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Saturday, December 31, 2022

The ‘60s Scoop stole so much from my family. Here’s how I’m reclaiming what’s lost.

HIDE CAMP: Unlike past generations, I was raised not to feel ashamed of being Anishinaabe. Now, I’m learning what my mother and grandmother couldn’t.

I asked my dad to skin me a deer.

For as long as I can remember, my father, uncles and grandfather — who immigrated to Canada from Italy 55 years ago — have spent weeks away hunting moose, deer, turkey, rabbits, and if you consider fishing hunting, they do that, too.

I’ve thought about joining them on hunts for years — heading to Bass Pro to deck myself out in hunting gear, sitting with them in tree stands in the bush and scoping out a deer or moose to bring back to my grandfather’s house to process after a week or so of outdoor living in their trailer. Usually, the hides would be chopped into bits and discarded in the compost while they masterfully sliced the meat into different cuts.

But as someone who is not keen on sharing close quarters with men in the trailer, and whose understanding of Italian is dismal, I’m starting another tradition this year: I asked them to save me the skins to transform into usable leather — something long practised by generations of my mother’s side of the family who are Anishinaabe.

I gave them specific instructions to remove as much of the flesh as they could, and to save me the brain and legs — the brain to soften the hide, the legs to make tools with if my experience permits.

In May, I spent a week at Niizh Manidook Hide Camp — a Two Spirit hide-tanning camp in aptly-named ‘Bucktown,’ or Delaware Nation at Moraviantown in southwestern Ontario. The goal was to learn and reclaim traditional hide-tanning techniques lost in my family through the ‘60s Scoop and residential schools.

I grew up and continue to live two hours from my community of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, and as the first generation in my immediate family not to be raised to feel ashamed of being Anishinaabe, the importance of reclaiming these practices is not lost on me.

Kierstin Williams, left, and Star reporter Alessia Passafiume during their weeklong stay at Niizh Manidook Hide Camp.

I wouldn’t have known about the camp had it not been for my friend Kierstin Williams, an Anishinaabekwe herself from Garden River First Nation and Batchewana First Nation, up north in Sault Ste. Marie — “Moose Country,” as a mug in her apartment refers to it.

“Want to go to a camp to tan hides?” she asked me earlier this spring. “I’m in,” I replied, still unsure of what a hide camp actually entailed, but I was excited to learn once we got there.

I packed camping gear, drawing inspiration from my dad’s pre-hunt shops, picking up a fisherman’s hat from Canadian Tire just in case. And while I didn’t make that trip to Bass Pro, I did make one to Walmart’s men’s section to stockpile T-shirts I wouldn’t mind ruining.

As I prepared for the trip, I was filled with self-doubt. I feared I wouldn’t belong amongst the group and questioned why the hosts, Beze Gray and Hunter Cassag, both experienced hide-tanners, artists and advocates — with Gray being one of a group suing the provincial government over climate change — approved my application.

“Surely they didn’t mean to accept me,” I thought.

Really, it was a projection of me not always accepting myself.



Friday, December 30, 2022

#60sScoop Oakville artist reclaiming lost Indigenous cultural identity


Indigenous artist Marvin Terry
Kathy Yanchus | Oakville Beaver December 16, 2022

The sense of cultural identity lost to Marvin Terry as a child of the ’60s Scoop is emerging now through his art, helping him on his path to self-discovery.

“Art has become my medicine, my healing,” said Oakville’s Terry, one of nine Indigenous artists whose work was selected by the City of Burlington to be permanently displayed in Spencer Smith Park.

“I am a Sixties Scoop survivor who has lost their culture, language and now (I’m) in the midst of reclaiming that part that was taken from me as a child, along with my siblings. My birth parents were both in a bad way and we were just another challenge to them.”

An Ojibwe man from Treaty 2 Territory in Manitoba who spent his youth in foster homes until he was adopted at the age of 14, Terry has always “been drawn to art.” Many might recognize his name from editorial cartoons in major Canadian newspapers, including the Toronto Star. His artistic leanings go back even further though, from drawings his nurses asked him to sign as a young hospital patient to illustrating school projects for friends.

Mixed with his editorial cartoons were sports-themed comics and pet portraits for family and friends.

Art has always been a way to express his creative side, but never a career, said Terry, who is a mechanical salesperson by profession. It has only been recently that he’s had “a yearning for my own Indigenous art.”

In March of this year, he created his first Indigenous piece titled “Chinook Salmon.”

“I posted it on my Instagram and Facebook page and all of a sudden I had people asking to purchase a signed copy.”

As a knowledge-carrier, his sister Viola helps him with questions pertaining to the images he creates.

“One can't just throw something down on paper, add pretty colours and hope that people will like and will want to buy it. Each piece I create, I need to be completely immersed in the real meaning behind it. I am an Ojibwe person by birth but I know very little about the Ojibwe culture or history because I grew up in foster homes and group homes run by non-Indigenous people for the most part.”

His hope is that his art sparks conversations about Indigenous issues both past and present.

Terry is researching his Ojibwe culture, which he said will be reflected in future pieces.

