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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl #BabyVeronica


Baby V (Cherokee)

Fletcher and Fort’s Rewritten Opinion in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Fletcher and Fort posted “Intimate Choice and Autonomy: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,” forthcoming in CRITICAL RACE JUDGMENTS (Cambridge Univ. Press, eds. Bennett Capers, Devon Carbado, Robin A. Lenhart, and Angela Onwuachi-Willig) (forthcoming 2021).

As if there was any doubt, we have reached the opposite outcome as the Supreme Court did back in 2013. A few excerpts:

This case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, like her father, grandparents, and a multitude of generations before her. American Indian tribal citizenship with a federally recognized tribe is a unique concept in American law. E.g., Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 55 (1978) (“[Indian tribes] have power to make their own substantive law in internal matters. . . .”). Tribal citizens are beneficiaries of the federal government’s trust relationship with Indian tribes, and the federal government has promised to tribal citizens for centuries to assist in the maintenance of tribal governments, cultures, and sovereignty. Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515, 556 (1831) (“[The Cherokee treaty], thus explicitly recognizing the national character of the Cherokees, and their right of self government; thus guarantying their lands; assuming the duty of protection, and of course pledging the faith of the United States for that protection; has been frequently renewed, and is now in full force.”).


The ethically dubious acts of the Petitioners in this case extends to this Court’s amici. Several amici invoked the racist dog whistle of referring to the Petitioners as the “only family” Baby Girl has ever known. E.g., Brief for Guardian Ad Litem, as Representative of Respondent Baby Girl, Supporting Reversal at 56 (“Indeed, it is hard to imagine what liberty interest is more important to a 27-month old child than maintaining the only family bonds she has ever known, absent a strong showing of necessity.”) (emphasis added); Brief of Amica Curiae Birth Mother in Support of Petitioners at 3 (“The decision below effectively negated Birth Mother’s decision to place Baby Girl with Adoptive Couple, and ripped Baby Girl from the only family she has ever known, in derogation of both Birth Mother’s and Baby Girl’s rights and expectations under state law.”) (emphasis added); Brief of Amici Curiae Bonnie and Shannon Hofer; Roger, Loreal, and Sierra Lauderbaugh; and Craig and Esther Adams in Support of Petitioners at 38 (“[T]he lower court took non-Indian Petitioners’ adopted Indian daughter from them – destroying the only family she has ever known.”) (emphasis added); Brief of Amici Curiae National Council for Adoption in Support of Petitioners at 13-14 (“ICWA is implemented in some cases to traumatize children by forcing them into completely unknown environments, traumatizing them by removal from the only family they’d ever felt a connection with and imposing the developmental delays that come with the traumatic removal from a secure attachment.”) (emphasis added).[1] It appears that for some of our amici, the “only family” that matters is the non-Indian Petitioners’ family. For these amici, the Indian family and other biological relatives are strangers and foreigners. The only pain and shame of removal and separation that matters is that of the non-Indian family. It is apparent the “only family” dog whistle is designed to distract our attention from the ever-present bias against Indian parents and relatives in the child welfare and adoption system. This we will not accept. As noted above, this Court long has been complicit in dehumanizing Indian people. In Professor Harris’ words, “[C]ourts established whiteness as a prerequisite to the exercise of enforceable property rights.” Harris, supra, at 1724. No longer. We additionally suspect that this form of advocacy implicates American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4 (Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel), 3.5 (Impartiality & Decorum of the Tribunal), 4.4 (Respect for Rights of Third Persons), and 8.4 (Misconduct).

[1] One commentator even referred to the Cherokee family here, who descend from an Indigenous nation that has been present in this hemisphere since time immemorial, as “foreign.” Thomas Sowell, Indian Child Welfare Act does not protect kids, Denton Record-Chronicle, Feb. 1, 2018, at 6A (“This little girl is just the latest in a long line of Indian children who have been ripped out of the only family they have ever known and given to someone who is a stranger to them, often living on an Indian reservation that is foreign to them.”) (emphasis added).


Use the search word Baby Veronica to find our coverage and opinion on this blog...

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Moses Farrow "Allen" calls for adoption reform

There are numerous videos from Moses... his brother Thaddeus, also an adoptee, did commit suicide. Several children were adopted by the actress Mia Farrow. I have always wanted to hear from adoptees who are adopted by celebrities... here is our chance to listen...

