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Friday, June 28, 2013


By Trace A. DeMeyer

OK, bear with me...

I am thinking:  The Supreme Court ruling has me dumbfounded. I am not a lawyer but the Baby Veronica case is now headed back to the South Carolina courts who already ruled in favor of Dusten Brown, the natural father of baby Veronica. It's a legal technicality so the case is not over yet Anderson Cooper on CNN had an exclusive with the adoptive parents (on June 25th) who implied they won and can have custody? And Anderson was gushing at their angst and was so sorry they were suffering?

Really? What about the primal pain of abandonment and adoption on Veronica's emotions and spirit? Has anyone on TV done any research on birth psychology?  It's not obvious now since Veronica is still too young to show the signs of trauma, abandonment, confusion and reactive attachment disorder but they will come later -- because she's been adopted. (The birthmother did this to Veronica and is not off the hook by a long shot -- Veronica will grow up and learn the truth eventually.)

I am thinking: What kind of parent would want to pull a child from her natural father now, after one year? Isn't this selfish and not in the best interest of Veronica? What kind of trauma and confusion will this upheaval create for Veronica?

I am thinking: The fact that some of the Supreme Court Justices adopted children: THEY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE AN ADOPTEE. Like many adoptive parents, they prefer to think of every adoptee as grateful and humbled to be adopted. (These Justices should be aware of the effects of adoption, right? If they were adopted and denied their identity, this case might be different.)

I am thinking: Veronica will lose her identity as an American Indian being raised in South Carolina with non-Native parents - which is what the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was intended to stop. Being a Cherokee or a member of any sovereign tribe is a birthright for Veronica.

I am thinking: What do these adoptive parents know about the Cherokee tribe, their culture or traditions or language? If they do win custody, do they plan to offer Dusten and other tribal relatives contact with Veronica?

I am thinking it's a birthright my adoption ended, with sealed adoption records and Minnesota being a closed records state and my adoptive parents not even aware of my ancestry. (I still do not have a copy of my original birth certificate from Minnesota with my name Laura Jean Thrall-Bland.) (My baby photo below)

I am thinking: How does adoption serve this child when her own father wants to be her parent?
Is it because the adoptive parents paid their money and had custody of Veronica since she was born - even when this child had federal protections as a member of a tribal nation?

I am thinking: Children are only children a short time. Veronica is reported to be strong-willed, even as a little girl. What will she have to say about this in a few years? Will her adoptive parents expect her to be grateful and accept and understand how they chose her -- yet they took her away from a father who wanted her (even though it was very messy with her natural mother abandoning her in the beginning of her life?)

I am thinking: After watching Anderson Cooper interview Veronica's adoptive parents, they still do not get it: you do not OWN us.  All that matters is the well-being of the child.  What does Veronica need to grow up to be a healthy and happy adult and a member of the sovereign Cherokee Nation?

I am thinking: This lawsuit is going to hurt everyone.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Public Radio Spots on #Baby Veronica Case

Posted on by (Turtle Talk)

babyveronicaMinnesota (with Colette Routel)
and New Mexico (with Fletcher)
NPR (with Marcia Zug and Mary Jo Hunter)

What does this mean for the Future of Native America and the ICWA?


Baby Girl Additional Thoughts — Implications for State Indian Child Welfare Laws

by ilpc

An important question we've been asked repeatedly -- how does Adoptive Couple affect state laws codifying and supplementing the Indian Child Welfare Act?
State ICWA laws remain intact. This was not a decision on the constitutionality of ICWA, but rather an interpretation of ICWA's wording. This Supreme Court defers to state law when possible. While state courts may interpret the language the same way, if it's the same language (which it is in Michigan, for example), it's not bound to. For example, the legislative history of a state law passed in 2012 is very different than that of the federal law passed in 1978. There may be different policy goals, or other parts of the statute are different enough to indicate a broader, and higher, standard. In addition, state statutes of general applicability, such as those addressing the rights of biological fathers to their children still apply. In some ways this ends up like the marriage equality decisions--where a person lives may determine their rights.
There is going to be more pressure on tribes to have an adoptive placement available for a child earlier. This decision may give state DHS officials the incorrect belief that they do not have to find a proper placement for the child under the law, but that rather a family must make some sort of "formal" application. What is a formal application will also likely be determined by state law, given the Court gave no indication what it meant by that in the opinion. The Court seemed to be making a distinction between a tribal official testifying that there are adoptive families available and an adoptive family being vetting through (in this case) a state court.
We are also curious to find out how will this apply in conjunction with the state removing children at birth from mothers for various reasons--previous terminations, testing positive. How long must a parent have a child for it to be considered "continued" custody? When does legal custody attach? Again, this is likely determined through state law.