“I am looking forward to seeing what becomes of all this. It's a continued journey of discovery.” (source)

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Utah, Mississippi, Michigan, Minnesota #ICWA headlines

Utah lieutenant governor joins other state leaders in support of Indian Child Welfare Act

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson points to one of 5,703 state flag designs posted in the Utah office in Millcreek, Utah, 2022 | Photo by Carter Williams,, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson has joined a number of Utah leaders voicing support for the Indian Child Welfare Act and enacting legal protections for Native American adoptions at the state level.

Henderson recently tweeted her support for the act. The law, often referred to as ICWA, was passed in 1978 to safeguard against extensive forced separation of Native children from their families and communities. It is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court.

“A tribe is a political and governmental classification, not a racial one,” Henderson tweeted. “Utah supports the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and will seek to codify it to protect the eight federally recognized Native American tribes in our state.”

Codifying ICWA in Utah law has widespread support, including from Utah’s eight federally recognized tribes, the Indian Law Section of the Utah State Bar and the Utah Native American Legislative Liaison Committee, which voted unanimously in November to introduce an ICWA bill in the 2023 legislative session. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was also a part of a bipartisan coalition that submitted an amicus brief in support of ICWA, arguing that the law fosters good relationships between states and tribal governments.

Read the full story here: KSL News.


👉Choctaws fight to preserve authority over Native American adoptions

U.S. Supreme Court's pending decision on a Native American adoption law will impact Mississippi Choctaws. Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

A challenge to a decades-old federal law has the potential to impact tribes around the country, including those in Mississippi. 

The Indian Child Welfare Act governs child custody of Native children. If a child is removed from their parents, the act sets preferences to place the child with another family member, another member of the tribe or a different tribe. 

The case Brackeen v. Halaand before the Supreme Court challenges these preferences.  Three pairs of non-Native foster parents and three states are suing the federal government and five tribes, arguing the act discriminates against non-Native people based on race. 

Tribes including the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are watching the case and see more at stake than adoption. 

“As the only federally recognized tribe in the State of Mississippi, our 11,000 plus members are descendants of those members who chose to remain here in Mississippi to preserve our cultural heritage on our ancestral homelands,” the tribe said in a statement. “Today, just as in the past, the preservation and security of our tribe, and our tribal children and families are of utmost importance.”


👉And now, kudos

Allie Greenleaf Maldonado, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, will be the first Native person to serve on the Michigan Court of Appeals. The historic appointment was announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, on Dec. 6.

“I am humbled and honored to be trusted by Gov. Whitmer for this appointment to the Michigan Court of Appeals,” Maldonado said in a news release.

I’m going to cheat here a little by using the news release, but please read carefully.

Maldonado currently serves as Chief Judge of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Trial Court. She also has worked for a number of other tribal courts in Michigan.

Nationally, Maldonado is recognized as an expert on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Since February 2020, she has helped address ICWA and other tribal law issues as part of the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice.

“I look forward to taking all of my professional experience and diligently applying it to the work ahead of me,” Maldonado said.

“This is a moment of importance not just for me, but for all of Indian Country as the Governor’s wisdom in this appointment sends a message about the critical importance of the work of tribal courts,” Maldonado added. “I am grateful to the Governor and her team, and I look forward to giving all of Michigan my best.”

I think of greatest importance is Maldonado’s work on the Indian Child Welfare Act. The act was designed to try and keep native children in welfare cases with their family, extended family or a tribal nation. The constitutionality of the law is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a tribal member she brings a Native sensibility to the state appeals court.

Congratulations, your honor. (source)


Sierra Charwood, 19, said the possibility of overturning the act is especially scary since her great-grandmother was forced to go to one of the boarding schools the federal government used to forcibly removed American Indian children from their homes in order to assimilate them into white culture.  Because of that, Charwood lost the chance to learn more about her language and culture because it was not passed down, she said.

"It directly affected me that way — I don't have access to my language, my history, my roots," she said.

Charwood and other American Indian students fear that if the act were overturned, it could bring back boarding schools.

"Doing this would be taking multiple steps back, and with placing Native children in homes that aren't equipped for them and cannot better them," she said. "If this happens again, we're going to see a big hit to our community."

If ICWA is overturned, it could have ramifications affecting generations of Native children, Littlest Feather said.






Wyoming: Indigenous women discuss growing up with non-Native guardians

Clarisse and Pat Harris are in their mid-70s. They live in a white house on a hill in Ethete, Wyoming, with the seven children they’re raising.  In the yard, there’s a chicken coop, a sweat lodge and a view of two snow-capped mountain ranges: the Wind River to the west and the Owl Creek to the north. STORY

Federal protections for Native children in jeopardy

WYOMING:  The Riverton Peace Mission’s online discussion about the Indian Child Welfare Act highlighted the experiences of two local Indigenous women who were fostered or adopted by non-Native families before the federal law was put into place.

Since 1978, ICWA has given Tribal nations “sole authority (to) determine what happens with children who belong to their Tribe,” RPM co-chair Chesie Lee explained at the beginning of the Thursday event.

