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Friday, September 30, 2022

National Day of Remembrance, September 30 | Minnesota Proclamation


National Day of Remembrance, September 30

Minnesota Proclamation

Today, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued a proclamation that designates Friday, September 30, 2022, as a “Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools.” The proclamation states that the United States pursued, embraced, or permitted a policy of forced assimilation of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people for nearly 200 years. The proclamation comes at a crucial moment when Tribal leaders, elected officials, and boarding school survivors around the country are calling on Congress to pass the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S.2907 / HR 5444).

To read Minnesota Proclamation Click Here



TIFF: ‘Bones of Crows’ conveys so much pain… and joy in spite of it

TIFF ’22 Review

A scene from 'Bones of Crows'
A scene from 'Bones of Crows' courtesy of TIFF

‘Bones of Crows’ is an emotional account of the intergenerational trauma caused by the Canadian residential school system.

The Canadian history taught in school is a whitewashed version of the truth, omitting much of the country’s sordid relations with its Indigenous populations, which have continued to have negative effects to this day. The last few years have brought appalling revelations that had been covered up and ignored for so long. After years of silence and denial, the government formed The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, providing an avenue for those directly and indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system to share their stories and experiences. Bones of Crows is a fictional account of one woman’s life before, during and after being forcibly placed in the system.

Born in the 1920s to a large and happy family, Aline Spears (Grace Dove) and her three siblings were taken from their parents under threat of prison and sent to residential schools. There, they were subjected to horrific physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the priests and nuns who oversaw their education. As a teen, Aline enlists in the military, where she meets her husband, Adam (Phillip Lewitski), and is eventually recruited for a special operation that uses Cree to transmit secret messages during World War II. After the war, they return to Canada to raise their children. But she is haunted by the years of cruelty she endured, only finally able to confront her abusers in her ‘80s.

There are news stories, a day of reflection and professional sensitivity training, but they don’t capture the impact and scars of this institution of abuse as well as a film is able. The narrative does an exceptional job interweaving so many experiences, traumas and repercussions into a single movie. It highlights the anguish of families forcibly separated, in many cases permanently; the degradation spewed by the clergy who view their charges as less than human; the punishment for any miniscule attempt to maintain the culture and language the schools were meant to eradicate; the widespread abuse and intentional neglect as superiors boast about keeping the children in a state of malnutrition during their own feasts; the countless deaths due to disease and mistreatment; the sexual assaults that steal their innocence and fill their nightmares; the substance abuse to hide from the pain of their memories; the suicides when the hurt becomes too much; and so much more. It also touches upon the numerous unsolved deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Nevertheless, it’s also a story of joy, strength and triumph, both fleeting and lifelong. As a child, Aline enjoyed sing-alongs and family meals. She and Adam shared a lot of love, which produced equally loved children who grow up to have successful careers and their own children. Aline engages her love of music by playing the piano and passes the skill on to her granddaughter. One must savour the good through the bad and the movie strives to capture both, revelling in the joys and not cowering from the sorrows. This is the story of one family, but it represents the tale of thousands of Indigenous people across the country, giving voice and audience to their lived experiences.

Bones of Crows had its world premiere in the Discovery programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read other reviews from the festival.

Northern Arapaho tribe asks Wyoming for a state ICWA law as U.S. Supreme Court decision looms


Northern Arapaho tribe asks Wyoming for a state ICWA law as U.S. Supreme Court decision looms

US Supreme Court
Joe Ravi /Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the Indian Child Welfare Act sometime in 2023, the Northern Arapaho are asking for state protections and guidelines.

Northern Arapaho business council member Lee Spoonhunter has one request of the Wyoming legislature.

“Let's get started on working on legislation to protect the children of the state of Wyoming,” Spoonhunter asked

An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case looking at the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), first passed in 1978. A law that keeps tribes of Indigenous children in the loop of family court proceedings to maintain families and communities. Spoonhunter is asking the state-tribal relations committee on behalf of the Northern Arapaho tribe to enact a state law protecting the tenets of ICWA.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on Brackeen v. Haaland before summer of next year, and some fear that ICWA will be repealed.

“We're going to lose our children to the system. We're not going to find them until they've been adopted out,” said Spoonhunter. “And that's just the reality of what's going to happen if this law is struck down.”

An ICWA case requires two things: One, a child who is enrolled or could be enrolled in a tribe and one of their parents needs to be enrolled and two: the child’s case needs to be going through some kind of child custody proceedings. This includes foster care, adoption, or a termination of parental rights.