Native America Calling Show #BABY VERONICA

Thursday, June 27, 2013 – Supreme Court Ruling on Baby Veronica Case The US Supreme Court issued a decision on Tuesday in the case of Adoptive 
Couple v. Baby Girl. In the 5 to 4 decision, the justices struck down a lower court
ruling and found that Baby Veronica did not have to be returned to her father, who
is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. What are the potential long term effects of
 this case in Native America? What does the ruling mean for the Indian Child Welfare
(ICWA), which regulates adoptions of Native children outside of their tribe. What
does this case mean to you?
Guests include: Terry Cross (Seneca), Executive Director
of NICWA; Chrissi Nimmo (Cherokee) Assistant Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation;
and the Lakota People's Law Project.

Listen at 1 pm EST:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Collection of Reactions on Baby Girl Case

by Kate Fort      (Turtle Talk)             

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Baby Veronica in Oklahoma (ICT PHOTO)

RENO, Nev., June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

-- In the June 25th 5-4 decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl the United States Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), but reversed and remanded this case back to the South Carolina courts on a technicality. The narrow decision focused on the standard to determine whether this particular father's parental rights could be terminated.

Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians delivered the following statement from the organization's Mid Year Conference in Reno, Nevada:
"Today's decision sends a clear message that there is no question of ICWA's role as the most important law to protect Native children and families. The decision also affirms Congressional authority to protect Indian Children. While we are pleased the court has upheld ICWA, we're very disappointed for Dusten, Veronica, and the Brown family that the court has ruled to send the case back to the South Carolina courts on a technicality. However, the courts in South Carolina have previously affirmed that Dusten Brown is Veronica's father and that he is a fit parent. We are confident that his parental rights will be upheld, and that Veronica will stay with her family.
We remain committed to Native families and we will continue to support Dusten Brown's fight for his rights as a father and for Veronica to remain with her loving father, grandparents, and community. Dusten loves his daughter and has never given up in this process, and neither will we."
In mid-April of 2013, the Supreme Court Justices considered an appeal by the South Carolina couple and their lawyers to the South Carolina Supreme Court decision which held the following;
   1. that it was in Veronica's best interests to be placed with her father; 
   2. that ICWA applied and was not unconstitutional; 
   3. the "Existing Indian Family" doctrine was inapplicable as an exception to 
      the application of the ICWA in this case; 
   4. that the father did not voluntarily consent to the termination of his 
      parental rights or the adoption; 
   5. the Appellants failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that 
      Father's parental rights should be terminated or that granting custody of 
      Baby Girl to Father would likely result in serious emotional or physical 
      damage to Baby Girl. 
In advance of the oral arguments, support for the position to uphold the lower court rulings and the protections of ICWA was characterized as historic. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and 19 states and state attorneys general were joined by a large array of groups who submitted 24 separate briefs in all. Not one state submitted briefs in support of Adoptive Couple.
The overwhelming support included 17 former and current members of Congress; Casey Family Programs, the Children's Defense Fund, and 16 other child welfare organizations; the American Civil Liberties Union; broad coalitions of psychology associations, child advocates, and legal experts; adult Native American adoptees; and tribal amicus briefs which include 333 American Indian tribes.
Two national tribal amicus briefs were submitted. The first, focused on the legislative history and importance of ICWA, was submitted by the Association on American Indian Affairs, NCAI, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), who were joined by 30 Indian tribes and five Indian organizations. A second national tribal amicus brief addresses the constitutional issues raised by the petitioners and also includes 24 tribal nations and organizations. The members of the Tribal Supreme Court Project--Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and NCAI--in partnership with NICWA, joined together to organize the briefs in support of the father.
About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit
SOURCE National Congress of American Indians
/Web site:

Monday, June 24, 2013

ARENA: what came after the Indian Adoption Projects

Source: U.S. Children's Bureau, Child-Welfare Exhibits:  Types and Preparation, Miscellaneous Series, No. 4, Bureau Publication No. 14 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1915).
Beginning in 1916, the U.S. Children's Bureau brought its baby-week campaign to thousands of cities, towns, and rural communities across the United States. The photograph above was taken during a baby-week celebration on an Indian reservation.