But before the law was enacted, “large numbers of Native children were being separated from their parents (and) placed outside of their families and communities – even when fit and willing relatives were available,” according to the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

“Congressional testimony documented the devastating impact this was having upon Native children, families, and tribes,” the association says. “The intent of Congress under ICWA was to ‘protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.'”


Both of the women who shared their stories Thursday said growing up in non-Native homes impacted their sense of identity.

“We didn’t know who we were,” said Clarisse Harris, a Northern Paiute from the Big Pine Reservation in California who has lived in Ethete for decades.

Harris and her younger siblings were sent to live with white foster parents when she was 10 years old, and she said their guardians did a good job making the children feel like “part of (the) family.”

“We did everything like everybody else,” Harris said, recalling 4H activities, long bus rides to school, family celebrations and trips throughout the region. “But that was not who we were. … We were Native Americans. And we should have been told that.”

The foster parents “didn’t try to change us,” Harris noted, and “we weren’t abused or anything,” so “compared to some people (we) had it pretty good.”

The “only thing” missing, she said, was “access” to information about their Tribe.

“No one in the home or in the community that we lived in ever talked about it,” she said. “We (didn’t have) anyone to say, you know, this is what you do, this is what your Tribe does, or anything like that.”

‘Two worlds’

When she turned 18, Harris returned to live with her biological family, and over time she learned more about her Tribal community.

Now, she says she is able to “walk in two worlds.”

“I know both sides,” she said. “And I choose the Native side. I can make that choice. (And) that’s the way I raise my kids.”

Harris’ biological children are enrolled members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and before they became teenagers, the family decided they should move to the Wind River Reservation so they could be closer to the community there.

“(My kids) learned how to be Arapahos, and the language and the ways,” Harris said. “That was important. … It’s important that our people know where we’re from (and) who we are.”

She makes sure the same community connection is available for all of the Arapaho children she has fostered “on and off” for the past 40 years.

“The children that I have in my homes, they all know they’re enrolled Arapahos,” she said. “(They) know that they’re Native Americans.”

Those messages are re-emphasized in the local schools, which are “a lot” different now than they were when she first moved to Fremont County, Harris added.

“Everything is slowly changing to reflect Native American culture,” she said, referencing lessons on Indigenous languages, dress, dances and songs. “Forty years ago, they didn’t have that. (But) it’s the core of the schools now.”

‘A Lamanite’

Carol Harper of Riverton said she was “impressed” with Harris’ ability to “walk (in) two worlds” – a skill Harper has begun to develop later in life.

“I’m on my own journey now … to understand my Native roots and my heritage,” Harper said. “After all these years I’m really trying to define myself.”

Harper was born in Fremont County to a Native American and Hispanic woman who gave her up for adoption to a white family in Riverton when Harper was still an infant.

Her adopted parents allowed her to visit with her birth mother and other Native relatives on the reservation when she was a baby, Harper said, but when she got older, they decided it would be “too confusing” for her to maintain those relationships.

They did not take the same steps to shield her from the confusion she experienced as a Native American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where she said she was “programmed to believe” that she was a Lamanite – a class of people defined in the Book of Mormon as “dark, filthy and loathsome.”

“That was very, very confusing for me,” Harper said.

She also had to contend with the fact that some of her adopted relatives were “very racist against Natives” and other minority groups – opinions that were handed down to her adopted mother “by default.”

“My mom had a hard time with me,” Harper said, describing multiple instances when her adopted mother physically and emotionally abused her in the home. “She would say she was going to beat the Indian out of me one way or another. (So) I just relented, and I conformed.”

Harper went to college at Brigham Young University, and she got married in the Salt Lake Temple to an LDS man who also was physically abusive.

She later divorced her husband and then left the LDS church.

Around that same time, Harper also received a call from her adopted mother, who “tearfully apologized for the abuse that she perpetrated throughout my childhood.”

“And I forgave her,” Harper said. “But I obviously haven’t forgotten about it.”

She explained that her childhood experiences, both at home and at church, had “devastating” and lasting impacts on her sense of self.

“That religion stole my identity,” Harper said. “I feel like I’m a baby again, trying to get my identity back with my Tribe.”

She’s also interested in learning more about her ancestors of Hispanic and Welsch descent, Harper said, prompting Harris to point out that every child in the foster or adoption system should have access to information about their biological background, no matter where they’re from.

“(They) have the right to know that,” Harris said, urging the guardians of Native children, in particular, to “take it upon” themselves to “provide that baby with what it needs to be a Native American,” regardless of the outcome of the ICWA case next year.

To learn more about ICWA, click here.

Harvard’s Peabody Museum Keeping Native Remains Is Just One Attack on the Rights of Indigenous Children

Harvard’s influence on this tragic story cannot be understated.  It stands as a symbol of the early stages of colonialism in America and has not fully reckoned with this past.  In October, Native alumni of Harvard Law School called for the immediate return of more than previously announced 6,500 Native remains in a letter to the president of the University, stating that the institution should “dedicate the resources and place the priority on returning them to the appropriate places and relatives. Not sometime, not soon, but now.”

