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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Private eyes to hunt for residential school abusers

The federal government intends to hire private investigators to track down the alleged perpetrators of residential school abuse.

A First Nations woman cheers while taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday September 22, 2013. Thousands of people attended the walk that wrapped up a week Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada events in the city. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools in an attempt to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were prohibited from speaking their languages or participating in cultural practices. The commission was created as part of a $5 billion class action settlement in 2006 - the largest in Canadian history - between the government, churches and 90,000 surviving students.
Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press
A First Nations woman cheers while taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday September 22, 2013. Thousands of people attended the walk that wrapped up a week Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada events in the city. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools in an attempt to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were prohibited from speaking their languages or participating in cultural practices. The commission was created as part of a $5 billion class action settlement in 2006 - the largest in Canadian history - between the government, churches and 90,000 surviving students.

OTTAWA—The Canadian government intends to hire private investigators to track down alleged perpetrators of abuse in the Indian residential school system.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is seeking private eyes to track down as many as 1,000 clergy members, former residential school staff, and students alleged to have abused Aboriginal children in the residential school system.

The goal is to give the alleged perpetrators an opportunity to participate in a court-ordered adjudication process known as the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which helps residential school survivors settle claims for the abuse they endured.

Once located, the former residential school employees will be given the chance to voluntarily participate in the IAP.

“Canada is obligated to make an effort to locate and contact persons named as alleged perpetrators in claims filed in the (IAP),” wrote Andrea Richer, spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, on Thursday.

Richer emphasized that participation is voluntary.

“It is the choice of the alleged perpetrator to participate or not in the IAP process.”

The federal government is required to locate the alleged perpetrators under a settlement agreement reached with Aboriginal groups in 2006. The hunt will take investigators from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and throughout Canada’s North.

Investigators will be asked to locate between 800 and 1,000 of the alleged perpetrators in the first year of a potential four-year contract. Once their targets have been located, investigators will turn over contact information to Aboriginal Affairs. In the event those named in survivors’ claims have died, investigators will be asked to provide proof.

Related stories

It’s not the first time the federal government has deployed private investigators to attempt to locate those named by residential school survivors, but the numbers suggest there are many Ottawa has yet to find.

It’s been estimated that 150,000 children were wrenched from their family homes and put into the federally-funded, church-run residential school system between the 1870s and the 1990s.
Approximately 13,000 former students took legal action against churches and the government for the emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as the underpinning systematic racism, they endured in the residential school system.

In June 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to formally apologize for the government’s role in perpetuating the school system.

“To the approximately 80,000 living former students and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes, and we apologize for having done this,” Harper said.

“The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.”

The apology was the high-water mark for relationship between First Nations and the Conservative government. That relationship is now strained on a myriad of fronts, spectacularly demonstrated by 2012’s Idle No More protests across the country.

First Nations have also pressed, to no avail, for a commission into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Many, including the Assembly of First Nations, have also lined up to oppose federal plans for new education standards on reserves. AFN Chief Sean Atleo has likened the planned First Nations Education Act to an intrusion into First Nations affairs akin to the residential school system.
The government has also been criticized — most recently by a report from Auditor General Michael Ferguson — for not cooperating with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, mandated to compile a complete historical record of the residential school system’s legacy.

“Are whoever the contract winner is going to have access to documents identifying some of these perpetrators? These are documents that the Truth and Reconciliation has to go to court to get,” said Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan and the New Democrat’s Aboriginal Affairs critic. “Are they going to have a broad access to documents? Are they going to get more than the TRC gets, because the TRC is fighting to get documents that the government won’t cough up?”

The department has budgeted $521,980 for the first year of the contract spanning from the award to March 31, 2015. An optional second year has been budgeted at $383,000, for a total of $904,980.
Two further optional years have been planned, meaning the search could potentially continue until 2018.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving? The deprivations and atrocities that followed

By Stephen L. Pevar
Every schoolchild is taught that the holiday of Thanksgiving commemorates the feast the Pilgrims arranged to thank the Indians for their friendship, for sharing their land, and for showing them how to grow, harvest, and store food. Accounts say that the generosity of the Indians saved the colonists from starvation during the harsh New England winter of 1620.

Very few schoolchildren are also taught, however, about the deprivations and atrocities that occurred to the Indians afterwards, first at the hands of the colonists and then by the United States government. Ironically, if the United States believes today that it has a poor immigration policy, imagine how self-destructive the Indians’ immigration policy was by welcoming the very people who would soon seek to destroy them.

Within 100 years after the United States gained its independence from Great Britain, tens of thousands of Indians were killed in wars defending their homelands. The United States entered into nearly 400 treaties with Indian tribes between 1783 and 1871 (when Congress ended treaty-making with the Indians), during a time when tribes were very powerful. In exchange for Indians relinquishing most of their territories and ending their defense of them, the US set aside smaller portions of land that were forever guaranteed to the treaty tribe.

