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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poverty on Reservations

(This information was found at the Abbe Museum website in Bar Harbor, Maine. This story happened across New England. President Obama and family recently vacationed at Bar Harbor. Hope Obama went to the Abbe.)
When Maine separated from Massachusetts and became a state in 1821, it took over Massachusetts’s treaty obligations and responsibility for the Indian communities. The state of Maine controlled the tribes’s money and resources—they held them in “trust.” “Indian agents” were assigned by the state to oversee the Native communities and to manage tribal money. The State of Maine did not allow Native people to manage their own money and resources. For instance, whenever money needed to be spent on the reservation the Indian Agent had to approve the project and give permission for their money to be spent.

Each week, the Indian agent gave each family a stipend to buy food, clothing, firewood and other necessities. This money belonged to the Native people, not to the State or to the Indian agent, but they were not allowed to have control over it! Many times the money given for a family’s necessities was far less than the necessities cost. For instance, in 1910, a cord of wood cost between $4 and $9, but only $3 was given to widows for their winter supply of wood.
Over the next 150 years, the State of Maine illegally and without permission from the tribes sold off, leased and transferred thousands of acres of Native land. The State also illegally authorized the harvesting and sale of Native timber and hay—and sold the timber and firewood back to the Native communities. In some cases, the State added money to the trust funds for the illegal sale of land and resources. In other cases, no payments were made. Interest on the deposits to these funds was supposed to be paid at six percent per year. From 1859 until 1969 no interest was ever paid to the tribes. Instead, it went to the Indian agents.
Without control over their own money and tribal resources, Native people suffered. Reservations were places of extreme poverty. Native language was outlawed through an act of the State Legislature. Sicknesses such as tuberculosis, measles and whooping cough swept through the communities. Native people were forced to learn farming and raise crops. Native children attended convent schools run by nuns and taught in English. In most cases, the only buildings recommended by the Indian agents for repair were the churches, schoolhouses and homes for nuns and priests. Indian agents remained in control of tribal resources and money until the mid-1970s.

Photo: Whalebone point at the Abbe Museum
Visit the ABBE MUSEUM, PO Box 286, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609 (where President Obama and family had a mini-vacation recently)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Racial Misclassification of American Indians & Suicide

"Race is important to identity and when your race is not recognized by others it is stressful." I found this study important since people are often judged by how one looks. That includes some long-held ideas of what American Indians should look like; then I thought about adoptees who are Native American by blood but have no connection to family and tribal culture. It's known adoptees do commit suicide at higher rates, obviously stress-related. Understanding how we fit into this world of humans, then how we can reconnect to culture has become my mission - Trace

Mistaken Racial Identification Causes Emotional Strain in American Indians

[Oct 3, 2007] Iowa City, IA — Research from the University of Iowa suggest that people who are routinely misidentified as members of a racial group to which they do not belong experience high levels of emotional distress and are more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide. "The Implications of Racial Misclassification by Observers," by sociologists Lisa Troyer and Mary Campbell, appeared in the October 2007 issue of the American Sociological Review.
     Troyer and Campbell analyzed data collected between 1994 and 2002 for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which included both the self-reported racial identification of Native American young adults in the study and the racial identity assigned by an observer.
     They found that more than a third of the American Indian youth were mis-labeled by an observer as members of another racial group.
     Among the American Indians in the study who were misidentified, 13 percent reported thinking about suicide, compared to only 6 percent of those who were identified correctly. Three percent of the misidentified young people had attempted suicide, while 1 percent who were identified correctly had done so. The misidentified young people were also more likely to be seeing a counselor or therapist (8 percent to 5 percent). They also found that mis-classified American Indians were more likely to participate in organizations that emphasize racial and ethnic identity, perhaps creating connections that help deal with the stress.
     "Previous studies of multi-racial Americans have given us anecdotal evidence that constantly having to explain your racial background is stressful for people," Campbell said. "People say, 'I'm constantly being asked what I am, and I don't fit any of the boxes.' They talk about it as if it is stressful, but until now we didn't have data to support these observations."
     This study is the first to document empirical evidence of the stress associated with not being recognized as a member of the racial group with which one identifies.
     "According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young American Indians, age 25-34 years, and the third leading cause of death among young American Indians age 10-24 years," Troyer said. "Standard explanations of suicide do not fully explain the racial gap. Our study offers a new window to understanding this disturbing disparity.
     "Adolescence is a critical time in human development, a time when identity becomes crystallized," she continued. "Race is important to identity and when your race is not recognized by others it is stressful."
     While the current study is focused on American Indians, Campbell and Troyer note that the increasing multiracial diversity in the United States makes the study potentially applicable to other populations.

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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.

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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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