Child Welfare League of America published Standards of Adoption Service (revised in 1968, 1973, 1978, 1988, 2000); Indian Adoption Project began.
The Adoption Resource Exchange of North America (ARENA), founded in 1966, was the immediate successor to the Indian Adoption Project. ARENA was the first national adoption resource exchange devoted to finding homes for hard-to-place children. It continued the practice of placing Native American children with white adoptive parents for a number of years in the early 1970s. (It's estimated some 20,000 children were removed from their First Nations families and sent to non-Native parents in the US.)
1966The National Adoption Resource Exchange, later renamed the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America (ARENA), was established as an outgrowth of the Indian Adoption Project.
Indian children have certain rights which are theirs by birthright. That is, they have rights of tribal enrollment if they meet the requirements for enrollment set up by the tribe. As tribal members they have the right to share in all the assets of the tribe which are distributed on a per capita basis. The actual as well as anticipated benefits of an Indian child adopted through our Project are furnished by the Secretary of Interior. The Secretary of Interior, through the superintendent of the Indian agency where the child is enrolled, has the right to approve or disapprove of any plan made for the distribution of funds belonging to an Indian child.
[Even though Lyslo said we have rights, we are still taken from our tribes and placed in non-Indian families - which is part and parcel of a genocide program. And maybe those non-Indian parents adopted us for the money we could earn as tribal members...Poverty was often cited as the reason for removal - so who caused the poverty?? - we know the answer... Trace]
It’s estimated that 18,000-20,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children were adopted or fostered to non-native homes from the 1960′s to the early 1980s. This came to be known as the 60′s scoop. Coleen Rajotte reports from Winnipeg about a Cree man returning home to Manitoba after 39 years away, and a young boy who benefited from new strategies in adoption to ensure that Aboriginal kids stay within their communities.



Indian Child Welfare Act passed by Congress...

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Nations Poverty epidemic

Aboriginal peoples are a growing percentage of Canada's population, but the poverty rate for children is being called 'staggering.' (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

New Report, Half of First Nations Children Live in Poverty

by Victoria Sweet
Half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, a troubling figure that jumps to nearly two-thirds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, says a newly released report.
"The poverty rate is staggering. A 50 per-cent poverty rate is unlike any other poverty rate for any other disadvantaged group in the country, by a long shot the worst," said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and co-author of the report.
The study released late Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada found that the poverty rate of status First Nations children living on reserves was triple that of non-indigenous children.
Article here.
Poverty rates among status First Nations children are consistently higher across the country.
Co-author Daniel Wilson cautions that for many of them, "the depth of the poverty … is actually greater than the numbers themselves tell you."
"Imagine any typical First Nations child living on a reserve," said Wilson, a former diplomat and policy consultant on indigenous issues. "They're waking up in an overcrowded home that may have asbestos, probably has mould, is likely in need of major repair, that does not have drinking water and they have no school to go to."

About 426,000 indigenous children live in Canada, with most residing in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario. The indigenous population is one of the fastest growing in Canada. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Remembering the Forgotten Child: New Scholarship on the “American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s”

New Scholarship on the “American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s”

by Matthew L.M. Fletcher (Turtle Talk)
Margaret D. Jacobs has published "Remembering the 'Forgotten Child': The American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s" in the American Indian Quarterly
Here is an excerpt:
On Christmas Day 1975, Marcia Marie Summers was born to Charlene Summers, a member and resident of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota. A few months later, a white couple from Indiana approached the young mother and offered to care for her infant while Summers attended school. (Just two months before, the couple had filed an adoption petition in the Standing Rock Tribal Court for another Indian child, but the court had denied their request.) Assuming she was making a temporary arrangement, Summers agreed and signed a document giving the Indiana couple power of attorney over Marcia Marie in parent-child-related actions. Immediately, the couple departed with the baby from the reservation and returned to Indiana. Summers realized that the couple intended to permanently adopt her daughter, so she asked the Standing Rock Tribal Court to intervene. When the couple ignored the tribal court's order to return the child to her mother, Summers and tribal authorities requested the help of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA). Their attorney filed a writ of habeas corpus on Summers's behalf in the Washington County, Indiana, Circuit Court, and the judge ordered Marcia Marie returned to her mother, noting the tribe's exclusive jurisdiction in the case.
Like Summers, in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of other American Indian parents, grandparents, and caretakers suffered the removal of their children and their placement in non-Indian foster or adoptive homes. Unlike Summers, however, many Indian families struggled for years to regain their children, and some were never able to effect their return. By the late 1960s, many Indian tribes had become deeply troubled by this practice. In 1968, having endured an inordinate number of such cases, the Devils Lake (now Spirit Lake) Sioux Tribe of North Dakota requested that the AAIA conduct an investigation into the practice. The AAIA found that of 1,100 Devils Lake Sioux Indians under twenty-one years of age living on the Fort Totten reservation, 275, or 25 percent, had been separated from their families. Suspecting that this practice devastated other Indian communities as well, the AAIA engaged in a painstaking process to amass similar data from state social services agencies and private placement agencies across the nation. They discovered that in most states with large American Indian populations, 25 to 35 percent of Indian children had been separated from their families and placed in foster or adoptive homes or in institutions at a per capita rate far higher than that of non-Indian children.
How did it come to pass that the fostering and adoption of Indian children outside their families and communities had reached these crisis proportions by the late 1960s? State welfare authorities and Bureau of Indian Affairs ( BIA) officials alleged a dramatic rise in unmarried Indian mothers with unwanted children and claimed that many Indian individuals and families lacked the resources and skills to properly care for their own children. Claiming to be concerned with the best interests of the Indian child, the BIA promoted the increased fostering and adoption of Indian children in non-Indian families. Indian families and their advocates charged instead that many social workers were using ethnocentric and middle-class criteria to unnecessarily remove Indian children from their families and communities. Through creating their own child welfare organizations and legal codes, as well as working for the Indian Child Welfare Act ( ICWA), Indian activists and their allies sought to bring Indian child welfare under the control of Indian nations.