When the federal government became stronger, however, it broke virtually all of these treaties and confiscated most of the land guaranteed in them. During the 1830s, for instance, Indians living in the Southeast were marched at bayonet point nearly 2000 miles to “Indian Country,” now the state of Oklahoma, during which thousands died.

These land grabs and treaty abrogations were even approved by US Supreme Court. The case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, decided in 1903, involved an 1867 treaty in which Congress guaranteed the Kiowa and Comanche Tribes that no additional land would be taken from their reservation unless the tribes gave their express consent. Several years later, the federal government took additional land despite opposition from the tribes. The Supreme Court held that Congress has “plenary power” (full and complete authority) over the Indians and can break a treaty essentially whenever it wishes.
Lone Wolf the Younger, Kiowa. Photo taken by De Lancey W. Gill.  Public domain via Wikipedia Commons.
Lone Wolf the Younger, Kiowa. Photo by De Lancey W. Gill. Public domain via Wikipedia Commons.

In addition to taking Indian land, the federal government, during the latter part of the 1800s, encouraged social reformers and missionaries to remove Indian children from their reservation homes and place them in boarding schools (sometimes thousands of miles away), where their Indian culture was literally beaten out of them. The government also prevented the Indians from leaving their reservations to obtain food, and many Indians starved to death. When some Plains tribes continued to resist placement on reservations, the government began slaughtering the bison on which they depended. Millions of bison were killed and left to rot, until by 1900, there were less than a thousand bison left. With their food gone, Indians were forced to surrender. Hatred for the Indians was so profound that General Sheridan, when told by one Indian that he was a “good Indian,” reportedly smirked and said, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” Sheridan was one of the generals who ordered the slaughtering of the bison.

During the past 50 years, conditions have improved for most tribes as a result of a shift in public attitude towards Indians and a change in congressional policies. A few tribes have even become wealthy as a result of casinos. But conditions on most reservations remain substandard and impoverished. As President Barack Obama noted in November 2009, the unemployment rate on some Indian reservations is 80%, nearly a quarter of all Indians live in poverty, 14% of all reservation homes don’t have electricity, and 12% don’t have access to a safe water supply.

Non-Indians often wonder why more Indians haven’t left the reservation to seek a “better” life. But this underestimates and misunderstands the importance to many Indians of their tradition, culture, and religion, much of which is tied to the land. Whereas millions of immigrants came to the United States to join the “melting pot,” many Indians have resisted assimilation and remain deeply rooted in their ancestral homelands.

For those non-Indians who wish to commemorate the origins of Thanksgiving, there are many ways to do so. One would be to urge public schools to tell the whole story about the Indian experience. Another would be to lobby Congress to enact more helpful Indian policies and programs. A third would be to donate to organizations that give assistance to Indians in their efforts to rejuvenate their governments and restore their economic, political, and social structures, such as the Native American Rights Fund, the Association of American Indian Affairs, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and the National Congress of American Indians, among many.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. Hopefully, this year and in years to come we will spend part of the holiday reflecting on its origins and dedicating ourselves to fostering the values of the Indians who selflessly assisted their new neighbors.
Stephen L. Pevar is the author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes, Fourth Edition. He is a senior staff counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Pevar worked for Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation from 1971-1974, and taught Federal Indian Law at the University of Denver School of Law from 1983-1999. He has litigated numerous Indian rights cases and has lectured extensively on the subject.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem

Matthew's book

Fletcher & Fort: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem”

Kate Fort and I published a short paper for a Boston University Law Review mini-symposium on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem.”

An excerpt:
One of the primary goals of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is to limit the influence or bias of state workers in decisions placing American Indian children out of their home and community.1 While this focus usually concerns state social workers, the officials who most often seek removal of a child, or the courts, the body that issues the orders and opinions, guardians ad litem (GALs) receive less attention.2 Despite this lack of attention, GALs exert a similar level of influence as state social workers. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,3 the role of the GAL was unusual but critical – the GAL, while officially appointed by the court, was handpicked by the adoptive parents.4 The role of the GAL remains understudied in the ICWA literature, though GALs continue to exert enormous influence in the courts. Unfortunately, many GALs throughout the nation subvert the national policy embodied by the ICWA by advocating against the implementation of the statute in case after case.5
There are three other papers in the symposium:

Perspective I by Professor Barbara Ann Atwood is available here

Perspective II by Professor James G. Dwyer is available here, and

Perspective III by Professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone is available here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

#BabyVeronica: Cherokee Nation Files Forceful Response to Capobiancos' $1 Million Attorneys' Fees Suit

November is Adoption Awareness Month

On Friday the Cherokee Nation came out swinging in their response to the motion filed weeks ago in Nowata, Oklahoma county court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, in which Matt and Melanie Capobianco are seeking approximately $1 million in attorneys' fees and costs. Their recent filing in Oklahoma is the second jurisdiction in which they have sought compensation in the four-year custody battle that ended in September when Dusten Brown relinquished his biological daughter to the Capobiancos after losing at the United States Supreme Court in June. Immediately following the child's transfer in September, the couple filed similar litigation in South Carolina seeking roughly $500,000 in that state.

