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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bad Seeds & Split-Feathers: November’s Happy Adoption Month

November is a surreal and painful month for me: it’s National Adoption Month, Native American Month and possibly my birth month. The perfect traumatic trifecta!

While non-adoptive families are preparing to be grateful and thankful for their lives with their loved ones (Thanksgiving, Christmas), I am preparing to endure another year of not knowing my biological family and trying to accept that I will die, never seeing my birth mother’s face, or hearing her voice or receiving a hug from her.

I will die like I have lived, as the mythical changeling, forever severed from heritage, family and identity. And I will die knowing I failed miserably as the replacement baby that was supposed to cure my adoptive mother’s infertility.

So why am I upset about November celebrating Native American Month? Because I was told by my adoptive mother that I was mixed-blood American Indian and Irish. Given that I was adopted in 1958, I most probably am one of the babies that was stolen from my American Indian mother during the U.S. Government’s collusion with adoption agencies to exterminate native people (Indian Adoption Act of 1958). The adoption agencies that worked with the federal government made sure that Indian babies were transported across state lines so the mothers could never find them—some of the babies came from Canada. And because I was adopted through Catholic Social Services, my birth date was most probably changed. All I know is that my earliest pictures are labelled on the back like this: Changeling 3-4 1/2 months?

Before she died, my adoptive mother destroyed all my adoption papers plus the baby moccasins  I was wearing the day she got me. She remained committed to her promise to Catholic Social Services to obscure my past so I could never find my heritage, my family and roots.

My adoptive parents were not thrilled when I became an adult and was accepted by numerous American Indians—to the point that I was taught traditions and ceremonies. In fact, I was so welcomed and loved by these people, I raised my sons as traditional Eastern Woodland American Indians. Then, after years of feeling I had a place in the world—even though I didn’t know my mother and father—everything changed with the US Government’s passing of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. Suddenly, having a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) card certifying American Indian heritage was necessary to participate in pow wows and ceremonies. Thus began the attack by Full-blood Indians against mixed-blood Indians which is continuing to this day.

Overnight I and my sons morphed in white wannabees—who had no right to claim any of my heritage— I didn’t have “proof on paper”. After 25 years of acceptance, I was ostracized and lost the closest thing I had to a heritage and belonging that non-adoptive people take for granted.

So, ya, November is a terrible month for me. I am reminded by adoption agencies and adoptive parents, and some birth mothers, as well as non-adoptive people, that I should be grateful and happy I was taken from my mother the day I was born—I was “saved” from having a terrible life. I am reminded that without my original birth certificate and without a blood-quantum paper trail from the US Government, I cannot practice my American Indian beliefs and traditions—without the risk of going to jail. I am reminded that before the Indian Arts & Crafts Act of 1990, I was part of a vital and life-sustaining culture that my soul resonated with. And, because I am part of some groups that are welcoming Split-Feathers home to their tribes (those American Indian adoptees that were lucky enough to find their paperwork) I am reminded that I will never experience the welcome home pow wows and ceremonies that are intended to help adopted Indians heal.

November this year is worse than previous years—I am close to sixty—I’ve lived more years, than I have years to live before I die. And I know now, I will die without ever seeing my mother’s face or being accepted by my tribe.

Happy Adoption Month! Happy Native American Month! And (maybe?) Happy Birthday to Me!

ABOUT NoName Changeling: I am an adult adoptee who is finally coming to terms with my past and the psychological damage that occurred the day I was born. For fifty-seven years I believed I was worthless and that all the problems and challenges I had were totally my fault. After thirty years of psychological counseling for chronic depression, severe anxiety and late-diagnosis ADHD, I found my “family”—other adult adoptees that had similar experiences and characteristics. This blog is about freeing myself from the trauma of  adoption and taking back my power from the adults who treated me as a disposable commodity.

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

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where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?