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Saturday, November 30, 2019


We are more than adoptees

Mary Youngblood
Brule, Paul Laroche
Star Nayea

Eric Schweig

Paul DeMain
Chris Eyre 
Baby Veronica
Famous Lost Birds/Adoptees

Star Nayea, raised in Detroit, Michigan, has often been described as the “little lady with a big voice,” who launched her career in Austin, Texas, then moved to New York City. In New York, several years ago, Star fully developed her unique contemporary edge of bluesy rock with hints of folk and traditional Native American vocals. Star, possibly Ojibwe-Potowatomi, adopted by a white family as an infant, is seeking her own birth family. Star currently lives with her son in Seattle.
Brulé, aka Paul LaRoche, has a unique story to tell. Along with the amazing music, theatrics, and traditional dance troupe, Paul tells the story of how he came to realize his Native American heritage after nearly 38 years of separation from his biological family, who resides on the Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation in central South Dakota. Paul, adopted at birth off the reservation, discovered his Lakota heritage in 1993 after the death of both adoptive parents. He was reunited on Thanksgiving Day 1993 with a brother, sister, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. The discovery of his true heritage has greatly affected Paul’s life and those around him.
Chris Eyre was born in 1969 on the Warm Spring reservation in Oregon. He grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, adopted by a non-Native family. “I’m Cheyenne and Arapahoe. I went to school in Portland, Oregon. I pursued an associate’s degree in television, in directing; I earned my bachelor’s degree in media arts at the University of Arizona, and my master’s at New York University in filmmaking.” Chris Eyre attempts to display portraits of contemporary Native Americans as individuals who are plagued by problems common to all people, but who react within the confines of their own particular circumstances. He founded Riverhead Entertainment, a production company that for several years produced commercials, films, and documentaries.
Paul DeMain is a member of the Oneida (Wisconsin) and Ojibwe tribes, and was raised by a non-Native family in Wausau, Wisconsin. “I grew up with some compassionate liberals who never tried to hide my identity and encouraged me to inquire about it,” DeMain says. In the early 1970s, he made contact with the Oneida tribe, where he is enrolled. He has met his biological family. In 1986 he launched News from Indian Country, an independent newspaper that covers tribal politics, legal issues in Native and US courts, reservation crime, education and Indian art, with a circulation of 7,000 readers worldwide.
Eric Schweig was born to an Inuit mother and a Chippewa-Dene father in Inuvik, the Northwest Territories. At six months, he was adopted by a German-Canadian family. During his childhood in Inuvik, Bermuda and Toronto, he was systematically and physically abused by his adoptive parents then he ran away from home when he was 16, and became a laborer on construction sites. In 1987 he was “discovered” while walking down a Toronto street and cast in the movie The Shaman's Source. At least 16 films followed, most notably as Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans. During this time period he endured a “roller coaster of alcohol, drugs, violence, failed relationships, despair and confusion” [Schweig said] due to the abuse and racism and ethnic identity deprivation of his childhood. In 1996 he began to regain his cultural identity and is now primarily a carver, especially Inuit spirit masks, living on Vancouver Island, and he continues to act in films. He is a passionate opponent of the adoption of Aboriginal Native People by Europeans. Eric’s Adoption Speech:
Mary Youngblood, Chugach Aleut/Seminole, is a Grammy award winning flutist, who was adopted and raised by a non-Native couple. Mary opened her adoption at age 26.

We are survivors!
We are actors, musicians, directors, athletes, comedians and so much more

Friday, November 29, 2019

Iowan talks about being taken from her Native American family

Sandra White Hawk

Members of the Siouxland Native American community today took part in the 17th annual march which calls attention to Native American children who were taken from their homes and put up for adoption.
Sandra White Hawk is a child welfare advocate who was one of those children removed from her home. A documentary “Blood Memory”, details what she went through “But its really a story of all of our removals that had happened in Indian Country over time,” she says. “We explore and talk about and show the trauma from being removed and being raised in an all white community.”
White Hawk was 18 months old when she was taken away. “And I was placed in a white missionary home that was very abusive. And and all-white community that was especially difficult to navigate growing up and not having my image reflected to me in any area of the community,” White Hawk says. She says she was so young she couldn’t remember her mother’s voice or what she looked like — but remembers the shock of being taken from her family. “Growing up I had no sense of what it meant to be native — no sense about anything about my identity,” White Hawk says.
White Hawk says the Native American community in the Sioux City has had an incredible impact the removal of children.
“This is not the case across the country,” White Hawk says, “so what we’re seeing is an organized effort to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act.”
Those who took part in the memorial march shared a meal together at a ceremony at its conclusion.