Clare Johnson, the Northern Arapaho tribe attorney, said she is currently working on 62 ICWA cases, about half within the state of Wyoming and the other half Northern Arapaho children in other states. They are all unique in what the individual child requires to be compliant with ICWA. But all have one thing in common.

“The Northern Arapaho tribe strongly believes in bringing these cases back to tribal court to attempt to reunify the child with their family. And if that's not possible to place them with other members of their family or their tribe,” said Johnson.

Being adopted outside of the community might lead a child to feel disconnected from their culture. And the U.S. has a long history of actively taking away Indigenous children from their families in boarding schools. This was a policy that removed Indigenous children from their homes in order to break cultural traditions.

Department of Interior Deb Haaland has enacted its Indian Boarding School Initiative, aimed at detailing the forced assimilation of Indigenous children.

ICWA has allowed children to stay in their communities.

“The tribe likes to have the children within the tribal system so we can look at alternative solutions,” said Johnson. “So, that maybe we place with grandma, and parents have a chance to work the system and get into a place where they can one day have their children back.”

The proposed options could include drafting a trigger protection legislation. What that means is if the federal government does strike down ICWA, Wyoming could say ‘no, we will still follow the tenets of ICWA’. Or use the federal law as a template to draft a state law.

But Senator Affie Ellis said it might be prudent to wait and see what the federal government does before drafting legislation. Since tribes are political entities, they have a special status under the law that describes them as sovereign, unlike other racial categories. This gives them political power and protections under the tribes that they are enrolled in.

Ellis said if the law was repealed, this unique political distinction afforded to tribes would be called into question.

“So, that's what's at stake here, is if the Supreme Court somehow finds that that political classification no longer applies, and it's just race-based, then we can't just mimic the federal law, because then it really just takes it all away,” she said.

So, Ellis said waiting might be the better move.

Kate Fort, director of the Indian Law Clinic at Michigan State University, is an expert on ICWA. She said ICWA brings state and tribal governments together in a unique way.

“State ICWA laws are going to protect and ensure that the protections that exist now continue,” she said. “It provides guidance to your state agencies. I think one thing that is really hard to explain to the Supreme Court is sort of how much work has been built up around ICWA.”

Fort said it's hard to say if the federal government is prepared to upend decades of federal Indian law, but being prepared isn’t a bad thing. While the tribes are essential to getting a state ICWA law going, the state should get involved.

“ICWA is the state's responsibility, it was, frankly, a remedial law to ensure that states aren't acting agencies and courts aren't acting wrong when they get native children in front of them,” she said.

Ten states currently have state ICWA laws including Iowa, Nebraska, and New Mexico.

The next tribal committee meeting is in October on the University of Wyoming campus where the committee will continue to discuss whether to write a bill or wait to see what the supreme court does.


Group of Omaha boys in cadet uniforms, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, ca. 1880. (National Archives Identifier 519136)


ACLU of Wyoming urges Supreme Court to uphold Indian Child Welfare Act  

The ACLU of Wyoming is weighing in on a U.S. Supreme Court case that could overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law that protects Indigenous children from forced removal from their families and tribes.

The court will start reviewing the act in November, and the Wyoming ACLU branch recently sent the justices a brief, along with 13 other states, urging them to uphold the act.

"It basically ensures that all efforts are made to maintain those ties and connections between Indian children and their heritage," said Stephanie Amiotte, legal director of the Wyoming ACLU, and an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota.


pre-ICWA adoptee voices: a trmendous sense of loss


Native American adoptees resonate with cultural erasure as the Indian Child Welfare Act now faces legal opposition

The United States has a long history of removing Native American children from their families and communities, stripping their cultural identities. Now that a 44-year-old protection is at risk, the threat of regression is ever present.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is a federal law that was passed to give tribal governments some say in where Native children would be placed in adoption cases. It’s meant to keep Native children connected to their familial and cultural roots.

ICWA applies only to state family court in cases in which Native children meet the definition of an “Indian child” — meaning they are members of, or eligible for membership in, a federally recognized tribe, according to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). In these cases, the child’s tribe has a right to intervene.

Now, ICWA is being challenged at the Supreme Court of the United States level, which could lead to the law being overturned. SCOTUS agreed on Feb. 28 to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of ICWA, Brackeen v. Haaland, and arguments are set for Nov. 9.

