Harstad, who is Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, was adopted shortly after birth through Catholic Charities adoption services in 1965. The agency placed her in a white, middle-class family living in St. Paul, Minn.
After obtaining her biological mother’s address through the adoption agency, Harstad sat down to write a letter. She felt immediately overwhelmed.
“It took me a long time, you know, days or weeks [to write]. Even the first word like, ‘Hello,’ or ‘Dear Mom,’” she said. “It took a long time to carefully choose my words.” Harstad provided her phone number in the letter and said she wanted to meet her mother.
Harstad, now 56, would later reflect on that moment: “I was searching for a part of myself that was missing, and I knew she was the answer whether it was good or bad or ugly. It was like a puzzle and you’re missing one piece. You’re just never going to be complete.”