt a homecoming not without pain. With relief, I recalled that in Ojibwe tradition, we women are the ones who care for the water and I was comforted. I thought of our traditional Ojibwe stories describing this connection with place and the land.  Once again, I was awed by the wisdom and nuance of my culture that at once understands yet celebrates the ineffable.  A wave of calm washed over me; I knew that the story would emerge in the way that it should.

In the end, I came to see that many mothers, Indian and non-Indian but all women who care for the water,  built Rachel’s life and strength, like the Great River.

At first glance Rachel didn’t look like much of a Lost Bird to me. In fact she appeared to be just the opposite. Confident and beautiful, she strode around the Minneapolis American Indian Center [6] with calm authority. She seemed to easily carry the pride that is so typical of an Anishinabikwe or young Ojibwe woman as she worked to organize the annual Gathering of Our Children and Returning Adoptees Powwow.

Sandy White Hawk has helped organize this powwow for several years. She is executive director of the First Nations Orphan Association [7], an organization that helps returning adoptees find their way back to their culture. Since Sandy suddenly took ill, Rachel stepped in at the last minute to coordinate the event. Organizing a powwow is no small task.  There is quite a bit of protocol involved and the potential for drama is high. Rachel, however, seemed born to the task; to look at her I would have never suspected this was the first time she had overseen a powwow or that until a few years ago had had very little exposure to her culture. Like many who attended this powwow Rachel was adopted at birth and raised by white parents.

When the doors of the Indian Center opened up, people began to trickle in. It was easy to identify the Lost Birds.  Their fear and guarded emotions seemed almost palpable as they stepped uncertainly into the gym. They were drawn by the sound of the drum that they may have been hearing for the first time on that day. Looking more deeply into their faces, I sensed hope, a hope that they might begin to return home.
rachel and young girls Mary Annette Pember photo -- Rachel Kupcho, herself adoped by non-Indian parents, welcomed participants at the Gathering of Our Children and Returning Adoptees Powwow in Minneapolis.

I noticed Rachel ushering people into the gym with a calm smile and I wondered how she has come by such self-assurance. The simple yet enormous answer begins with her parents, Keith and Lisa Kupcho.  Typically, they are in the background, quietly helping set up tables for the event. They discretely excuse themselves once the heavy lifting is finished. They will return when their daughter needs them later in the evening for the Wanblenica or Orphan’s Song and ceremony.

Like so many Indian children prior to 1978, Rachel was given up for adoption by her birth mother  from the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota and placed with a non-Indian family. Rachel, however, does not share the typical Indian adoptee history that is so often filled with stories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Painful and more insidious than the physical abuse that adoptees report, has been a rejection of their natural spirit. The shame of being Indian and therefore inferior is a lasting wound that remains open for countless adoptees. Too many try to medicate these wounds with alcohol and drugs, vainly trying to ease their pain.

This generation of “Lost Birds” as they are often called, resulted from the well -intentioned U. S federal policy of assimilation that sought to integrate Indians into mainstream culture. The policy was intended to help lift Indians out of the poverty and social ills that plagued the reservations. Instead, it supported the near wholesale removal of children from their homes, families and cultures.  Before the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, that gave tribes jurisdiction over their own families, thousands of Indian children who entered the social services system were adopted into non-Indian families. In their misguided efforts to help raise Indian people from poverty, churches and social service agencies mistook Indian culture as the culprit in the community’s problems. Therefore all things “Indian” were to be stamped out. Language, culture and the Indian tradition of child rearing that includes extended family, were viewed as backward and wrong. Understandably, many Indian adoptees internalized these messages and have had difficulty returning to their cultures. Rachel Kupcho, however, seems to have made her way back to her people with relative ease, achieving a comfort level that is enviable.
To know her story fully, I must meet all the mothers, the water caregivers who have contributed to her life and journey home.