I will post more about ARENA soon which took First Nations children from Canada - 20,000 children were placed here in the US and many don't know they are living in the US illegally - yes, it's true... Trace 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Part 4 and 5: The Fight for Baby Veronica

Suzette Brewer at Indian Country Today
who has reported on this story really deserves an award, a Pulitzer for her journalism!
From Trace:
One thing that bothered me about this from the very beginning is how Veronica's first mother accepted $10,000 for adopting out Veronica. That is a big incentive for a mother of two who is relinquishing, and perhaps why Dusten was left out of the adoption decision she made. That's what adoption agencies do - keep the young couple separate and not talking. $10K is a lot of incentive and Dusten was the ex-boyfriend she should avoid. (Perhaps why she misspelled his name, too, when she knew he is an enrolled tribal member and how the Indian Child Welfare Act is federal law.)
The shady adoption industry is so cunning these days:
Baby Dads don't really have rights - just keep them away.
Cash for babies is a perk, an incentive, a bonus.
Accept that adoptive parents are much more deserving and will provide a better life for your baby.
Adoption propaganda in America is never about the baby. It's about the needs of adopters - they get what they need and pay big money for it. That's their business model: find a need and fill it.
When you think about this case: the only ones who won't feel any pain and loss are the social workers/agency workers/adoption lawyers who move on immediately to their next case. 
In a corrupt industry, all you have to do is follow the money.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What if everything you thought about adoption was wrong?
The Evangelical Christian adoption movement: The orphan crisis that wasn't

Evangelical Christians are adopting children in large numbers - but are they doing more harm than good?

"Joyce's book is a powerful call to action, even for those of us who thought we knew something about the ethical issues posed by the adoption industry. But she is pushing back against an evangelical mega-church culture where leaders have convinced their followers that there is no greater crisis today than the plight of orphans, and that it is a Christian duty to rescue these poor children.
There are many ways to help children and family in need, and the fact that the Evangelical churches want to be involved in social justice causes is laudable. But to actually help, they need to listen to the voices of adopted children and the families who have placed them for adoption...."

Read this excellent review of the CHILD CATCHERS:

and check this out too:

NPR interview with Kathryn Joyce:
Interview: Kathryn Joyce, Author Of ‘The Child Catchers’ : NPR on Huffduffer

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bringing our children home

visit us on Facebook

ICWA Educational Resource Video – “Bringing our Children Home: An Introduction to the Indian Child Welfare Act”

by Matthew L.M. Fletcher
The video trailer referenced is the culmination of the ongoing collaboration between the Mississippi Courts, Child Welfare Agency, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and various National Resource Centers which specifically focus their expertise on educating non tribal entities on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other issues related to Native American values. The video trailer was developed by the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts/Court Improvement Program in consultation with the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues and the National Resource Center for Tribes as an ICWA educational resource for judges, courts, child welfare, and judicial educators. The full length video will be available later this year. The video is being produced by Mad Genius, Inc., Ridgeland, Mississippi.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oranges and Sunshine