“To find after all of these years that it’s unconstitutional would require a pretty major explanation. But it’s an alarming case,” said Sarah Deer, Citizen of Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

Sarah Deer

“We try to be optimistic in this work, but it’s very concerning that the court decided to hear this case.”

Deer, who is a legal scholar, tribal law expert and University of Kansas distinguished professor, has co-authored an amicus brief in the case in which she will help represent two Native adoptees. An amicus brief, meaning “friend of the court,” is an opportunity to present to the court additional sides to consider.

“One of the real catalysts for even getting ICWA passed in 1978 were the testimonies of people who had been ripped from their community and from their culture. They testified in front of Congress and told their stories, and parents who’ve lost children through those social welfare practices of the state also did.

“Those testimonies have always been very, very important.”

Three local Native adults who were adopted into white families as children shared their stories about the effects that cultural erasure through adoption has had on their self identities and senses of community.

‘A tremendous sense of loss’

Jason Swartley, 53, was always told he was Native American but had nothing tangible to prove it to himself and others.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jason Swartley

Because he was born in 1969 and then adopted before ICWA was passed, he did not reap the benefits of those protections. It was not until seven years ago that he was finally able to connect with his biological family.

“A lot of things that would happen today did not happen with me. Normally a Native child would have been enrolled in their tribe automatically and then given a lot of information. That was not the case for me,” Swartley said.

“I was not enrolled, I had no documentation of that [and] I had no idea what tribe. So it was ‘allegedly’ a part of who I was, but I had no validation of that. It’s this feeling — a tremendous sense of loss.”

Swartley said his mother relinquished him at birth and he was adopted into a white family at around 3 months old. Because he was just a baby, ICWA had not yet been passed and some open record laws were not yet passed in Colorado, he was never connected with his biological family.

When he was able to find his biological family in early 2015, he said he was “hungry to keep learning more.” 

Though he was never able to meet his birth mother and biological grandmother before they died, he connected with his two biological brothers and aunt.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jason Swartley holds a photo of himself with his adoptive family. Pictured from left to right are Jason, his adoptive father, his adoptive mother and his adoptive older brother.

“It’s been an incredible journey, I mean, so many powerful emotions linked to that over the past few years,” he said. “At the same time, it’s given me a sense of peace and belonging that I don’t know I’ve had before. All my life I’ve struggled with not being sure who I am, I think, so to speak, and I think a lot of that at high tide is from quite literally not knowing who I am.”

Swartley, who’s an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, now volunteers as the pantry director of the Kansas City Indian Center in Kansas City, Missouri as well as individually helps to nurture Indigenous culture in his community. Giving his three grown children, four grandchildren and community the connection he was not given the opportunity to have is important, he said.

In order to move forward, he said, America must reconcile with its history — both good and egregious. ICWA was passed in response to the alarming rate of Native children being removed from their homes en masse, first through residential schools and then individually through adoption or foster care systems. Swartley said efforts to overturn ICWA disregard the initial reason the law was created. 

A study during the year ICWA was being passed found that 25-35% of all Native children were being removed by state child welfare and private adoption agencies, and of those, 85% were placed outside of their families and communities.

“We need to teach even those difficult parts of history. We see a movement today to get away from that — people want to not teach all these things because they might make someone feel bad. I see parallels with what’s going on with ICWA. There are so many people who don’t know the history, or if they do know the history, they want to bury it,” he said.

“From everything we’ve gone through and everything we’ve suffered, just having our children removed from us, removed from our culture [and] removed from their way of life and their traditional values, ICWA is something that’s needed,” Swartley said.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jason Swartley holds a shell from his biological mother, who died before he was able to meet her.

‘We belonged to the wrong culture, almost’

Given the chance, Jerome Staab would have liked to connect on a deeper level with his biological mother before she recently became ill. 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jerome Staab

His mother has struggled with alcoholism her whole life, and he and his siblings never knew who their father was, he said. Staab said he’s been able to piece more moments and information together from his oldest biological brother, who remembers the most out of all of them. 

Growing up, Staab recalls his biological mother always being referred to in a negative way, but that’s not necessarily how he felt about her.

“She’s an alcoholic, and everyone has their issues, but we were never given the chance to be connected with her. It wasn’t that she didn’t want anything to do with us; it was just that my adoptive parents never built that bridge,” Staab said.

Staab, 37, was adopted into a white family when he was 5 or 6 years old, along with four half siblings, all with the same mother, and one cousin. The only memory he has from being adopted was all of them hiding in the basement or in a closet and the state workers having to physically remove them from the home. 