Birthfathers: What they lived and experienced

“I have some hard feelings and sadness over all that I missed out on." — Tony
Do you call them biological fathers? Birth dads? Found fathers, discovered dads, sires, or “men who fathered a child they were not aware of”? I have heard many different terms used to describe the surprised men who learn later in life that when they were younger, they fathered a child who was entirely unknown to them.
Tony and Arnold are two people who found their way to my secret support groups for people who have experienced a shocking discovery. Tony found out about a potential child he did not know existed which was later confirmed with a DNA test. For Arnold, the DNA test came first and was the way the existence of a biological child was revealed.
We have read about the experience of NPEs, adoptees, half-siblings, and wives of biological fathers in past guest blog posts. Now we get a chance to hear the perspective of fathers. Tony and Arnold’s stories differ, but in some ways, their experiences are the same. They each answered independently, but their responses are combined in the post below.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

For those non-Indians who wish to commemorate the origins of Thanksgiving

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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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The "Indian Problem"

Original Birth Certificate Rights #NAAM2019

OBC Rights Map

A full list of states and their restrictions is here and a changelog covering changes in state summaries is also available. There are also interactive maps for pending or prior state OBC access legislation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

We see exactly what Goldwater wants #AttackonICWA #ICWA #NAAM2019

Indian child welfare legal challenge is about ending tribal sovereignty

Before the law more than a quarter of American Indian and Alaska Native children were removed from their homes

This story is like a scary movie. In “Fatal Attraction” Glen Close’s character won’t give up her murderous quest. She comes back again and again. The legal challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act follow a similar plot line.

The scene in the 1970’s for American Indian and Alaska Native children was disturbing, some 25 to 35 percent of the population were removed from their homes by state welfare and private adoption agencies. This was slow motion genocide by literally removing the future from the home.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted as to reverse this narrative and to recognize that tribes, as sovereign nations, have control over the welfare of their own children.

Attacks on the law, enacted in 1978, have inexplicably risen in the past seven years and attracted the support of a seemingly disparate array of high power ultra conservative players and organizations.
Today’s challenges to the child welfare protocols aren’t only about adoption because if the Indian Child Welfare Act is found to be unconstitutional that would undermine tribal governments. So much is at stake: The authority of tribal courts, economic nationhood, including casinos, and the control of tribal land, potentially an opening for fossil fuels and other extractive industry development.
“Eliminating ICWA is part of an ultra-conservative agenda to return Indian Country to the Termination Era, abrogate tribal treaties, and made tribes and tribal citizens fully subjects to state law,” said former tribal prosecutor J. Eric Reed.

The latest Indian Child Welfare Act challenge is again before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court made the unusual decision to vacate its August 9 decision in Brakeen v. Bernhardt finding child welfare law is not race-based but a valid, constitutional statute; then the court announced it would rehear the case En Banc.

The use of En Banc, in which all judges of a particular court hear a case, is a relatively uncommon legal procedure usually reserved for the purposes of maintaining uniformity of the court’s decisions or to show that the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.

In its original decision finding ICWA to, indeed, be constitutional, one of the three judges, Priscilla R. Owen wrote her dissenting opinion in an August 16 modification. Owen wrote that in requiring states to maintain records relating to placement of Indian children as part of compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act violates the constitution’s 10th Amendment anti-commandeering doctrine. According to the 10th Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.”

Owens wrote: “The defendants in the present case contend that the Indian Commerce Clause empowers Congress to direct the States as it has done in the ICWA. They are mistaken. Where a federal interest is sufficiently strong to cause Congress to legislate, it must do so directly; it may not conscript state governments as its agents.”

