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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.

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

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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.

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