Staab and the rest of the kids then grew up in Iowa with their adoptive father, who was a second-generation German farmer, and mother, who was a school teacher. Their parents had two biological children, who became the oldest of eight total children. 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jerome Staab holds a photo of himself with his biological and adoptive siblings. Staab, who’s pictured on the top row, second from the right, was adopted when he was 5 or 6 years old.

Though he had a happy childhood filled with sports and playing outside, Staab said his parents made “zero attempt” to expose him to Native identity as he was raised going to a Roman Catholic church every Sunday and Wednesday and attended predominantly white private schools.

“It was a difficult journey because in a private school it was all white people, so you kind of see yourself that way. You don’t see color, but not in the way that people use the term now,” Staab explained. “It’s like, you’re just so deeply integrated with all the kids who are around who look the same that you just kind of assume that you look the same way, and it’s not until somebody says ‘Hey, you look different’ that you stop and think ‘Oh, I guess I do look different.’

“We always felt like we belonged, but again, we belonged to the wrong culture, almost.”

Staab, who’s of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Sioux City, Iowa, said it wasn’t until he attended Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence in 2007 that he learned “what it meant to be Indigenous.”

He now lives in Overland Park with his girlfriend and their 6-year-old daughter. Though he remains close with his adopted family, specifically his father, Staab said he feels at times he has two separated identities.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Jerome Staab is pictured with his girlfriend, Alessandra Sanitate, and their daughter, Cora.

“The only issue is it’s night and day. I have essentially my white family, and they’re totally, completely disconnected from my Native side,” Staab said. “They don’t know anything about it. They don’t understand the culture. A lot of my Native side … it’s poverty-driven, all the issues that go with that, and frankly a bunch of kids without fathers. There’s a lot of aunties and grandmas raising kids.”

Nonetheless, Staab said he holds mostly positive regards toward his life’s course.

“Everybody’s story is unique, and I’m grateful for my different perspective. I’ve been afforded opportunities to be successful. But also, I was disconnected from my family, so I lost a lot of my Native culture, which I had to go back and relearn myself,” Staab said.

“I think ultimately ICWA is a good thing. It’s of course good to keep Natives with Native families, but it doesn’t always turn out bad [if they are not].”

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

‘It was just a lot of displacement’

For the entirety of her life up until about 12 years ago, Lupe Krehbiel was told she was “Mexican.” That wasn’t true, but she wouldn’t truly know that until she was well into adulthood. 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Lupe Krehbiel

“It was just a lot of displacement,” Krehbiel said. “Sometimes I didn’t know where I fit. I’ve never lived on a reservation, I’ve always lived in a white family. But you can’t prove it because it’s like ‘Well, where is your card? What tribe?’ You don’t really know your identity.”

Krehbiel, 54, was born in Texas and adopted into a white family when she was 3 1/2 years old. Her adoptive mother and father were white, and she lived with seven adopted siblings. She said her adoptive parents were able to move her to Kansas and officially adopt her there in the early ’70s. She moved to California in fourth or fifth grade, where she grew up, and then moved back to Kansas in her 20s.

Her biological father died when she was a baby; her mother would leave the older children in charge of caring for the younger kids for long periods of time; and her grandparents were deemed unfit to care for them because their grandfather was sick with tuberculosis, she was told.

Krehbiel’s two biological, older sisters, who were adopted into a different white family in South Dakota, shared with her about their lives.

When she was in fourth or fifth grade, Krehbiel said, she would write letters to one of them before losing contact for a while. She recalls one sister telling her stories of traveling with their parents, who were missionaries or preachers, indicating her other biological siblings were said to be Mexican, too.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Lupe Krehbiel holds a photo book with photos of her and her adoptive family. In the left photo, she is pictured at center in the bottom row, and in the right photo, she is pictured standing second from the right.

“They would go to the reservation and people would ask them why they had Native kids and they would say ‘They’re not Native, they’re Mexican.’ They said they would be stared at and questioned when they were little.”

She remembers around 12 years ago on New Year’s Eve when her biological sister, Mary, called her house phone looking for “Lupita” — Krehbiel’s full name. By the end of the night, she’d spoken to all of her biological brothers and sisters.

After reconnecting with them, Krehbiel learned her biological father and grandfather were Apache. She then dug further into her heritage on and found most of her family roots are in Texas, she said.

Krehbiel is now involved with supporting Native American communities and educating folks about issues such as cultural appropriation through the Kansas City Indian Center, where she serves as the office manager. 