Rachel is one of four ethnically diverse children adopted and raised by Lisa and Keith Kupcho in Chanhassen, Minnesota about 20 miles outside of Minneapolis. Small and brown at the front, the Kupcho home sits a bit further back from the street than do the other houses. I imagine a certain sweet shyness about the house. Inside, the walls are richly covered with paintings, photos and prints of women of color and their children, lots of children. Photos of the Kupcho children and a seemingly endless convoluted photo storyline of their friends’ children and grandchildren are everywhere.

Rachel and family Mary Annette Pember photo -- Lisa Kupcho, at right, and her daughters (l-r) Eve, Rachel, and Sarah, catch up around the kitchen table in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The Kupchos also have a son, Aaron. All their children were adopted.

We visited over coffee in her kitchen. There was an aura of love in that kitchen that seemed to speak of bottomless acceptance. I found myself moved to tears several times during the interview.

“Fortunately, I learned early on that I couldn’t fix everything in my children’s lives,” said Lisa.
Potentially, there was a lot to “fix” in being a white mother to her racially diverse clan. Now grown, the children are; Aaron, Filipino and Norwegian, Sarah, Scotch and Irish, Rachel,  Ojibwe and Italian and Eve, African American and German.

She recalled being confronted by an African American instructor years ago during a parenting class about adopting and raising mixed race children.

Lisa recovered from her sense of feeling unjustly accused and resisted storming out of the class.
“I realized that I needed to hear what this woman had to tell us. She prepared us for not thinking we could fix everything with parental love alone, “ she recalled.
Not only did she learn that she wouldn’t be able to isolate her children from the hurt of racism, she learned to be open to those who could mentor her through the parenting process.

Sandy Whitehawk Mary Annette Pember photo -- Sandy White Hawk, who directs the First Nations Orphan Association, began the powwow for adoptees and attended the most recent gathering with her husband, George.

Enter Sandy White Hawk, a challenging mentor if there ever was one. Sandy recalls her Indian caregiver handing her, at 18 months, through the window of a pickup truck into the hands of white missionaries who had come to the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota to “help the Indians.” Sandy internalized her adoptive parents message that she was and ever would be a pagan, a member of an inferior race. She was also physically and sexually abused in the home. Seeking to soothe her wounded soul, she turned to drugs and alcohol. Nothing seemed to take away the hurt until she found recovery and  ‘came home’ over 20 years ago to her people and culture. She recalls the sense of relief and healing upon hearing the American Indian drum for the first time.

“The drum goes to that place where there are no words. As adoptees when we first hear it, we realize it has been what we were longing for.”

Since, she has been compelled, almost obsessed in an effort to share this experience with other adoptees, knowing in her belly that a healing path lies therein. Working with a number of elders and spiritual leaders including Jerry Dearly, Lakota, she helped bring the Wanblenica or Orphan’s Song and ceremony that wipes away tears to Indian adoptees. It was during a Wanblenica that she came into the Kupcho’s lives.

The first Wanblenica offered by Sandy’s group was presented at an annual National Indian Child Welfare Association conference in Duluth. Rachel had recently been hired at NICWA and was helping to organize the conference. Typically, her parents were there as well, pitching in where they could, happy to be of service to their daughter. The theme of the conference was “Reclaiming the Stolen Ones.”

Lisa recalls Keith’s look of surprise over the theme’s name. “Stolen? Ooooh, a bit harsh.” he said.
Rather than feeling threatened, Lisa saw the conference as a learning opportunity. Soothing Keith, she reminded him of their motto: “Whatever is good for our kids, is good for our family.”

Lisa has come to believe that there is a core piece of something missing for adopted kids, a piece of abandonment for which they must seek healing in their own way.  She has spoken often to her children about this need and assured them of her support if they choose to explore their biological background and culture more fully.

“Whatever I can do or bring into their lives that makes them more healthy and whole advances our relationship. When you’re a mother first, you do whatever you can to make your child feel well and whole and supported.”

She was excited and honored to participate in the Wanblenica.  In the end “Rachel’s growth has been our growth,” she affirms.

rachel and parents Mary Annette Pember photo -- Rachel Kupcho stood between her parents, Lisa and Keith, at the Wanblenica, the Lakota Orphan Song and Ceremony. Rachel said it was "the most profound moment of my life.”

