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Standing Rock

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sheshegwaning First Nation adoptee connects with family through art

  CBC News
 







Artist Paul Whittam has always wondered about his birth family, as he was adopted when he was just ten weeks old.
He had a loving childhood, but knew he was a member of the Sheshegwaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island and has had a longing to connect with his blood relatives.
During his time at Trent University, he asked an elder for his spirit name, and through a traditional naming ceremony, was given the name Negik, which means Otter.
Paul Whittam is seen with his birth sister, and his mother, Virginia. (Supplied)
After finishing his degree, Whittam said he started to deal with depression. He turned to First Nations healers, and one from Manitoulin Island told him he believed he knew who Whittam's birth mother was.
"I was just stunned by this information," he said.
He said his adoptive mother got the adoption records and the information matched. He later found out the healer he was speaking with, named Joe, was his uncle.
Whittam contacted his birth mother through e-mail and the two started to correspond.
"It came to the point about a year later that it was time to go for a visit up to Manitoulin Island," he said.
The two decided to meet on Mother's Day.
"It was a little frightening at first but as soon as I saw her, she looked exactly like me," he said. "We just gave each other a big hug and shared a tear of joy. It's been wonderful ever since then."
Since that moment, Whittam said he's no longer depressed as he now has two families — including a brother and sister.
"My sister's name, her spirit name that was given to her years before I even met her is Young Otter Woman in Ojibwe language," he said
"I had the same name as my sister who I had never met before and I got my [spirit] name when I was at school."
Whittam said he describes his artwork as visual healing through colour, shape and form.
His birth family recently came to the event to see his work. The display is at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation centre on Manitoulin Island until July 2.


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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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