RELATED: Capobiancos Sue Dusten Brown for Nearly Half a Million in Fees
Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

In its 50-page response, the tribe bluntly told Nowata County Judge Curtis DeLapp that it is not responsible for paying the fees and costs for the Capobiancos because of its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from suits without its express consent. Additionally, the tribe said that the statute under which the couple is seeking compensation, the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, is not applicable to the tribe.

"Clearly, these people are trying to throw spaghetti at the wall in whatever court they can find to see what's going to stick," said an Oklahoma lawyer who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case. "But, several things immediately come to mind. First, the tribe is a sovereign nation and cannot be sued without its express consent - and to my knowledge the Cherokee Nation is not in the habit of waiving their immunity. Second, this is a domestic case, one in which both the Capobiancos and Dusten Brown were represented pro bono, which was widely understood by everyone on both sides. To come after the fact asking for fees that the adoptive couple would not have had to pay had they lost, it then becomes a 'contingency' case. Contingency fees are never awarded in domestic relations, so that's a null.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Indians still suffering ill-effects of adoption

“I am 72 years old. I was adopted into a white family at age one-and-a-half when my mother died. I realized I was different before I ever went to school. When I asked, my foster parents told me I was Indian, and from that day I identified with Indians, because that was what I was. I didn’t know who I was, and that heartache and anguish has been with me for nearly 70 years. I hope your study can help me find out who I am before I die. I don’t want to die not knowing my true identity. They sealed my birth certificate so I could never find my identity and never see my blood relatives. The pain of this is never ending.” – Participant in Split Feather Study by Carol Locust (Cherokee), 1998

By Trace A. DeMeyer

November may be the month to promote more adoptions, but for North American Indians, adoption is and was a weapon of mass destruction which came in the form of the Indian Adoption Projects (IAP), developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division of the federal government and the Child Welfare League of America.

The Indian Adoption Program was not a war, not a signed treaty, but their idea. This idea was highly effective since adopting out Indian children would be as destructive as war but it would last longer; it’d last a lifetime.  IAP was not officially signed like other treaties made in Indian Country.  IAP records were sealed and not made public. Adoptions would be permanent. Native children adopted by non-Indians parents would be Americans. Thousands of Indian children were placed in closed adoptions and wiped off tribal rolls. No one knows exactly how many children were affected.
A big black government sedan was reported in many abduction stories and it was not against the law or illegal.  Social workers took some children to residential boarding schools.  Others were placed in orphanages and foster homes, and others would be adopted.

William Byler testified before the Senate in 1974 to ask for what became the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

Here is some of his testimony:

Senator ABOUREZK. Can you describe how removal of Indian children in adoption situation is accomplished?

Mr. BYLER. I can cite certain kinds of experiences that we have had. One case, not too long ago in North Dakota, Indian children were living with their grandparents. Their grandmother was off doing the shopping. The grandfather was 3 miles away with a bucket getting water. While they were away, the social worker happened by at that time and found the children scrapping. When grandfather returned, the children were gone, and I don't know whether, in that case, he was ever successful in finding where the children were. I think they were placed for adoption somewhere.  When that happens, Indian parents or grandparents are told this is confidential information. We cannot disclose to you where your children are. This makes is seem impossible for them to even try to do anything about it.

Senator ABOUREZK. You mean the children were taken from the home and the grandparents never were allowed to see them again or to try to fight the actions?

Mr. BYLER. That is correct, and as far as they knew, they never received any notice that there were proceedings against them or against the parents. This is very often the case, there is no notice given, or if notice is given, it is in such a form that the people who get the notice don't understand it; It does not constitute a real notice.


In the case of Adoption Awareness Month, those who interpret its value to society do so to protect and promote their myths, touting numerous benefits for the adoptee.  Indian adoptees are called the Stolen Generations and Lost Children for a reason.  It is undeniable our assimilation was America’s answer to Manifest Destiny, to make adoptees non-Indian and prototypes of American citizens, to destroy our future as tribal members.  

Very few tribes have found success with economic development such as casino gaming; most suffer devastating cycles of poverty, the result of America's neglect and misguided programs.  

After the wars, Indian reservations were isolated for a reason - out of sight, out of mind; this is one reason why Indian Country has such severe epidemics and no one in America seems to know.

