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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 -


  1. This is an illuminating post. While I knew about the awful damage of "adoptions" in the past, I wasn't aware how prevalent it was now. And out of sight, out of mind is certainly an apt description of a lot of problems facing the community.

    The Warrior Muse

    1. Thanks for reading Shannon. Yes, you might call this a battle of awareness in some respects. Many adoptees cannot access their own name or tribe. We have a long way to go for reunions since the records are sealed. Tragic, yes.


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What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!

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.

Generation Removed

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Help in available!

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Please support NARF

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

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

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

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

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

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?