Read Moses' first newspaper interview:

Where is my buffalo robe? #60sScoop

 As I see theft of Indigenous identity, I'm left to forge myself from scraps

When I see the cultural appropriation and identity theft of Indigenous people — the Latimer situation and others like it — it stirs something ancient in me, that resonates deep like the heartbeat of Mother Earth herself.

I was part of the Sixties Scoop. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the tens of thousands of Indigenous children apprehended by the government to be assimilated and raised in non-Indigenous homes. In my case, the AIM (Adopt Indian and Métis) program of Saskatchewan from the 1960s and 1970s placed me permanently in a white family in small-town Saskatchewan.

I am part of the national Sixties Scoop settlement which seeks to compensate those wronged by the erasure of our cultural identity and birthright.

Now, five decades later, that loss echoes in all that I am and do. I make my home in Témiscaming, Quebec on the beautiful Ottawa River. I remain an activist on Indigenous issues, but the recent spotlight on Indigenous identity, race shifting and cultural appropriation tears at the core of me. I find myself sitting wondering, where is my buffalo robe?

The buffalo robe I speak of is my Indigenous identity (Plains Cree) and I am one of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people displaced by centuries of Canadian government policy, left to forge my Indigenous self from scraps left by politicians, capitalism and exploitation. That's why these issues strike so deeply for Indigenous people.

My buffalo robe is my identity. It is my jingle dress on the pow wow trail. When I dance, the spirits move me and I dance without tiring, without shame and with great pride. Pow wow is a ceremony: flying ribbons, eagle feathers, all the colours of the rainbow moved by the resilience and humility of my people — a glimpse of that sacred buffalo robe on my shoulders.

I've never worn a buffalo robe. I imagine it must be warm, robust, loving, beautiful. I picture being able to wear it like I've been wearing it forever, like those hearty Cree who weathered the harshest winters of our Canada — long before mechanical things heaved their way across the landscape — traversing rivers, landscapes, herds of the wild ones, carving what we see today.

'If you're going to pose in that buffalo robe, well then. Pick up that glass of murky brown water deemed undrinkable that so many Indigenous people live with every day, too.' (Submitted by Crystal Semaganis)

I see you posing in a buffalo robe. Trailblazers, heroes and heroines, forging the Indigenous path for us to follow. Now, that sacred path is tainted.

Were they who they said they were? I see them in their finery, at film festivals, book signings, news articles, magazines, all while proclaiming an Indigenous identity not theirs.

This is trauma. Forging an identity is no light thing. It is resilience flowing in our veins, the whispers of thousands before us and those yet to come. This is what it means to be Indigenous. How can such a precious, sacred thing be taken from us now? Stolen buffalo robes!

I search for my buffalo robe. I feel exploited. We are living artifacts of the Indigenous nations across this country from shore to shore, and we fight to reclaim our language, culture and all things sacred. We search for connection! To have a settler reap such vast rewards wearing a buffalo robe that was meant for others, that's a hurt felt by so many.

Residential school survivors, Sixties Scoop survivors, fledgling talents in the entertainment industry and Indigenous people passed over by the deception of those in stolen buffalo robes, that's a hurt that won't go away anytime soon.

Please, look beyond the romantic ideals of dreamcatchers, inukshuks, mukluks and war bonnets and see everything. Not just the accolades and commodification of all things Indigenous (let's face it, there was much money to be gained by proclaiming to be Indigenous) – but really see.

If you're going to pose in that buffalo robe, well then. Pick up that glass of murky brown water deemed undrinkable that so many Indigenous people live with every day, too. Join us in the search for the missing, lament the loss of land, language, wild things, the trauma, the displacement, the crumbling abandoned schools. Take it all in — and not just the pretty stuff.

**Crystal Semaganis is an Indigenous activist living in Témiscaming, Que., with a focus on advocacy for the Sixties Scoop, residential school survivors and environmental issues. She is a mother of four, grandmother of one, an artist and a jingle dress dancer. She is on Twitter @Lil_Cree777, Instagram @seven_wolves and TikTok @sevenwolves1971.

That buffalo robe is a sacred thing. I say now, we are coming for our buffalo robes.

Reconciliation is not taking our buffalo robes – it's giving them back.

I wear a size, immortal.