After National Public Radio’s three part investigation, their evidence proves the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is not working as it was intended and enacted! Social services in 32 states are violating federal law and still taking Indian children.

No, adoption in America is not something we celebrate in Indian Country.

Trace A. DeMeyer and Suzie Fedorko will be guests on Jay Winter Night Wolf show Friday, Nov. 22 at 1 PM EST -

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Ronnie Brown

This commentary from Haskell News from July is worth sharing. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Ronnie Brown. Not a day goes by that I don't imagine her confusion at her circumstances.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about other Native American parents who had their child (or children) ripped from them. We can see that we have not moved forward in our thinking but seem to headed backwards to those heinous days of Indian Child removals. Yes, the Indian Child Welfare Act didn't have enough teeth to stop the Capobiancos or their lawyers or the courts who threw Ronnie under the bus and removed her from her own father. This blog is about education and history. This blog is about CHANGE. I thank you all for reading... Trace


The Indian Child Welfare act of 1978 was meant to stop what is now happening to Dusten and Veronica Brown.

The Veronica Brown custody case should make all Native Americans take a pause and wonder if The Indian Child Welfare Act is indeed worth it's weight in salt or is it slipping through the hands of the ones it is meant to protect: Native American children.

As with anything in the law it is only valid if it is being obeyed and understood and applied, it appears the courts are struggling with all of those issues. The Indian Child Welfare act of 1978 was meant to stop what is now happening to Dusten and Veronica (Ronnie) Brown.

In a nutshell Veronica is now living with her biological father, Dustin, and has been for almost two years now, she would have been living with him longer had the attorneys for the adoptive couple (Matt and Melanie Capobianco ) and Veronica's biological mother not lied about Dusten's personal information in order to keep the courts from knowing that Dusten and his daughter are both registered members of The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, OK.

The pre-adoptive couple Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a white couple who raised Veronica for 27 months before The South Carolina courts ruled in favor of Mr. Brown. The child, now nearly 4, has been living with Mr. Brown in Oklahoma for almost two years. The state courts found that both the Capobianco family and Mr. Brown had provided the girl with safe, loving homes.

The problem is that Veronica was returned to her biological father, yet, the Capobianco's who have not had Veronica in their custody for almost two years and are in no way related to her are still fighting to regain custody of her.

If The Indian Child Welfare Act is not going to protect this child and it appears it is not, one has to wonder if the Capobianco's really love Veronica , or are they just out to win a case that has went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court ? It seems that if they truly love her they would walk away and leave her with her biological family. There are many other children needing good adoptive homes probably some right there in South Carolina who are not Native American.

The long and short of this is NOW is the time for Native American tribes, parents and other supportive groups to stand up and say no more, no more will Native American child be lost in a system taken from their parents and given to white folks.

All tribes need to come together now and help Dusten Brown, by doing so they will be helping their own tribal children and The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 needs to become stronger and obeyed in every court room in this United States.

Keep up your fight Mr. Brown our prayers go with you. 
haskellnews commentary 7/31/2013

As my blogger friend Von wrote here: "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."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Unfinished Dream


DaShanne (pronounced Duh-Shane) was born in 1978, in Racine, WI, to a teenage mother and raised in Las Vegas, NV, without knowing he was adopted.

As a child, DaShanne was raised being told he had Lakota ancestry, and he began embracing his heritage as a source of strength and direction while still in grade school. Despite an upbringing marked by racism, poverty, abuse, trauma, and neglect, DaShanne flourished academically. He began writing at the age of eleven, was a delegate to Nevada Boys' State in 1995, became an Eagle Scout, and went on to study at Boston University in 1996.

As a student at Boston University, DaShanne faced being thrown out of his dorm for "smudging," the burning of a small amount of sage or sweetgrass that is a traditional part of many Native American spiritual practices. These experiences of institutionalized discrimination and attacks on his religious freedom prompted him to move to South Dakota to be closer to his Lakota culture.

For many years, DaShanne had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the man he was raised to believe was his biological father. In 1998, however, he managed to reconnect with his long-lost father in an attempt to become an enrolled member of his tribe. Shortly after their reunion, however, DaShanne discovered by accident that he was adopted -- and that his family, culture, and spirituality were not his.

This plunged DaShanne into a deep personal crisis, but after much soul-searching he discovered that his family, culture, and who he was had never changed. With this newfound direction, he founded and managed his own company, Indigenous Creations (2001-2003), before changing direction to pursue a career as a scholar and writer. As a graduate student, he also went on to found and direct Religious Freedom with Raptors (2005-2008), a political interest group dedicated to reforming the U.S. eagle feather law in order to protect individual and tribal rights to religious freedom.

DaShanne received his B.S. from the University of South Dakota in biology, a master's from Boston University in psychology, a second master's from Minnesota State University in sociology, and is now completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also currently completing the final draft of Recomposition, his second book and memoir.

