“I am 72 years old. I was
adopted into a white family at age one-and-a-half when my mother died. I
realized I was different before I ever went to school. When I asked, my foster
parents told me I was Indian, and from that day I identified with Indians,
because that was what I was. I didn’t know who I was, and that heartache and
anguish has been with me for nearly 70 years. I hope your study can help me
find out who I am before I die. I don’t want to die not knowing my true
identity. They sealed my birth certificate so I could never find my identity
and never see my blood relatives. The pain of this is never ending.” –
Participant in Split Feather Study by Carol Locust (Cherokee), 1998
By Trace A. DeMeyer
November may be the month to promote
more adoptions, but for North American Indians, adoption is and was a weapon of
mass destruction which came in the form of the Indian Adoption Projects (IAP),
developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division of the federal government
and the Child Welfare League of America.
The Indian Adoption Program was not a war, not a signed treaty, but
their idea. This idea was highly effective since adopting out Indian children
would be as destructive as war but it would last longer; it’d last a lifetime. IAP was not officially signed like other
treaties made in Indian Country. IAP
records were sealed and not made public. Adoptions would be permanent. Native
children adopted by non-Indians parents would be Americans. Thousands of Indian
children were placed in closed adoptions and wiped off tribal rolls. No one
knows exactly how many children were affected.
A big black government sedan was reported in many abduction stories
and it was not against the law or illegal.
Social workers took some children to residential boarding schools. Others were placed in orphanages and foster
homes, and others would be adopted.
William Byler testified before the
Senate in 1974 to ask for what became the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.
Here is some of his testimony:
Senator ABOUREZK. Can you describe how removal of Indian
children in adoption situation is accomplished?
Mr. BYLER. I can cite certain kinds
of experiences that we have had. One case, not too long ago in North Dakota,
Indian children were living with their grandparents. Their grandmother was off
doing the shopping. The grandfather was 3 miles away with a bucket getting
water. While they were away, the social worker happened by at that time and
found the children scrapping. When grandfather returned, the children were
gone, and I don't know whether, in that case, he was ever successful in finding
where the children were. I think they were placed for adoption somewhere. When that happens, Indian parents or
grandparents are told this is confidential information. We cannot disclose to
you where your children are. This makes is seem impossible for them to even try
to do anything about it.
Senator ABOUREZK. You mean the
children were taken from the home and the grandparents never were allowed to
see them again or to try to fight the actions?
Mr. BYLER. That is correct, and as
far as they knew, they never received any notice that there were proceedings
against them or against the parents. This is very often the case, there is no
notice given, or if notice is given, it is in such a form that the people who
get the notice don't understand it; It does not constitute a real notice.
In the case of Adoption Awareness Month, those who interpret its value
to society do so to protect and promote their myths, touting numerous benefits
for the adoptee. Indian adoptees are
called the Stolen Generations and Lost Children for a reason. It is undeniable our assimilation was
America’s answer to Manifest Destiny, to make adoptees non-Indian and prototypes
of American citizens, to destroy our future as tribal members.
Very few tribes have found
success with economic development such as casino gaming; most suffer
devastating cycles of poverty, the result of America's neglect and misguided
the wars, Indian reservations were isolated for a reason - out of sight, out of
mind; this is one reason why Indian Country has such severe epidemics and no
one in America seems to know.
After National Public Radio’s three part investigation, their
evidence proves the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is not working as it was
intended and enacted! Social services in 32 states are violating federal law
and still taking Indian children.
in America is not something we celebrate in Indian Country.
Trace A. DeMeyer and Suzie Fedorko will be guests on Jay Winter Night Wolf show Friday, Nov. 22 at 1 PM EST - www.wpfw.org
This is an illuminating post. While I knew about the awful damage of "adoptions" in the past, I wasn't aware how prevalent it was now. And out of sight, out of mind is certainly an apt description of a lot of problems facing the community.ReplyDelete
The Warrior Muse
Thanks for reading Shannon. Yes, you might call this a battle of awareness in some respects. Many adoptees cannot access their own name or tribe. We have a long way to go for reunions since the records are sealed. Tragic, yes.Delete