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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Haunted by Loss: My friend's adoption story

My book reading at the Pequot Museum
At lunch with a friend, as we ate our enchiladas, our discussion veered to my collecting stories for the new anthology "Two Worlds."  I was just starting to say something about birth psychology and the impact trauma on a newborn when my friend started to tell me how she lost a baby to adoption when she was a young woman.  I never knew this; suddenly I could not stop my eyes from filling with tears.
Even with our friends, we might not realize what are or were their defining moments. As she spoke, I could see how her loss defined her entire 50+ years.  (I know every story has the power to heal the person who tells it and the one who hears it.)

I was so very glad she told me about an adoption conference in Boston she attended years ago and how the women broke off into groups. She chose the group discussing women who relinquished. The facilitator closed the door and asked the women to raise their hands if they had lost a child to adoption. All hands went up.  Some of the women had never told a living soul what had happened. (Shame can silence you this way.)
One woman in her 70s was so overcome with grief, she wept in my friend's arms.  One young woman, a college student who was truly stunning, described herself as useless and ugly; she shared her deep remorse over her decision to give up her baby. (She didn't see it was threatening her future.) 
It was like this group gave the women the chance to see how their loss was deeply affecting their self-esteem. They had been shamed and even isolated by their decision. (Many were forced by their family or society pressure.) This group offered each woman time to share her experience, which turned out to be very healing for my friend.  (Support groups are essential but sadly, not everyone knows this.)

I've heard adoptees describe their isolation, too. I know adoption is an isolating experience for both mother and child; adoption separates us from each other. (With sealed records, our isolation was meant to be permanent, made by laws and expected by the adoption industry.)
As my friend was recalling this experience, I felt I was in the room as these women told of their unspeakable pain. I imagined my own mother Helen not being able to share her loss with anyone. (I wish I had had the chance to tell her I forgave her years ago.)

Finally my friend shared with me how she'd found her daughter. I was expecting a happy ending and a good reunion story. Sadly this didn't happen for them. My friend wrote her daughter a letter and hoped she was doing well. Her daughter wrote back she was doing fine but didn't open any door for a reunion. It ended before it began. (My friend sent a few birthday cards over the years but there was no response.)
As stunned as I was to hear this, I do know some adoptees are still in fear of meeting their first mothers. It could be the adoptees don't see the point of meeting birth parents or they don't want to hurt or disappoint their adoptive parents. (I encourage everyone to have reunion, to meet as many family members as soon as it's possible.)
My friend told me she read my memoir One Small Sacrifice to get an understanding of what an adoptee goes through.  If she never meets her daughter, at least she knows its possible to get through it and she knows I survived my own low self-esteem, slowly over years.
Weeks later, I am still haunted by my friend's loss of her daughter and the loss of their reunion.
My friend never had another child. 
I still feel her pain.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Coleen Rajotte: Accounting for the 60s Scoop

By Coleen Rajotte, Winnipeg Free Press

Rajotte as a toddler: 'I still struggle with the reality of trying to re-connect with my birth family and culture.'
Rajotte as a toddler: 'I still struggle with the reality of trying to re-connect with my birth family and culture.' (FAMILY PHOTO)
 
My adoption story as an Indian child starts at the old Grace Hospital in Winnipeg in 1968. That's the year I was legally adopted by a white, middle-class family. Like 20,000 other aboriginal children taken from their families in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, I have been on a life-long journey to reconnect with my family and culture and to figure out how to fit into both of these worlds.
For many adoptees, this was a traumatic experience. Many were sent across Canada, into the United States and some ended up in Europe. This all happened under the unfettered authority of provincial and territorial child welfare agencies.
This dark time in Canada's history became known as "the Sixties Scoop."
I consider myself lucky. I was placed with caring, adoptive parents who loved me, and an adoptive grandmother whom I cherished and adored. However, like all adoptees I still struggle with the reality of trying to reconnect with my birth family and culture.
Others weren't so fortunate. Many were deprived of love. We were all cut off from any sense of what it was like to belong to a community of our own people. We were not provided with any information about how to reconnect or find our birth families.
In a first for North America, the state of Maine, in an agreement with tribal leaders, is launching a reconciliation process next year to examine the history and legacy of the child welfare system's treatment of aboriginal people.
There is a growing sentiment that Canada, too, needs its own inquiry.
Justice Murray Sinclair, chairman of the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Indian Residential Schools, says a similar reconciliation process is needed to understand the impact of the Sixties Scoop.
"I would personally support there being a TRC process for Sixties Scoop kids because I think that their stories have never been given an opportunity to be brought to light," he says.
The Sixties Scoop followed the Indian Residential School era. The unstated intention of the scoop, many believe, was the same -- assimilate aboriginal children into non-aboriginal society.
A Manitoba review of native adoptions released a scathing report in 1985. It referred to the cultural misconceptions held by child-care workers about aboriginal peoples and about the way they raised their children.
"Cultural bias in the child-welfare system," the late Judge Edwin Kimelman concluded, "is practiced at every level from the social worker who works directly with the family, through the lawyers who represent the various parties in a custody case, to the judges who make the final disposition in the case.
"However, they were not the only ones to blame. All parties have been at fault -- federal and provincial governments who failed to resolve their jurisdictional dispute for the care of Treaty Indian children; former directors of child welfare who neglected to build accountability into the system; the child-care agencies, both public and private, who failed to examine the results of their policies and practices and who failed to keep accurate statistical data; the native organizations who remained too silent, too long before demanding control of their children."
My journey to find my own biological family is the topic of a film I have been working on for the last decade.
My birth mother was young and she had travelled from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg to live at what was called Bethany Home, a residence for unwed mothers run by the Salvation Army. The files show she was reluctant to give me up but she did sign the adoption papers.
There are also letters in my adoption file that she wrote to the agency begging for information about what happened to me. My mother was a residential school survivor and I believe that her lack of family connection contributed to her decision.
I am part of the generation that believed we were better off with white families. And this in my view was an act of assimilation and an act of colonization.
I remember like it was yesterday meeting my family 10 years ago. I remember flying to Saskatoon and then driving two hours to the Little Pine First Nation, a Plains Cree community with 700 people living on the reserve.
I was trying to pretend everything was OK. I was doing a bad job -- when I look at the video today, I was a stress mess.
As a journalist I had covered other "reunions" between adoptees and their families and I knew the heavy emotional toll they took on everyone. I remember thinking during that drive how can this be a reunion when I don't know these people?
In my own experiences and working with many other adoptees, I found that we shared a common hope that one day there would be official recognition of what happened to us.
Opinions vary on what should be done but many talk about a formal process to provide answers, compensation, an official apology or support for continued healing and reclamation of our culture and languages. We all agree that it's long overdue.
A process such as the one unfolding in Maine can and should happen in Canada, it only needs political will and public support.
Marlene Orgeron, an adoptee from Manitoba, was sent to New Orleans in 1974. Orgeron and her brothers, Christopher and Eric, were placed with a family in New Orleans after their parents were killed in a car crash.
At the time, extended family who were caring for them were given no explanation as to why they were being taken away.
"I still feel today that this was just another attempt at genocide for aboriginal people," Orgeron says, her voice cracking.
There are no reliable statistics on how many adoptees have returned home. Many have not, either because they are dead, in jail, homeless, have given up or have no idea how to find their homeland and families.
I have seen the deep pain, displacement and anger experienced by adoptees, their families and the adoptee's own children who have inherited the pain and loss of family and community connection.
I was lucky. I have a good relationship with my adoptive family. I continue to try to build relationships with my birth family, many of whom I haven't yet met.
I hope one day my adoptive family and my birth family could meet with the goal of healing, sharing and putting the painful parts of my adoption behind all of us.
More important, I want a formal process to start the healing process.
Source: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/accounting-for-the-sixties-scoop-185134321.html

