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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Losing Ellowyn


By Trace Hentz (Blog Editor)

Back in December I lost Oglala relative Ellowyn Locke, age 68.  Lost in the way that I can't go visit her in Porcupine on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota or call her on the phone.  I can only visit her in dreams.  I can reread her letters.  Her artist brother Merle told me I can bring a red rose to her grave then I will feel better.

I am not doing well at all, grieving the most important friend I ever had.

Yes, I have memories, her teaching me, teasing me, photos and all the stories. I also have many gifts she made me.  My ONE SMALL SACRIFICE book cover has the family beadwork Ellowyn sewed on the doll she gifted me.

Years ago, I bought a hand bag that had Hopi dancers on a bright turquoise fabric to give to Ellowyn.  I made the mistake of taking the purse when we went to visit Sara Thunder Hawk.  Of course Sara really admired the purse and I knew I should give it to her, but I already planned to give to Ellowyn. I felt so horrible I couldn't give it to Sara.  I had brought gifts for Sara but I knew that purse was what she wanted.  I prayed and prayed Sara would forgive me!  That was my learning experience.  Imagine the most precious thing you own - like a ring.  Could you give it up?  If a Lakota elder likes it, you give it to them.  That is what we do... Material objects are never as important as giving.  I could never refuse a gift either, like when Ellowyn gave me moccasins, even though they were too big.  It would hurt her deeply if I refused them.  I learned to bring a load of gifts every time I went to see my relatives and my car would be full when I left to go back home.

In 2015, I couldn't reach her by phone and panicked. Ellowyn had been taken to a rehab facility after breaking her ankle.  By 2016, she was the longest living dialysis patient on their rez - over 10 long years.  I have photos of her on dialysis in Wounded Knee from an earlier trip (top photo).  My relative had the will to live but her body was getting weak.  She said repeatedly she would accept a new kidney if the donor was living but that wasn't likely to happen.  That call never came.

On the phone in 2016, I told her I was not ready for her to die. That was selfish of me, I know.  I felt bad when I said it.  Like a big sister, she talked to me about all the fun we had... all the years and stories.. so she comforted me!

Here's a story I wrote about her life in 2007... here

I call Ellowyn Strong Walking Woman, Winyan Washaka Mani.  She is very strong and cares deeply for her family, her relatives and her tribe.

Ellowyn taught me the most important thing I know, which is Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates to we are all related, and relatives.

Pilamaye, thank you for letting me speak about family. I thank my relative Ellowyn for naming me and for making me her relative.

I thank you all for reading this blog American Indian Adoptees. AHO!

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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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