Though she’s found joy in years of submerging herself in community activism, Krehbiel said she still feels she has to explain herself because many family members and close friends don’t understand her Native identity. When sharing about the violence perpetrated against Native people, she has faced opposition from family members because much of that history isn’t included in school textbooks, which has been another reminder of whitewashed history.

She emphasized the importance of continuously expanding one’s mind, saying, “I’m always learning. If I don’t know, I try to find out.”

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Lupe Krehbiel holds a childhood photo of her with all her biological siblings. Two of her siblings were adopted into the same family, while she and her other siblings were adopted individually into different families. Krehbiel reconnected with her biological siblings around 12 years ago.

What’s to come?

As part of her co-authored amicus brief in Brackeen v. Haaland, Deer is working alongside two other Native attorneys and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center to tie together the “crisis of chid welfare in Indian Country to violence against women,” she said. Deer explained her hope that the Supreme Court will grasp concepts beyond what is simply in front of them.

“The pessimist potential is pretty bleak, but that would be that the court declares that Indian citizens are really a race of people and not political. That could have huge ramifications for tribal sovereignty because special treatment of Native people, if we’re a race, would violate race discrimination laws,” she said.

“So we really need the court to understand that tribal citizens come in all different races and colors — that it’s a political identity, it’s not a racial category and that is something I don’t know that all the members of the court will be able to get their heads wrapped around.”

Staab said the attempt to overturn ICWA contributes to the U.S. government’s destruction of Indigenous culture, which is why Native people “have an innate distrust with the government.”

Through repeated violence against Indigenous populations, Swartley said he must rely on inter-community healing.

“That’s just kind of the Native mentality about our songs, our stories, our dances, our culture — it’s all healing,” Swartley said.

National resources, such as National Boarding School Healing Coalition and First Nations Repatriation Institute, are aimed at reconnecting and healing Native adoptees, especially those adopted prior to ICWA’s passing.

Read more about local leaders and activists who have discussed Indigenous erasure through residential schools at this link; forced sterilization at this link; land/people acknowledgements at this link; Missing and Murdered Indigenous People at this link; and abortion bans at this link and this link. More information about ICWA can be found at this link.

Note: This post has been corrected from a previous version. 


Thursday, September 29, 2022

KU is in possession of Native American remains

The University of Kansas has remains of Native American people in its museum collections, according to a statement from administrators.

The remains are being stored in the annex of Lippincott Hall, which is the building that currently houses offices of staff members in KU’s Indigenous Studies program. Offices were closed Tuesday, and they will be moved to a different location on campus.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod; Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor; Nicole Hodges Persley, interim vice provost for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; and Melissa Peterson (Diné), director of tribal relations, sent out a joint statement Tuesday morning.

“While some efforts have been made in the past to repatriate items, the process was never completed,” the statement says. “The continued possession of these human remains causes great pain for many in the Native community and beyond.”

“As a university, we have a responsibility to follow the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a federal law enacted by Congress in 1990, which sets criteria for tribal nations to reclaim human remains (ancestors) and funerary objects held by museums,” according to the statement. “The University has a responsibility to tribal nations and the Native American community to continue a relationship built on dignity, respect, and enduring support.”

An online federal database shows that KU is in possession of remains belonging to a minimum of 380 individuals, as well as 554 associated funerary objects. However, Peterson said that 380 number was probably from a complete inventory that KU did back in the 90s.

University of Kansas Melissa Peterson

The current number of individuals may be closer to 200 — “That is early kind of numbers that we received. We don’t know lots of details, but that’s what we’re working on so that we’re able to … identify those that will need to consult with tribes and kind of go through the NAGPRA process and then just to understand the issue” of why KU has these remains, Peterson said.

She said the discovery came about recently because “We’ve had new people start at KU, and I think someone from the museum was getting to know the collections and realized these were in there and that’s when it was brought forward.”

KU’s Indigenous Studies Program tweeted on Tuesday, “It’s been a heavy, heavy week. There are no words. Please keep our Native students, faculty, staff, alums and community in your thoughts as we try to process this and work for all ancestors to find their way home.”

KU is still gathering information, according to the administrators’ statement.

“We are fully committed to the work of creating meaningful institutional memory by properly repatriating the ancestors and funerary objects,” the statement continues. “We are working with members in our Native American community and outside consultants specializing in repatriation.”

Peterson said the university is planning to make a website that will have updates on the NAGPRA process.

