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Karen Vigneault - Helping Native Adoptees Search


MAKING CONTACT: My Interview with Native Genealogist Karen Vigeault-MLIS (updated)

In 2018, Karen traveled to Iceland to help an adoptee find her tribal family.
By Trace (DeMeyer) Hentz

  2013: I was so surprised and happy to receive a gracious email from Karen to help out adoptees.  I know many adoptees who get stuck on doing genealogy when they open their adoptions and have a name or family story that says there is INDIAN BLOOD. Once you have a name, you have to connect a parent or grandparent to a tribal roll. This has been a real problem for many adoptees.

The following interview is with Karen Vigneault-MLIS. She is an academic research librarian, genealogist and historical researcher. Karen is a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. 
She offered to help adoptees do family genealogy to be enrolled with their tribal nations. This offers hope for many of us! But remember that adoptees must do all the necessary steps to get their adoption records. She explains why this is so very important.

Karen, you have helped a few Native adoptees find their way back home. Can you share an example?
Above is the link to pics and small article showing all that were involved in Patrick's aka Quinton's (his real name) story.  It was interesting because in his case his mom was adopted as well.. but she had passed.. so we had to get both cases opened. By opening his mothers we found more info on grandmothers last name. They spelled it wrong, which meant I had to try and decipher what it possibly matched on Aleutian records. I also called Alaska and spoke to people from villages in the area asking if they ever heard the name I thought it was.. In the end we found the enrollment documents on the tribal website.. Patrick filled them out, sent out the adoption records as well.. and ultimately was enrolled..

Opening records seems to be the biggest roadblock for many adoptees.  How have you opened or accessed records?
I myself did not open the records. I had connections along the way and the ADOPTEE did their part in requesting info and documents... It starts with going to family court and requesting to get the records opened. Here in California we also have CILS (CA. Indian Legal Services)... which also has a form to petition to have your records opened.

You work with another person that trains judges on these types of cases. You have opened records to get the adoptee enrolled. How did you do this? 
(see above) It is important that adoptees cultivate relationships with people connected to the court system. 

Have you used the Indian Child Welfare Act to petition the courts?
Yes, definitely!

Do you recommend an adoptee use someone like you and could someone get in touch with you for your help?
Yes, I think working with someone who already has the experience navigating through websites/ documents and Indian country would make the task a little easier.

I wish to thank Karen for helping adoptees in their search.

NOTE:  The Canadian provinces all have post adoption registries. All work basically the same way. When Alberta (for example because it's the one I am most familiar with) open their registry it was advertised that the records were being opened. In the advertising it was stated how an adoptee could access the records (there was a form), it also addressed the issue of a birth parent looking for a child and how one manages a non-release. Although the system is a bit backed up (it takes a while for the information to be sent) it seems to be working quite well. 

Email me if you need more info...Trace Lara Hentz (

Since this was published, Karen successfully helped three more friends who are Native adoptees find their ancestors and relatives. I have no number on the reunions she helped create.

The anthology Called Home: The RoadMap has many who thank Karen personally for helping them.

The loss of Karen is a blow to all adoptees in Indian Country.

my NEW email is


  1. Karen was key in helping me get names of my family! She is a wonderful caring woman who wants to help you if you need her! God bless you Karen and THANK YOU VERY MUCH! You have helped me open a new chapter in my life!

    God Bless you and your work!

    Cynthia Lammers
    aka: Sherry Standing Soldier

    1. Sherry my sister... I am honored to have been a part of your journey... I wish i could help every sister and brother come home...

  2. My mom has made a major effort to try and find her son (my brother) recently. She put him up for adoption through the Navajo Nation Social Service. However she did this in the early 1970's and not sure where to start. I don't even know where to begin to help my mom find the necessary resources either.

    1. Please Nizhoni, email:

  3. I am hoping there is a way you can help. 

         My name is Leah Marie Hough.  I am writing to you in hopes that you will be willing to help me find a solution to a dilemma that has haunted me all my life.  I am 32 years old and would like to know how to find out about my Native American heritage.  My father, Jared Micheal Hough, who was told he was from The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Indians,( by the people who adopted him when he was just 2 or 3 years old) has left me with so many unanswered questions. He passed away quite a few years ago and I have been trying to figure all this out since then.  There was an article in one of Michigan's newspapers saying that my grandparents Onalee and Arthur Hough had adopted two Native American children in 1958 I believe.  I no longer have the article because I went to get help a few years ago from a local Indian organization where I currently reside in Milwaukee, WI.  I ended up moving and my phone got turned off and I never heard anything back from them.  I recently tried to contact them and found that the place I went to before is no longer there.  It is now just a Native American church.  My father's adoption record was also with the information I gave them.  It stated that my grandparents adopted him but did not give any names of his biological parents.  All I know is that before he was adopted he was called "Baby Boy Case," which was listed as his name on the adoption record.  I have tried many different ways to figure all this out and have always come to a dead end.  I was told that the birth records place in Michigan that had my father's records had burnt down soon after he was adopted out.  I would just like to know if you have any advice you could give me or any place I can go to get help with this situation.  This has been one of my life goals for a long time.  I have three children and would like them to know about our heritage as Native Americans and like me they have so many questions that I can not answer.  It breaks my heart that I can not share with them any aspects of our beautiful culture.  Thank you for your time reading this.  I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.


                                                                                                                                                                                                   Leah M. Hough

    Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note5.

    1. Leah, please email: and

  4. the larahentz email is now changed to


Please: Share your reaction, your thoughts, and your opinions. Be passionate, be unapologetic. Offensive remarks will not be published. We are getting more and more spam. Comments will be monitored.
Use the comment form at the bottom of this website which is private and sent direct to Trace.

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What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!

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.

Did you know?

Did you know?

Help in available!

Help in available!
1-844-7NATIVE (click photo)

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Diane Tells His Name

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?