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Thursday, April 26, 2012

DNA tests: Finding the Truth and your Family

Finding the truth and family is what we adoptees live for, right?

I have wanted to write about DNA tests for quite some time, since it concerns Lost Children/American Indian adoptees who may find themselves in the snarky position of having to prove their blood while in reunion with tribal family - often years after the adoption.

Why years? It takes time and money (and lawyers sometimes) to open sealed adoption files.

How do you prove you are? DNA - it's absolute, it's blood and tests results can't be disputed.

I have a close American Indian friend who just did the DNA test with her mother's brother and indeed, she is related to her mother's family and her mother's tribe in Minnesota  - no question, it's absolutely true.

Why was this so important to do? Since her mother had already died, my friend had found her siblings.  It was her mother's children who doubted who she was.

Yes, that hurts. It really really hurts.  After all you have endured being separated from them, then you find your own brothers and sisters question your legitimacy.  Her siblings were raised by their mother, and their mother had told them they had a sister out there lost to adoption.

Yet these siblings could not and do not comprehend what my friend lived through or felt. My friend's siblings lacked compassion for her and her loss; they had their mother their whole life and now my friend would never meet her own mother since she had already died.

These are the snarky scenarios of adoption reunions and we have to know about them. It can be complicated and DNA can be costly! You never know what you will face until you get into your reunions.

What I also want to mention is my friend had no problem with her natural dad's family when she found them and their tribe. Her father's side had no doubt who she was or is...  So there are big differences in families and tribes - definitely.

In finding the truth, the painful part of reunion in Indian Country might be your own brothers and sisters who throw you a curve and demand proof of who you say you are...!

I warn adoptees - be prepared for all these scenarios.

Another friend Rhonda, who I mention in my memoir One Small Sacrifice, had to do DNA with her uncle because her father had already passed on by the time she could open her adoption in Michigan. Rhonda met both her father and mother's sides of the family and had a good reunion with her brothers, her mom's sons. DNA was required for her to be enrolled with her father's tribe.

For me, I did DNA with my natural father Earl back in 1994 - that seems like a lifetime ago. It was so expensive - around $500!

I saved the test results and the polaroid photo they took of Earl and me like it was the greatest gift anyone ever gave me.  We needed to do DNA because neither of us was sure. And indeed, 99.9% DNA positive, Earl was definitely my dad.

If you need to have a DNA test, contact me. Others on Facebook are making recommendations I can share with you... I had mine done at a lab in Springfield, Illinois.

Be well and be strong in search and reunion....I am here if you need to talk... Trace


  1. I am an adoptee and found my birthmother some 25 years ago (give or take). It went fabulously well to begin with but turned very sour after a while. Why? I don't know. She made things up about me that the rest of the family chose to believe. Not much i could do about it. While she would not tell me a thing about my birthfather, it did get back to me that he is half Cherokee. I have researched the name given me but it is a huge family and I have had no luck. On top of that, he has no knowledge she was even pregnant.

    I founded and lead a search and support group and have facilitated in many reunions, some went wonderfully, some not so much, but in the end all were good because answers were given. The amputated roots began to heal as did the gaping holes we all felt inside. I feel I will never know my true heritage or at least half of it and for this I hold her solely responsible. It is the epitome of selfish to intentionally hide a child's heritage from them, especially after a long and protracted search.Mine was particularly difficult.

    For all of those searching out there, never give up! The answers you get, no matter how dark on the surface, are much better than one at all. I wish everyone the very best in their quest!

  2. Shadoseer, thank you for sharing your story - it is so appreciated! I feel your pain -- I didn't have any reunion with my own mother - but did meet my dad who had the Tsalgi blood. Every reunion is different - as I wrote in this blog post. Thank you so much for this wonderful insight and support. As I wrote in my memoir, without an Original Birth Certificate, many are not able to be enrolled in the Cherokee nations.
    Adoptees, we are all in this together...


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Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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