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Friday, June 30, 2017

US Tribes Call for Testimonies on Missing American Indian & Alaska Native Boarding School Children

Published June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – On June 15, 2017, at its Mid‐Year Conference in Connecticut, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) adopted a resolution, sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation, encouraging American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations, families, and descendants to provide information on children who never returned home from Indian Boarding Schools.

Source: US Tribes Call for Testimonies on Missing American Indian & Alaska Native Boarding School Children - Native News Online

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

They Called Me Number One

Like thousands of Aboriginal children in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in the colonized world, Xatsu'll chief Bev Sellars spent part of her childhood as a student in a church-run residential school.
These institutions endeavored to "civilize" Native children through Christian teachings; forced separation from family, language, and culture; and strict discipline. Perhaps the most symbolically potent strategy used to alienate residential school children was addressing them by assigned numbers only—not by the names with which they knew and understood themselves.
In this frank and poignant memoir of her years at St. Joseph's Mission, Sellars breaks her silence about the residential school's lasting effects on her and her family—from substance abuse to suicide attempts—and eloquently articulates her own path to healing. Number One comes at a time of recognition—by governments and society at large—that only through knowing the truth about these past injustices can we begin to redress them.


"Deeply personal, sorrowful and ultimately triumphal, They Called Me Number One is an important addition to the literature on residential schools, and Canada's reckoning with its colonial past."
- Winnipeg Free Press

"Her memoir provides invaluable insight into the enduring effects of a tragic and shameful part of our collective past, and also helps to begin the process of healing."
- Danna Hansen, Quill & Quire

"Much of what has been written about the residential schools system, however, is so densely academic or historical that many readers simply tune it out. But Bev Sellars' memoir, They Called Me Number One, is neither, which is what makes it so accessible."
- Tyrone Burke, Canadian Geographic

About the Author

Bev Sellars: Bev Sellars is Chief of the the Xat'sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia. She holds a degree in history from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. She has served as an advisor to the BC Treaty Commission.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

“Indian Children and the Federal-Tribal Trust Relationship” Now Available

Newly Released Census Numbers

American Indian & Alaska Native Population Growing

Published June 25, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau released new estimates on the population in the United States. Estimates released Friday, indicate the American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

The American Indian and Alaska Native Population – Other Key Statistics:
  • California had the largest American Indian and Alaska Native population of any state in 2016 (1.1 million), while Texas had the largest numeric increase since July 1, 2015 (10,800). Alaska had the highest percentage (19.9 percent) of the American Indian and Alaska Native population.
  • Among counties, Los Angeles County, Calif., had the largest American Indian and Alaska Native population of any county in 2016 (233,200), and Maricopa County, Ariz., held the greatest increase from the previous year (4,100). Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska, had the highest share for this group (91.8 percent).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Safeguarding Tribal Sacred Items

Senator Udall said: “Native Americans have been the victims of theft and looting for generations. We have passed laws to stop it, but people are exploiting the loopholes in our current laws to sell these objects as art. They are not pieces of art – theft not only robs Tribes of sacred objects, it robs them of a piece of their spiritual identity. This bill is the strong action we need to put a stop to theft and sale and ensure Tribes have a seat at the table in the fight.”
A copy of the bill is available here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native Boarding Schools

Boys pray before bedtime with Father Keyes, St. Mary’s Mission School, Omak. © Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane, WA
Native scholars describe the destruction of their culture as a “soul wound,” from which Native Americans have not healed. Embedded deep within that wound is a pattern of sexual and physical abuse that began in the early years of the boarding school system. Joseph Gone describes a history of “unmonitored and unchecked physical and sexual aggression perpetrated by school officials against a vulnerable and institutionalized population.” Gone is one of many scholars contributing research to the Boarding School Healing Project.
Rampant sexual abuse at reservation schools continued until the end of the 1980s, in part because of pre-1990 loopholes in state and federal law mandating the reporting of allegations of child sexual abuse. In 1987 the FBI found evidence that John Boone, a teacher at the BIA-run Hopi day school in Arizona, had sexually abused as many as 142 boys from 1979 until his arrest in 1987. The principal failed to investigate a single abuse allegation. Boone, one of several BIA schoolteachers caught molesting children on reservations in the late 1980s, was convicted of child abuse, and he received a life sentence. Acting BIA chief William Ragsdale admitted that the agency had not been sufficiently responsive to allegations of sexual abuse, and he apologized to the Hopi tribe and others whose children BIA employees had abused.
The effects of the widespread sexual abuse in the schools continue to ricochet through Native communities today. “We know that experiences of such violence are clearly correlated with posttraumatic reactions including social and psychological disruptions and breakdowns,” says Gone.