We're excited to announce the publication of his new book, The Unfinished Dream: A Discussion on Rights, Equality, and Inclusivity. 
You can get it for free at:
He is also writing a memoir!


Recomposition is a bittersweet recounting of a life transformed. It tells the story of how a young boy and his mother struggled to survive the exploits of his step-father  --  a man who taught the family about unity and responsibility through Kwanzaa, yet turned into a drug-abusing adulterer and stalker. It tells of overcoming discrimination, fighting for religious freedom, and finding love, laughs, and magic in the midst of death and disaster. And it follows the author's experiences with being caught between being Native American and white, only to accidentally discover that his family, culture, and religion weren't his. An unflinching story of survival and change, Recomposition is about learning that what makes us who we are is not what we think.
Find out more at his WEBSITE

DaShanne published an article entitled "Rights vs. Identity: Divisions Run Deep Over Hickory Ground" in Indian Country Today.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Inversion" (please read my friend Daniel's blog)

What if I make every effort to help my child through their grief?

This is the 18th question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].

The following reply was posted to a blog whose author doesn’t seem to mind the pain and loss adoption would bring to her adopted child as well as to her family:
I do want to be as prepared as possible to help my child grieve and empathize with his or her loss. I know that no matter how much we love our child he or she will still have an incredible loss. I know this. I understand this. I want to learn more about it so I can help. That is very clear from my blog. I have said nothing other than just that. so I don’t understand why someone would infer the total complete opposite.
Answer: The “inference” of the “total complete opposite” comes from the fact that your statement is what we call an “inversion”, a reversal of logic that is designed to be the “correct” response, to fall nicely on the ears, while continuing down and covering up the same destructive path that is represented by adoption. By this I mean to say that it becomes obvious at some point when someone has studied the “talking points” of a discussion and thinks they have come up with the “correct answer” that will allow them to do what it is that they want to do while simultaneously ignoring the basic gist of the argument, as well as the negative fallout thereof. If I realize the mistake I make in a logic problem after I am finished solving it, and correct it, this is very different from cheating before I begin working on it. A more honest approach would be that of horrifying web sites like this one: “Homestudy Boot Camp".
Anyone who is attuned to this as a tactic is thus left completely befuddled and nonplussed by the abject hypocrisy and double-dealing of such a statement, as in this reply, which is attempting to show some kind of empathy, but for pain that she is directly the cause of. It’s like a biologist feigning pity for the insects he skewers in a display case; it’s like the famous Walrus and Carpenter from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, crying over the oysters they led out of their homes and plan to consume. These are the tears of a very dangerous crocodile; this is stacking the deck; this is gaming the system; this is an Orwellian inversion bordering on propaganda. There’s work for you in the Democratic Party if you should want it.

Read more here:

I can hear the Capobianco's saying this about Veronica Brown and her LOSS. They are the perfect example of this "inversion" thinking. This, readers of this blog, is what we are dealing with... As I have said before, once you SEE this, you can't UNSEE it... That is The Truth... Trace

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform statement on #BABY VERONICA

My thoughts? American society has been fed the brainwash that "adoptive parents" are always first and given top priority - that is the sales pitch and propaganda - no taking into consideration a child's life was just destroyed for her to be given to strangers.
Too many people are still under that spell.
I have no sympathy for the Capobiancos - I see how stupid they are. This whole story will kick into a new level when Veronica begins to exhibit symptoms of grief, loss, despair. It WILL happen.....Trace