Dedicated to my sister,

Cleo Semaganis-Nicotine

May 7, 1965 - Dec. 22, 1978


Monday, December 28, 2020

Truth & Healing Commission Conversation with Deb Haaland (updated)


kakichihiwewin project director S.A. sat down virtually with Congresswoman Deb Haaland (future Cabinet member) on November 24th to talk about the Truth & Healing Commission, her experiences and the importance of this telling our truths.


Native Issues Podcasts


From Indigenous feminism to the real story of Thanksgiving to a de-colonialist take on Star Trek, these podcasts show how the issues facing Native people affect all Americans.

READ: Seven Essential Listens From the Indigenous Podcasting Boom | Vanity Fair

Cindy Blackstock and The Spirit Bear Plan

The Spirit Bear Plan to End Inequalities in Public Services for First Nations Children, Youth and Families 

Lecturer: Cindy Blackstock Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada First Nations children and families living on reserve and in the Territories receive public services funded by the federal government, and since confederation, these services have fallen significantly short of what other Canadians receive. 

This injustice needs to end and Spirit Bear's Plan will do just that. 

A member of the Gitksan First Nation, Cindy Blackstock has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights. Her promotion of culturally based and evidence informed solutions has been recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others. An author of over 50 publications and a widely sought after public speaker, Cindy has collaborated with other Indigenous leaders to assist the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in the development and adoption of a General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous children.

Canadian First Nations leads the way in healing our traumas. Cindy Blackstock is leading the way.

#Adoption is Trauma, Big Business


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Is Culture How You Think?


By Trace L Hentz (5/14/2015)

So much about adoption is complicated for the adoptee.  If you are like me, you may feel torn between who you think you are, who you are inside, versus how you were raised and who raised you.

I am an adoptee as readers know. What a great many adoptees have told me is they feel they lost culture when not raised in their tribe, losing parents, grandparents and the language. Even typing those words hurts. Loss is loss. Loss hurts.

This has bothered me. I think that the loss is true yet culture is not completely lost.

How? You still have the blood and that is built-in culture. (It's not erasable or removable.)

I think Native Adoptees have a different thought process that was not acknowledged or celebrated or honored when they were young. Non-Indian parents may not have appreciated how sensitive or funny or curious you were or if they did see it, they didn't say anything nice about it.

Girls who were strong tomboys like me were criticized and shy boys who were sensitive were bullied.

One thing to remember: non-Indians don't think Indian. You do. It's not their fault. We're very different in how we think.

Sit back and remember all the times as a child you made people laugh. Remember how much you loved animals. Remember what made you cry - like a sunset or sunrise. Remember how you gave thanks for life and all that is sacred, even if you were alone. Remember watching westerns on TV and rooting for the Indians?

We have a choice as an adoptee to return home and what I call "go full circle." It takes patience. It requires courage. It costs money. It demands you take time to learn and relearn and listen. This return to your culture may take years! (We still have the burden of closed adoption records in many states.)

Every culture will say it's people who carry the culture.

There is no culture better than another. That is true. But the culture of Indigenous People lives in your breath, bone and blood. If you exist, it exists.

Nothing, including adoption, can ever erase it.

Please read the entire book series... it has so much important information to help you...
Trace is the author of One Small Sacrifice, the book series Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects  and the creator of the blog American Indian Adoptees.

Monday, December 21, 2020

My adoptive parents tried to erase my Indigenous identity. They failed.

 Kim Wheeler was adopted during the Sixties Scoop and fought to find her way back to her culture

My name is Kim Wheeler but some know me as Kim Ziervogel. Others will remember me as Kim Bell, and to a small group of people I will always be Ruby Linda Bruyere. But the name game doesn't stop there. Why would someone have so many different names? Are they all aliases? Are they hiding from their past? From the law?

In my case, it's none of these. I'm a Sixties Scoop survivor and those names were given to me through birth, adoption and two marriages.

Dark painful secrets

A lot of things go unsaid because I've handled my trauma so well, I think. I've been told often I am a well-adjusted human. It comes from how I was raised and all the dirty secrets I had to keep in my childhood. Victims of sexual abuse are great at keeping secrets. At least I was.

My adopted father turned out to be a pedophile. It's something even until last year, my oldest adopted sibling and I argued about. That is, until I went into graphic detail about the abuse inflicted on me and then she seemed to accept it was the right term. 

My adoptive mother was a different case. She was psychologically abusive. She wore me down until all I could be was a "yes" person to everyone I met. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I started to stand up for myself and began to say "no" to people. To this day, I still struggle with saying no, although some people wouldn't believe that. It's an internal process that unfolds in milliseconds.  