Read the full article here

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Christians Only: The New Anti-Native Adoption Law in Texas

The Freedom to Serve Children Act, an anti-Native adoption law in Texas, protects the rights of child welfare providers to discriminate.

This law is unlikely to create problems for Indians who are willing to hew to the Christian line, but Texas is home to lots of Indians who follow the Native American Church. It appears to me from the outside that NAC people are as Christian as Mormons are, but I doubt that most Christians in a position to place children for adoption would see it that way, or know the difference between peyote and heroin.
Then there are always some Indians still doing their best to follow traditional beliefs. (Where we say “traditional,” many Christians who demanded this bill would say “heathen.”) Other Indians let go of their traditional beliefs but still did not buy what the missionaries were selling. They end up like a lot of white people: not atheists or even agnostics but rather “unchurched.”

Source: Christians Only: The New Anti-Native Adoption Law in Texas - Indian Country Media Network

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

American Indian Children Still Removed From Homes ...

REBLOG:  AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES: American Indian Children Still Removed From Homes 


SOURCE (2015)
Almost 40 years after the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) passed,
American Indian children are still being removed from their homes in
highly disproportionate numbers– at a rate almost three times higher
than any other ethnicity, excepting African American children.
Minnesota leads the list of states with the worst rates of
disproportionate removal– where American Indian children are overly
represented in the foster care system– according to a June 2015 report
from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.  Other
states with high numbers of disproportionate removal include Nebraska,
Iowa, Idaho, Wisconsin, Washington, South Dakota and Oregon.

Even in states without dramatic removal rates– like Arizona and New
Mexico– many American Indian children find themselves removed from their
families and placed in group homes, treatment centers or foster care.

In McKinley County, New Mexico,  American Indian children make up 73
percent of all children in foster care, according to a 2015  third
quarter report from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families
Department (CYFD).  And in Arizona, over 1,300 American Indian children
were in the foster care system as of March 31, 2015, according to a
Department of Child Safety Child Welfare Report.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 applies to any child of American
Indian descent who is an enrolled member or eligible for enrollment in
any federally recognized tribe. When an American Indian child enters
state custody, the state must contact the child’s tribe, and the tribe
has the right to transfer the case to tribal court or to participate in
court proceedings.

In order to help American Indian children stay connected to their
tribal cultures and identities, ICWA also established a placement
preference that starts with the child’s extended family and clan
relatives and then progresses to enrolled members of the child’s tribe
and enrolled members from any tribe– with placement of the child in a
non-Indian family as a last resort.

“Any child who might be Native American, they have a [cultural]
identity,” said Regina Yazzie, Program Director of the Navajo Nation
Division of Social Services.  “It’s a benefit.”

Yazzie added that across the country, state agencies struggle to find
American Indian foster families for children.  Finding placement
families on reservation land can prove equally challenging.
Data from the Children, Youth and Families Department of New Mexico
shows there are currently 43 American Indian foster care providers who
have 79 placements available– nowhere near enough for the 262 American
Indian children in New Mexico’s foster care system.  Melissa Otero from also said through an email correspondence that less than
1 percent of all AdoptUsKids placement families identify as American
When speaking with the Navajo Post, several tribal members mentioned
hardships on reservations that negatively impacted families’ ability to
foster– including poverty, poor housing, poor mental health care,
suicide, and addiction.
“Part of what’s going on [is] drug and alcohol numbers are sky high,”
said one tribal member, who wished to remain anonymous in order to be
able to speak freely. “There are not a lot of healthy families. There
are tons of families that care, but it takes structure, it takes money
[to foster], and so many families are overwhelmed with the day to day
living, how could they bring another child into their home?”
For the San Carlos Apache Tribe, methamphetamine poses a particular
devastating problem.   Social services Director Terry Ross said that the
reservation currently has an “epidemic of mothers with meth-exposed
“We try to work with the family, but when mothers are addicted to
meth… it’s hard,” Ross said. “We can’t make people do anything. They
have to want to change for their child.”
Many tribes offer social services like counseling, parenting classes,
detox centers and emergency supplies to American Indian families in
need. But representatives from several tribes mentioned that funding is
limited and resources are stretched thin, so that American Indian
children continue to find themselves in foster care– where many undergo
significant trauma and loss of identity when growing up separated from
their tribes, communities, and cultures.
A Sense of Belonging

Sandra White Hawk, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota of the
Rosebud Sioux Tribe,  was adopted into a white missionary family when
she was 18 months old in the days before ICWA. The only Indian girl in
her community, she grew up with a sense of being “different.”