As with Harvard Medical School and Indigenous health, we believe Harvard Law does not provide its law students an adequate education on Indian law, even though the Supreme Court has decided an average of 2.6 federal Indian law cases per term since 1959.  Three such Indian law cases are currently underway for the 2022-2023 term.  The future of our Native Nations lies largely in the hands of  legal scholars who can graduate from top law schools like Harvard without ever having to take an Indian law course or even hearing the words “tribal sovereignty.” 

We do appreciate the Peabody's recent transparency, and celebrate the announcement of Harvard University’s new president, but we hope to move beyond apologies and toward action that addresses the erasure of Native Americans and Alaska Natives at the University, and the burdens they carry as a consequence. Whether it's the Peabody having Native children’s hair or Harvard-trained Supreme Court justices deciding on the Indian Child Welfare Act, the fate of future generations of our tribal Nations — our Native children — remains bound up in Harvard's history of colonialism and the legacies it leaves behind, legacies Native students here feel every day.


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Advocate asks AFN chiefs to ensure $40B settlement deal leaves no child behind

OTTAWA — A First Nations child welfare advocate on Wednesday implored chiefs to ensure "no child is left behind" in a landmark $40-billion settlement agreement with the federal government.

Karen Osachoff, left, speaks as Melissa Walterson stands beside her during the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.  Chiefs at the assembly heard from the two women about the harms caused by the child-welfare system and are expected to vote on how the AFN should move forward with a landmark settlement. [THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby]

OTTAWA — A First Nations child welfare advocate on Wednesday implored chiefs to ensure "no child is left behind" in a landmark $40-billion settlement agreement with the federal government.

Cindy Blackstock delivered the message to an Assembly of First Nations gathering in Ottawa, after being invited to take the stage by Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief in Manitoba who helped negotiate the agreement, which had been thrown into question since being rejected by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 

The AFN, representing more than 600 First Nations across the country, had asked the tribunal to approve the settlement deal, which would see the government spend $20 billion to compensate families and children for systemic discrimination in the Indigenous child welfare system.It would also spend another $20 billion on making long-term reforms. 

Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Caring Society who first lodged the complaint at the heart of the issue, raised concerns that the agreement wouldn't provide $40,000 in compensation to all eligible claimants, which is the amount the tribunal ruled they should get. 

"We can make sure that in our First Nations canoe of justice, no child has to see their money go away and no child is left behind in justice," she said Wednesday. 

"We are capable of that."

Counterspin: Jen Deerinwater on Indian Child Welfare Act

: Those listeners who have heard about Haaland v. Brackeen will know that that Supreme Court case is about considering the Indian Child Welfare Act—which is aimed at keeping Native communities together—to be “race-based,” and therefore unfair and unconstitutional.  Opposing the actual mission of those who want to eliminate the Indian Child Welfare Act is just…reality: the reality that made the Act necessary in the first place, and the reality that will likely ensue if it is repealed. 

According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, ICWA “lessens the trauma of removal by promoting placement with family and community.” Positive and continuing connections to one’s family, community and culture are key factors in ensuring health and well-being.

ICWA is widely supported by Native and non-Native stakeholders: 497 federally recognized tribes and 62 Native organizations, 23 states and D.C., 87 congresspeople, 27 child welfare and adoption organizations, and many others signed on to 21 briefs submitted to the Court in favor of ICWA.

We’ll learn more from Jen Deerinwater, who writes for Truthout, among other outlets, and is founding executive director of Crushing Colonialism.



Surprise? Late Discovery Adoptee "Cultural Infant"


‘It’s great to embrace who I am.’ Rob Michno, 50, is only now discovering his Native American roots after being adopted and raised by a family of German and Polish descent.

 Frank Vaisvilas, Green Bay Press-Gazette
Rob Michno, aka Mark Johnson, with his daughter.

OSHKOSH - Throughout much his life, Rob Michno went along with whatever people assumed he was, whether that was Mexican, Italian or Jewish.

“I went out of my way to deny I was Native American,” he said.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that Michno, 50, of Oshkosh, really started delving into his heritage and found it has been an enlightening, life-changing experience.

“It’s been so empowering,” he said. “The puzzle pieces are coming together. … Now, it’s great to embrace who I am.”

Michno was adopted by a family of German and Polish descent from Merrill in 1973.

“Somehow, I knew I was Native American, but it was not discussed when I was growing up,” he said.

Michno’s adopted parents wanted to appear they were a biological family.

“My mom dyed her hair black and would tan to try to look like me,” he said. “According to who I call my brother, he said our parents had about seven miscarriages, so protecting our family of four seemed to be of utmost importance. I understand that … and they did the best they could, so there’s no negativity.”

Michno still had emotional issues from not knowing his heritage and felt a degree of being different, abandoned and rejected while growing up.

“Growing up in a very German-rooted town, I felt so different and was afraid to explore myself, of course, my coping mechanism of avoidance was my best tool I could counter some of those taunts on the playgrounds,” he said.

Those feelings helped fuel his alcoholism for 22 years, Michno said, until he sought help. 

