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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black Market Adoption in Indian Country: Stolen Navajo Twins

  Boston Globe
June 2, 1996


Author: Royal Ford, Globe Staff

TOLANI LAKE, Ariz. -- She stood in brilliant white sunlight, scuffed the cracked skin of the vast, parched land and stared down at the very spot where the old woman told her she had been born, right there, in a hogan that is gone, beside a field where corn once grew.
The woman her family called "the old aunt" reached up with a warm, dark hand and touched her high cheekbone. "You are so like your mother," Besbah Yazzie told her. Weeping in the baked expanse of the Navajo Reservation, they hugged. Yvette Silverman Melanson, stolen along with a twin brother from her Navajo family 43 years ago, raised rich, white and Jewish in Brooklyn, was finally home.
"One more of us is still out there and a whole lot more of the others," Melanson said in reference to her missing brother and thousands of other Native American children stolen from their families over the years and put on the black market for adoption. "This is not right. We have to find them. We have to find the boy."
Navajo natives had come from across the reservation to welcome her home. 

In a hot gymnasium here, 60 miles northeast of Flagstaff, the Tolani Roadman -- Medicine Man -- had wept as he told her tale in the native tongue. Behind him, Yazzie Monroe, her father, brushed tears from his weathered cheeks. The old women of the tribe wore their finest turquoise and silver in her honor. Children danced in a colorful whirl of beads and feathers.
"I don't know my own culture," Melanson told the gathering. "I am going to need your help in understanding. I am humbled. "Teach me, teach my children" she said.
She stood amid the swirling talc-like dust of the reservation, a long way from the cloying green spring back in her Maine home and further still from the life she has lived thus far. 
As a child, there had been winters at a fine Miami hotel, summer camp in Pennsylvania. Later came long trips to Israel where she marched the length of that land and stood military guard at her kibbutz. After her adoptive parents had both died, there were two stints in the Navy and, later, marriage to a retired scallop diver named Dickie, with whom she now lives in Palmyra, Maine.
But forever there had been the question, "Who am I?"  
She had always known she was adopted, but until three months ago that was all she knew. Then one night while exploring on her computer, she found out. 
On a national website, she saw that a Navajo family was looking for its lost twins. The trails of her search and theirs crossed in the Southwest. A piece of tattered and fading paper she possessed, bearing the names Yazzie Monroe and Betty Jackson, solved the puzzle. They were the mother and father of the large family that was looking for her.
It was an unlikely trinity, ancient and new, that brought her home: the Internet, that scrap of paper, and the mysterious works of the Holy People on her reservation who had held ceremonies to help find her.
This weekend, that family welcomes her home. She will stay here for two weeks along with her husband and daughters, Lori and Heather. Her mother died years ago, but her father was there to take her, looking almost fragile, into his great brown arms. Her seven brothers and sisters were there, as were numerous nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and members of her clan.
"We have always known she was around somewhere," said Nettie Rogers, her sister.  "We want to thank the Holy People for bringing back our child, our daughter, to the center," Freddie Howard, a Tolani Lake official, told a crowd that streamed into a gymnasium for ceremonies welcoming Melanson and her family to her birthplace. 
She had come to the reservation east from Flagstaff, crossing through the Coconino National Forest. The Navajo lands began where the trees ended and a hot, dusty, vastness sprawled ahead. To the South were towns that bespoke stereotypical western violence: Two Guns, Two Arrows; and a place of real cataclysm, a giant crater created when a meteor smashed into the Earth 50,000 years ago.
Across the reservation were the four sacred mountains of her tribe, dark, bruised buttes and colorful mesas that glimmered like poured sand art."I've never seen mountains go straight up," she said as they shimmered in the white light of afternoon.
Her return came as efforts to find the so-called "lost birds" of the Navajo and other tribes across the country have intensified. 
After Melanson's story made national headlines and television news last month, a website previously set up by the Lost Bird Society, founded by a Lakota woman named Marie Not Help Him, was peppered with inquiries.
And it came as the tribes are fighting a bill in Congress that would make the adoption of Indian children by whites easier. It would weaken a federal law passed in 1978 that requires that Indian children removed from their homes be placed with relatives or other Native families.
In welcoming Yvette home, Navajo leaders rose to speak in defense of their children.  "We are more than dances, turquoise and rugs," Genevieve Jackson said in a plea that the outside world understand what is happening to Native children.  
 "Yvette's story is the Navajo story," Delores Grey Eyes added.  
Melanson's father presented her with a Navajo wedding basket symbolizing Mother Earth, Father Sky and a Navajo people planted in harmony between.  He said, as another sister, Laura Chee, interpreted, that he was "happy to have his daughter home, and now he wants to know if they can get the boy back."
"We must let people know what has happened, what is happening through adoptions," Melanson said, clutching the Navajo blanket the tribe had given her. 
"My family, my friends back home, were outraged. They had no idea something like this was happening."
"The taking of the children has to be stopped," she said.
Later, her family took her to her birthsite and told her how she had been taken.  She'd been born in a hogan and was sickly. A public health nurse came and took both her and her brother to the hospital at Winslow. The family never saw them again.
"Your mother would come to the road here," Desbah Yazzie told her, "and she would hitchhike into Winslow, looking for her children. She never found you, and later all they told her was that the children had been adopted."
Yvette Silverman Melanson, born Minnie Bo Monroe, stood in a ceaseless expanse of her birthplace and marveled."You can see forever," she said. "The sky is endless, the land is so big. If someone disappeared, a baby, how would you know which direction to go to even begin to look for them...
 This story is old (1996) but the fact is she is still looking - there are no updates on her lost twin brother....Trace

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

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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.


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

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