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Support Info: If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional Health Support Information: Emotional, cultural, and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family, or group basis.” These & regional support phone numbers are found at https://nctr.ca/contact/survivors/ .
THANK YOU MEGWETCH for reading
Born on a Cree reservation in Qu’Appelle Valley,
Saskatchewan, Buffy Sainte-Marie was adopted and raised in Maine and Boston, Massachusetts.
Her adoptive mother was Micmaq. By age 24, Buffy Sainte-Marie had appeared all
over Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia,
receiving honors, medals and awards which continue to this day. Her song “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” was
recorded by Elvis and Cher, and her “Universal Soldier” became the anthem of
the peace movement. For her very first album she was voted Billboard’s Best New
Artist. She disappeared suddenly from the mainstream American airwaves during
the Lyndon Johnson years. In Indian
country and abroad, however, her fame only grew. She continued to appear at
countless grassroots concerts, AIM
events and other activist benefits. She made 17 albums of her music, three of
her own television specials, spent five years on Sesame Street, scored movies, helped to found Canada’s ‘Music of
Aboriginal Canada’ JUNO
category, raised a son, earned a Ph.D. in Fine Arts, taught Digital Music as
adjunct professor at several colleges, and won an Academy Award Oscar for the
song “Up Where We Belong.” Buffy
invented the role of Native American international activist pop star. Her
concern for protecting indigenous intellectual property and her distaste for
the exploitation of Native American artists and performers has kept her in the
forefront of activism in the arts for over forty years. Presently she operates
the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education whose Cradleboard Teaching
Project serves children and teachers in eighteen states. She lives in Hawaii.
Star Nayea, raised in Detroit, Michigan,
has often been described as the “little lady with a big voice,” who launched
her career in Austin, Texas, then moved to New York City. In New York, several years ago, Star fully
developed her unique contemporary edge of bluesy rock with hints of folk and
traditional Native American vocals. Star, possibly Ojibwe-Potowatomi, adopted
by a white family as an infant, is seeking her own birth family. Star currently
lives with her son in Seattle.
Brulé, aka Paul LaRoche, has a unique story to tell.
Along with the amazing music, theatrics, and traditional dance troupe, Paul
tells the story of how he came to realize his Native American heritage after
nearly 38 years of separation from his biological family, who resides on the Lower
Brule Sioux Indian Reservation in central South Dakota. Paul, adopted at birth off the
reservation, discovered his Lakota heritage in 1993 after the death of both
adoptive parents. He was reunited on Thanksgiving Day 1993 with a brother,
sister, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. The discovery of his true heritage
has greatly affected Paul’s life and those around him.
Chris Eyre was born in 1969 on the Warm Spring
reservation in Oregon.
He grew up in Klamath Falls,
Oregon, adopted by
a non-Native family. “I’m Cheyenne
and Arapahoe. I went to school in Portland,
Oregon. I pursued an associate’s
degree in television, in directing; I earned my bachelor’s degree in media arts
at the University
of Arizona, and my
master’s at New York
University in filmmaking.”
Chris Eyre attempts to display portraits of contemporary Native Americans as
individuals who are plagued by problems common to all people, but who react
within the confines of their own particular circumstances. He founded Riverhead
Entertainment, a production company that for several years produced
commercials, films, and documentaries.
Paul DeMain is a member of the Oneida (Wisconsin) and Ojibwe tribes, and was raised
by a non-Native family in Wausau,
Wisconsin. “I grew up with some
compassionate liberals who never tried to hide my identity and encouraged me to
inquire about it,” DeMain says. In the early 1970s, he made contact with the Oneida tribe, where he is
enrolled. He has met his biological family. In 1986 he launched News from Indian Country, an independent
newspaper that covers tribal politics, legal issues in Native and US courts,
reservation crime, education and Indian art, with a circulation of 7,000
Eric Schweig was born to an Inuit mother and a
Chippewa-Dene father in Inuvik, the Northwest Territories.