This opinion underscores the rise of Federalist philosophies in conservative politics supporting states rights over federal authority, questioning the constitutionality of requiring state governments to carry out federal policies.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals long considered the most politically conservative court in the country, has grown more so after five appointments to its ranks by President Trump. A total of 17 judges occupy the court.

According to federal court watchers, President Trump is engaged in a quiet revolution to populate federal courts with judges who align with his brand of politically conservative politics. Although his 157 judicial appointments place him roughly even with both Barack Obama and George W. Bush during the same point in their tenures, his focus on federal appeals courts sets him apart from his predecessors according to the New York Times. If all of his current nominees are confirmed, they will account for 1.4 of the country’s federal appeals court judges.

National Public Radio’s Carrie Johnson described Trump’s appointment of James Ho to the Fifth Circuit Court as exemplifying the Trump era. A first time judge, Ho’s first Fifth Circuit opinion has been described by legal scholars as political commentary rather than legal opinion. In Zimmerman v. City of Austin, involving limiting campaign contributions in Austin, Texas, he wrote in his dissenting opinion, “If you don’t like big money in politics, then you should oppose big government in our lives,”

Vanita Gupta, president and chief operating officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights issued a statement about Trump’s court nominees: “The majority of his nominees have long records of hostility to civil and human rights, and too many are unqualified. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are transforming our federal courts because their agenda is failing in Congress and the court of public opinion.”
She notes that appointments to the federal judiciary are lifetime positions.

History of Brakeen v. Bernhardt before the Fifth Circuit

On October 4, 2018, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional because it’s race-based.

The ruling was based on Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, non-Natives, experience in trying to adopt a Native child, an enrolled citizen of the Navajo and Cherokee Nations whom they had fostered for a year-and-a-half. In 2017, the Brackeens filed a lawsuit in Texas seeking to adopt the two-year-old boy, identified in the lawsuit as A.L.M. Although a Navajo family was available to take the boy in January 2018 the Brackeens won their case in a Texas district court, and successfully finalized their adoption. But their lawsuit, Brackeen v. Bernhardt, proceeded anyway, joined by several other plaintiffs, including the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and eventually landed before Judge O’Connor.

Most media coverage of O’Connor’s ruling, such as a story by National Public Radio, tended to gloss over the law's political and legal context and the far-reaching implications of its reversal.
Many failed to mention that conflicts concerning the child welfare system that can often be traced back to the failure of state and county authorities to notify a tribe when an enrolled child enters child protective services. And most neglected to explain that tribal identity is based not on racial identifiers, or whether a child “looks Indian,” but on their political and citizenship connections to a sovereign nation. And that gets at issues that go far beyond the ability of non-Natives to adopt Native American children.

The designation that the children of enrolled tribal citizens are automatically enrolled citizens as well “is foundational to federal Indian law,” noted a statement released by the Native American Journalists Association. In March 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments in the Brackeen case and issued its now vacated decision in August finding that the child welfare law is not race based, unconstitutional nor does it counter the 10th amendment. If the court finds during rehearing that ICWA is unconstitutional on any front, it opens the door to overturning tribal sovereignty.

And without sovereignty, treaties between the U.S. government and tribes could be subject to debate.
Reversing the Indian Child Welfare Act would mean that “the hundreds and thousands of federal statutes benefiting Indians would be open for reconsideration,” said Michigan State University law professor Matthew Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and editor of Turtle Talk, the leading blog on American Indian law and policy. “Federal services for Indians and statutes such as the Indian Self Determination Act, Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and others could be challenged.”

And that might be the point. Tribal leaders, legal scholars and child welfare advocates speculate that attacks on the law are seldom rooted in genuine concern for American Indian children, but are merely the latest strategy for right-wing groups to advance agendas rooted in racism, greed and the othering of poor people.

Since 2013, challenges to the law have gained new urgency and support from wealthy right-wing interest groups. Brackeen v. Bernhardt was itself bankrolled by an unlikely alliance of right-wing political, legal, economic and religious groups that outwardly appear to have little connection to Indian Country or its children. They include right-wing think tanks, representatives of the private adoption industry, the evangelical adoption movement, anti-treaty rights organizations and conservative fossil fuel industrialists.

