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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Q&A with Trace DeMeyer

Joe, Edie and Trace in Wisconsin (Family photo)
Q & A with journalist-adoptee Trace A. DeMeyer, author of the ONE SMALL SACRIFICE, a memoir and TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.
Why did you write your memoir?
Trace A. DeMeyer: I'd never told my story of opening my adoption. A few friends knew details but not all of it. I got the idea for a book when I wrote an article in 2005 about Stolen Generations of North American Indian children placed for adoption with non-Indian parents. That article "Generation after Generation, We are Coming Home" was published in Talking Stick magazine in New York City and then in News from Indian Country in Wisconsin. It took me down a path I never expected.
What do you mean?
TAD: I was not aware of the various medical terms for adoptee issues such as severe narcissist injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is new science called birth psychology so I read studies about adoptees in treatment for identity issues, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), depression and suicidal thoughts. Then I found statistics. An adoptee friend in Toronto told me to read Adoption: Unchartered Waters by Dr. David Kirschner, a book about adoptees who are notorious serial killers. Another chilling book I found was "The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption." I soon realized the adoption industry doesn't disclose any of this to the media or to adoptive parents or to adoptees like me. So I wrote my memoir as an adoptee and wrote about the history and business of adoption as a journalist. I found more adoptees after my article was published, which really added to my understanding of the devastating impact of the Indian Adoption Projects.
How did you handle being an adoptee in a closed adoption?
TAD: I grieved my birthmother but didn't know I was grieving until much later. Being adopted affected my self-esteem but no one had told me. Trauma and grief issues were like tentacles, affecting me even as an adult. I had difficulty feeling good or bad. I was hurt my birthmother abandoned me as a baby, so I didn't bounce back emotionally until I had counseling and after I found my birthfather. My emotional state recovered but it took many years.
How did you recover?
TAD: First, I opened by sealed adoption file at age 22. That healed me more anything, to know my name. Even though I never met my birthmother, I did meet my birthfather when I was 40. Our reunion is in my memoir. Finding out why you are abandoned and put up for adoption, once you know the truth, it works like a miracle. I call it my cure. It felt like a dark cloud lifted and I could feel again. Before I met Earl, my b-dad, I did co-counseling in Seattle where you tell your whole life story - all of it - with complete honesty, no holding back. Then it was like a powder keg exploded. I started to see how being adopted had locked me up in illusions about who my birthparents were, so when I learned the truth about them, my heart did begin to heal. I was no longer a mystery. Even my health improved.
What about the Indian Adoption Projects?
TAD: There is congressional testimony and documented proof of various adoption programs in different states which lead to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The idea in America and Canada was to assimilate Indians. If they took us and placed us with non-Indian parents, they assumed we'd forget we're Indians. But we don't forget. I know my ancestors were in my head, talking to me when I was young. Adoptees who are American Indian are called Lost Birds, Split Feathers, Lost Children, and Lost Ones. Of course most of us adapt and bond with our birthparents but as we grow up, our identity and name might still be locked up in a sealed file. Adoptees told me we won't heal until we open our adoption and go full circle, which means we meet our tribal relatives. The adoption projects are acknowledged by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America, and I include one apology in the book. My book is basically a memoir but it does include history.
How long did it take to write?
TAD: About 5 years. I chose the title "ONE SMALL SACRIFICE: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects." Now Amazon is selling it and bookstores and libraries will be able to order copies. The 2nd edition was released on Kindle on Dec. 21. 2011 - it has more chapters and a new format. I am so pleased with the reviews and have done lots of interviews and hope to do more.
Who should read it?
TAD: Adoptees, definitely, and the families who adopted us. One birthmom is California told me she plans to read it with her son she placed in an open adoption. Those who have read my book do react strongly to the idea the American government condoned and conducted closed adoptions to erase our identity as Indian people. My hope is tribal leaders will read it so they understand Lost Birds are anxious to return to the circle, meet relatives, relearn language and attend ceremonies. In Canada they call their adoptee population "The Baby Scoop Generation" and the 60s Scoop and their reunions are called "repatriation to first nations." There are no programs in America for adoptees to be repatriated or returned to their tribal nations as adults. With sealed adoption records in the majority of states, adoptees struggle to get answers. My book offers suggestions and places to write for help. I offer my help, too.
What's next?
TAD: Some adoptees are in reunion, some are not. Their stories needed to be told. Adoptees found me on Facebook and read my blog.  I collected stories from other Lost Birds/adoptees for the anthology: Two Worlds. I started this in 2008. It's my goal to shine a light on adoption secrecy and end the atrocity of closed adoptions affecting so many American Indians who are now adults. We do need to heal this and go full circle.

To listen to an interview about Trace's work on getting Congressional hearings and opening the Indian Adoption Project files: We the Jury: A Forum without Borders  broadcast on February 2: .

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Takeaway Podcast ICWA

What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!
Survivors, write your stories. Write your parents stories. Write the elders stories. Do not be swayed by the colonizers to keep quiet. Tribal Nations have their own way of keeping stories alive.... Trace

Help in available!

Help in available!
1-844-7NATIVE (click photo)

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Diane Tells His Name

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

Indian Country is under attack. We need you. Please join the ranks of Modern Day Warriors. Please donate today to help Native people protect their rights.

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?

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.