Spokespeople for KU’s Natural History Museum and Spencer Museum of Art forwarded our requests for information to Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokesperson for the university.

“We are working to (communicate) more fully with our Native American students, staff and faculty and address their immediate needs at this time,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “We are still gathering information and will share more details in the future.”

Geographic origins listed for the remains and artifacts attributed to KU in the online database include Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York and several counties in Kansas. Remains of at least 73 individuals are listed as coming from an unknown geographic origin.

Rep. Christina Haswood, a Lawrence Democrat and Diné, tweeted late Tuesday, “My heart is heavy with this news and how we have ancestors who have not completed the journey home. Native students of Lawrence, I’m here if you need my support.”


Data shows number of Indigenous kids in foster care is going up


‘The bond is broken’: StatCan

Indigenous population is on the rise, housing still an issue.

A Winnipeg mother says she was scarred for life when her first child was taken away at birth by social workers, who told her she was unfit to parent her newborn daughter because she was just 17 at the time.

“I don’t know how one could fully heal from that trauma,” said the woman, now 41, whom The Canadian Press has agreed not to identify because of her family’s involvement in the child welfare system. “Having a baby taken away from birth the bond is broken.”

Statistics Canada says 2021 census data shows Indigenous children accounted for 53.8 per cent of all children in foster care.

This has gone up slightly from the 2016 census, which found 52.2 per cent of children in care under the age of 14 were Indigenous.

At the time, only about eight per cent of kids that age in Canada were Indigenous.

More than three per cent of Indigenous children living in private households in 2021 were in foster care compared to the 0.2 per cent of non-Indigenous children. Nationally, Indigenous children accounted for 7.7 per cent of all children 14 years of age and younger.

Statistics Canada says because of difficulties in collecting census data on First Nations and other Indigenous communities, some caution should be exercised in comparing census years.

In recent years there has been a significant push from Indigenous leaders and child welfare advocates across the country to address the myriad systemic issues contributing to the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care.

But experts say factors like colonialism, chronic underfunding of child welfare systems, discriminatory practices and poverty remain.


Kuster: How George Floyd pulled a '60s Scoop survivor out of a dark pit


The irony was that I am a survivor of the ’60s Scoop. I’d been taken away from my native family at birth (no, my mother didn’t drink or do drugs) and was what I call “The Flavour of the Month,” the feature brown baby in the Regina Leader-Post. (Yes, they actually did that, it was a thing.) I felt like I was in the adopt-a-pet section of the paper: “Here, everybody, you can adopt this pooch or tabby, or even this brown kid!” and was adopted by a lovely white family (That’s why I’m an Indian named Kuster — place punchlines here) and at that particular time, I’d just found my true biological family (no thanks to Saskatchewan Social Services, the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in Ottawa, but THAT’S a whole other tale). I was lucky, I have two amazing families; one white, the other Aboriginal, and I fit in both worlds. 

Read more

#OrangeShirtDay September 30

Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S. are recognizing September 30 as “Orange Shirt Day”, or “Every Child Matters Day” to raise awareness and educate about the harms of Indian schools in North America.

Orange Shirt Day 2022 at Camosun

An orange shirt printed with the words "every child matters"

Camosun encourages students to wear an orange shirt on Sept. 29 and 30, and to take the time to learn and reflect as an act of reconciliation.

“Orange Shirt Day is an important day to honour Indian residential school survivors, as well as those who didn’t survive or died, often, young and tragically as a result of the horrors they experienced in these schools,” says Ruth Lyall, Chair of Indigenous programs at Eye? Sqa’lewen: The Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections (IECC) and Orange Shirt Day spokesperson.

Elder Dr. Barney Williams, Nuu-chah-nulth Nation from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, will be emceeing the gathering. Hosted by Eye? Sqa’lewen, the event will include invited guests from Quilts for Survivors, a poetry reading by Beth Mills, as well as drumming and music. 



Monday, September 26, 2022

Take Back Tekanontak

Take Back Tekanontak from Take Back on Vimeo.

Early in September, a purple haze of smoke ascended over the colonial cross on top of tekanontak (Mount-Royal), at the heart of Tiotiake (Montreal). Kanien’kehà:ka oral tradition says that smoke signals sent by their ancestors on tekanontak used to be picked up in the Adirondaks, making its way down the East Coast with surprising rapidity. Our signal today calls on people across Turtle Island to “open their minds and think how to help” so that these issues do not become white noise.