My brother, who is also First Nations, was adopted as well. Our adoptive parents would drive us down to Logan Ave. and Main Street in Winnipeg and point out the Indigenous people who were homeless or living marginally.

READ: My adoptive parents tried to erase my Indigenous identity. They failed. | CBC Radio


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Trump's Impact on Indian Country

 “The total onslaught of federal rule rollbacks under environmental laws was like nothing we’ve ever seen. It was dizzying.”

Over the span of his administration, many leadership positions in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Interior Department were left empty or filled by appointees never vetted by Congress. The annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, held by President Barack Obama for eight years, ceased. Trump’s three Supreme Court justices include one with a solid understanding of federal Indian law and the U.S government’s responsibility to tribes, as well as one whose judicial perspectives are actively harmful.

GOOD READ: Trump’s impact on Indian Country over four years — High Country News – Know the West

Thursday, December 17, 2020

500 Years of Giving


Dear Mr. Prime Minister: This poet has something to say to you about Indigenous rights

You may have heard of Helen Knott — she's a driven poet and strong activist who's used her words to focus attention on Indigenous land and water rights and violence against the land and Indigenous women.

If you haven't heard of Knott, you won't soon forget her after this video directed by filmmaker Coty Savard. Standing proudly in the vast Peace River landscape, Knott is directly addressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: challenging him to remember his promises and pay attention to the Indigenous population, their land, their water, their history and the number of times they have seen promises broken.

Keep up with Helen Knott's blog here

Coty Savard is an emerging Dene, Cree and Métis filmmaker/producer. Her films and projects often concentrate on the varied, complex and sometimes uncomfortable reality of Indigenous experiences in Canada.



Friday, December 11, 2020

The DNA Guide for Adoptees

 How to Use Genealogy and Genetics to Uncover Your Roots, Connect with Your Biological Family, and Better Understand Your Medical History by Brianne Kirkpatrick and Shannon Combs-Bennett

This book is for you if you have hope that DNA testing might open up the search for information about yourself, your origins, and your future. We’ve worked hard to compile the resources in this book and explain in plain English how DNA and genealogical records fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. In the chapters that follow, we’ve created a place for you to turn as you come face-to-face with questions about health, ancestry, biological family, and DNA.

Why DNA testing, and why now?

DNA testing is a game-changer for people researching family connections. Many recent advances have made it possible for adoptees to search for answers more easily than they could have done even a few years ago. Consider the following changes:

  • At-home DNA tests have grown in number and dropped in price.
  • Millions of people use software to build and track their family trees and share results online.
  • Billions of vital records, legal files, and other documents are available online.
  • Social networks and search engines make it easy to find and connect to people all over the world.
  • Adoptees are sharing their DNA stories publicly, through television shows and other media.

You may have already started down the path of DNA testing, or it may be entirely new to you. No matter where you are starting, we have worked to make the information in this book interesting, useful, and easy to understand. We include real-life examples, fictionalized scenarios, and advice we’ve gathered from adoptees to make this book relevant no matter your prior experience with DNA.

Why this book?

Information can be a powerful thing. As mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses, and friends, we have seen how the discovery of new information can impact relationships. As writers and professionals with unique and diverse experiences in genetics, genealogy, and counseling support, we also know the journey through DNA and a search for family can be emotional for many people. We have worked professionally and personally with adoptees, and we understand some of the unique challenges you face. We’ve done our best to present material to you from a place of understanding and compassion.

This book will provide you with practical advice on topics such as medical and genealogical DNA testing, handling emotional aspects of the search, and recommended resources to help take your research efforts to the next level. What helps one person may not be relevant for others, so we cover different approaches suitable for different situations.

Authors: Shannon Combs-Bennett, Brianne Kirkpatrick

Publication Year: 2019

We’re happy to share that Adoptee Reading now has a storefront on For those unfamiliar, Bookshop is a website launched earlier this year that exclusively sells books and shares all profits with independent bookstores throughout the United States.

Go to Adoptee Reading for lots of great book:

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Indigenous-led survey centers boarding school, adoption experiences (VIDEO)

The Child Removal Survey looks at how the federal government upended Native American communities and how they have sought healing.