Coleen Rajotte is a journalist, TV host and filmmaker based in Winnipeg. www.watchvitality.com or join her on Facebook under the name Coleen Rajotte

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rough Justice in Indian Country

By Stephanie Woodard, Published in Native Americans (100 Reporters website)
http://100r.org/2012/12/rough-justice-in-indian-child-welfare/#more-8122



In a basement interrogation room in South Dakota, agents of the state’s Department of Criminal Investigation were on the firing line. A group of Native American children were claiming sexual and physical abuse by their white adoptive parents, whose home they first entered as foster children.
South Dakota was already under Congressional scrutiny for the high number of Native children it takes from their homes and tribes and then places, for the most part, with white foster families or in white-run group homes—seemingly to claim a higher share of federal foster care funding. Though Native children make up about 13 percent of South Dakota’s child population, they are typically more than 50 percent of those in care, according to federal figures.

The state’s response to the Native children’s accusations against their white parents offers a rare look into South Dakota’s foster care system, which places 9 in 10 Native children in state foster care with white families or white-run group homes. The state’s actions also raise questions about the commitment of officials to protect Native children taken from their natural families, particularly when homes that are presented as safe havens turn into places of abuse.

Startlingly, the agents who summoned the children to the interrogation that day in November 2011 were working hard to get the youngsters to recant their abuse claims. State officials also brought charges against the deputy state’s attorney and a child welfare advocate, Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab, who moved to stop the abuse. Their trial on charges of getting the children to lie about the abuse is set for January 7, 2013.

That day, Sheriff’s deputies had taken the children out of school, court records show, and brought them to the basement room, with its table, chairs, one-way mirror, and recording equipment. One by one, the children faced Agent Mark Black of the Department of Criminal Investigations and a partner. The children were each alone, without an adult present on their behalf.

While being questioned by the agents, the children became fearful and wept, according to someone familiar with the case who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The youngsters were apparently not told they were being recorded. While left alone for a time, one explored the room, discovered the camera equipment behind a peephole, and began to cry.

The DCI video of the interrogation is now a court document. In a four-minute excerpt that can be seen on YouTube, the agents are taking a break. They’re off-camera, apparently unaware that the microphone is still picking up their voices as they plan their strategy.

One agent says the children “have been f—ing with us.” The men talk about questioning the therapist to whom the children described the sexual assaults. Agent Black says, “I guarantee we put [her] in here. Put the f—ing hot screws in her. Bitch you’re in f—ing deep shit. You better start talking.” Later Black says, “At least we f— with Brandon.”

Taliaferro had brought charges against the adoptive parents in 2010, following a police investigation of the children’s abuse allegations. He charged the parents nearly three dozen felonies, including incest, rape, sexual exploitation and cruelty toward five children, the youngest 5 years old when the alleged abuse started in 2003. Schwab, the children’s court-appointed special advocate, supported Taliaferro’s action. Local news media followed the case avidly as it developed.

Since the interrogation, Agent Black has testified multiple times that his questioning aimed to get the children to recant their abuse claims and to say that Taliaferro and Schwab had encouraged them to lie about the abuse, but the youngsters never did. Nevertheless, the state moved on the two whistleblowers, raiding their homes and offices and hitting them with felony and misdemeanor charges related to persuading the children to lie. Later testimony would indicate that investigators had turned up no evidence of this.

In May 2012, Michael Moore, the state’s attorney prosecuting the case against the adoptive parents, dismissed charges against the mother. She had been accused of witnessing sexual assaults on the children and failing to protect them. The state returned the children to her and gave the father a deal. He admitted to one count of raping a child younger than 10 and was ordered to serve 15 years in prison, making him eligible for parole after seven and one half years. (100Reporters is withholding the parents’ identities to protect the children’s privacy.)

Frank LaMere, director of the Four Directions Community Center. / PHOTO: STEPHANIE WOODARD

Frank LaMere is a prominent Indian child welfare advocate and director of Four Directions Community Center, a Native nonprofit in Sioux City, Iowa. He called for a federal investigation into South Dakota’s foster care system and predicted that this latest situation may become South Dakota’s Penn State. “This is a scandal of the highest order,” said LaMere.

A Very Bad Year
Late 2011 was a difficult time for South Dakota’s foster care system. In addition to facing this latest abuse case, the state was working out a financial settlement in the so-called Jane Doe lawsuit. It had been brought on behalf of a 9-year-old foster child who was reportedly sexually abused over a period of two years in a group home. Schwab was one of the whistleblowers for that case as well, she said.
Then, days before Black’s interrogation of the Native children and the searches of Taliaferro’s and Schwab’s premises, National Public Radio broadcast a scathing report, charging South Dakota with rampant taking of American Indian children into foster care. The network said the state receives $100 million dollars annually in federal funds on behalf of foster children of all races, giving it an incentive to keep the numbers of children in care high. Alarmed, six House members had asked the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to look into possible violations of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, intended to keep Native children within their Indian families and communities.

A new report by South Dakota tribal officials also confirms the findings of the earlier NPR report, which state officials had contested. The tribal report accuses the state of “willfully” and “systematically” violating the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and taking Indian children “at least partly to bring federal dollars into the state.” The document came from a committee of ICWA directors in South Dakota, the tribal child welfare officials tasked with enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

On December 7, Congressmen Ed Markey (D.-MA) and Ben Ray Lujan (D.-NM) sent a tough letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Markey is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over Indian affairs, and Luhan is ranking member of the subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native affairs.