my other blog


available on amazon
available on amazon
By Trace A. DeMeyer
I was slow to rent this movie but finally did a month or so ago (I had been warned it was that good and it was) - it's another example of government's programs to distribute children to religious groups or to adoptive parents who are abusive or unknowing about such a despicable program.  This movie hurts and broke me up since it's what I research and write about in my two books about American Indian Adoptees. These children had parents and were not orphans and yet some spent their lives in orphanages anyway. The abuse, especially of the men in this movie and book, will give you nightmares.
I thought I'd share one review from Amazon. It is a very good movie but a warning to those who have not watched it yet -- it has triggers for adoptees like me... Trace/Lara
The subject matter of "Oranges and Sunshine" is almost too disturbing to be believed. And yet, remarkably, it is the true recounting of one of the largest scandals of the last few decades. In 1986, a British social worker named Margaret Humphreys started to piece together an amazing and harrowing story that involved the mass deportation of children from the United Kingdom to Australia. What she discovered was simply stunning. The scandal involved political corruption and cover-up, religious impropriety, human rights violations, slave labor, systematic abuse and a government program that divided hundreds of families and disappeared countless minor children. This is such a grand and epic tale, it's hard to imagine that a film discussing these atrocities wouldn't be aggressively in-your-face. But the beauty of "Oranges and Sunshine" is that it takes a quieter approach and as things start to unfold, the dramatic weight of the situation really sneaks up on you and bowls you over!
A restrained Emily Watson plays Humphreys, a woman who didn't ask to be thrust into a worldwide spotlight. In the beginning of the film, she is approached by a woman for help finding her parents. This is when she firsts hears about children being shipped to Australia. Initially reticent and disbelieving, she soon hears a corroboration of this tale. She starts to dig deeper and push further, working between the U.K. and Australia to start repairing families. It consumes her life and livelihood, but she is pushed by a sense of justice. As word gets out, she is a savior to many but an embarrassment to others. And as the unfolding allegations put many important figures in an unfavorable light, she is soon discredited by many and attacked (both emotionally and physically). But as the investigation perseveres, there is soon no use denying the truth.
Watson is so reserved to begin with, it is quite powerful to see the strain start to shatter her existence. It's a great performance in that it is completely underplayed and, therefore, all the more believable. Directed by Jim Loach (son of award winner Ken Loach), the film also boasts impressive support by David Wenham and Hugo Weaving. Both Weaving and Watson picked up actor accolades from Australian Film Critics Circle. As I watched the movie unravel fairly simply, I was sure I was going to give it four stars as a solid exploration of an unfathomable event. But then the magnitude and emotion really hit me in the concluding scenes and I realized just how well constructed the film actually was. With a minimum of histrionics, sentimentality, or moralizing, the screenplay and the actors really gets under your skin. And, in the end, I was deeply affected by "Oranges and Sunshine" because it didn't go for all the big expected moments. Understatement done extremely well!
eagoodlife comment: I’m so glad you’ve viewed and reviewed this film of a true story. I knew Margaret a little at the time she began this journey and the story as it unfolded. The support she had from her bosses was the best and a credit to those who are so often criticised by the public. Margaret is in real life much more dynamic and engaging than portrayed. The tragic stories of those abused has been played down for the film. Their brutal and horrific abuse by the Christian Brothers was too horrible to be shown or revealed in this movie. However it is good that it was shown in part so that the public know what was done and is still being done in this culture of abuse It was an amazing first film, a long time in the making and deserves all the accolades it gets. .

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adoption Propaganda: Silenced Adoptees

What is disturbing to me is the amount of money spent on ads promoting adoption - in 2013 - right now. I had planned to use google adwords (or ad choices) on this blog (but I didn't)... WHY?
Every single ad that popped up was Adoption Agencies or Newborn Wanted or Couple wants to buy, etc....
Have you noticed this on boards and websites where the word adoption is used???
I have said this before but the ones who need to be advertising or promoting their views BIG TIME are adoptees who want to share their truth about what it's like being adopted...but alas, we are not a billion dollar business like the adoption industry.
The way it is when adoption stories run on websites, every comment is in praise of the adopter, like somehow they are heroes and saved someone. Zilch about the adoptee as a human being or their trauma or loss.
The story that ran on Radio Lab about Baby Veronica was not balanced - there was not one adoptee who made a statement and hey, I did give them an interview for the story.
Silenced? Maybe.

Does this bug you?
Please comment... Trace

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 3

Veronica; her father, Dusten and his wife, Robin (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)
June 04, 2013
Editor’s Note: The Baby Veronica Case, recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, is one of the most important Indian legal battles of the last generation. It is the story of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, who has invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act to prevent Christina Maldonado, the non-Indian mother of his baby daughter, Veronica, from putting their child up for adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina.
That bare outline does not begin to describe the convoluted dimensions of the case formally known as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Its drama includes an unplanned pregnancy, a broken engagement, charges of bad faith, an adoption agency that did not comply with federal Indian law, a couple who fought to adopt a child who was never legally eligible, and even the intervention of the Cherokee Nation.
Last week, as part of a series devoted to the case, we described how Maldonado tried to arrange Veronica’s adoption by the Capobiancos, who paid her  $10,000 and other expenses for her efforts. In this third and concluding installment, based largely on interviews with Brown and his team, a South Carolina court rules in favor of Brown as a media circus that would become as much a part of the case as the principals themselves begins to ominously emerge.