Michno is now 10 years sober, and after remarrying in 2017, he found an interest in discovering his heritage, especially so his 3-year-old daughter, Audrey, can know more about where her people came from.

After becoming sober, he accepted he is Native American, but hadn’t known to which tribe he belonged.

During a fellowship sobriety meeting, Michno was asked which tribe he was from and struggled with an answer.

“I answered because I was born in Rhinelander and that Rhinelander is in Oneida County, I think I’m Oneida,” he said. “That’s how oblivious I was.”

Michno eventually reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and connected with an adoption coordinator in Madison who told him his birth mother was half Ho-Chunk and half Forest County Potawatomi.

He later learned he had been enrolled in the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe in 1978 by another biological family member under his birth name of Mark Edward Johnson.

“What was odd with that first reading of the adoption paperwork is that I could read a few pages at a time and had to process this all,” Michno said. “It was the story of Mark Edward Johnson and it was odd reading Mark’s story and having it sink in that Mark was me.”

He also later learned his birth mother, Pauline Johnson, died in 1989 and is still uncertain who his birth father is.

Michno has been meeting his birth cousins from the Johnson family for the first time in the past few years, mostly virtually during the pandemic, and is eager to start meeting more family members in person.

He’s been attending pow-wows and other community events with his family, trying to learn more about his heritage.

“I’m a cultural infant,” Michno said.

One of his cousins is Manny Johnson, who serves as the tribal treasurer for the Forest County Potawatomi.

“Growing up, I knew my aunt had a child, but we didn’t know if it was male or female,” Johnson said. “It was a closed adoption. We didn’t talk about it back then.”

He said his father had tried to find his biological nephew, Mark Johnson, not knowing his adopted name was Rob Michno, in the hopes of connecting as a family. But he was unsuccessful.

“I’m saddened we missed a lot of years together,” Johnson said of Michno. “We couldn’t believe we found each other. It was almost something out of a movie.”

He said he speaks with Michno on a monthly basis, but still has yet to have a proper long meeting going through photo albums, because of the ongoing pandemic.

“He has some of the same mannerisms as his mom, such as in the way he laughs,” Johnson said of Michno.

Michno was adopted before the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which gives preference to tribal families in adopting Native children.

Johnson wonders how Michno’s life would have been different had he been adopted by another Potawatomi family, or even his own family.

For his part, Michno said his adopted parents loved him as best they could and hasn’t formed an opinion on a new U.S. Supreme Court case that challenges the validity of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

A white couple from Texas is challenging the act after it nearly thwarted their adoption of a Navajo child, claiming the act is discriminatory based on race.

Tribal attorneys, including those representing the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, said the law is not based on race, but on tribal sovereignty, and that tribes are sovereign nations that should look after their own citizens.

A decision on the case is not expected until early to mid 2023.

More:Art Shegonee grew up in foster care before the Indian Child Welfare Act. He learned years later a girl who visited as a child was his Indigenous sister.

More:‘It’s about who we are, my heritage, my culture’: Indigenous tribes in Wisconsin grapple with blood quantum dilemma amid declining enrollment


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Missed By Years


Missed by years

by Suzie Smith Fedorko

Fedorko 1.jpg

Being an adult Indigenous reunited adoptee has left a time stamp on me. It will take many years to recover the connections lost in adoption and I will have to work at it very hard for the rest of my life to reestablish roots which I was torn from at an early age. There are moments when I see the bonds forged over years between cousins and aunts and uncles and feel they’re in some invisible clique and I’m an outsider.

When I first began reconnecting, most of my native family members were accepting and curious about my life before coming home to them. But I often felt judged on so many levels. I remember having a cousin ask me how far I made it with my Education? A response following that he had obtained his master’s degree, letting me know that he made it further that I did.

My Indigenous biological family certainly had struggles in life. Most of them struggled with addictions, gambling, and money trouble—all so foreign to me. I had been raised in an upper middle class white family. I grew up with many nice things and a Private Catholic school upbringing. We always had meals and I never had any worries while I was an adolescent. I cringed when I heard stories about some of the things my cousins went through when they were young.

I grew up knowing I was adopted, as I did not resemble anyone in my immediate family. I had black hair and olive skin unlike my Polish & German adopted parents. I always stood out in the Elementary Catholic School I attended. I felt like I was treated differently by the Teachers and Nuns. The Teachers/Nuns always picked me last for lining up for school tasks and learning.

One day I found a birth certificate on our dining room table, and I asked who was baby Veronica? The birth certificate was quickly snatched out of my hand by my adopted Mom Virginia. I was told that evening that I was adopted into the Smith family. I do not recall my age, but I do remember the moment. I felt a disconnect with the Smith family. From that point on, I was always reminded that I was adopted.

At Doctors’ appointments, I remember my adopted Mom telling the Doctors that, "Suzie does not have any medical records as she is adopted." A long heavy silence would overcome me. An awkward silence reminding me that I am adopted.

As my late teen years approached, I always wondered who my biological parents were? What did they look like? I had dreams about being parked out in a car on their street, watching them coming and going into their house. At that time, I didn’t have a desire to meet them, I just wanted to watch them from afar.