Citing the tribal report, the congressmen pledged to renew an earlier request for the House to investigate South Dakota for possible “misappropriation of federal dollars to state coffers.”
“This has gone on long enough,” said Markey.

Markey and Lujan also reminded the Bureau of Indian Affairs that 14 months ago, House members asked the agency to hold a “summit” on the situation. Congressman Tom Cole (R.-OK) and three others had gone even further. In a move reminiscent of Robert Kennedy sending federal marshals to enforce civil rights in Mississippi in 1962, they proposed in late 2011 sending federal attorneys to South Dakota tribes to help them enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act. At that time, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it was looking into these suggestions, but took no action.

The bureau has been closely following events in South Dakota, said spokeswoman Nedra Darling. “The BIA supports the ongoing tribal efforts to resolve this matter, and we stand ready to participate in future forums,” she said.

Millions at Stake
South Dakota is not the only state that removes Native American children from their families and tribes in disproportionate numbers, but its numbers are among the most skewed, according to the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

The federal dollars South Dakota receives on behalf of all children—Native and non-Native—are considerable. They flow onward to state agencies, foster and adoptive parents, and group homes, as well as to any employees and suppliers. This movement of money has “a measurable effect” on a state’s economy, according to the healthcare consumer group Families USA.

Department of Social Services spokeswoman Kristin Kellar said the agency complies fully with the Indian Child Welfare Act and does not take children to attract federal dollars. Removing a child from the home harms society economically, she said, no matter what “paltry amount of funding the federal government expends to support foster care.” She challenged NPR’s $100-million figure, saying the agency would like to see the numbers on which it is based.

Attorney Daniel Sheehan, general counsel of the Lakota People’s Law Project, an advocacy group, disputed the “paltry” characterization and noted the importance of federal funding to South Dakota. An analysis from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, reveals that South Dakota is third in the nation for dependence on the federal government, with 45.6 percent of its total expenditures covered by the federal subsidies.

Sheehan pointed to the state’s 2012 budget, which reveals that Washington’s share of South Dakota social services skews even higher, to about two-thirds of the total—$660 million in federal funding, out of the $1 billion in total state spending on all social services. That means Native foster children, who are more than half of all kids in care in the state, could be responsible for significant portions of several federal funding streams, according to Sheehan.

“They would bring the state chunks of the $30 million in federal money for child protective services; the $67 million for nutrition, health, and other economic assistance; the $37 million for behavioral health; and the $19 million for Department of Social Services administrative costs,” said Sheehan. “We could be looking at substantial federal funding captured by Native children once they are in the custody of a state that relies heavily on it.”

Orders from Above
As the most recent South Dakota child-abuse case unfolded, top state officials appear to have been closely involved. While raiding Schwab’s premises and seizing computers and other items, DCI Agent Black told Schawb that his orders came from the highest echelons of state government.
“The attorney general himself has told me to work on this until I am done with it,” Black can be heard saying in an audiotape he made, which has now been turned over to the courts. “This is my priority case right now. Short of a homicide happening.”

Along the way, Taliaferro lost his job as deputy state’s attorney. Taliaferro’s former boss told local media multiple times that the firing was done “with the support of the attorney general.”

The South Dakota attorney general’s office referred a request for a comment to the Department of Social Services.

The head of that agency was apparently directly involved as well. In a preliminary hearing for Taliaferro and Schwab’s case, the presiding judge interrupted Black’s testimony to ask him a question: “It just popped into my mind. How did you get the kids out of school?” Black responded that the social services department’s director had given permission for deputies to take the children from school so agents could question them.

Kellar said the social services agency “cannot comment on specific abuse and neglect cases, due to confidentiality reasons.”

Schwab and Taliaferro say they fear for their safety. Said Schwab: “Knowing Pierre [South Dakota’s capitol] is calling the shots on this is terrifying. We have no one to turn to.” Their trial is set for January 7, 2013.

State’s attorney Moore is also prosecuting the Taliaferro-Schwab case; he said he could not talk about a pending lawsuit, but that the case against the lawyer and child advocate would be made clear in court next month. In addition, Moore insisted that in the parents’ case, the only abuse charge against them that stuck—the single count of rape—is the one that should have.

Moore conceded that Black and his fellow officers were “unprofessional” during the break in questioning. However, Moore said, they had behaved differently during the questioning itself: “The interviews weren’t in any way consistent with what was on camera. If you’ve been around law enforcement, you know they swear a lot, they make statements they may regret.”

Moore also said that children who are being questioned do not need to be accompanied by an attorney or guardian when they are witnesses, not defendants.

O.J. Semans, a Rosebud Sioux and former chief public defender for the tribe, took a different view. “Ordinarily, children are interviewed alone when there’s an indication that they were victims of a family member who should not know of the interview. If the interview is to determine whether the children provided false statements, which is a crime, they should have representation.”

Semans went on to say, “And, by the way, any law enforcement officer knows the difference between an interrogation, with tough questioning in an intentionally stressful environment, and an interview, which elicits a narrative. Because children can be easily influenced, the latter more accurately reflects a child’s perception of a situation.”

Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the Department of Criminal Investigation, said the agency could not comment on an ongoing prosecution. Neither the agency nor Black responded to requests for an interview with him; however, Black has testified that he made the recorded statements attributed to him here.

Bad Outcomes Rising
In the first decade of the 21st century, figures from the federal Administration for Children and Families show a fivefold increase in the percentage of Native foster children in South Dakota whom the system failed, the tribal report found. During that period, the percentage of children who were transferred to correctional or mental health facilities, or who died or ran away, soared to 36 percent in 2010 from 6.9 percent in 1999. During the same period, reunifications with family dropped. The percentage of white children leaving under the same circumstances grew much more slowly during those years, from 6.3 percent to 11.4 percent; and the share reunified with their families increased.
“Native American foster children,” the report concluded, “are becoming an increasingly important attractor of federal corrections dollars to South Dakota.”

“Our Native children feed the system. They always have,” said LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. He added that tribes share responsibility for the exodus of Native children into care. “Many of our tribal leaders have been lax in protecting our greatest resource—our children.”
The tribal child-welfare officials’ report also confirmed that last year almost all Indian children in state foster care were in non-Native homes and white-run group facilities. That’s despite the availability of relatives willing to take the children in and Native foster homes, some of which sit empty on reservations, the directors said.

The Indian Child Welfare Act encourages kinship care, which involves placing children who have been taken from their families with relatives. Tribes favor it, because it preserves the children’s culture and maintains the community. “In our families, there’s always room for one more,” said Terry Yellow Fat, ICWA director for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and co-chair of the committee that produced the tribal report.