(left) Photo Courtesy of Christine Diindiisi McCleave, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

Lydia Morrell, City Reporter, Minnesota Daily

For more than a century, Native American children were forcibly removed from their families and driven into boarding schools where their hair was cut, and they were stripped of their culture.

Now, Indigenous community members and University of Minnesota researchers are looking at the trauma caused by this practice.

The Child Removal in Native Communities Survey centers the experiences of American Indian and Alaskan Native people who were forced into boarding schools and the foster care system, focusing on the generational impact of these practices. Led by Native researchers, it is meant to study the trauma inflicted on Indigenous communities and subsequent healing.

In April 2019, two Indigenous community-based researchers opened the survey with a ceremony, establishing that their academic research would be “guided by spirit, not just by the intellect,” said Sandy White Hawk, a Sicangu Lakota tribal citizen and founder of the First Nations Repatriation Institute.

Christine Diindiisi McCleave, an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation and CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, co-led the study and said academic research of Native communities historically has been extractive and privileges the voices of researchers who are not Indigenous.

This research is different.

Diindiisi McCleave said that her and White Hawk’s leadership in the project has been critical because they had direct experience with boarding school survivors and Native American adoptees.

“We Indigenous peoples, we don’t want to be studied from the outside,” Diindiisi McCleave said. “We have a lot to say about our own histories, about our own experience and about our experience with American history.”

A survey and a ceremony

The approximately 30-minute survey looks at three different experiences: if the respondent went to boarding school, if their family went to boarding school, or if they were adopted or put into foster care. Participants could fill out one or all segments, depending on which fit their experiences.

Because of COVID-19, the researchers have stopped recruiting participants for the survey, though it is still open online. Diindiisi McCleave said the survey addresses difficult experiences, so the team did not want to push the survey on people who were already under pandemic-related stress.

Carolyn Liebler, a University of Minnesota sociologist who is helping to lead the research alongside White Hawk and Diindiisi McCleave, said their approach is “totally different” from other research.

“We have ceremonies and prayers as part of the research process … talking about things holistically, recognizing that just because time passes doesn’t mean things change,” Liebler said.

Until the pandemic is over, the team will not close the survey or move on to analysis. The researchers are aiming for 1,000 participants and currently have about 600, Liebler said.

She added that they plan to attend in-person events once the pandemic is over to meet with the tribes in large groups and provide paper copies of the survey while offering support for participants who are sharing traumatic experiences.

“And then we will have a ceremony when the survey closes to thank the community for allowing this to exist,” Liebler said.

Generations of trauma, and the path to healing

The research unearths a painful era of federally mandated Indian boarding schools that were enforced from 1860 to around 1980.

At this time, government officials forced many Indigenous children to leave their families to attend boarding schools and assimilate to white, Christian culture. Eventually, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gave jurisdiction of children to tribal governments, enabling tribes and families to be involved in child welfare cases.

White Hawk previously conducted research on Native American adoptees and served as an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, which addressed a similar era of boarding schools and aimed to facilitate reconciliation between former students and their communities.

“I listened to three days of testimony from former boarding school attendees,” White Hawk said. “And nearly every single individual said, ‘I did not know how to express love to my child [because of the boarding schools].’”

White Hawk said boarding schools led to the “breakdown of the family,” which continued into the adoption era where many Native children were adopted into white families. This resulted in further assimilation and loss of Indigenous culture — which included assigning children “white” names, forbidding them from speaking their Native language, cutting their traditionally long hair and converting them to Christianity.

Today, these effects are still apparent as American Indian children are 18 times more likely to experience out-of-home care than white children, according to a 2019 survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“The result is: You were disconnected, you were removed. You lost that connection to your family, your language and culture, your community, your homelands,” Diindiisi McCleave said. “If the harms and impacts are the same or similar, then the healing path is also similar, where the healing comes from reconnecting with language and culture, returning home.”

The researchers said they hope gathering data will help provide a legal basis for experiences they have known for decades.

“That’s part of why we need empirical data, right? It’s part of the westernized system,” Diindiisi McCleave said. “It’s something that people will believe and rely upon.”


NEW IN 2020

kakichihiwewin project director S.A. hosts as Christine Diindiisi tells her story, and elaborates on her experiences that led her to becoming the Chief Executive Officer for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Trouble for newly federally recognized tribes | Indian Child Welfare Annual Report


An important need for Amherst County’s Monacan Indian Nation

Letters to the Editor for Nov. 26 

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gives federally-recognized tribes precedence in making determinations and placements in child welfare cases involving Indian children. It is vital that we support local tribes in engaging in the child welfare process. Children in foster care are much more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system.