Although the final goals of these seemingly disparate groups may differ, their shared strategy of commodifying Native American children reveals a colonial mindset that not only depicts Native American people as incapable of managing their own affairs, but also frames their children and resources as free for the taking.

According to J. Eric Reed, former tribal prosecutor and a member of the Choctaw Nation, the current legal fight is part of a strategy that feeds into ending the federal government’s trust relationship with tribes as well as challenging federal authority over states’ rights.

Brackeen v. Zinke,” said Reed, “is a right-wing foot in the door to rewrite the Constitution.”
Although the decision to rehear Brankeen v. Bernhardt appears to be based on Owen’s dissenting opinion that ICWA violates the Constitution’s anti commandeering doctrine, it will mean all plaintiff’s complaints in the original case will be up for reconsideration.

The law’s opponents are emboldened by each small favorable court decision in their favor. For instance, since 2013, with an infamous lawsuit known as “Baby Veronica” that reached the Supreme Court, challenges to ICWA have increased. In the Baby Veronica case—formally called Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl—powerful interests in the adoption industry and evangelical churches joined with high-profile attorneys to challenge ICWA’s authority regarding the adoption of an infant citizen of the Cherokee Nation named Veronica. Eventually the non-Native couple seeking to adopt Veronica, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, prevailed.

Although the court found that ICWA was, indeed, constitutional, it found in favor of the Capobianco’s because the child’s Native father had not maintained custody since her birth. Not long after the Supreme Court ruled in the Capobiancos’ favor, Veronica’s non-Native biological mother, Christina Maldonado, signed onto a lawsuit against the U.S. government claiming that ICWA was unconstitutional. (She later dismissed the suit voluntarily)

“ICWA opponents want another crack at the Supreme Court,” said Nicole Adams of the Colville Confederated Tribes and advisor at the Partnership for Native Children.
“Redefining ICWA as race-based furthers their final agenda of dismantling Indian law as a whole,” she said.

Chiracahua Apaches arriving at the Carlisle Indian School, 1886, and after "training" in 1886. From the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (National Archives)

The Roots of the child welfare act
Most people in the U.S. have never heard of the Indian Child Welfare Act, enacted in 1978 to stop the near wholesale removal of Native American children from their birth families to non-Native foster and adoption placements. Today, under that law, tribes typically try to place children who come into tribal or state care with a family member, a member of their tribe or, failing that, a family from another tribe.

“Typically, the mainstream press picks up a story regarding ICWA only when a non-Indian family has somehow been injured,” said Terry Cross, founding director and current advisor for the National Indian Child Welfare Association

But the law stems from generations of abusive policies that tore Native American families apart. Beginning in the late 19th Century, the federal government forced or coerced the separation of thousands of Native children from their families, sending them to federal or religious boarding schools often many hours away from their homelands.

Created as part of President Ulysses S. Grant’s Peace Policy of 1869, the boarding school era was framed as a bloodless, more humane answer to the country’s “Indian Problem.” The schools’ explicit mission was to destroy Native cultures, languages, and spirituality, and prepare the children for assimilation into American society. Modeled on education tactics used on Native prisoners at Fort Mason in the 1870s by Captain Richard H. Pratt, the boarding schools followed a punitive philosophy of rigid order and Pratt’s motto: “Kill the Indian, and save the man.”

Today, Native American and Alaska Natives remain overrepresented in foster care at a rate 2.7 times greater than their proportion in the general population.

It’s these dynamics that ICWA was created to address: helping ensure that tribes, as sovereign nations, have jurisdiction over their own children. Since the act’s establishment, several prominent child advocacy organizations have declared it the gold standard for child welfare policies and practices for American Indian children.

Despite the law, tribes often decide not to transfer eligible children to tribal jurisdiction for a number of reasons: that the child may have close tribal and family connections in a non-Indian placement, or the tribe may lack the resources to intervene in cases located far from the reservation. Notably, in the Brackeen, the tribs ruled in favor of the non-Native family’s adoptions. These scenarios, however, seldom receive media coverage.

There is little data regarding states’ compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act, but a 2015 study by Casey Family Programs suggests that many government child protection agencies fail to follow the law. The lack of federal oversight for enforcing ICWA adds to gaps in compliance.
“For years, under ICWA, tribes have been making determinations in child welfare cases based on the best interest of the child,” noted law professor Matthew Fletcher. “Suggesting that tribes don’t routinely make child welfare decisions based on the best interest of the child is just ignorant.”
The legal battle over ICWA will likely continue for several years, and Fletcher and others believe that future challenges are inevitable.