My biological birth family found me when I turned forty years old. I started my search for them when I turned eighteen and waited over twenty-two years for one phone call from just one of my biological parents. Instead, I got a voicemail from a Sarah Knestrick. Her gentle, sweet, accented voice said she was “calling for Susan Fedorko who was adopted, and would love to connect with her.” I immediately thought this person leaving this message was my biological Mom.

After some niceties, my half-sister Sarah left contact information for me to call her back. I hung up the phone thinking to myself. “I have waited a lifetime for that call.” Years before, I had posted details of what I knew about my adoption on some Internet Search boards. Mainly the year I was born, what State my adoption took place in, and other details I had obtained from the Adoption Agency, which they call “Non-Identifying Information.”

I composed myself and called the number back after a ten-minute pause to catch my breath. Sarah, I learned, was my birth mother’s second daughter, and I was her first daughter. She said she was very disappointed to have to tell me that our Mother had passed away in 1997. Excitement drained from my face. I realized that I would never have the opportunity to talk with my birth mother. I would never get answers to my questions I had. I would never be able to look upon her face and see how proud she was with me. I would never get to hear her voice.

Sarah was able to tell me that my birth mother’s name. Catherine Dahmen (Sachs). She said it as if I was supposed to recognize the name? I told her that I was unfamiliar with that name. Sarah then went onto to say that Cathee Dahmen was a “huge, huge model.” I was not sure what she was trying to tell me? At first, I thought she was telling me that our Mother was a plus-sized model?

But Sarah was trying to tell me that Catherine Dahmen was a famous Supermodel, who graced the cover of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and Elle magazines during the late 1968 era. She was one of Eileen Ford’s top earners back in the late sixties. And would also be recognized as the first Native American Supermodel.

Cathee was once married to a famous British actor Leonard Whiting – Romeo from “Romeo and Juliet.” Cathee was also married to a musician by the name of Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the song that Joan Jett sings, “I Love Rock n Roll.” She went onto to have three additional children after me.

Cathee’s whole career teetered because of my adoption. The family story was that Cathee’s mother, my grandmother Mary Morrison was the native visionary of the family. She saw great things to happen to Cathee. She believed, I was in her way of having the great things to happen. Cathee gave birth to me at the young age of sixteen years old. She was not the only daughter this would happen to. Mary’s three oldest daughters all had children at an early age, all out of wedlock. Mary saw that Cathee was going to be famous and make lots of money in her career where she would be recognized all over the world.

One day, while Cathee was attending regular High School classes, Mary packed me up and adopted me out without Cathee knowing anything about this plan. She came home one day from School to find me gone, at her Mothers hand. This angered Cathee and it was decided that Cathee move out to the East Coast to live with her Uncle George, renowned Native American Artist-George Morrison.

Cathee could finish up her schooling and being away would help her overcome losing her daughter Veronica Rose, aka “Cricket.” Cathee nicknamed me “Cricket” and the rest of the family called me “Cricket” as well.

Cathee finished her High School academic career at Hope High School in Rhode Island. She is remembered by High School friends as being reclusive and on the shy side. Cathee’s Uncle George Morrison was an accomplished Artist at this time. He had several friends who would sketch and paint Catherine as she made the perfect still life model.

Fashion Illustrator Antonio Lopez recognized Cathee’s portrait. He was drawn to the model in the painting. He asked George who the model was in the painting? George had responded with “my Niece Cathee.” Antonio asked if Cathee had wanted a career as a Fashion Model? Antonio was in a place to be able to see this become a reality. He began sketching Cathee’s portrait in Haute Couture. Cathee became an instant sensation and was signed as an Eileen Ford Model. She was photographed for many magazine covers all over the world. She would travel the world having her photo taken over and over again for many Fashion magazines. Her face is recognized from being a model during that era, however, her name is not as recognized as her face was.

Uncle George Morrison is considered one of the greatest Native American Artists of the twentieth century. He has had pieces in the White House and all over the world, and most recently he was one of the two main featured Artists when they opened the National Smithsonian of the American Indian Museum in 2004.

Once I discovered who Cathee was I was elated that she became a success with her life after our separation. I also knew that it was at my expense. It is bittersweet to see her photographs on the covers of well know magazines back in that era.

I am so happy that she made a great life for herself and her other kids. I always wonder if I ever crossed her mind at times. Did she wonder where I was? Where I landed? Was I loved? All questions I would never hear answers to. In one tiny sentence from my half-sister Sarah, informing me that our Mother has passed. I lost so much.

It has left me with distrust, abandonment issues, and fear of belonging. I have always had anxiety and issues with social skills. I often feel out of place and thought people would surely recognize that I didn’t belong. Every year for my birthday I was reminded that I wasn’t wanted. It was hard to be excited for my birthday when I was always reminded that somebody did not want me.

I am now fifty-eight years old, and I am still at war with myself. Adoption for me has taken a lifetime of adjustments. The older I get the less painful it is for me. I have bonds with my biological birth families now, however there are still struggles being accepted by certain people.