But tribal members have testified at a 2005 hearing before state lawmakers that social workers for the state routinely rebuffed them when they offered to house young relatives who were being taken into care. One Native American woman asked why she was never considered as a candidate to care for her sister’s children.

Another, whose family had not been allowed to keep a cousin’s children, said the state Department of Social Services, which manages this process, was overwhelming to parents, who generally did not understand the often-changing requirements in child-care plans. A DSS representative at the hearing said that these decisions are made, sometimes quickly, to ensure the safety of the child.

Disappearing into the System
Congress passed Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to stop the massive removals of Indian children that had taken place over the preceding century, first to notoriously violent boarding schools, then to foster care and adoption in white homes and group settings. During the mid-20th century, as many as 35 percent of Native children were taken from tribes nationwide under federal-, state- and church-run programs, according to testimony Congress gathered while considering the legislation. Sheehan called this “the intentional disassembling of Native American communities through the seizure of their children.”

In South Dakota, Native children are often taken for “neglect,” according to Yellow Fat. “The prevailing attitude on the part of the state is that poverty is a crime,” he said.

“A federal law is being flouted—and frankly, it’s happening in courts all over our state,” said Diane Garreau, ICWA director for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, in South Dakota, who also worked on the report.

The result can be devastating for parents and children, according to attorney Brett Lee Shelton. “Frequently, the kids have already undergone a lot of trauma. Then, when things they don’t understand happen to them, it only adds to their pain,” said Shelton, a member of the Oglala Sioux, another South Dakota tribe, and principal of the Colorado law firm Smith Shelton Ragona.

When tribal youngsters are being removed, time is of the essence, according to Garreau: “If we are not watching, if we don’t start hustling as soon as we hear there’s a problem, if we don’t fight for every single child, they’re lost to us forever. Can you imagine how frightened they must be?”
LaMere charged that the Indian children’s odyssey through the foster care system as it unfolded in the most recent South Dakota abuse case is not an anomaly.

“As outrageous as it is, it is the sad reality for Native children in South Dakota and around the country,” said LaMere. “That father will walk free long before these Indian kids begin to think about recovery.”

Bits of interogation transcript on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Ev1mLcuVMe4

Stephanie Woodard is a member of 100Reporters who writes about Native American issues.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ICWA Case Pits Adoptive Parents Against Tribal Rights

By

Justice Scalia has served on the Supreme Court for more than a quarter of a century, and he has seen his share of difficult cases. But one stuck out.
“It was pretty early on in my time on this court,” he said. “We had a case in which a very wealthy rancher and his wife had adopted a child of a young man and woman on an Indian reservation who had had the child out of wedlock. And they gave the child to the rancher to raise.”
A state court in Mississippi had approved the arrangement. But a federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, required tribal rather than state courts to decide.
“The kid was, I think, 5 years old or so” by the time the case reached the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia recalled. “And we had to turn that child over to the tribal council. I found that very hard. But that’s what the law said, without a doubt.”
Justice Scalia’s recollection of the case, from 1989, was understandably a little hazy. It involved 3-year-old twins, and their adoptive father had died by the time the case was decided.
But he had the main point right. In various ways, the 1978 law he cited makes it hard to remove American Indian children from their parents, their tribes and their heritage.

Read the story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/us/american-indian-adoption-case-comes-to-supreme-court.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

Will the Supreme Court take this case? I wager they won't. ICWA is law. Trace

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Stealing of Our American Indian Children

Doll by Ellowyn Locke (Oglala Lakota)
By: Donna Ennis (December 22, 2012) Posted with permission

I have been thinking a lot lately about Baby Veronica and how it came to be that this Native child was placed with white adoptive parents. I have been thinking that the dominant culture values of possession and ownership are so strong that it leads to a sense of entitlement even when it comes to a child’s life. In this way of thinking you simply need to want something so badly that you can employ any means available to obtain/possess it.

This is how it was with our lands at the first point of European contact. When the early invaders wanted our land they had just taken it and if there was resistance there were Wars waged and the land was taken from us. Eventually these ways became more streamlined and instead of taking the land through violence they used methods of trickery and deceit. In this way they took advantage of our traditional values of cooperation and sharing. Before long we naively signed treaties in the hopes of retaining our way of life and the ability to live a long life as good neighbors.

It was just a matter of time before they came after our children in this same way. Beginning in the 1870’s they simply began taking our children from us. The methods of taking our children were ones of trickery and deceit. They brought our children to boarding schools to be raised in harsh environments devoid of any nurturing or semblance of our Anishinabe values. These attempts to “civilize the savages” through acculturation have had intergenerational effects on the structure of the Native family. By the time the era of boarding schools came to an end our way of life was almost extinct.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes. The intent was to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian Tribes and families. Despite state and federal laws designed to decrease the disproportional representation of children by race and ethnicity in the public child welfare system, 30 years later in 2008 Native children continue to experience the greatest disproportionality and the rates of over-representation are expanding.

Collaboration at the state, county, tribal and community level that build upon the strengths of Native families and Native communities will need to be pursued. In other words, we need a foundational change.

If Native people violated federal and state laws in order to adopt or foster a white child the outcry would be deafening. Here again is the double standard that we see across systems. In the book Brother of the Senecas by Walter E. Butts, Jr., a conversation gives us insight into how Native people might deal with this situation. One night in the year 1782 baby Polly was snatched by the Mohawks and her mother spends the next several years trying to locate her daughter…..Tall Chief argued: “This Polly, if she is alive, has grown up among her red brothers and loves them as her own people, for she knows no others. Would it not cause more sorrow than happiness to uproot her now and return her to a mother she has never known?” “An Indian mother’s love is just as great as a white mother’s,” said Slender Fern with a flash of spirit. “To take Polly from the Indian mother, who has raised her as a daughter, would cause her just as much sorrow as the white mother has known. Her sorrow would be a fresh wound. The white mother’s sorrow must have known the healing balm of time. Why cause two mother’s to suffer where it was only one before?” Nate Answered “But Jennifer Harlowe’s sorrow is not healed,” he answered Slender Fern. “It will never be healed until Polly is found.”

American Indian Child Welfare Advisory Councils (AICWAC) are tasked with “strengthening policies and laws that protect Indian children through the sovereignty of tribes with in the State” among other things. Recently there have been renewed efforts to undermine the work that is being done to protect Native children by groups calling themselves names like Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children, and Families and Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare. These groups allege that the ICWA law is destroying loving, stable families and placing children in harmful difficult situations. The groups that are encouraging white families to adopt Native children and proposing amendments that will make it easier for these families to adopt cross-culturally are the ones that are destroying Native families. We are undermined when programs like Dr. Phil portray Native people in a slanted way even when they are provided with the correct information. The message today is the same message we gave 150 years ago: The best setting for a Native child is within one’s own culture and relations.