At six months, he was adopted by a German-Canadian family. During his childhood
in Inuvik, Bermuda
and Toronto, he
was systematically and physically abused by his adoptive parents then he ran
away from home when he was 16, and became a laborer on construction sites. In
1987 he was “discovered” while walking down a Toronto street and cast in the movie The Shaman's Source. At least 16 films
followed, most notably as Uncas in The
Last of the Mohicans. During this time period he endured a “roller coaster
of alcohol, drugs, violence, failed relationships, despair and confusion”
[Schweig said] due to the abuse and racism and ethnic identity deprivation of
his childhood. In 1996 he began to regain his cultural identity and is now primarily
a carver, especially Inuit spirit masks, living on Vancouver
Island, and he continues to act in films. He is a passionate
opponent of the adoption of Aboriginal Native People by Europeans. Eric’s
Adoption Speech: http://www.mohicanpress.com/mo05005.html
Mary Youngblood, Chugach Aleut/Seminole, is a Grammy award
winning flutist, who was adopted and raised by a non-Native couple. Mary opened
her adoption at age 26.
We are survivors!
We are actors, musicians, directors, athletes, comedians and so much more
Members of the Siouxland Native American community today took part in
the 17th annual march which calls attention to Native American children
who were taken from their homes and put up for adoption.
Sandra White Hawk is a child welfare advocate who was one of those
children removed from her home. A documentary “Blood Memory”, details
what she went through “But its really a story of all of our removals
that had happened in Indian Country over time,” she says. “We explore
and talk about and show the trauma from being removed and being raised
in an all white community.”
White Hawk was 18 months old when she was taken away. “And I was
placed in a white missionary home that was very abusive. And and
all-white community that was especially difficult to navigate growing up
and not having my image reflected to me in any area of the community,”
White Hawk says. She says she was so young she couldn’t remember her
mother’s voice or what she looked like — but remembers the shock of
being taken from her family. “Growing up I had no sense of what it meant
to be native — no sense about anything about my identity,” White Hawk
White Hawk says the Native American community in the Sioux City has had an incredible impact the removal of children.
“This is not the case across the country,” White Hawk says, “so what
we’re seeing is an organized effort to overturn the Indian Child Welfare
Those who took part in the memorial march shared a meal together at a ceremony at its conclusion.
Do you call them biological fathers? Birth dads? Found fathers, discovered dads, sires, or “men who fathered a child they were not aware of”? I have heard many different terms used to describe the surprised men who learn later in life that when they were younger, they fathered a child who was entirely unknown to them.
Tony and Arnold are two people who found their way to my secret support groups for people who have experienced a shocking discovery. Tony found out about a potential child he did not know existed which was later confirmed with a DNA test. For Arnold, the DNA test came first and was the way the existence of a biological child was revealed.
We have read about the experience of NPEs, adoptees, half-siblings, and wives of biological fathers in past guest blog posts. Now we get a chance to hear the perspective of fathers. Tony and Arnold’s stories differ, but in some ways, their experiences are the same. They each answered independently, but their responses are combined in the post below.
Every schoolchild is taught that the holiday of Thanksgiving
commemorates the feast the Pilgrims arranged to thank the Indians for
their friendship, for sharing their land, and for showing them how to
grow, harvest, and store food. Accounts say that the generosity of the
Indians saved the colonists from starvation during the harsh New England
winter of 1620.
Very few schoolchildren are also taught, however, about the
deprivations and atrocities that occurred to the Indians afterwards,
first at the hands of the colonists and then by the United States
government. Ironically, if the United States believes today that it has a
poor immigration policy, imagine how self-destructive the Indians’
immigration policy was by welcoming the very people who would soon seek
to destroy them.
Within 100 years after the United States gained its independence from
Great Britain, tens of thousands of Indians were killed in wars
defending their homelands. The United States entered into nearly 400
treaties with Indian tribes between 1783 and 1871 (when Congress ended
treaty-making with the Indians), during a time when tribes were very
powerful. In exchange for Indians relinquishing most of their
territories and ending their defense of them, the US set aside smaller
portions of land that were forever guaranteed to the treaty tribe.
When the federal government became stronger, however, it broke
virtually all of these treaties and confiscated most of the land
guaranteed in them. During the 1830s, for instance, Indians living in
the Southeast were marched at bayonet point nearly 2000 miles to “Indian
Country,” now the state of Oklahoma, during which thousands died.
These land grabs and treaty abrogations were even approved by US Supreme Court. The case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock,
decided in 1903, involved an 1867 treaty in which Congress guaranteed
the Kiowa and Comanche Tribes that no additional land would be taken
from their reservation unless the tribes gave their express
consent. Several years later, the federal government took additional
land despite opposition from the tribes. The Supreme Court held that
Congress has “plenary power” (full and complete authority) over the
Indians and can break a treaty essentially whenever it wishes.