It is painful to know that I have had two biological brothers turn their backs on me. My brother on my biological Fathers side was very upset that I was corresponding with his soon to be ex-wife. I tried to tell him, when I met his family, I met them as a whole family, and established a great bond with his wife. It was hard not to keep in touch with her. He viewed this as a betrayal and cut me out of his life.

My little brother on my biological Mom’s side really never accepted me as his long-lost sister. He always put up road blocks and actually believes I am posing to be the real daughter, he even demanded that I get a DNA test. Once it was confirmed that I am Cathee’s daughter he still to this day wants nothing to do with me.

This same brother believes that Cathee was a private person. She would not like this adoption reunion aired in public. I believe this is my story too, and I want the world to know about both of us.

My thought is that, it is because of me that he exists. Had the family decided for me to stay with Cathee, she would have never moved out to the east coast to live with Uncle George. She would have never been in the right place at the right time, to be discovered as a Fashion Model. She would have never married Leonard Whiting or Alan Merrill. Cathee would not have been discovered as the first Native American Supermodel had she stayed on the Grand Portage reservation.

I no longer have the energy to try to gain their acceptance. I merely think that someday they will have to face the music with our Mother/Father. They will be held accountable for their actions toward me during our lives. They will be judged at some point on how they treated me. I always tried to fit in with them, and it was their decision to act like I didn’t exist, or acted like I was a fake Cricket.

I am so glad that I wasn’t located until I was at an age I could handle learning about what happened to me. If I had been located when I first started searching for either biological parent, the outcome would have been different. There would have been things that would have been hard to swallow at the age of eighteen.

To this day, I always have distaste for my Grandmother Mary Morrison. It was not her place to make decisions on my life. I hope that she sees the wonderful successful human being I turned out to be. I want nothing to do with her ever, even in death. I see cousins who brag about what a great Grandmother she was. She will never be anything but the evil person who casted me out of the family circle. I realize that it takes a long time for forgiveness to pour out of me.

I was also able to connect with my biological Birth Fathers side of the family as well. I was elated to learn that I was the oldest sister to his children. My birth Fathers name is Thomas Conklin; he is enrolled in the White Earth Nation in Minnesota.

Tommy Conklin also passed away before I had the chance to meet him. He passed in 2001 of colon cancer.

Tommy Conklin was about seventeen years old when I was born. There was no contact with my Birth Mother shortly before I was born in 1962. Tommy had left Cathee on her own to have/care for me.

I have heard when he was on his deathbed, he tried to tell his children about me, but he held back the information. My brother Thomas Jr. told me that he was certain our Father was trying to tell them about me, he said it was too hard for him to let it out.

It has now been eighteen years since I have been in reunion. I have established relationships with immediate family members. It took time to find my place at the family table. When I was first located the initial shock of realizing my loss in place was so hard to accept. I didn’t realize that it would take a tremendous amount of time to plant some roots in the family circle. I have lost three significant relationships of the Dahmen family. I lost my Aunties Elaine and Barbara and an Uncle Peter. All three I met and established relationships a short time, only to lose them to sickness.

My Adopted family has disintegrated and crumbled. My adopted Father Lloyd died in 2013. My Father, my adopted brother Steve and my Husband Tim are the three men in my life that I set the bar for in men. Each of them has captured my heart in their own way. I am protective of my heart.

My husband and I have lived in the same house for over thirty-four years. When I was found in 2002, I realized that Cathee died a little over thirty miles away from my home. I waited a lifetime to meet her, yet she was so close!

I have had a pretty good upbringing; both Adoptive Parents did their best in raising me. I tried to inherit Antiquing from my Adopted Mother Virginia. One of the things I started collecting was old Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and Life Magazines.

When I was informed who my Birth Mother was, I went to my bedroom closet where I stashed my collection. I found photos of my Birth Mother within the pages of those Magazines. Not only did she die over thirty miles away from me, Cathee was with me for years on the pages of the Magazines within my own closet.


Author’s Bio:

A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Suzie Smith Fedorko (Grand Portage Band of Chippewa - Oijbwe) has contributed her writing to two anthologies (Two Worlds, left photo) on the subject of being adopted and has done numerous media interviews. Her most recent memoir “Cricket: Secret Child of a Sixties Supermodel” details her astonishing 22-year search for answers and describes touching reunions with both of her birth-families in two Minnesota tribal nations. 




Saturday, December 17, 2022

Adoption does not save us


meme circulating on twitter

  • For Prism Reports, Kimberly Rooney writes about the political undercurrents of adoption and healing from its impact in tandem with her experiences of sexual violence:

Turning away from the truths of adoption might be easier—for adoptive parents, adoptees, and anyone who doesn’t want to challenge the normative ideas our culture has about family—but it makes it more difficult for adoptees to process our experiences. It denies us the language and narratives in which we can recognize and articulate our own experiences. It minimizes the systemic inequities that tear families apart, the violence of separating a child from their birth family, community, and culture, and the lingering trauma that those children carry into adulthood. 

Following other adoptees online through hashtags like #AdopteeVoices has also introduced me to adoptees who are similarly critical about adoption as a system, who fight for adoption abolition and who connect adoption to other forms of family separation and violations of people’s bodily autonomy. 