Donna Ennis is currently the chair of the Minnesota Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council, as well as the eastern regional director and cultural director for North Homes Children and Family Services, a professional foster care agency.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Children's identities were erased

Adoption activists say only a small proportion of adoptees who search for their birth mothers are unable to locate them.Adoption activists say only a small proportion of adoptees who search for their birth mothers are unable to locate them.

Australia-- THE birth dates of babies who were adopted were often changed to prevent them from ever reuniting with their birth mothers, according to adoption activist and researcher Christine Cole.
Ms Cole said it was common practice to try to erase a child's identity so that the relinquishing mother could not trace or reclaim her infant. ''Anyone involved - adoption agents, parents - were always terrified that the mother and her extended family were going to reclaim the child.''
From the 1950s to the '70s, an estimated 150,000 Australian babies were taken, mostly from unwed mothers, and put up for adoption.
The Gillard government announced this week that it would formally apologise for past adoption practices, following the lead of the Baillieu government, which said sorry in October.
Ultimately, the practice of changing birth dates did not prevent adoptees from reuniting with their birth mothers. New adoption legislation introduced state by state in the '80s opened the way for adoptees to get access to their birth records and their birth mothers' personal details.
Jane Potter, who was adopted in 1963, tracked down her birth mother ''Christine'' when the law changed and learnt she had spent a lifetime celebrating her birthday on the wrong day.
Christine told her that when it came time to sign the adoption papers, she noted that September 23 had been crossed out and September 24 written beside it.
A historian at the Australian Catholic University, Shurlee Swain, said it was considered best practice to attempt to hide the past of an adopted child, who may well have been conceived out of wedlock.
''In adoption, people thought they were erasing the shame so that a child would not know where they came from, and that was a jolly good thing. If you go back to the '20s and '30s, you see people writing in to problem pages saying, 'I am engaged to be married and just found out I was adopted. Should I break off the engagement?' Illegitimacy was a terrible stain.''
Adoption activists say only a small proportion of adoptees who search for their birth mothers are unable to locate them. In some cases the records have been lost or destroyed, or the birth mother simply did not want to be found.
For Peter Dale Raymond, there seemed to be no record of his birth or his adoption into the home in which he grew up. He could not tell you where or when he was born or to whom; his first months of life are shrouded in a mystery that 40 years of investigation have failed to unlock.
Mr Raymond said there was no epiphany: the realisation that he was not who he thought he was dawned on him gradually and reluctantly. But time has not tempered his curiosity. ''I wonder if my father was a famous person or a criminal. I wonder if I am the product of an assault. Am I a hand-me-down or a pass-me-round?''


Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/childrens-identities-were-erased-20121219-2bn90.html#ixzz2Fbi7Cwmu

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 picked for group to examine child welfare practices that split Native American families in Maine

VIDEO

           

Gkisedtanamoogk, a Wampanoag from the Mashpee community on Cape Cod, Mass., was named as a member of the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday at a press conference on Indian Island.
Gkisedtanamoogk, a Wampanoag from the Mashpee community on Cape Cod, Mass., was named as a member of the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday at a press conference on Indian Island. Buy Photo
Gail Werrbach of Bangor was named as a member of the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday at a press conference on Indian Island.
Gail Werrbach of Bangor was named as a member of the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday at a press conference on Indian Island. Buy Photo
 
INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — An unsettling piece of Maine’s history will be examined closely during the next three years by five people selected to investigate church and government assimilation practices that tore American Indian children away from their families and culture.
Members of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission were announced Tuesday during a news conference on Indian Island, and their work will begin early next year. The members are:
• Matt Dunlap of Old Town, who on Dec. 4 was tapped to serve as Maine’s secretary of state, a post he also held from 2004 to 2010. He was named Maine Public Administrator of the Year in 2008 and served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives.
• Gkisedtanamoogk, a Wampanoag from the community Mashpee on Cape Cod, Mass. He is a family member of Nkeketonseonqikom, the Longhouse of the Otter, and is married with three children. Now of Orono, gkisedtanamoogk has been an adjunct instructor with the Native American studies and the peace and reconciliation programs at the University of Maine since 2005.
• Gail Werrbach, a 25-year faculty member at the University of Maine School of Social Work. She now is director of that school. She has researched and published articles on child mental health, community mental health training, Indian child welfare services and international social work.
• Sandra White Hawk, a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. She founded the First Nations Repatriation Institute, an organization with the goal of creating resources for First Nations people affected by foster care who want to return home, reconnect and reclaim their identity.
• Carol Wishcamper has an organizational development consulting practice that works primarily with nonprofit organizations in the state. She has served as chairwoman of the state Board of Education and as a member of several gubernatorial and legislative study commissions.
The goal, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission mandate, which Gov. Paul LePage signed in June 2012 alongside Maine tribal leaders, is to “acknowledge the truth, create opportunities to heal and learn from that truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children.”
Beginning in the late 1800s, the United States government established boarding schools for Native American children who were removed from their families in an attempt to assimilate them into American culture.
In the late 1950s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America created the Indian Adoption Project, which removed Native American children from their families and tribes to be adopted by non-native families.
In 1999 the Wabanaki tribal nations joined with state child welfare officials to form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the goal of improving Maine’s compliance with 1978’s federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which set higher standards of protection for the rights of native children, their families and their tribal communities.
The five commissioners, who were selected by a 13-member committee, will travel to visit members of Maine tribes affected by these child welfare policies. They will gather documents, recordings and transcripts for preservation and make recommendations for improvements to the child welfare system. The commission will file a report on its final findings.
This is the first truth and reconciliation effort in the United States, according to the commission. Canada has its own under way.
Werrbach said the commission faces difficult, emotional work. It will be asking people to “open their hearts, open their souls, and tell their stories” about welfare policies that separated their families and subjugated their culture, Werrbach said, adding that she felt honored to “bear witness to that.”
Gkisedtanamoogk said he hopes the commission’s work will help to renew and strengthen the relationship between the state of Maine and the sovereign tribes that live within its borders.
“This work represents the possibilities of putting the relationship with the state and Wabanaki Nations on a footing that should have been the relationship all along — as partners,” gkisedtanamoogk said.

