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Support Info: If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional Health Support Information: Emotional, cultural, and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family, or group basis.” These & regional support phone numbers are found at https://nctr.ca/contact/survivors/ .
Closed Adoption: TRIBE UNKNOWN
By Trace A. DeMeyer
This week I was contacted by a young woman whose mother Amy is an adoptee,
born in 1965. They believe Amy is full-blood Hopi and we hope to prove it.
Another adoptee Michael and I are trying to figure out what language he spoke
as a child to give us some clue as to which tribe is his family. We believe
he’s Apache. Another adoptee Tom contacted me in 2011 and asked me to help he
and his sister find their tribal relatives in Washington state since they were
brought to Connecticut and placed in a closed adoption as young children. Tom
and his sister believe they might be Colville. I haven't been able to connect
them to relatives even though I wrote a few tribal newspaper editors in
Washington and asked for their help.
I’m not giving up on any adoptee.
All of these adoptees come from the time period of the Indian Adoption
Programs and Projects - when the US government and the Child Welfare League of
America were funding ARENA (Adoption Resource Exchange of North America) and
paying churches and agencies to remove Indian children; they purposefully
placed babies and children with non-Indian parents in closed adoptions. (Read
chapter 39, Indian Placement Program in my anthology TWO WORLDS.)
Since the late 1800s, adoptions happened before, during and after
residential boarding schools (in the US and Canada). It's no surprise that the
numbers of adopted Indian children are calculated in percentages, not actual
statistics, and left purposefully vague. (Ontario has a class action for
adoptees in the works now. We know First Nations children were also brought
from Canada to the US as part of ARENA.) These two governments decided
assimilation was a very good idea and adoptions far from the reservation would
erase the Indian blood and a child's memories of home.
Every email I receive and every phone call I make, I want to give adoptees
something concrete, something helpful, something that will work. In truth, I can't
because it doesn't exist, not with sealed adoption records, no paperwork or
proof, and current laws that prevent adoptees from knowing their tribal
There are things I want to happen and my list grows after each email and
First, I want adoptees and birthfamilies to write their legislators and tell
them, "This is wrong," and we finally get someone in the government
to hear us and offer their help.
I want an American government agency to help repatriate adoptees to their
tribes. (Canada has three repatriation programs for adoptees.)
I want more people to see this history for what it was: a form of mind
control using assimilation to kill culture in children, what could be called
genocide of the mind. Our loss was the government's gain.
When I get requests from adoptees, I email ideas. If a state (like Kansas or
Oregon for example) has open records, I can guide them to the state agency or
registry and then tell them about search angels who will help for free or small
fees. I can explain how to order their adoption files and get a court order,
etc. I can give examples of how adoptees (like me) got around the laws and what
worked for us.
For Amy, Arizona sealed her adoption file. For Michael, New York and New Mexico
sealed his adoption file. I want to be able to tell Michael he is Apache, what
band of Apache and connect him to his relatives. For Tom and his sister, I want
to locate their parents so we can find out why they were taken as children but Washington has sealed their adoption. For
all of them, truth is a mystery.
I want to be able to tell them, "This is what we'll do and it will work
and in about a week you will get a phone call from the tribe and they will help
you." But that would be a lie. Now I can only offer them hope and my two
books on this history and this issue.
Finally, I want tribes to do something! Tribes could hire lawyers and
legally demand the states and agencies who took children to release their names
and adoption files. Tribes could create a list of birthdates of children who
disappeared so adoptees could match their birthdate on a database.
Tribes could also create some form of welcome ceremony or reunion powwow or
something to help the adoptee meet relatives and hear their family stories.
Right now, adoptees have mountains to climb and laws to conquer and no one
to turn to... and knowing which tribe can be a huge obstacle when there are
560+ federally recognized tribes. For them it’s still TRIBE UNKNOWN.
What adoption did was conquer and uproot children and hurt generations in
tribal nations. Being adopted ultimately
disrupted our rights as sovereign citizens in North America.
Canada's Residential Schools
The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret
for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.
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Did you know?
New York’s 40-year battle for OBC access ended when on January 15 2020, OBCs were opened to ALL New York adoptees upon request without restriction. In only three days, over 3,600 adoptees filed for their record of birth. The bill that unsealed records was passed 196-12.
According to the 2020 Census, 3.6% of Colorado's population is American Indian or Alaska Native, at least in part, with the descendants of at least 200 tribal nations living in the Denver metro area.
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.
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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