“My adoptive mother constantly reminded me that no matter what I did,
I came from a pagan race whose only hope for redemption was to
assimilate to white culture,” wrote White Hawk, now executive director
of the First Nations Repatriation Institute, on her website.

White Hawk added that people in her community were ignorant of her
culture when she was growing up; they would ask her to do rain dances or
give war whoops.  Susan Devan Harness, a member of the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was also adopted into a non-Indian family at
18 months. Harness said she was called “Squaw Girl” growing up and that
she had trouble finding dates in high school because her male
classmates’ mothers believed stereotypes that American Indian women were
promiscuous– and that dating one would get their sons in trouble.

“I have had privileges,” said Harness of her adoption. “Living in a
nice neighborhood, going to college, I have a Master’s Degree…a place at
the table. But I have paid a huge price for those privileges."

As part of that price, Harness said she was always fighting for a
place of belonging, and that many adoptees exist in an “in between
place” between their tribal communities and their adoptive families.
White Hawk’s website states that many adult adoptees also show traits of
survivors of trauma: anxiety, impulsivity, nightmares, guilt, and
unresolved guilt– and that much healing of these issues takes place for
adoptees when they reconnect with their tribal identities or “come

“In the beginning I didn’t see the importance of why anyone would
want to know my story as an adoptee because I didn’t understand the
prevalence,” said White Hawk. “I get it now.”

White Hawk added that reconnecting with her biological family and
tribe later in life allowed a “whole new part” of herself to awaken. 
She sees similar transformations in the adoptees she works with– as does
Karen Vigneault, a librarian who uses her research skills to search
genealogy records and connect adoptees with their families.

Vigneault said that adoptees face many obstacles back-peddling
through their pasts: opening sealed court documents, misspellings in
their ancestors’ names or lack of names which makes tracing families
difficult, and apprehension at returning to their communities and
families decades later. Despite the challenges, Vigneault provides her
help to adoptees free from charge.

“If Creator has people asking me for help, I can’t charge them for
that,” Vigneault said. “To help them come home… it should be a free

A 2009 report published by the Annie E Casey Foundation found that
resilience– the ability to bounce back after a traumatic or difficult
experience– increases dramatically for American Indian individuals who
have seven protective factors in their lives, including: a sense of
belonging to a culture, spirituality, connections to the tribal language
and extended family, a sense of humor, a mindset of forward thinking or
“moving forward to the seventh generation,” and what authors Charlotte
Goodluck and Angela Willeto describe as “responses from the culture”–
which could include beadwork, drumming, sweat lodge, talking circles,
smudging, pow wows and other ceremonies.

The association between resilience and strong rootedness in tribal
culture have significant implications for American Indian children
within the foster care and adoption systems today.

Tania Valdez, associate director of the voluntary treatment foster
care program La Familia-Namaste, Inc in New Mexico, described the change
she saw occur in a young woman in care when an ICWA worker sent her
music and books from her Oklahoma tribe.

“I think it plays a tremendous role in her cultural identity. It’s
part of who she is,” Valdez said. “She’s removed from her community, but
it gave her a piece of her culture, and she embraced that.”

Nikki Kull, executive vice president of The Ranches in New Mexico,
said that children in care struggle to transition from one culture to
another, regardless of their race.

“We had some siblings from the Yuni tribe who were very connected to
their culture… and it was hard for them to be separated from their
culture. It’s heart-breaking to see,” Kull said. “I desperately
understand the need for kids to stay within their culture, but the fact
remains there aren’t enough homes.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act Today

Several judges who spoke with the Navajo Post said that ICWA was
meant to be a gold standard for family law cases– that active efforts to
work with families before removing children from their homes would be
in the best interest of all children regardless of their race.