Termination of tribal sovereignty
From the mid-1940s through 1970, the federal government employed a series of assimilationist policies designed to privatize American Indian lands, destroy tribal cultures, and reverse the tribes’ and government’s “trust relationship,” which protects tribal treaty rights, lands, assets, and resources.The assault on this trust responsibility and Indian rights became known as the Termination Era.

But the 2018 ruling Brackeen v. Bernhardt, Judge O’Connor seemed to endorse the anti-tribal government view that it’s a race-based statue.

“If you’re a right-wing interest group and can figure out a way to get the case heard in Judge O’Connor’s court, you can expect a sympathetic ear,” Fletcher said.

The leading figures in the newest anti-Indian Child Welfare Act drama include the right-wing think tank the Goldwater Institute; the National Council for Adoption, representing the private adoption industry; and an evangelical Christian adoption movement that sees adoption as a means to live out their faith.

Ancillary supporters include the Koch brothers; the DeVos family; the Mercer Family (who are among Trump’s largest donors); the Cato Institute; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); the anti-treaty group Citizens Equal Rights Alliance which advocates for the termination of U.S. and tribal treaty agreements; the Southern Baptist Convention, and others.
“It’s like this weird triad of strange and powerful bedfellows,” said Adams. Some of the players may have unwittingly signed on to this war and don’t necessary share the duplicitousness of others. But their combined opposition to ICWA represents titanic influence, power, and money in service of an anti-tribal sovereignty agenda.

One of the richest anti-ICWA funders is the Goldwater Institute. Since 2015, the libertarian non-profit has underwritten several legal challenges to ICWA. Attorneys at the Goldwater Institute filed an amicus brief in Brackeen v. Bernhardt, reiterating its past claims that ICWA is race-based and unconstitutional. And Timothy Sandefur, the Institute’s vice president for litigation, compared ICWA to discrimination suffered under Jim Crow laws, telling The Nation in 2017 that ICWA subjects Native children to an unfair set of rules based on race.

The Institute, along with the Cato Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the current Fifth Circuit’s decision to hold En Banc hearings on ICWA.
The Institute describes Indian communities as environments “where poverty, crime, abuse and suicide are rampant,” and cites data showing that American Indian children have the highest rate of foster care of any ethnic group as an argument against ICWA. In essence, this blames American Indians for the outcomes of generations of federal assimilationist policies and recommends more of the same as a solution.

And yet, as Fletcher noted, “The Goldwater Institute has no history of expressing interest in either Indian or family law.” Although the Goldwater Institute has created an organization called Equal Protection for Native Children and frequently works with other ICWA opponents such as the Cato Institute, it has no history of working to improve the economic, educational, or health circumstances of Native children. Indeed, according to the organization’s income tax filing from 2016, its primary areas of research include constitutional law, education reform, and healthcare policy.
Among the Goldwater Institute’s major donors are the Koch brothers, well-known opponents to federal power and spending. Through their various advocacy organizations, the Koch brothers fund and support groups such as ALEC, which, like the Goldwater Institute, has called for a constitutional convention that would focus on elevating states’ rights and reducing federal oversight and regulation.
The other ally against the child welfare law the National Council for Adoption, and the adoption movement it represents. Matthew McGill, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney in Brackeen v. Bernhardt, is part of a husband-and-wife legal team with a long history of challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act.

McGill’s wife, Lori Alvino McGill, also a lawyer, represented the adoptive parents and the non-Indian biological mother in the Baby Veronica case ,accompanying them on a media tour, including an appearance on the Today Show that helped make their challenge to ICWA a national story.
The couple represent a larger constituency in the private adoption industry, which has become a powerful lobby against ICWA. Private adoptions are a lucrative business, with attorney fees routinely running between $10,000 and $40,000. But as obstacles to international adoptions have grown, there is a greater interest in domestic adoptions in the U.S.—including adoptions from Indian Country.
Many clients of private adoption attorneys like the McGills are members of a Christian adoption movement that encourages evangelicals to see adoption as a means to live out their faith help the needy, and evangelize children. The statement of faith for Nightlight Christian Adoptions — the agency affiliated with the Baby Veronica case — holds that adoption fulfills the Bible’s mandate to make disciples of all nations.

Practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population, according to a 2013 study by the Barna Group. The study also found that most adoptive parents are White, while the children they adopt are overwhelmingly non-White.

For many Native Americans, these demographics bear a troubling resemblance to historical interactions between White Christians and Native peoples—whether the Catholic Church’s 15th Century documents granting European Christian explorers permission to use any means necessary to subdue and convert indigenous peoples, or the more recent abuses of the boarding school era.
“There is nothing original about some of the evangelical Christian adoption movements to focus on Native children and take it upon themselves to decide what’s best for Native families,” said the Partnership for Native Children’s Nicole Adams.

Sandy White Hawk, program manager with the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center in Minneapolis, and a team of researchers, found that adult American Indians who were adopted to non-Indian parents experienced high rates of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in their adoptive families. Adoptees also experience traits common to trauma survivors such as anxiety, intrusive imagery or nightmares, depression, withdrawal/isolation, guilt, and unresolved grief. The National Indian Child Welfare Association also cites studies indicating that Indian children placed in non-Indian adoptive homes suffer a far greater risk than the general American Indian population of psychological damage and have a higher tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol.

“I believe some of the motivation for evangelical Christians to adopt American Indian children comes from a savior complex,” said White Hawk. “Minority populations are often portrayed as unable to care adequately for their children; some of the adoptive parents may believe they are offering homes for unwanted, neglected children.”

But too often, then as now, this impulse may spring from a failure to understand American Indian culture or extended family structure, wherein aunts or uncles might raise a child instead of her biological parent. As child welfare workers labeled that tradition as neglect, generations of Indian children were removed from their homes.
“Instead of saving Native families, these policies robbed them of the nurturing traditional values where the whole community embraced the child,” said Nicole Adams. “Who are these people to think they can take away ICWA, one of the few good things Native people have to protect our families?”
What’s next?
“Right now we know one judge from the panel (Owen) was concerned about one or two sections of the statute, but not its entirety. It may be the En Banc court will re-open the whole panoply of constitutional challenges; We just don’t know yet,” said Matthew Fletcher.
Amicus briefs are due December 16 and January 14, 2020. Oral arguments and case hearing are scheduled in New Orleans for the week of January 20, 2020.

Mary Annette Pember works as an independent journalist focusing on Indian issues and culture with a special emphasis on mental health and women’s health. Winner of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship for Investigative Reporting, Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, the USC Annenberg National Health Fellowship and Dennis A. Hunt Fund for health journalism she has reported extensively on the impact of historical trauma among Indian peoples. She has contributed to ReWire.News, The Guardian, The Atlantic and Indian Country Today. An enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe, she is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. See more at

Portions of this article first appeared in Public Eye Magazine on November 11, 2019 for Political Research Associates

Migrant children may be adopted after parents are deported #NAAM2019

AP | TheHill
Holes in immigration laws are allowing state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families without notifying their deported parents, the Associated Press reported in October.
The AP scoured hundreds of court documents and immigration records to reveal several cases of children being permanently, legally taken from their families after initial separations.
The case study presented is indicative of larger loopholes in the immigration system, the AP contends. Because state governments tend to run child-welfare systems, inconsistencies between federal law and its application at the state level are frequent.
AP's conclusions are especially important given that 300 parents were deported to Central America without their children just this summer as part of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy at the border.

CHILD TARGETS: AP: Migrant children may be adopted after parents are deported | TheHill

This will be an ongoing story since these children are being trafficked to American adopters.

Spiritual Abuse: RAD (3 parts) by Levi Eagle Feather

RAD: Guest Post: Levi Eagle Feather Sr. (Part 3)

Part Two: RAD
by Levi Eagle Feather Sr.
Part Two: RAD
by Levi Eagle Feather Sr.

Part Three: RAD

By Levy Eagle Feather Sr.

