Carlisle’s mother is Native American and her late father was black. She has spent her life celebrating all of her heritage.
But as she heads into college, there’s a problem: She can’t get the government to acknowledge both parts of her identity.
Now 18, Carlisle was placed into the foster care system as an infant and adopted when she was a child, but one box checked on her foster care and adoptive records identify her as African-American. There’s no mention of her Native roots, meaning the state doesn’t legally recognize her status.
She’s spent the last two years ping-ponging between county and state officials to add her Native American heritage to her records, to no avail.
Her adoption records not only listed her race as African-American, they also stated specifically that she was not Native American. Sarah Carlson, her adoptive mother, was stunned. She had no idea they were incorrect.
Carlson was sent to Ramsey County, where the girl was first placed into foster care, to figure out what had happened. She provided the county documentation from child services at the time of adoption, including a family tree showing Carlisle’s biological mother and grandparents, all Native American and enrolled members of the Lower Sioux Community.

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