Related stories

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Survey For Adoptees

Survey For Adoptees and Foster Care Alumni


From our friend Sandy White Hawk:
EXPERIENCES OF ADOPTED AND FOSTERED INDIVIDUALSAre you an adoptee?
Have you ever been in foster care?
We need your help!
Courts, service providers, and the public do not know enough about how adoption and foster care affected the individuals who experienced them. It is time for this to change!
First Nations Repatriation Institute (www.wearecominghome.com) and Adoptees Have Answers have partnered with the University of Minnesota, to develop an anonymous survey (https://survey.cla.umn.edu/229953) to gather the stories of U.S. born adults who were adopted OR who spent at least 6 months (total) in foster care. If this is you, we hope you will share your stories so that others — professionals, family members and the general public — may better understand how adoption and foster care shape the lives of those most directly involved.
The survey asks some personal questions, but it is completely anonymous and does not collect any identifying information (such as your name, address, or email address). It will take as few as 45 minutes of your time, but your participation will benefit adoptees/fostered individuals, their families and community for years to come!

The anonymous web survey can be found at this link: https://survey.cla.umn.edu/229953.

If you would like a paper copy of the survey, please call or email a person listed below. We need many voices, so please pass it on!
If you have any questions about the study, please contact us:
Sandra White Hawk
Director, First Nations Repatriation Institute
651-442-4872
sadoptee@yahoo.com

Kate Ingalls-Maloney
Manager and Co-Founder, Adoptees Have Answers
952-374-7187
katchmedia@earthlink.net
Carolyn Liebler, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
612-626-7252
liebler@umn.edu
If you would like to talk to someone other than us, please contact the Research Subjects’ Advocate Line for the University of Minnesota, D-528 Mayo, 420 Delaware Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455; telephone (612) 625-1650 or email irb@umn.edu.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Closed Adoption: TRIBE UNKNOWN

 By Trace A. DeMeyer

This week I was contacted by a young woman whose mother Amy is an adoptee, born in 1965. They believe Amy is full-blood Hopi and we hope to prove it. Another adoptee Michael and I are trying to figure out what language he spoke as a child to give us some clue as to which tribe is his family. We believe he’s Apache. Another adoptee Tom contacted me in 2011 and asked me to help he and his sister find their tribal relatives in Washington state since they were brought to Connecticut and placed in a closed adoption as young children. Tom and his sister believe they might be Colville. I haven't been able to connect them to relatives even though I wrote a few tribal newspaper editors in Washington and asked for their help.

I’m not giving up on any adoptee.

All of these adoptees come from the time period of the Indian Adoption Programs and Projects - when the US government and the Child Welfare League of America were funding ARENA (Adoption Resource Exchange of North America) and paying churches and agencies to remove Indian children; they purposefully placed babies and children with non-Indian parents in closed adoptions. (Read chapter 39, Indian Placement Program in my anthology TWO WORLDS.)

Since the late 1800s, adoptions happened before, during and after residential boarding schools (in the US and Canada). It's no surprise that the numbers of adopted Indian children are calculated in percentages, not actual statistics, and left purposefully vague. (Ontario has a class action for adoptees in the works now. We know First Nations children were also brought from Canada to the US as part of ARENA.) These two governments decided assimilation was a very good idea and adoptions far from the reservation would erase the Indian blood and a child's memories of home.

Every email I receive and every phone call I make, I want to give adoptees something concrete, something helpful, something that will work. In truth, I can't because it doesn't exist, not with sealed adoption records, no paperwork or proof, and current laws that prevent adoptees from knowing their tribal identities.

There are things I want to happen and my list grows after each email and phone call...

First, I want adoptees and birthfamilies to write their legislators and tell them, "This is wrong," and we finally get someone in the government to hear us and offer their help.

I want an American government agency to help repatriate adoptees to their tribes. (Canada has three repatriation programs for adoptees.)

I want more people to see this history for what it was: a form of mind control using assimilation to kill culture in children, what could be called genocide of the mind. Our loss was the government's gain.

When I get requests from adoptees, I email ideas. If a state (like Kansas or Oregon for example) has open records, I can guide them to the state agency or registry and then tell them about search angels who will help for free or small fees. I can explain how to order their adoption files and get a court order, etc. I can give examples of how adoptees (like me) got around the laws and what worked for us.

For Amy, Arizona sealed her adoption file. For Michael, New York and New Mexico sealed his adoption file. I want to be able to tell Michael he is Apache, what band of Apache and connect him to his relatives. For Tom and his sister, I want to locate their parents so we can find out why they were taken as children but Washington has sealed their adoption. For all of them, truth is a mystery.

I want to be able to tell them, "This is what we'll do and it will work and in about a week you will get a phone call from the tribe and they will help you." But that would be a lie. Now I can only offer them hope and my two books on this history and this issue.

Finally, I want tribes to do something! Tribes could hire lawyers and legally demand the states and agencies who took children to release their names and adoption files. Tribes could create a list of birthdates of children who disappeared so adoptees could match their birthdate on a database.

Tribes could also create some form of welcome ceremony or reunion powwow or something to help the adoptee meet relatives and hear their family stories.

Right now, adoptees have mountains to climb and laws to conquer and no one to turn to... and knowing which tribe can be a huge obstacle when there are 560+ federally recognized tribes. For them it’s still TRIBE UNKNOWN.

What adoption did was conquer and uproot children and hurt generations in tribal nations.  Being adopted ultimately disrupted our rights as sovereign citizens in North America.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Soaring Angels update!

http://angelinstitute.co.za/
I have been telling new adoptees to join the Soaring Angels group on Yahoo. It's a good idea for adoptees to get an angel to help with their search. This message is for any adoptee or birthparent or sibling who is searching. Please join them as soon as you can!
Trace


Message From Babbs:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoaringAngels/
Usually the holiday season is very busy here on Soaring Angels. The magic of the season is upon us. I urge each and everyone of you who are searching for your roots and your answers to post your info on our boards and let the angels help bring you full circle in your search.
We now have over 800 members in which adoption has touched your life in some way. If you are on this group and you are searching for your birth family, mother, father, son, daughter, etc....I urge you to post your information for all the angels to see. Hopefully we will be able to reunite you with your family before this holiday passes.
Post all the info that you have... Don't be shy, if you don't post, our angels can't help.
Go to our website: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoaringAngels/ - join up first.
Then, in the left column, choose post, add a subject line (see below), input all your information and click send...
Example:
F iso BF, BM BD 12/17/1957 Columbus Ohio
This translates to FEMALE in search of (iso) Birth family, Birth Mom, Birth DAD, your date of birth, and place of birth. (use this format in the subject line)
Then in the body of the email put in any other pertainent info that you have on your history; NON-ID if you have it... if you do not have it, I highly urge you to obtain it, there could be a wealth of info on your birth family in there.