PEAR Statement on "Baby Veronica" Case

Over the last four years, PEAR has been following the increasingly complicated custody case of “Baby Veronica.” As the story involved several states, the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act), a Supreme Court  ruling, numerous other court rulings, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and often erroneous coverage in the media, we suggest you read the history of this saga at,,,,, and, for the adoptee perspective,0,1433838.story for deep background. Many other bloggers, from the adoption community and the Native American community, have also spoken up.
We believe this is a case of wrongful adoption of Veronica Brown by Matt and Melanie Capobianco. To summarize briefly, Nightlight Christian Adoptions (NCA) allowed this “open” adoption to proceed without the consent of the biological father, Dusten Brown. Furthermore, someone – whether the biological mother, her attorney Raymond Godwin (who is married to NCA’s director), and/or NCA is unknown to us - apparently deliberately falsified paperwork prior to the birth, misspelling Dusten’s name and using an incorrect birth date so that his Cherokee tribe would not be notified, which is a requirement for a child with Native American heritage. Had the tribe been contacted, the adoption could not have taken place.
The Capobiancos were permitted to raise Veronica until she was two. At that point, the court in South Carolina ruled that Dusten had not knowingly given up his parental rights. Veronica was given to him, as she should have been as soon as the adoption was contested. Yet the Capobiancos refused to accept that decision. Over the last two years, the Capobiancos have been relentless in their pursuit of this child. They took this case public, exposing Veronica’s privacy in perpetuity and using Dr. Phil and adoptee-locator Troy Dunn as part of their PR machine to sway public opinion and the courts in their favor. They have had Dusten arrested and are now suing him for legal fees that were provided to them pro bono, travel fees to cover the media/publicity appearances they made (which are normally paid by the media, such as Dr. Phil).  
Not only have the Capobiancos done their utmost to procure this child through what we believe are fraudulent, deeply unethical means, but they, their adoption agency, and their lawyer have betrayed the basic concept of what adoption is meant to be: providing a family for a child who has none.   Fortunately, Veronica’s case has garnered so much attention that she will be able to realize how her father fought to keep her, despite the machinations of the Capobiancos and their team. (For details, go to
We are extremely disheartened that the courts in this country have allowed this adoption to take place. Numerous adoption laws have been broken. South Carolina and Oklahoma do not have open adoption regulations that can be enforced. Given the animosity the Capobiancos have shown toward Dusten, we sincerely doubt they will allow Veronica’s father to be a regular presence in her life, or that they will be speaking of him and his extended family (as well as the Cherokee Nation) with the respect and love he deserves.  
We fear for Veronica’s mental and emotional health, as she has been removed from the home of her father, step-mother, step-sister, and many other relatives and friends, and taken thousands of miles away to live with a couple who has shown the utmost disdain for her family while claiming that their custody is in “her best interest.” 
Most important, however, is that this child has rights of her own. Veronica has the right to be raised by a competent, loving biological family. Prospective adoptive parents, their adoption agencies, and their adoption attorneys should not be allowed to trample on a biological father’s (or mother’s) rights. They should not be allowed to encourage biological mothers to deliver in a state (especially one with lenient adoption regulations) that is not their legal residence. They should not take their private situations public. They should pay utmost care when preparing paperwork that determines a child’s future. They should not feel justified, with an overwhelming sense of entitlement, to another person’s child.
The tragedy of this case highlights the inequity between determined adoptive parents and the rights of the adoptees and their biological families. 

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Friday, November 15, 2013

100 Voices for Veronica Brown


Facebook is buzzing with Baby Veronica (Ronnie Brown) updates and talking about her case as human trafficking. If you have a parent who wants to raise his child and an adoption agency who sells that same child and then wins in court and hands the child to strangers then we have sanctioned human trafficking in the US....Trace

  • 100 Voices for Veronica Brown Thank You very much for that link, Tenja. I remember a social worker commenting on one of the pro-Veronica blogs, that when she was younger she was involved (I believe pre-ICWA) in placing a lot of Native children with white parents. I wish I could find that comment. She basically admitted that she thought at the time that she was “saving ” these children, but later a lot of them developed problems as teenagers and a lot of them committed suicide, while the kids who stayed with their biological families were much closer to the national norm for suicide. I don’t remember if it was the same person, or someone else, who mentioned that a big part of the problem was that the white families talked disrespectfully about the children’s native families. One look at the SAVE VERONICA ROSE (SVR) page and you can see we have the same problem in Veronica’s case. We need to spread this information. This could help prevent Desirai’s (and other children’s) placement outside the tribe, this could eventually help reunite Veronica with her family. I believe that it is far from over. If the tide of the public opinion turns within the next couple of months or years, and let’s say Godwin, and Nightlight and Nomura get exposed and imprisoned, Capobinacos will find themselves in a hot water. They “won” but they know that this might be a Pyrrhic victory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tribe to argue sovereignty in legal-fee demands by Capobiancos lawyers #Baby Veronica

The Brown Family (archive photo)
TULSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will argue that tribal sovereignty makes it immune from a request for $1 million in legal fees in a custody battle over a 4-year-old girl, according to a tribal assistant attorney general. Attorneys representing Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina filed the request in Oklahoma courts for legal fees in the custody dispute over 4-year-old Veronica. The Capobiancos have custody after Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, dropped all legal proceedings. The request sought the fees from Brown and his tribe, the Cherokee Nation.

The moved shocked tribal officials, said CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo, who led the tribe’s effort to keep Veronica with her Cherokee family. “It seems to be a warning to fathers and to tribes,” Nimmo said. “‘Don’t fight for your children, or we will ruin you financially.’”

Veronica had been the subject of court battles since she was born to a non-Native mother, who put the girl up for adoption. The Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. In September, Brown handed Veronica over to the Capobiancos after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay keeping the girl in Oklahoma.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Nimmo said. “We believed all parties when they said they would make an effort to move on and heal.”

