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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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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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