But lawsuits in several states– Minnesota, Arizona, Oklahoma and
Virginia– challenge the constitutionality of ICWA. Common arguments
include that the Act’s language discriminates against American Indian
children on race alone and that the Act violates due process and privacy
rights guaranteed by the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Judge Tim Connors, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law
School and helps train new judges in handling ICWA cases, said that
family law is mainly an issue for state courts, so that applying  ICWA– a
federal law– to American Indian family cases is a “foreign concept” for
many judges.  But he added that American Indian children are
particularly harmed when removed from their families.

“Data shows the trauma when we separate children from their
communities and their culture and their lineages,” Connors said. “And it
is particularly harmful for Native American children.”
Judge William Thorne, vice-president of the National Indian Justice
Center and a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National
Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said that while some judges
and lawyers see ICWA as a violation of their code of ethics regarding
fairness, ICWA was created with American Indian children’s best interest
in mind.
“In tribal communities, if you cut a child off from their family,
grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, that really is almost active
abuse against that child, because in Indian communities things happen
based on relationships,” Thorne said in a video produced by the
Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts.
Judge Leonard Edwards, a retired judge who served for 26 years as a
Superior Court Judge and six years as Judge-in-Residence at the Center
for Families, Children & the Courts, stated that the adversarial
processes prevalent in courts– where two or more sides argue their cases
and then a “winner” is declared– go against traditional American Indian
practices of resolving conflict.  Edwards said that the intention
behind ICWA was to help make sure that all of an American Indian child’s
resources were being considered.
“Social workers can be creative,” Edwards said. “It’s not mum and
dad, it’s the extended family and community. It’s different [in tribal
communities] and that can be difficult for our judges to understand.”
While ICWA has been acknowledged by many judges as a difficult law to
understand and implement, tribes across the country insist keeping
American Indian children connected to their tribes is of utmost
“[If not] They lose the language, the culture, the integrity of what
it is to be Native American and the values system,” said Doris Bailon,
director of Social Services of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.
Sandra White Hawk and Susan Devan Harness had a suggestion to reduce
the number of American Indian children entering the foster care system:
providing “front end services.”
“Instead of the money going to clothe and feed kids in foster care,
have that money going to strengthen Native families and communities,”
Harness said.  

The Invisible Indian

The Invisible Indian

It’s strange to me how people always want me to be an “authentic Indian” when I say I’m Haudenosaunee. They want me to look a certain way, act a certain way. They’re disappointed when what they get is…just me. White faced, red haired. They spent hundreds of years trying to assimilate my ancestors, trying to create Indians like who could blend in. But now they don’t want me either. They cant make up their minds.
They want buckskin and face paint, drumming, songs in languages they can’t understand
recorded for them- but with English subtitles, of course. They want educated, well-spoken,
but not too smart. Christian, well-behaved, never questioning. They want to learn the history
of the people, but not the ones who are here now, waving signs in their faces,
asking them for clean drinking water,
asking them why their women are going missing,
asking them why their land is being ruined.
They want fantastical stories of Indians that used to roam this land.
They want my culture behind glass in a museum.
But they don’t want me.
I’m not Indian enough.
They say I’m fake, but they don’t realize that every time I have to write and speak to them in English, the language of the colonizer, I am painfully aware of what I’ve lost. So I sneak around quietly, gathering pieces- beads here, a word there, a dance, a song, until I’m strong enough to stand tall and tell them who I am.
They tried to make Indians like me who could blend in.
My great grandmother moved her children out of their community into the big city of Toronto to try hid in plain sight.
Keep it.
I will break the silence.
I am clinging to every piece of my mom, my grandma, my great grandma that I have. I am clinging to any bit of tradition that found its way through the cracks, like a plant growing towards the light.
I have always been in love with these small pieces of resistance.
My great grandmother told my dad to bury my umbilical cord in the dirt behind my home, Now a trees grows from that piece of me. I am connected.
When my aunties gather around tea I will absorb every story they tell.
I will stare at photos of my Akshotha until they speak to me.
I will scavenge all the bits of knowledge from here and there and pull them together.
Close to my heart.
Cover them.
Protect them.
I will knit with my grandma’s needles. The only piece of her I have.
I will knit until I know her.
I will forgive. Forgive my mom, her mom, and her mom, for what they couldn’t teach me. They
always did the very best they could.
I will hold on for dear life.
I will dig my hands into the dirt.
I will let them drag
and pull on me
until the earth is embedded under my fingernails.
But I won’t let go.

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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They Took Us Away

They Took Us Away
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You are not alone

You are not alone

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.

Diane Tells His Name

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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
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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