Happy Holidays,
Babbs and your angels from Soaring Angels

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Last Real Indians website

If you want to read some amazing voices in Indian Country, go to www.lastrealindians.com.

I have posted on their website about adoption and their editor asked me to send an excerpt from Two Worlds on Dec. 7 -- here is the link:
http://www.lastrealindians.com/axCommentDetails.php?postId=2144#

From the Preface:

"We are still here"
Adopting out Indian children would be as destructive as a war but it would last longer: it’d last a lifetime. The adoption program idea was not officially signed like other treaties made in Indian Country. These unique adoption program records were sealed and not made public (it was acknowledged in an apology I heard in 2001- read the Ultimate Indignity in my book). The goal was adoptions would be permanent and closed, therefore adoption was used as the ultimate weapon. Native children adopted by non-Indians would be Americans and unable to open their records; and our tribal parents and grandparents were victims since they would never see us again, or be able to find us.

My close friend Adrian Grey Buffalo, a wise adoptee elder who has returned to his Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (People) calls us adoptees the lost drums and pipes who were locked away from culture, and stored in Americans homes. We are the people who need to be repatriated back to our nations. Adrian believes now is the time. Our People need us back.

MY TOP 5 reasons the adoption industry bugs me!

I wanted to share my top 5 reasons again!
Click here:
AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES: BLOG WEEK: MY TOP 5: Kevin Ost-Vollmers and Shelise Gieseke at Land of Gazillion Adoptees Blog said Feb. 26th begins BLOG WEEK to answer this question: 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Father is ready to turn page on Utah adoption horror story

  • (Courtesy photo)  
Leah Frei, now 21 months, has lived with her adoptive parents since birth. Her biological father, who calls her Teleah, is waging a legal battle to get her back.  (Courtesy photo)  
Leah Frei, now 21 months old, has lived with her adoptive parents since birth. Her biological father, who calls her Teleah, is waging a legal battle to get her back. (Courtesy photo)  
Leah Frei, now 21 months old, has lived with her adoptive parents since birth. Her biological father, who calls her Teleah, is waging a legal battle to get her back. (Courtesy photo)  
Leah Frei, now 21 months old, has lived with her adoptive parents since birth. Her biological father, who calls her Teleah, is waging a legal battle to get her back. (Courtesy photo)  
Terry Achane with his daughter, whom he named Teleah. “There are precious moments I can’t get back.” (Courtesy photo)  
Staff Sgt. Terry Achane, right, at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, with Pfc.. James Wilson.

  • (Courtesy photo)  
Terry Achane, of South Carolina, with his daughter, whom he named Teleah, after a court hearing in Utah. The child, now 21 months, was placed for adoption at birth without his knowledge or consent. (Courtesy photo)  
Terry Achane, of South Carolina, with his daughter, whom he named Teleah, after a court hearing in Utah. The child, now 21 months, was placed for adoption at birth without his knowledge or consent. Courtesy
Terry Achane, of South Carolina, with his daughter, whom he named Teleah, after a court hearing in Utah. The child, now 21 months, was placed for adoption at birth without his knowledge or consent. Courtesy
Terry Achane, who joined the U.S. Army after high school, is now a staff sergeant at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Achane is fighting to get back his daugher, who was placed for adoption in Utah by his then-wife without his knowledge or consent.
  • I could on for an hour about this but I won't. Fathers have rights and this time, a father got his daughter back after adoption. Hooray! Trace


  • Utah courts » Judge orders adoptive parents to return child to father, who is ready for new life with daughter.

    A 4th District Court judge says he is "astonished and deeply troubled" by a Utah adoption agency’s deliberate move to circumvent the rights of a married man whose daughter was adopted at birth without his knowledge.
    The Provo judge, while noting the birth mother had deceived her husband, the adoption agency and the prospective parents, has given the adoptive couple 60 days to give the child back.

    A married father’s rights
    While unmarried biological fathers must act to preserve their parental rights and have a limited time to do so, married fathers are presumed to have a constitutional, fundamental liberty interest in their children.
    A married father “has the exact same parental rights as the mother from the get-go,” said Salt Lake attorney Scott Wiser, who with his father represents Terry Achane. “It is the same reason why any other married parent would not have to worry about filing a paternity petition or jumping through a series of legal hoops to get their kids back if a third-party like a neighbor or day-care provider decided not to return their kids.”
    Unless his parental rights have been terminated for cause, the father’s consent to an adoption is required.
    In his ruling in the Achane case, 4th District Judge Darold McDade called the situation painful and heartbreaking while noting previous Utah Supreme Court rulings that found that prospective adoptive parents are “legal strangers” who have no rights other than to temporarily care for the child until custody can be returned to a natural parent and that any bonding that may have occurred while they had custody is “legally irrelevant.”
     
    In a 48-page ruling, Judge Darold McDade said the Adoption Center of Choice’s policy of refusing to disclose any information to Terry Achane once he learned what had happened to his baby is "utterly indefensible."

    Salt Lake City attorneys Mark and Scott Wiser, the father/son team that represented Achane, used even stronger language for what occurred.

    "This is a case of human trafficking," said Mark Wiser. "Children are being bought and sold. It is one thing what [adoption agencies] have been doing with unmarried biological fathers. It is in a new area when they are trying to take a child away from a married father who wants to have his child."

    Jared and Kristi Frei, the adoptive parents, declined to comment, as did Kasey Wright, their former attorney, and Larry Jenkins, newly hired to represent the couple. James Webb, executive director of the Adoption Center of Choice, based in American Fork, did not return a call from The Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune attempted to reach Tira Bland, the birth mother who is now divorced from Achane, but was unsuccessful.

    On a blog about the case, where the Freis have raised more than $20,000 to help with legal bills, they vow to appeal McDade’s decision, describing the arrival of Achane’s daughter in their lives "a righteous desire blessed to fruition by God."

    "We have not lost our conviction that we are in the right!!!!!!" Kristi Frei wrote after McDade’s Nov. 20 ruling dismissed their adoption petition. "We have only ever wanted to do right by Leah, and have always felt we have been acting in her best interest to keep her with our family and raise her as our own. Our hearts have demanded it — there has never been any question to us that she is OURS!!!"

    Achane, 31, still finds the position he is in hard to believe and just wants the baby girl he has met just twice and calls Teleah, the name he picked out before her birth, back.

    "I am not a very religious person," he said in an interview Friday, "but ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ If they prolong it, that is more time away from my daughter. There are precious moments I can’t get back. ... It has been a year and a half now. There is no court order saying they have the right to my child. I just won the case. I want to get my daughter and raise my daughter."