In 2010, after Brown had been served notice of termination and adoption, his original lawyer, Lesley Sasser, asked a Charleston, South Carolina–based family court attorney named Shannon Jones to join Brown’s legal team. Although Jones is an expert in interstate custody disputes under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, she did not expect to become involved in an adoption struggle over an Indian child from Oklahoma.
“Lesley came to my office one day and said, ‘I’ve got this case that’s coming up for trial, and it could be kind of complex,’ ” said Jones, laughing at the understatement. “She said it involved the Indian Child Welfare Act. Honestly, at first I didn’t even know what it was. I’d never heard of it.”
Jones’s learning curve was steep and rapid. Early on, she realized that the Indian Child Welfare Act would be a brick wall for the Capobiancos in the contested adoption of Baby Veronica, whom the courts considered an Indian child. By this time, too, it was clear that the Capobiancos, the preadoptive parents, were prepared to pursue termination of Brown’s parental rights to maintain custody of the little girl.
But Brown, equally dead set on getting his daughter back, refused to back down. From the beginning, he had been marginalized and pushed out of his child’s life, and he was not interested in pursuing a settlement, he said.
“He never, ever wavered in his commitment to this case,” said Jones. “Anything short of full custody was not an option. I asked him at one point if he wanted to settle [with the Capobiancos] and maybe go for visitation, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘No.’ And that was that. End of discussion.”

In June 2010, the state of Oklahoma declined jurisdiction, declaring South Carolina as Veronica’s home state. By the time Brown returned from Iraq that December, his daughter was already 15 months old and the case was beginning to gain momentum in the courts.
In initial proceedings in Charleston, Family Court Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Paul Garfinkel ruled in Brown’s favor in July 2011. He found that although the terms of the Indian Child Welfare Act had not been followed in the case, they did indeed apply.
But the Capobiancos, who had been working with Maldonado virtually since she learned she was pregnant, had spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to adopt Veronica, and they were too invested in the situation to let go. So they took their fight to the next legal level.
Judge Deborah Malphrus, who heard arguments in South Carolina’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, issued a verbal courtroom ruling in favor of Brown on November 25, 2011. Soon, according to multiple sources in South Carolina, she was “inappropriately contacted” by numerous parties who asked her outright to change her written ruling in favor of the Capobiancos. Far from listening to their requests, Malphrus subsequently issued a 25-page ruling that reiterated the family court findings and transferred custody to Brown.
After a last-ditch attempt by the Capobiancos to stay the transfer was denied, Brown and his parents went to South Carolina in late December 2011 to bring Veronica back to Oklahoma. But rather than relinquish custody of Veronica privately at a local park, as had been the original plan, the Capobiancos took their case public via their newly hired public relations firm, Trio Solutions. What should have been a peaceful, happy transition for the child turned dangerous and bitter in the ensuing chaos surrounding the handoff.
Shannon Jones knew trouble was coming. On New Year’s Eve morning 2011, she woke early to prepare for Veronica’s transfer to Brown. She and her client had already given the Capobiancos an extra day to spend with the girl, and she was looking forward to concluding the case and spending New Year’s Eve with her young family. But the plan collapsed as she drove to the park at which all parties had agreed to meet for the handoff.
“I get this call from Jo Prowell, the guardian ad litem, who had no business being at that transfer,” said Jones, “and she says, ‘I think we need to have the exchange downtown at the Omni hotel,’ and I knew right then something wasn’t right, but I trusted that [the Capobiancos and their team] would keep it low key.”
Minutes later, Jones received a call from her associate, Wyatt Wimberly, who had already arrived at the hotel.
“It’s a madhouse down here,” Wimberly told her. “They’ve brought camera crews with them, and there are reporters everywhere.”
Jones called for a police escort and told Brown and his parents to stay put at her office. When Jones arrived at the hotel, the Capobiancos’ attorney, Raymond Godwin, was already being interviewed on camera by local news outlets, which were waiting to capitalize on the handoff. It was immediately clear that there was a coordinated effort to make Veronica’s transfer a media event.
Wimberly asked the hotel’s security team to move the media crews and reporters outside as tourists, spectators and protestors with signs started to gather. As the crowd began to realize what was happening, things turned ugly. People began harassing and heckling Jones with insults and name-calling.
“You could feel the animosity in the air,” Jones recalled. “Ray Godwin walked up to me in front of everyone and said, ‘I’m not giving you the child. The court order says I’m to give the child to the father.’ I told him no way, not in front of the cameras. We had discussed at great length how this should happen and this was absolutely not a safe environment for the transfer of a young child—anything could have happened. It was a circus, and I was shocked that they would insist that we handle this in public just so they could get a photo op.”
Jones then told Godwin that the transfer would take place at her office with no media present. Meanwhile, Brown was anxiously waiting at Jones’s office to see his daughter face-to-face for the first time since she was born. Up until that day, he was only allowed to see photos of her.
“It was a madhouse,” said Brown. “We had discussed a ‘neutral’ location, but somehow I knew the adoptive parents weren’t going to play ball. My parents and I were upstairs in Shannon’s second-story office, and we looked out the window [and] here they come down the sidewalk with my daughter and a mob of people, there were camera crews, people taking pictures with their cell phones, some were even carrying signs and there was shouting and yelling. I was pretty upset, because Veronica was forced to be in the middle of all that.”
But Brown, an Iraq War veteran, had been trained to maintain his composure in difficult situations. So he made a decision on the spot.
“We waited them out,” he said. “After Veronica was brought upstairs, we spoke to the adoptive couple and said our good-byes. But I was not going to give them a chance to exploit her for the cameras. No photographers, no reporters, no media, no nothing.”
Despite the riotous, staged nature of the handoff, relations between Brown and the Capobiancos were amiable, at least initially. Brown, sensitive to the adoptive couple’s obvious grief, said he gave them his phone number and told them they could call Veronica to stay in contact with her. He asked only that they wait a few weeks for things to settle down at her new home in Oklahoma. After an emotional farewell, the Capobiancos left as Brown and his daughter sat in Jones’s office for several hours, coloring, looking outside at the birds, and waiting for the public and the media to leave. From the beginning, Veronica immediately bonded with her father.
“It was instantaneous,” said Jones. “That little girl climbed right in her father’s lap and never cried a tear. There was never an uncomfortable moment between the two of them.”
As the last stragglers on the street drifted away, Wimberly drove the Browns’ vehicle around to the back of the office building so that their departure could be made quietly and without incident. But as they exited the door, a lone television camera crew spotted them and came running toward the Browns’ vehicle.
“Shannon Jones is tiny,” says Brown, smiling, “but she got right between the cameras and us and told them to go away. She’s tough.”
With the chaos of the transfer finally behind him, Brown and his parents put the car in drive and didn’t look back.
“We drove 22 hours straight without stopping from South Carolina,” says Brown. “We just wanted to get back home to Oklahoma.”
As soon as the Browns pulled into the driveway, however, things began to sour between the two families. With their public relations machine already in full swing, the Capobiancos made an appearance on CNN. It was the first of many media appearances and social networking schemes to gather support for the coming legal storm that would engulf everything in its path.
The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 1
The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 2
Next Week: The South Carolina Supreme Court Makes its Decision