Tekanontak is at the heart of a colonial dispute. In their press conference of July 27th the Mohawk Mothers detailed their legal struggle to stop the construction of McGill University's New Vic project. The risks are damaging multiple archeological sites of Rotinonshionni presence on the island of Montreal and throughout onowarekeh, turtle island, and destroying evidence of unmarked graves from the Mk-ultra experiments on indigenous children, orphans and innocent children classed as juvenile delinquents.

Contrary to colonial history's cover ups, the smoke signaled that it is time to make things right! Mainly to do away with the religious symbols of the atrocities committed on Indigenous peoples ever since the Europeans grabbed Turtle Island. *** To stand firm with the Mohawk Mothers, we call on all solidarity groups to join in action to end the cycle of unquestioned ways of doing.

The Mohawk Mothers have filed an interlocutory injunction to "stop excavation of unmarked graves of children and disturbance of archeological remains of kahnienkehaka/Mohawks on tekanontak [Mount Royal Montreal]". Regardless of the upcoming hearing on 26th October to address the unmarked graves on the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital, McGill and the Société Québécoise des Infrastructures announced that they will start excavating work in early October.

*** Credits Music - Bear Fox sings Ohenton Karihwatekwen Karenna Film & Editing - Take Back Tekanontak Solidarity Committee *** Fundraiser:


stolen children: gimoodinaan binojiinhyan (+tweets) #LandBack


Thursday, September 22, 2022

How tribal placements benefit Native foster children’s health #PROTECTICWA


Allowing children from these communities to be placed through state foster care when there are family or tribal members to take them in dissociates children from their culture and perpetuates the harmful effects of decades of state and federal policies that enabled removal of Native children from their families and tribes.

Because evidence shows that children’s mental and physical health are best served when placed with a family or tribal member, the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978.

The law—passed in response to decades of laws that took children away from their families and tribes and promoted forced assimilation—says that a child’s extended family is the first preference for adoption, followed by members of the child’s tribe. In the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Haaland et al. v. Brackeen et al., seven people, along with Texas, Louisiana and Indiana are challenging the ICWA’s provisions as race-based discrimination infringing on state sovereignty.

“Invalidating ICWA risks returning far too many children to the assimilationist realities of the past. The historical trauma that so many already suffer would be compounded and magnified with fresh loss. Preserving ICWA, however, protects the critical familial and tribal support networks” that American Indian and Alaska Native “children need to thrive,” says the amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court (PDF) by the AAP and AMA Litigation Center.

Find out more about the cases in which the AMA Litigation Center is providing assistance and learn about the Litigation Center’s case-selection criteria.



Monday, September 19, 2022

Tweets #Orange Shirt Day





Saturday, September 17, 2022

Margaret D. Jacobs — After One Hundred Winters - with Alaina E. Roberts


2021 BOOK: After One Hundred Winters confronts the harsh truth that the United States was founded on the violent dispossession of Indigenous people and asks what reconciliation might mean in light of this haunted history. In this timely and urgent book, settler historian Margaret Jacobs tells the stories of the individuals and communities who are working together to heal historical wounds--and reveals how much we have to gain by learning from our history instead of denying it. 

Purchase Book Here: 

Margaret D. Jacobs is professor of history and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Her books include White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940


Jacobs will be in conversation with Alaina E. Roberts, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on the intersection of Black and Native American life from the nineteenth century to the modern day with particular attention to identity, settler colonialism, and anti-Blackness. In addition to her first book, I've Been Here All The While: Black Freedom on Native Land, and multiple academic articles, her writing has appeared in outlets like the Washington Post and TIME magazine and her work has been profiled by the likes of CNN and the Boston Globe. Find her on Twitter @allthewhile1.

A necessary reckoning with America's troubled history of injustice to Indigenous people

Jacobs traces the brutal legacy of systemic racial injustice to Indigenous people that has endured since the nation's founding. Explaining how early attempts at reconciliation succeeded only in robbing tribal nations of their land and forcing their children into abusive boarding schools, she shows that true reconciliation must emerge through Indigenous leadership and sustained relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that are rooted in specific places and histories. 

In the absence of an official apology and a federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ordinary people are creating a movement for transformative reconciliation that puts Indigenous land rights, sovereignty, and values at the forefront. With historical sensitivity and an eye to the future, Jacobs urges us to face our past and learn from it, and once we have done so, to redress past abuses. Drawing on dozens of interviews, After One Hundred Winters reveals how Indigenous people and settlers in America today, despite their troubled history, are finding unexpected gifts in reconciliation.