Unfortunately, research recently completed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has shown that the number of Native American youth in juvenile detention centers has increased from May to August 2020. From March 1 to May 1, there was a decrease in the number of detained Native American children, while from May 1 to August 1 there was a 31% increase in the number of detained Native American children.

Tribes with newer federal recognition, such as the Monacan Indian Nation, have been unable, as of yet, to develop their own department of social services. This hinders the tribes’ ability to become involved in child welfare cases that could be determining the future of these native children. Our community needs to begin communicating with local tribes to determine if there are ways in which we can support them as they support their youth in need.

KATHRYN DURDEN, Lynchburg, Virginia

The BIA is seeking to renew the information collection conducted under 25 CFR 23, related to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Agency Information Collection Activities; Indian Child Welfare Quarterly and Annual Report



How state courts use disability to remove Native children from their homes

Subscribe to Fiat Vox.

See all podcast episodes.

This is the second part of the two-part series about how disability has been and continues to be used as a way to control and profit from Native populations.

Last week, we heard from UC Berkeley’s Ella Callow about how the U.S. government built a psychiatric institution in the early 1900s to imprison Native Americans.

Today, Callow discusses how Native communities are still forced to exist in societal systems that use disability to justify taking Native children away from their families, and to ultimately control, and make money from, their lives.

Exterior of a courthouse in South Dakota

A Butte County courthouse in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. In South Dakota, a Native child is 11 times more likely to be placed in the foster care system than a white child. (Photo by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr)

Read a transcript of Fiat Vox episode #67: “How state courts use disability to remove Native children from their homes”:

This is Fiat Vox, a Berkeley News podcast. I’m Anne Brice.

Last week, we spoke to UC Berkeley’s Ella Callow about how, nearly 100 years ago, the U.S. government built a psychiatric institution in South Dakota to forcibly commit and imprison Native Americans, often for reasons that had nothing to do with having a mental illness.

If you haven’t listened to it yet, I recommend going back and listening to it just to get a little bit more context.

Today, in the second part of the two-part series, Callow, the director of the Office of Disability Access and Compliance at Berkeley and who spent more than a decade as a lawyer before coming to Berkeley fighting for the rights of parents with disabilities, says that Native communities are still forced to exist in societal systems that use disability to justify taking Native children away from their families, and to ultimately control, and make money from, their lives.

Portrait of Ella Callow

Ella Callow, director of the Office of Disability Access and Compliance at UC Berkeley, is writing an article about how disability has been and continues to be used as a way to profit from and control Native populations. (Photo courtesy of Ella Callow)

Ella Callow: One of the things that really concerns me is the fact that this has bled into child welfare issues. Native and disabled people have very disparate impacts of child welfare involvement and removal of their children. In the American Indian context, the Indian Child Welfare Act should be a protection against this.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed by Congress in 1978, establishing minimum federal standards for when and how state agencies could remove Native American children from their parents’ custody and their cultural environment.

But when a parent’s disability is involved, says Callow, it’s used to override their cultural identity.

Ella Callow: What we see is that, often, if the parent has a disability, there’s an effort by the state in state courts, which unfortunately is where the cases often take place — they should be taking place in tribal court, but often they take place in state court, to say, ‘Well, we know that we should have, perhaps, a cultural expert. We know that we are supposed to place a child with kin and do all these things. But we all know that the real issue here is that Mom is schizophrenic, or that Dad is blind. And so, this really isn’t about all that Indian stuff. This is about the disability.’

[Music: “Morning Glare” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Although the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidelines in 2015 that specifically stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to all child welfare cases, it rarely ends up protecting Native families in court, says Callow.

Instead, counsel on both sides often kind of give up, affirming the underlying societal belief that parents with disabilities aren’t capable of raising their own children.

In South Dakota, for example, a Native American child is 11 times more likely to be placed in the foster care system than a white child. And even when there are many Native foster homes available, a majority of those Native children are placed with non-Native families or in group centers instead.

Ella Callow: In the cases in South Dakota just a few years ago, the state got into a great deal of trouble for its court’s practices around child welfare in the Native community. And what was really interesting was that things came to light, like the fact that they designate every single Native child they remove and place into foster care as disabled. And when they do that, they get more money.