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Healing trauma: my journey and FOUR SOULS

This book is available on and Kindle.
By Trace A. DeMeyer

The idea of healing trauma, starting with my own, has interested me since the early 1990s. In my memoir One Small Sacrifice I wrote about the co-counseling therapy I did in Seattle. I was born with PTSD and as a teen had obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The trauma I was dealing with was complicated with the sexual abuse I experienced at home. I was very sick a long long time.
In Seattle I heard Dr. Fred Alan Wolf describe his experiences with the shamans in South America who were using ayahuasca. Wolf lectured that if victims of PTSD - Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - used this, it would cure them. The mind-body connection is more important than western medicine will tell you.
In the new anthology UNRAVELING THE SPREADING CLOTH OF TIME, co-edited with my friend MariJo Moore, I wrote an essay FOUR SOULS, which describes my journey to heal myself and the elders who made it happen.
Here is an excerpt:

Four is an esoteric number found in tribal cultures, as in the four cardinal directions: east, north, west and south.  Many colors have significance: black, white, blue, and yellow.

To live in a sacred manner, we are taught to smudge with sage and cedar and pray with tobacco (asemaa in Ojibwe). I bring elders asemaa as a gift. Choctaw elder Mary Barnett shared how tobacco was used for many cures in the Five Civilized Tribes.  The Cherokee made a concoction of tobacco juice you drank.  Tobacco was one of the most important herbs used by Southeastern Tribes, she told me.  My own grandmother Lona and her mother used tobacco. They chewed it, spit it and smoked it.  Prayers were whispered in smoke. Tobacco infused with good thought, a ritual act of “remaking” the herb, was good medicine.

Elders who became my teachers cured me of illnesses. In Lakota territory, Sara, an Oglala elder cured me of a migraine headache in 1993. I inhaled a chunk of burning root deeply several times. Ellowyn (Oglala) taught me their medicine people could communicate with supreme beings our eyes cannot see. Invisible Gods, sixteen different beings, appear to their medicine people.

Healers, both men and women, of many Indigenous cultures, will know people are ill by their vibration. Sacred sound, a drum or rattle or words, can shift our vibration. Our human body is a container of four souls. Seeing in our container, those who can heal us see how we see ourselves. They can shift our perception, and uncover the roots of dis-ease. Not every disease is physical as people experience spiritual sicknesses, too.
Here is a link to my other blog LARA which has a very revealing speech by Dr. Gabor Mate who recommends using ayahuasca to heal trauma.