Kimberly Rooney 高小荣

Kimberly Rooney 高小荣 is a writer and editor based in Pittsburgh, Pa. They are a copy editor for Prism, and their writing focuses on racial, adoptee, and queer identities. Follow them on Twitter at...


Thursday, December 8, 2022

NEW BOOK: "A Child of the Indian Race"

"A Child of the Indian Race"  "A Child of the Indian Race": A Story of Return

Sandy White Hawk

Foreword Gene Thin Elk

Introduction by Terry Cross

Minnesota Historical Society Press (December 1, 2022)


An adoptee reconnects with the Lakota family and culture she was born into— and nurtures a new tradition that helps others to do the same.

In the 1950s, when Sandy White Hawk was a toddler, she was taken from her Lakota family on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her adoption papers identify her as “a child of the Indian race,” and her adoptive mother never let her forget it, telling her she was unwanted and shaming her for being “Indian.” White Hawk medicated her traumas with drugs and alcohol. At age twenty-eight, she gained sobriety and reconnected with her birth relatives. As she learned what it means to be Lakota, she also learned that thousands of Native adoptees shared her experience—left to navigate racial and cultural complexities as children, with no way to understand what was happening to them.

Mentored by a respected elder, White Hawk began to work with relatives who also had been separated by adoption and foster care, taken away from their families and communities. Fighting through her feelings of inadequacy, she accepted that she could use her voice to advocate. Ultimately, White Hawk founded the First Nations Repatriation Institute, an organization that addresses the post-adoption issues of Native American individuals, families, and communities.

White Hawk lectures and presents widely on the issues around adoption. She exposes the myth that adoption is a path to protecting "unwanted children" from "unfit mothers," offering a child a "better chance at life." Rather, adoption, particularly transracial adoption, is layered in complexities. “A Child of the Indian Race” is Sandy White Hawk's story, and it is the story of her life work: helping other adoptees and tribal communities to reconcile the enormous harms caused by widespread removals.

Advance Praise

“Of all human rights assaults on Native peoples in the United States, the stealing
of Native children is perhaps the most heartbreaking. Adopted by a white couple,
Sandy White Hawk grew up without cultural defenses against the onslaught of racism 
and erasure she experienced. Her eloquent, riveting book takes the reader on her journey back home and toward her life’s work: helping Native families to reconnect and, together, face down generations of trauma.”
Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), writer, curator,
policy advocate, and recipient of a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom

"In this profoundly moving memoir, Sandy White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota, speaks eloquently of her life as a young child adopted by a white family. It is an intensely personal story of resilience and perseverance in spite of trauma, racism, and painful truths. At the core of her healing is her tribe’s Welcome Home song and ceremony for adoptees. To all Native adoptees, this book is a must read. Welcome home."
Denise Lajimodiere (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), author of Stringing Rosaries: The History, the Unforgivable, and the Healing of Northern Plains American Indian Boarding School Survivors

"Worthy of a novel—but true. A young child is transported to a strange place where she is challenged to overcome events no child should have to face. She lives in a world that doesn’t recognize or accept her, all the while being told that this is in her own best interest. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit that finds love, acceptance, and purpose in restoring hope to others who were also lost.
William A. Thorne, Jr. (Pomo and Coast Miwok), retired tribal and state court judge

"Since the 1870s, first through boarding schools and then through forced adoptions, federal bureaucrats have permanently removed Native children from their families. Their goal was the erasure of Native people; the result was trauma and severely damaged families. Sandy White Hawk, who lived this adoption experience, has become a strong advocate for Native people and Native families. In this compelling and immensely readable story, her compassion and dignity shine through."
Anita Fineday (White Earth Tribal Nation), managing director, Indian Child Welfare Program, Casey Family Programs

“Sandy White Hawk is ‘a child of the Indian race.’ This is her powerful memoir of coming home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota as an ‘Indian adoptee.’  It is a story of much suffering and great courage, and it highlights the indelible importance of song, ceremony, culture, and landscape in the arduous journey towards truth, reconciliation, and healing.  It is also a journey greatly facilitated by the vision and hard work of many Native mentors, families, and communities. Read this book. It will change you.” 
Frank Pommersheim, professor of law and associate justice, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Supreme Court

Author Information

Sandy White Hawk is a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. She is the founder and director of First Nations Repatriation Institute, which offers resources for First Nations people impacted by foster care or adoption to return home, reconnect, and reclaim their identity. White Hawk is Director of Healing Programs at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and was elder-in-residence at the Indian Child Welfare Law Office in Minneapolis. She is the subject of several documentaries, including Blood Memory: A Story of Removal and Return.

Gene Thin Elk (Great Sicangu Nation) is an internationally known consultant in the area of Indigenous healing methods.

Terry Cross (Seneca Nation) is the founding executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He is the author of the Heritage and Helping and Positive Indian Parenting curriculum, as well as Cross-Cultural Skills in Indian Child Welfare.

$ 18.95 Minnesota Historical Society

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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They Took Us Away

They Took Us Away
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You are not alone

You are not alone

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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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


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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