The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more venues to express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom seems to stand out in the crowd of ordinary maxims... -Vine Deloria Jr. (preface to John Neihardt's book "Black Elk Speaks")

Reality can be such a bastard sometimes! Just when you think you got it nailed, something happens and it all slips away. Good fortune, its second cousin, seems to operate along these same lines! You work hard, you’re ready, waiting, arms wide open and everything, then something happens blowing it all away. Does this sound familiar? Some people would say a person who thinks this way is just, “waiting for the axe to fall”. And if you think this way, too much of the time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  
In medical terms, they say someone who thinks like this or sees life in this way is showing signs of paranoia. Meaning that someone is showing “a tendency….. toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”1 In some situations, this kind of thinking can develop into a more serious condition known as schizophrenia. Noah Webster says schizophrenia is “a  psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior —called also dementia praecox — compare paranoid schizophrenia2   
In the two previous installments on RAD. I said my piece about certain spiritually abusive things that have happened to us American Indian people since western society brought its socially dysfunctional ways to our land. All of these happenings have been inducing an isolating oriented trauma on our people for several generations now. These things in particular, were the wars, reservations, boarding schools, relocation programs and adoption. Things which have worked in harmony, one after the other or simultaneously together, pretty much shattering and destroying the ways in which the beauty and magnificence of who we are as human beings can be fully realized, understood and enjoyed. I would say at this point RAD was intentioned and paranoid and schizophrenic type thinking and behavior are to be expected. 
The people who started these practices against us, in the past and continue to practice them today, have gotten away with it and continue making money off of doing it. Maybe not directly anymore, but indirectly still and that’s as simple and as good for them, as it can get! It indicates success, at least to them, of their westernized way of doing things.
By agitating and manipulating the destruction of others, confiscation of birthrights and through carefully and systemically applied abuses. These people have been capable, down through history of drastically changing tribal realities. Changing realities from systems which were built on self-reliance and were constructed for self-perpetuation to a single system which is built and designed solely for controlling and perpetuating the continued self-destruction of tribalism for profit. In short using you, your relatives and your friends to educate and labor towards your own self-destruction.      
If you think I'm wrong or misguided in my way of thinking. Look and see who has all the land, all the say and continues smiling all the way to the bank. We’ll call this group the top layer of western society. It is a top down system and we’ll call this layer the instigators or the 1% er’s of western society. The shot callers so to speak. There are other layers to this society. Here in America we know them as the middle, the lower, and the indigent classes. But for now I want to draw your attention to something else.
A simple fact! Obscured quite possibly by our own cultural amnesia of our individual ancestral roots is the fact we knew this was coming. A little less than 150 years ago my people, the Lakota, still understood our purpose. We knew and understood what sacrificing of ourselves was about. Of course, we still lived in Tipi’s on the wide open prairie and still hunted buffalo and much more. But we also lived in a civilized manner as civilized human beings then too. We knew and understood how fragile yet necessary keeping good relationships were to our health and wellbeing. We also knew and understood the threat and danger western thought and living posed to our health and well-being. The inevitability of this threat coming to fruition came through in dreams and visions of some of our great leaders of that time. Black Elk, a healer, was one of those leaders.
Black Elk was born in 1863 and lived until 1950. He was born well before the time of either the Sioux or the American Indian. He was born and lived as a Lakota. He thought, reasoned and behaved according to the Lakota way of being. He lived his life, perceiving reality understanding it and speaking of it in the language from within the worldview of his time. The Lakota worldview.
In the summer of 1872 at the age of nine Black Elk experienced a vision. In 1930, through a translator, Black Elk related his experience to John Neihardt, who in turn wrote about it as, “The Great Vision" in his book 'Black Elk Speaks". Whether this vision came to him through intuition, spiritual insight, or from hearing reports of what was befalling our Dakota relatives to the east, Black Elk's vision was spot on. Experienced well before the reservation, boarding school, relocation, and adoption eras of our people it was a foretelling. A vision foretelling the, as yet, unforeseen problems of becoming westernized. Something that we now experience on the regular, day in and day out. 
The following is an excerpt from this "The Great Vision:" 
And as we went the voice behind me said: "Behold a good nation walking in a sacred manner in a good land!"
Then I looked up and saw that there were four ascents ahead, and these were generations I should know. Now we were on the first ascent and all the land was green. And as the long line climbed, all the old men and women raised their hands, palms forward, to the far sky yonder and began to croon a song together, and the sky ahead was filled with clouds of baby faces.
When we came to the end of the first ascent we camped in the sacred circle as before, and in the center stood the holy tree, and still about us was all green.
Then we started on the second ascent, marching as before, and still the land was green, but it was getting steeper. And as I looked ahead, the people changed into elks and bison and all four footed beings and even into fowls, all walking in a sacred manner on the good red road together. And I myself was a spotted eagle soaring over them. But just before we stopped to camp at the end of that ascent, all the marching animals grew restless and afraid that they were not what they had been, and began sending forth voices of trouble, calling to their chiefs. And when they camped at the end of that ascent, I looked down and saw that leaves were falling from the holy tree.
And the Voice said: "Behold your nation, and remember what your Six Grandfathers gave you, for thenceforth your people walk in difficulties."
Then the people broke camp again, and saw the black road before them towards where the sun goes down, and black clouds coming yonder; and they did not want to go but could not stay. And as they walked the third ascent, all the animals and fowls that were the people ran here and there, for each one seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting.6
And when we reached the summit of the third ascent and camped, the nation's hoop was broken like a ring of smoke that spreads and scatters and the holy tree seemed dying and all its birds were gone. And when I looked ahead I saw that the fourth ascent would be terrible.
Then when the people were getting ready to begin the fourth ascent, the Voice spoke like someone weeping, and it said: "Look there upon your nation." And when I looked down, the people were all changed back to human, and they were thin, their faces sharp, for they were starving. Their ponies were only hide and bones and the holy tree was gone.