Chilocco Through the Years (Broadcast Version)


Graphic Novel Developed for a classroom audience, this graphic novel is available for download, print-on-demand, and for a limited time - free on request. 

Jaya, ​a Native teen temporarily separated from her mom, accompanies her Grandmother and Aunt to a family reunion. Between chores and activities, the older women lead her through a story about Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, combining history and their own memories of attending the boarding school in northern Oklahoma. Their account arouses a range of emotions in the teen, from tears, to laughter, to anger, to compassion. The result: a new respect for her family and the resilience of Native peoples, along with insights into how Jaya might handle the changes in her own life. 

This story, set in present-day Oklahoma, was compiled from the experiences of real students who attended Chilocco, and their recollections were shared through oral history interviews, photographs, letters, and other archival sources. It engages students and adults in an often overlooked part of U.S. history and pushes back against stereotypes of Native identity. 

Get the free digital download of the graphic novel! 

Want a physical printed copy of this book, you can order a printed copy from Literati Press for $5. Want a library or classroom copy of the printed book, contact us. Also see this related Project Based Learning module from Dr. Lisa Lynn Brooks. Project support from Oklahoma Humanities. 


Voices from Pezihutazizi Oyate: Boarding School Histories


Join NABS as we screen the short film “Voices from Pezihutazizi Oyate: Boarding School Histories” followed by a panel discussion. Over the past few years NABS has partnered with the Upper Sioux Community on a digitization and oral history project, one of the results of this partnership was a short film looking at the unique experiences of the Yellow Medicine Nation. 

The panel will be moderated by NABS Creative Director Kenrick Escalanti and will feature community members and experts.

Documentary description:
As hurtful truths come to light in the public eye regarding historically operated Federal Indian boarding schools in the United States, many Native Nations are reclaiming their voices regarding these assimilative educational institutions. For the Upper Sioux Community (“Yellow Medicine Nation”) living in Minnesota, these historical truths are known to have cast profound ripples that effect their present. This mini documentary explores community interpretations of this boarding school past and offers hope for justice and healing.

Register for our virtual event here:
Register Today

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Vermont hires ICWA Coordinator

 Building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes

Building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes-- that’s what the Vermont...
Building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes-- that’s what the Vermont Department for Children and Families is hoping to achieve with the creation of their newest position. - File photo(FILE)
Published: Sep. 4, 2022

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes-- that’s what the Vermont Department for Children and Families is hoping to achieve with the creation of their newest position. The role is called the Indian Child Welfare Act coordinator. The title references the federal law that aims to keep Native American children under the care of relatives or tribe members whenever safe and possible. Because Abenaki tribes are recognized by the state but not by the federal government, that federal law doesn’t apply to them.

“Vermont is one of the few states that does not have any federally recognized tribes. But that doesn’t mean that we do not see these families,” said Lindsay Barron, the policy and planning manager for the Department for Children and Families.

When a child could have tribal affiliation or heritage, the coordinator will be responsible for verifying that information with the relevant tribes before a child is placed in another home. Advocates like Jeff Bena,y the director of Indian education for Franklin County public schools, say that placing an emphasis on the child’s culture could be a game changer.

“It breaks your heart when you see some of the stuff and some of the things that these kids go through. And it really is a traumatic experience. If we can reduce that level of trauma, for so many of the kids this would be amazing… If the state of Vermont can finally say that we want to work with you, and we understand that there’s a culture here and we understand that there’s this distinct community, what can we do to support kids? Well, this is going to go a long way,” said Benay.

Currently, a paralegal with the Vermont attorney general’s office conducts these tribal verifications after DCF workers speak with a child’s family member.

“It’s rethinking where it’s sitting within state government. And so, our intention first and foremost of this position is to continue to maintain compliance with an ICWA and all the notification work that we’re already doing that’s already happening. It’s not just about federal compliance, and it’s not just about the law, but it’s about doing what is right and doing what is best practice,” said Barron.

The Department for Children and Families hopes the coordinator will help build collaborative relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki communities, as well as strengthen existing partnerships.

Joanne Crawford, the chief of the Abenaki nation of Missisquoi, says she hopes the same.

“I think this is a great opportunity for there to be more communication and support and for us to work together and make sure that it’s happening in a very sensitive way to all that are involved because this is a very traumatic event for children and it’s traumatic for families. I would love to see us be part of creating policy around this,” said Crawford.

The application for the position has already closed and the person who is hired for the role is expected to begin in October.

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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