So, what we’re seeing again is they’re taking these children out of the community, they’re identifying them as disabled and making money, and they’re controlling them in state settings or non-Native settings in a way that’s detrimental to the children, and is profitable to the state.

[Music: “Silent Flock” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Ella Callow: What I found in my research is that when tribes take control of their own child welfare systems, which many have done in the past 20 years, and when they have the latitude to build early intervention programs, they can use those to really support their families and address issues specifically around trauma and mental health that are so likely to be exploited and used as a way to control and profit off of Native people and instead create healthy families.

Callow is working with Susan Burch, a professor of American studies at Middlebury College, and Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, a postdoctoral fellow in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on a special edition of Disabilities Studies Quarterly that’s focused on Indigenous health and disability in the past, present and future.

As part of the effort, the team invited people from across the country to submit questions, ideas and thoughts about what they believe we can learn from Native communities around disability, health and well-being. Submissions could be in many forms, from essays and journal articles to art and poetry.

Ella Callow: We didn’t want to limit it to academic voices. We wanted to open it up, and we wanted to open it up to Native people, particularly, to tell us what they wanted to tell us about the subject. It’s so important for Native people to have an agency, and for Native disabled people to have an agency, because that’s what, for so long, people have tried to take away from them.

So, I think the most hopeful thing is to see how much tribes and tribal people have taken control of the narrative about disability and history in Indian country and the future of it and are building these programs, have built these programs, are running these programs on reservation, off reservation. And what we’ve seen submitted is amazing. The way people are able to talk about this, want to talk about this subject is really really heartening.

To learn more about Indigenous health and disability, check out the special edition of Disabilities Studies Quarterly, to be published in the summer of 2021.

For Berkeley News, I’m Anne Brice.

You can subscribe to this podcast, Fiat Vox, spelled F-I-A-T V-O-X, and give us a rating, on your favorite listening app. Also, check out our other podcast, Berkeley Talks, that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. 

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Monday, November 23, 2020

What can an adoptee do? I want my #OBC

These adoptees are Native Americans and opened their adoptions. That should give you hope.
By Trace Hentz (blog editor)

As adoptees, we all face the same questions: How do we open our sealed files and how do we find out who our tribal nation is and when can we meet our relatives?

The first place to start: KNOW that state where the adoption took place. What is their law governing your rights to your own adoption records? LOOK

Second: Get your non-identifying (Non-ID) from the state where you were adopted. Non-identifying information includes birthparents age and (in recent years) medical history at the time of the child's birth; their physical description (height, weight, eye color); heritage (religion, national origin, race); number of other children, and whether they’re adopted. More detailed data is collected describing your birthparents, not adoptive parents. 

Do not be discouraged if you will need to get a court order and pay to get your adoption file, in many states this is the law... The states that are closed do not make it easy.

I found out in my own search that none of this is easy -- but it can be done. 

Adoptee Rights Law Center PLLC
Gregory D. Luce
PO Box 19561
Minneapolis Minnesota 55419
T: (612) 221-3947

Luce has created an Adoptee-Driven Law Center:
Original Birth Certificates
Some states recognize adult adoptees' unrestricted right to obtain a copy of their own original birth certificates. I represent those who are denied that right.
Intercountry adoptees may not have received United States citizenship—or may have trouble proving it—even after being adopted in the U.S. decades ago. That's wrong. I advocate to correct it.
Personal Information
Adult adoptees are entitled to their own personal information, which may include information that is in an agency, court, or other locations. I help adoptees get what's rightfully theirs.

The OBC: Data, Information, and Maps

51All 50 States + DC

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Maine’s Truth and Reconciliation Effort: A New Path Forward #TRC

The Unites States is a deeply divided nation, struggling to reconcile the legacies of its history. If that was ever in doubt, surely these last few months have exposed that stark truth, and this week’s election results made clear how far these rifts are from closing.

"The truth and reconciliation effort in Maine demonstrates how critical it is to build shared understanding of the different experiences each individual and community brings to the process," writes Martin Levine.

Individually and collectively, we are left to ponder a way forward that could change this depressing reality. Can we find a path that heals wounds? Can we find a way toward a common future, rather than seeing every issue as a competition over scarce resources? Are we doomed to a nation in which our success requires others to fail?