6 At this point Black Elk remarked: "I think we are near that place now, and I am afraid something very bad is going to happen all over the world." He cannot read and knows nothing of world affairs.
Adoption causes RAD and RAD is a more normal reaction to adoption than not. Adoption in western society, especially the transracial adoption of American Indian children was and is an unnecessary and unnatural situation. Historically, the process of taking American Indian children away from families who birth them, love them, view them and understood them as their future causes immense suffering and loss that reverberates and is felt throughout each one of our nations. It broke our sacred hoop keeping the beauty of life just out of arms reach or so it seems.
The destruction didn’t happen overnight of course. Each and every one of these abuses aimed at destroying us was applied incrementally, generation after generation. Each and every one of them has done a pretty good job at what it was intended, and it isn’t over yet. It happened, some of it is still happening, and there isn't a whole lot we can do to stop it at this point. At least, I don't know of anything I can do that will.
This is not the reason I started writing this article, however. To talk endlessly about the things I cannot do or cannot change. The past is the past and there isn’t much we can do about that. Blaming won’t help, blaming ourselves and each other definitely won’t, but by being responsible and holding ourselves and each other accountable for recourse and recovery can.
As depressing as these three articles have all sounded, it was! I now prefer to spend the majority of my time working against the effects it has had on the hearts and minds of our people. So this will be the last I will have to say about all of that.
I’ve been working against the negative effects our past has had on us for the past 35 years or so. Both personally in my own life and the lives of my family members. As well as, professionally and as a volunteer within the American Indian community. Whenever the opportunity arose wherever it was I might have happened to be living at the time. Most recently I was able to offer my programming abroad, as a side job, amongst the folk in Germany, whenever the opportunity would arise.
I started out slowly of course way back then with baby steps. Thirty-five years have gone by and I seem to be walking much better now. On good days I think I might even be able to walk and chew gum. We shall see.
In the next series of blog articles I will be breaking away from the past. 
This series I’ll call Recourse and Repatriation, I will touch a little more on Black Elk’s vision and segue into a more personal accounting of my own experience of recourse and recovery from RAD. As well as offer my personal understanding of cultural repatriation and spiritual re-acculturation Lakota style.    
I am an American Indian, rightly enough. A card carrying one for all it might mean and for whatever purposes to which it matters. And I was adopted at one time. So be it. None of this has ever changed the facts of what really matters. I am a human being and I belong and so do my people. We belong to Mother Earth right here on this the North American continent. Until next time I wish you all enough. Hau Mitakuye Oyasin!

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