Lisa and Keith stood firmly behind Rachel during the ceremony, their hands resting on her shoulders.  Tears streamed uncontrollably down her face during the Wanblecheya.  “I felt so unbelievably loved. It was the most profound moments of my life.” Rachel recalls.

For Lisa, the ceremony represented a healthy sense of completion. “It was an embrace and acknowledgment of loss,” she said.

Although she has never felt lost or misplaced, Rachel felt the relief of being welcomed into the circle of her culture at last. Not only was the event a homecoming, according to Rachel, it was an acknowledgment from her parents that her quest for her heritage is important.

“Up until that point, it was the only thing they weren’t able to give me, but they were present when I received this gift,” she remembers.

Rachel is now convinced that without the unconditional love and support of her parents, she would not be strong enough to do the work that has now become her passion and her calling.

Working to support the Indian Child Welfare Act is now her life.  She is a court advocate for ICWA and helps Sandy in her efforts to gain funding for a project to create a social work curriculum that includes knowledge about Indian families and culture. “Everything that has happened in my life has prepared me to do this work.”

Lisa sees Sandy as a wonderful mentor and role model for Rachel. “It has almost been a relief to have others in our lives who could give Rachel what she needs”, Lisa laughs, recalling some mother daughter challenges. In the end, for Lisa, she has gained a friend in Sandy.

The passion of these three women, from such different backgrounds, has intertwined to form a tapestry of family love and support. I am reminded of my earlier vision of the Great River and how it unites its many channels into one big river, much like these women or water caregivers have united to grow Rachel into an Anishinabikwe.

As the Adoptees Powwow comes to an end, the Sisseton Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Color guards insist on having their photo taken with Rachel. Wearing full eagle feather headdresses and military fatigues, they surround her creating a vision of embrace, acceptance and support. She has, indeed, arrived home.
Note: The reporting and writing for this project were supported by a grant from the USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Press Release: Trace DeMeyer at Pequot Museum

Award-winning Native American journalist Trace A. DeMeyer will read from her book "One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects" at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum on Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m.


The books combines a fascinating personal memoir with a ground-breaking expose on the systemic removal of American Indian children from their mothers, families and tribes for adoption into non-Indian families. This practice went on for generations and the adoption industry continues this practice today.

Through a sympathetic judge in her hometown of Superior, DeMeyer opened her court-sealed adoption file at age 22. That was in Wisconsin, one of 43 states that require adoption records be permanently sealed. Thought to be a comfort to potentially adoptive parents, sealed records prevent adult adoptees from owning or ever seeing a copy of their own legal birth certificate and adoption files.

She shares her heartbreak and hope in a journey that takes her around the country, finally meeting her birthfather in 1996 and learning about her Shawnee-Cherokee ancestry.

DeMeyer has crafted a book that will surely raise eyebrows and question the validity of sealed records and the billion dollar adoption industry.

As an adoptee right advocate, DeMeyer is in contact with adoptees around the world through her blog: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com.

DeMeyer is the former editor of tribal newspapers the Pequot Times and Ojibwe Akiing.

Known for her exceptional print interviews with infuential Native American such as Leonard Peltier and Floyd Red Crow Westerman, DeMeyer started extensive research on adoptees in 2004. Her discoveries led to this fact-filled 227-page book that weaves eye-opening congressional testimony and evidence with her own jaw-dropping story of search and reunion.

"One Small Sacrifice" was chosen as Native America Calling's Book of the Month in March 2010. Her interview with Harlan McKosato is archived at http://www.nativeamericacalling.com/nac_past2010.shtml#march (March 26, 2010).

Go to: http://www.pequotmuseum.org/ for more information.

Every. Day.

Every. Day.
adoptees take back adoption narrative and reject propaganda

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.

Three Years already

Join!

National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network (NISCWN)

Membership Application Form

The Network is open to all Indigenous and Foster Care Survivors any time.

The procedure is simple: Just fill out the form HERE.

Source Link: NICWSN Membership

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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ADOPTION TRUTH

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.

Our Fault? (no)

Leland at Goldwater Protest

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