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Friday, June 30, 2023

(Almost) Dead Indian: Writing in 2008

By Trace L Hentz, blog editor
In 2008, this is what I wrote as an introduction to the memoir I was working on... (a draft)

… a memoir of brainwashing and life as a dead Indian…


I did have to pretend to be someone – and live a lie - because I’m adopted. Ask any adoptee who has Native American ancestry.  If you are not told any truth, you’re just another dead Indian, at least on paper or on tribal rolls.  Our papers are usually fake and we live with amended original birth certificates (OBC).  Our adoptive parents are listed as our biological parents, which is another lie we live with....        

            America is like that.  Adoptees seem invisible yet the number of adoptees in the United States is estimated to be between six and ten million.  They’d prefer every one of us to live as an American citizen as if none other were as good or as important.  America forgets it’s very new by all standards and just acts like its old.  America has its own amnesia.

I intended to write about adoption history and what I experienced opening my adoption many years ago.  America’s adoption files of my era (the 1950s) are still sealed by laws in most states, still shrouded in secrecy. I expected little help or new discoveries.  Never did I expect to find so many adoptees in the same boat from 2005 onward.  I didn’t know there were millions of us, some blazing new trails on the internet global highway. I found friends.
            In the last 20+ years, adoption’s gone global, widely publicized and still touted as noble, saving and particularly saintly of those men and women who adopt, who give so generously to orphans.  That’s about all we hear: how great it is to adopt.
            I asked myself, where is the missing piece …where is the voice of the adopted… what happens to the adoptee?  I decided to write about my experience (as an adoption survivor and journalist) and include other American Indians who experienced being adopted.  I found much more going on with the business of adoption, so I include it.  Certainly this will be the most controversial book on adoption since I was often in a state of shock and utter disbelief during my years of research on the adoption industry.
            Indian child removals by adoption set out to accomplish the break-up of Indian families and culture.  Once adopted, you’re erased, an outsider, a stranger to your own nation, lands and people.  I prefer to think of my younger self as brainwashed.  There was fear and emotional illness, which I explain. What is known about the Indian Adoption Projects (more than one) and the aftermath, few books actually acknowledge it happened here.
            There is persistent rampant poverty in Indian Country even now.  I found Indian people who were white-washed through strenuous puritanical forces using assimilation via adoption and residential boarding schools. 
            Adoptees with Indian blood find out soon enough their reservations are closed to strangers.  Without proof, you’re suspect.  You can’t always get the proof since laws prevent it.  Just one Minnesota tribe, White Earth, decided to call out to its lost children; this made news in the fall in 2007.  Going back takes a special kind of courage.
            One Native American adoptee I know was told – be happy, be white. Ask yourself, how would you react? Is Indian Country such a bad place to be from? How did this happen to us?
            Society determined long ago what was best for children.  Once adopted, society can let us go, write us off.
            Here in America, thousands of Indian children were taken from parents and given to non-Indian people.
            Survivors are here to tell you this was a genocidal act against our humanity. Some of us were abducted, abused, brainwashed and all of us erased.
            Adoption secrets are protected by laws.  Laws prevented me from ever knowing the truth of my true identity.  I still found a way. 
This edition is on amazon and in some bookstores

Wayne Carp, an adoption advocate and author who went “undercover” to compile his book on adoption industry history kept running into secrecy problems. Unlike Carp, I am the story.

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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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