But an attorney for the Capobiancos, Lori Alvino McGill, told the Tulsa World that the request for fees was appropriate. The legal team worked pro bono and didn’t charge the Capobiancos for their services, she said. “Attorneys are entitled to get their fees and expenses associated with successfully enforcing a custody order,” she said. “So the Capobiancos’ attorneys can seek their fees/expenses associated with having to chase Brown around to enforce the South Carolina orders.”

The Browns have not commented on the request for fees.

See earlier post for lawyers fees breakdown a few days ago...Trace

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Taskforce on Violence Against American Indian Children to Hold First Public Hearing In North Dakota

Archive Photo
Release here.
The advisory committee will convene four public hearings across the country beginning in Bismarck, N.D., Dec. 9, focusing on violence in children’s homes, schools and communities in Indian country.  Associate Attorney General Tony West will join the task force at the first hearing in Bismarck.  The other hearings will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Anchorage, Alaska early in 2014.

To say this is long overdue would be an under-statement...Trace

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AdoptFilm: The Right to Know

November is Adoption "Beware" Awareness Month and I wanted to share this post by Lori Lavender Luz. Her blog:

I was delighted that Peach brought this film to my attention: The Right to Know: America’s Adoption Crisis.


Award-winning documentary about the search and reunion experiences of adoptees and birthparents. Hosted by Michael Reagan, adopted son of Ronald Reagan, the video features interviews with experts in the field who discuss the history of closed adoptions. Adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents share their experiences of search and reunion. Produced and Directed by Michael Branton and Elizabeth Snider (1990).

Lori posted her thoughts... Check out her blog....Trace

Friday, November 8, 2013

Facebook discussing Dusten Brown, Jessica Munday #BABY VERONICA

Tara Servatius Full Text:
Yesterday on WTMA I questioned how the Capobiancos could tell Dr. Phil last week that Veronica's biological family would be involved in her life -- and then this week attempt to ruin her biological father, Dusten Brown financially by allowing their attorneys to sue him and the Cherokee Nation for $1 million. The suit cannot go forward without the Capobiancos giving attorneys who worked for them PRO BONO the right to sue, which it appears they are doing out of spite. Is this in Veronica's best interest? 
Here's the response I got from the Capobianco's spokesperson Jessica Munday: "Veronica is doing wonderfully and the attorneys have every right to sue the Cherokee Nation. Come on Tara. You know that Brown isn't going to have to pay a dime. She is home where she should be and her teen years will be far from hell. The fact of the matter is that Veronica's birth father should have never taken her in the first place. The US Supreme Court confirmed our belief that this was wrong. More than 30 attorneys DONATED their time for nearly two years (think about that and let is sink in for a moment). This was and always has been about a birth mother that was abandoned, chose life for her child and gave her a better life than she could provide and a set of parents that did what any parents would do to reunite with their daughter. As a mother and woman, you should be appalled. A state court erroneously allowed her birth father to rip her from her family and keep her isolated from them and her birth mother for more than 20 months. This adoption occurred solely because he unequivocally rejected his parental rights. Perhaps you are unaware that he testified that he was more than happy to relinquish his parental rights so long as Veronica’s birth mother assumed full responsibility for Veronica. In other words, he made it clear that Veronica was not his problem, at least when it came to parental responsibilities. The blatant lawlessness by the birth father and his Tribe created an enormously dangerous situation for an innocent child whom the birth father and Tribe sequestered on tribal lands away from her only parents. Thankfully, with support from many incredible people, intelligent and dedicated people, we were able to bring Veronica back home where she belongs."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Fight For Native Families #FAULTLINES Documentary #NAAM2016

Anger turned inside:  The Fight For Native Families

By Trace Hentz (formerly DeMeyer)

I am 57 years on the long road as an adoptee warrior.

In the past year, my adoption wariness rose to a whole new level with the Baby Veronica and Dusten Brown story. When asked how this tragedy affected me, I’d say, “I am Ronnie Brown 50+ years later. My dad would have raised me too.” I hurt to think about Ronnie. The adoption industry had won again.

It brought up memories of my own loss, isolation, grief, disappointment, what I call “anger turned inside,” and how it tore me to shreds.  With the very real long-term effects of assimilation by closed adoption, I’d spent more of my life as a stranger to my own relatives. Hopefully, Ronnie Brown won’t have this problem to endure.

My own recovery started when I read my adoption file in 1979 and saw my name Laura Jean Thrall. I was 22 and didn’t quite know what to do with this information. I’d hoped someone was looking for me (sadly no one was.)  I didn’t get depressed or feel suicidal, but apparently many adoptees do hurt themselves and suffer more than the world realizes. I pretty much faced everything head-on, like a car crash.