AMAZON review: Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe: Dedicated to Vine Deloria Jr. (Paperback) Fantastic! After reading this book I want to find a place where I can sit and listen to all of these authors while they tell all their stories. This anthology opened the universe and all that I have missed growing up this far without these stories, poems, essays, etc. Past present and future do meld in the universe to teach us from one generation to another, and I must admit I had/have a world of knowledge to learn, share and create. I recently learned that my Great, Great, Great Grandmother was Native American and I missed out on sitting with her learning such wonderful wisdom and stories. Please read this book, you will never regret it and I am certain that anyone who reads this anthology will be blessed through generations and open some long-closed eyes. Marvelous!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Radio Lab: Baby Veronica

Veronica at duck pen (courtesy of John Nichols)
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,

This is the story of a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a legal battle that has entangled a biological father, a heart-broken couple, and the tragic history of Native American children taken from their families.
When producer Tim Howard first read about this case, it struck him as a sad but seemingly straightforward custody dispute. But, as he started talking to lawyers and historians and the families involved in the case, it became clear that it was much more than that. Because Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl challenges parts of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, this case puts one little girl at the center of a storm of legal intricacies, Native American tribal culture, and heart-wrenching personal stakes.

Background and Reporting from a range of different perspectives

"Couple forced to give up daughter"
An introductory article by Allyson Bird, for the Charleston, SC Post and Courier
Comprehensive coverage of the case by the Charleston Post and Courier
"Supreme Court Takes on Indian Child Welfare Act in Baby Veronica Case" 
A report for Indian Country Today by Suzette Brewer, who has also written a two-part series on the case.
"Supreme Court hears Indian child custody case"
Tulsa World article by Michael Overall which includes Dusten Brown's account of his break-up with Veronica's mother, and his understanding about his custodial rights. Plus photos of Dusten, Veronica, and Dusten's wife Robin in their Oklahoma home.
Randi Kaye's report for CNN on the background of the case, and interviews with Melanie and Matt Capobianco: "Video: Adoption custody battle for Veronica"

Nina Totenberg’s report for NPR: "Adoption Case Brings Rare Family Law Dispute To High Court"
Reporting by NPR's Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters on current ICWA violations in South Dakota.
Dr. Phil's coverage: "Adoption Controversy: Battle over Baby Veronica"

Analysis and Editorials

Colorlines report "The Cherokee Nation’s Baby Girl Goes on Trial:"
Americans remain dangerously uninformed about the basics of tribal sovereignty, and what it means for the relationship between the United States and Native tribes and nations.
The Weekly Standard's Ethan Epstein argues that ICWA is "being used to tear [families] apart]: "Mistreating Native American Children"
Andrew Cohen considers the trickier legal aspects of the case for the Atlantic in "Indian Affairs, Adoption, and Race: The Baby Veronica Case Comes to Washington:"
A little girl is at the heart of a big case at the Supreme Court next week, a racially-tinged fight over Native American rights and state custody laws.
Marcia Zug's breakdown of the case (Marica Zug is an associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina School of Law who she specializes in family and American Indian law) "Doing What’s Best for the Tribe" for Slate:
Two-year-old “Baby Veronica” was ripped from the only home she’s known. The court made the right decision.  
Marcia Zug for the Michigan Law Review: "Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: Two-and-a-Half WAys To Destroy Indian Law"
From Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies: "The Constitutional Flaws of the Indian Child Welfare Act"
Rapid City Journal columnist David Rooks poses a set of tough questions about ICWA: "ROOKS: Questions unasked, unanswered"
From Johnston Moore, an adoptive father of six children, three of whom are part Indian. (Moore is director and co-founder of Home Forever, and a founding member of the Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children & Families. NewsOK): "Some different talking points about Indian Child Welfare Act"
Editorial coverage from The New York Times:
"A Wrenching Adoption Case"
"Adoptive Parents vs. Tribal Rights"

Contemporary, Historic, and Legal Source Materials

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl on the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) Blog
Audio from the oral arguments in the Supreme Court

Official website for ICWA (the federal Indian Child Welfare Act)
1974 Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs "on problems that American Indian families face in raising their children and how these problems are affected by federal action or inaction." PDF
The National Indian Child Welfare Association

The First Nations Repatriation Institute, which works with and does advocacy for adoptees

Guests: Tim Howard


I will be posting about this case ...Very disappointed that AN ADOPTEE PERSPECTIVE was not a part of this RADIO LAB discussion. Adrian Grey Buffalo, Patricia Busbee and I were interviewed by Tim Howard but apparently we didn't make the final cut... Trace 

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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.

Diane Tells His Name

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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


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.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

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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