    Texas marriage •
    Achane and Bland, both then residents of Texas, married in February 2009 and learned around late June 2010 that Bland was expecting their first child. Achane, who is in the U.S. Army, accompanied his wife to prenatal visits and was there when an ultrasound revealed they were having a girl. They shared a joint bank account and Achane carried Bland and her daughter from a previous relationship on his military health insurance, which he also expected would cover the new baby.

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    What happened in your reunion?

    I am posting this comment to ask you the question: What happened in your reunion and would be willing to leave a comment or write me about it?
    We are in a place spiritually where answers are as important as reunions. Some of us may find wonderful relatives and others won't.
    There is no manual for reunions. There are few options other than go and meet.
    Please read this.  I'd like to hear about your reunion with tribal relatives.
    Trace


    Shadoseer has left a new comment on your post "DNA tests: Finding the Truth and your Family":

    I am an adoptee and found my birthmother some 25 years ago (give or take). It went fabulously well to begin with but turned very sour after a while. Why? I don't know. She made things up about me that the rest of the family chose to believe. Not much i could do about it. While she would not tell me a thing about my birthfather, it did get back to me that he is half Cherokee. I have researched the name given me but it is a huge family and I have had no luck. On top of that, he has no knowledge she was even pregnant.

    I founded and lead a search and support group and have facilitated in many reunions, some went wonderfully, some not so much, but in the end all were good because answers were given. The amputated roots began to heal as did the gaping holes we all felt inside. I feel I will never know my true heritage or at least half of it and for this I hold her solely responsible. It is the epitome of selfish to intentionally hide a child's heritage from them, especially after a long and protracted search.Mine was particularly difficult.

    For all of those searching out there, never give up! The answers you get, no matter how dark on the surface, are much better than one at all. I wish everyone the very best in their quest!

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    2007: White Earth calling adoptees home

    White Earth Nation welcomes adoptees home

    by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio October 5, 2007


    This weekend the White Earth Nation is celebrating the return of children lost for years. Hundreds of American Indian children were taken from Minnesota reservations and adopted by non-Indian families in the 1950s and 60s. The White Earth Aniishinabe are the first tribe in the country to formally welcome the adoptees home.
    White Earth Nation, Minnesota — It's difficult to know how many American Indian children were adopted by white families in the 1950s and 60s, because records are sketchy at best. White Earth Tribal Chair Erma Vizenor believes about 25 percent of the children on her reservation were adopted by non-Indian parents. Vizenor recently met one of those children when she stopped for gas on the way home from work. A young woman recognized the tribal leader and asked for help finding her family.
    "It's about healing and learning how to be in balance and understanding who we are."
    - Sandy Whitehawk
    "She said, 'Did you know my mom?' I said, 'Of course I did. I knew your mom. She's not living anymore.' 'Oh,' she said, 'What was she like?' I said, 'Your mother was a bubbly happy person.'"
    After a reflective pause, Vizenor continues the story.
    "I knew her mom. I went to high school with her. She had a baby. The baby was just taken away. (She was told) 'You have no option. This is what's best for your baby.' She couldn't bring her baby home," recalls Vizenor.
    Indian babies were put up for adoption for many reasons. Poverty and alcohol caused some mothers to give up their children. But there was also a government policy of assimilation designed to make Indians forget about their culture and history.
    Many Indian women were told adoption was the only option. Adoption programs sponsored by church groups were facilitated by local, state, and federal government agencies. It's likely hundreds of American Indian children born in Minnesota were adopted by families across the country. The practice continued until Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, giving tribes more control over adoptions.
    Hearing from some of those adoptees prompted White Earth Tribal Chair Erma Vizenor to support a welcome home ceremony for those who want to reconnect with their tribal culture.
    The idea came from Sandy Whitehawk, who runs a small non profit in Minneapolis that tries to help American Indian adoptees find their families.
    Whitehawk is driven by her own story. Born on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, she was sent to live with a white family when she 18 months old. Growing up in a mostly white small town, she was encouraged to forget her birthplace.
    "Don't grow up to be a good for nothing Indian. You're just going to be a drunken Indian like your mother. Those were things I heard all the time," says Whitehawk.
    After struggling for years with substance abuse, Whitehawk realized she needed to understand where she came from, so at age 35, she made her first trip back to the reservation where she was born.
    "The very first thing I noticed when I went on the reservation was that I finally looked like someone else," remembers Whitehawk. "I noticed I was more relaxed. There's something you can't put words to, to walk on your homeland where you know your relatives feet have also touched. That's healing, because it's where you began."
    Sandy Whitehawk learned she was one of nine children. Seven were put up for adoption. She's reunited with some of her siblings, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.
    Many American Indian families were scattered with the wind. Some children were raised in affluent homes, afforded privilege their birth parents could never provide, but others found less charitable situations, essentially becoming indentured servants.
    Whatever their adoption experience, in recent years many have found their way back to the reservation. Some have stayed and become enrolled tribal members.
    Reclaiming that tribal identity can be a challenge. Adoptees don't have birth certificates in some cases, others have altered adoption documents, making it difficult to prove their family connections.
    Sandy Whitehawk says most are following a simple urge to understand who they are.
    "We're not about bashing white parents. We're not about bashing good foster parents," says Whitehawk. "It's about bringing out hard times that we may need to talk about, but more than anything it's about healing and learning how to be in balance and understanding who we are."
    Reconnecting with family and culture might not be as easy as a trip to the reservation. White Earth elder Joe Bush gets calls every week from adoptees trying to find their birth family. They call him because he carries generations of family history in his head.
    He knows from experience that coming home is the first step down a long path.
    "There's going to be a lot of fear, a lot of resentment and a lot of joy. It's going to be hard for some of them, but we're going to welcome these adoptees that went out, adopt them back home, says Bush. "Coming back home. Nigiiwe, I'm going home."
    White Earth officials don't know how many people to expect at the welcome home gathering, but they're hopeful the formal recognition of a sad chapter in their history will be a model for other American Indian tribes across the country.

    White Earth was the first. Maine has a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission that includes adoptees. When will other tribes convene and do this? It's up to us to ask them... The idea is now spreading we need to write the Senate and Congress as a large group and ask for Congressional Hearings to let them know adoptees are still struggling after the Holocaust of the Indian Adoption Projects.. We need our records open so we can find our families and tribes. Email me if you'd like to add your name to the letters we send...  Trace (tracedemeyer@yahoo.com)

    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.

    Read this SERIES

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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

    #defendicwa

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