After reunion with my birthfather in 1994, my story became more about finding history. What is known today about the Indian Adoption Projects and the aftermath of ARENA, few people even know it happened...but right here in America, Native children were taken and given to white people and missionaries and boarding schools for a reason. Every Indian reservation has this story. Thousands and thousands of Indian children disappeared. Their reason:  kill the Indian to save the Man, eradicate our sovereignty to take more land.

Adoption was used a weapon against American Indians and First Nations. Tribal children were sold into adoption, molded into American proto-types, tribal membership erased.  In some states, it’s still happening in 2013.

For the Lost Children of Indian Adoption Projects, blood is never erased by adoption. But with sealed adoption records, it’s nearly made impossible to reunite.

In the words of a Cree elder, “You must know where you came from yesterday, know where you are today, if you’re to know where you’re going tomorrow.” True. I’ve lived it.

November happens to be Adoption Awareness Month. Fault Lines on Al Jazeera America has a new documentary "THE FIGHT FOR NATIVE FAMILIES" to air on Friday, Nov 8th, 9:30pm ET and 12:30am ET and 7pm ET on Sun Nov. 9th.  The Series website with channel info:

They’ll share my anthology TWO WORLDS on their website.


Trace DeMeyer is the author of One Small Sacrifice and the co-editor of Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. She is working on a new anthology of Native adoptee narratives, CALLED HOME.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Capobianco's suing for $1 million

Capobiancos suing Baby Veronica's biological father Dusten Brown, Cherokee Nation for $1M in fees

 Posted: 11/05/2013

NOWATA COUNTY, Okla. - The adoptive parents of "Baby Veronica," who had been at the center of a four-year custody feud are suing the Cherokee Nation and the girl's biological father to the tune of $1 million, court documents show.
The documents, filed Friday in Nowata County district court, show Matt and Melanie Capobianco racked up more than 2,000 Oklahoma attorney hours during their fight with Dusten Brown for Veronica, now 4.
Now, the South Carolina couple is looking to recoup the $1,028,796 in fees and $6,535.27 in costs they say Brown, a Cherokee, and the Cherokee Nation, who battled for Veronica to stay with Brown in Nowata, owe them.
The lawsuit cites the 1998 passing of Oklahoma's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which states the court shall award "the prevailing party" reasonable expenses made during proceedings provided the award would be "clearly appropriate."
The Cherokee Nation opted not to comment on the motion.

This is exactly what THE LAWYERS want - to create FEAR and to show us how powerful the billion dollar adoption industry really truly is... This is disgusting and extortion... Trace

Academics FINALLY writing about Native Adoptees!

Prof. Karen Tani Writes About “Remembering the ‘Forgotten Child’” in Light of Adoptive Couple at Jotwell

These revelations are sure to disturb any reader, but the point of Jacobs’s important article is not to expose adoption proponents as disingenuous or malevolent. It is to place an ongoing phenomenon—Indian children’s disproportionately high rate of separation from their families—in proper historical context. (P. 154.) “It is no coincidence,” Jacobs writes, “that the IAP arose during the era in which the federal government promoted termination [of tribal nations’ special status] and relocation policies for American Indians.” (P. 152.) Adoptions enabled the federal government to terminate its responsibilities, child by child, by shifting them to “the ultimate ‘private’ sector.” (P.154.) By extension, Jacobs argues, adoptive families also advanced the government’s long-term “effort[] to eliminate Indianness.” (P. 154.) This, Jacobs demonstrates, was the backdrop for the ICWA. When tribal leaders and advocacy organizations convinced Congress to enact the new law, it was a small victory in a long war. And when plaintiffs invoke the ICWA today, they raise a hard-won shield.
We agree that Margaret D. Jacobs “Remembering the ‘Forgotten Child’: The American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s” 37 American Indian Quarterly 136 (2013) is an excellent and important article.

From Trace:

Trace's well-worn copy of Jacob's Book
I read Jacob's article and I agree - it's fantastic!
When I was a speaker at the Western New England Law School last month, Laura Briggs, author of Somebody's Child, the Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption, told me that Margaret Jacobs is writing a new book, a follow-up to White Mother to A Dark Race (photo at right).
It occurs to me and to many other adoptees that HISTORIC CHANGE is on the wind - finally. Academia is studying our history. When academics like Briggs and Jacobs are writing the history about tribal adoptions and ICWA, courts and others in academia will read up and pay attention. Indian Country needs this to happen.
So far I have 33 contributors to the new Native adoptee anthology CALLED HOME: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, my third book on this history. Since we adoptees are living the story, we are telling it our way. I understand a Missouri graduate program in sociology is using my memoir One Small Sacrifice as a teaching tool.
Change comes in small tiny steps. We are finally seeing it happen.
As I have said on this blog: THE ONLY WAY WE CAN CHANGE HISTORY IS TO WRITE IT OURSELVES. And the truth shall FINALLY set us free....

Thank you so much for reading this blog. I thank you with all my heart!

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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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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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