For real change, we may have to reconcile with those from whom we have grown separate and develop a shared understanding of our different life experiences. That’s the lesson we can learn from the state of Maine’s approach to meeting the child welfare needs of its Native American community.

Maine’s child welfare system was found to have entirely ignored the mandates of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was put in place to protect the interests of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes in their jurisdiction. Faced with the loss of critical federal funding, state child welfare officials moved quickly to create plans for making needed changes. As described in Next City by Valerie Vande Panne:

A group of social workers from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reached out to the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine for help with fixing the problem. The idea became to go around the state and train social workers in Maine about ICWA requirements. But the state social workers were totally ignorant of tribes, history, and the way state policies had harmed the tribes, and they were suddenly trying to work with the very people that had been abused by their system.

And then… they stopped. They recognized that in order to move forward, more than good intentions were necessary. If the biases and divisions at the root of the problems were not addressed, even the best plans would fail.

Denise Altvater (Passamaquoddy), a leader in Maine-Wabanaki REACH (Restoration, Engagement, Advocacy, Change, Healing) who had been hired to help state social workers better understand the culture of the Native communities they served, noted, “One day, we decided we were stuck.” When racial tensions wouldn’t ease, a decision had to be made: “Do we keep doing what we’re doing, and call it the best we can do, or do we take the giant leap and go deeper?”

They went much deeper, forming what would be known as the Maine Wabanaki-Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to explore that which separated Native and white communities before they returned to building a new and improved system together.

For Maria Girouard (Penobscot), the executive director of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, the barrier to moving forward was not the lack of a plan, but the lack of a trusting relationship. “How the TRC did the work and fulfilled its purpose was just as important as the product it produced,” says Girouard. “More important was the truth-telling. There was a good deal of pushback all around to the idea.”

Social work educator Gail Werrbach, one of the five commissioners, recognized the need to address the historic realities that we all have inherited.

The white people are dying to reconcile. “Let’s reconcile and [now] everyone loves each other.” It’s such important work, and it’s hard work. I think the biggest challenge is that white people, we want to go faster, fix faster, feel better faster. That’s just not how historical trauma works. So, any cities or communities looking at similar kinds of commissions need to take a long-view time frame in anything they set up, and not get trapped in thinking people will be reconciled and move on. It’s been 500 years.

Penthea Burns, now a board member of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, describes the key learning that must guide efforts to address deep, systemic change. “We should always be talking about repair and reparations through the lens of understanding the harm that has been done,” says Burns. “As a white woman, how do I get my association to hear, and repair from a different level of commitment? How do we be different together? Our state officials had a lot of reticence around reparations from a bottom-line perspective, holding that as just writing a check. Reparations is so much deeper and more engaging than that.”

From this process emerged a new approach for the state to provide needed child welfare services to its Native American residents. This would be a shared construct, supported from a foundation of common understanding and shared responsibility.

TRC Commissioner Sandy White Hawk says truth and healing will happen only when the people are ready. Only then it will be possible to make deep and systemic change together. “You cannot heal during trauma. You can’t get over something that is still happening to you. It’s impossible. You don’t say to someone suffering from cancer, ‘get over it.’”

The truth and reconciliation effort in Maine demonstrates how critical it is to build shared understanding of the different experiences each individual and community brings to the process. If we have the patience to take the time this will take, we can make a difference. If we have the strength to feel the pain, to recognize the hurt of others and our responsibility for it, we have a chance to move beyond it. In this moment of great division, we will need to be strong and brave if we hope to make the future better.

This article was originally published by NPQ online, on Nov. 5, 2020.

Martin Levine is a Principal at Levine Partners LLP, a consulting group focusing on organizational change and improvement, realigning service systems to allow them to be more responsive and effective. Before that, he served as the CEO of JCC Chicago, where he was responsible for the development of new facilities in response to the changing demography of the Metropolitan Jewish Community. In addition to his JCC responsibilities, Mr. Levine served as a consultant on organizational change and improvement to school districts and community organizations. Mr. Levine has published several articles on change and has presented at numerous conferences on this subject.A native of New York City, Mr. Levine is a graduate of City College of New York (BS in Biology) and Columbia University (MSW). He has trained with the Future Search and the Deming Institute.


This article was originally published in the Nonprofit Quarterly(Volume xx, Issue xx, Season Year), Used with permission.


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What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!

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.

Did you know?

Did you know?

Help in available!

Help in available!
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Diane Tells His Name

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?