In addition to taking Indian land, the federal government, during the
latter part of the 1800s, encouraged social reformers and missionaries
to remove Indian children from their reservation homes and place them in
boarding schools (sometimes thousands of miles away), where their
Indian culture was literally beaten out of them. The government also
prevented the Indians from leaving their reservations to obtain food,
and many Indians starved to death. When some Plains tribes continued to
resist placement on reservations, the government began slaughtering the
bison on which they depended. Millions of bison were killed and left to
rot, until by 1900, there were less than a thousand bison left. With
their food gone, Indians were forced to surrender. Hatred for the
Indians was so profound that General Sheridan, when told by one Indian
that he was a “good Indian,” reportedly smirked and said, “The only good
Indians I ever saw were dead.” Sheridan was one of the generals who
ordered the slaughtering of the bison.
During the past 50 years, conditions have improved for most tribes as
a result of a shift in public attitude towards Indians and a change in
congressional policies. A few tribes have even become wealthy as a
result of casinos. But conditions on most reservations remain
substandard and impoverished. As President Barack Obama noted in
November 2009, the unemployment rate on some Indian reservations is 80%,
nearly a quarter of all Indians live in poverty, 14% of all reservation
homes don’t have electricity, and 12% don’t have access to a safe water
Non-Indians often wonder why more Indians haven’t left the
reservation to seek a “better” life. But this underestimates and
misunderstands the importance to many Indians of their tradition,
culture, and religion, much of which is tied to the land. Whereas
millions of immigrants came to the United States to join the “melting
pot,” many Indians have resisted assimilation and remain deeply rooted
in their ancestral homelands.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. Hopefully, this year and in
years to come we will spend part of the holiday reflecting on its
origins and dedicating ourselves to fostering the values of the Indians
who selflessly assisted their new neighbors.
Stephen L. Pevar is the author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes,
Fourth Edition. He is a senior staff counsel of the American Civil
Liberties Union. Mr. Pevar worked for Legal Services on the Rosebud
Sioux Reservation from 1971-1974, and taught Federal Indian Law at the
University of Denver School of Law from 1983-1999. He has litigated
numerous Indian rights cases and has lectured extensively on the
Subscribe to only American history articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
adopted persons know what an original birth certificate (OBC) is. Many
non-adopted people do not. An original birth certificate is the initial
birth certificate created shortly after a person's birth. For most
people, it is their only birth certificate.
For persons born and
adopted in the United States, a new or "amended" birth certificate
replaces the OBC once the adoption is final. In addition to replacing
the original, the names of the birth parents are also replaced with the
names of the adoptive parents. Some states may also alter or omit
additional information on a new certificate, including the adoptee's
specific place of birth.
Depending on state law, an original birth
certificate is sealed and remains unavailable to the adopted person,
even when they become an adult. If you are not adopted, your original
birth certificate is your only birth certificate---and it is always
available to you upon request.
I am developing additional interactive maps to cover other issues, such as pending legislation, state-funded mutual consent adoption registries, and OBC access statistics. Or let me know what you would like to see. I may be able to do it. Though mobile-friendly, our interactive maps are best viewed and used on a desktop or tablet.
Before the law more than a quarter of American Indian and Alaska Native children were removed from their homes
story is like a scary movie. In “Fatal Attraction” Glen Close’s
character won’t give up her murderous quest. She comes back again and
again. The legal challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act follow a
similar plot line.
scene in the 1970’s for American Indian and Alaska Native children was
disturbing, some 25 to 35 percent of the population were removed from
their homes by state welfare and private adoption agencies. This was slow motion genocide by literally removing the future from the home.
Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted as to reverse this narrative and
to recognize that tribes, as sovereign nations, have control over the
welfare of their own children.
on the law, enacted in 1978, have inexplicably risen in the past seven
years and attracted the support of a seemingly disparate array of high
power ultra conservative players and organizations.
challenges to the child welfare protocols aren’t only about adoption
because if the Indian Child Welfare Act is found to be unconstitutional
that would undermine tribal governments. So much is at stake: The
authority of tribal courts, economic nationhood, including casinos, and
the control of tribal land, potentially an opening for fossil fuels and
other extractive industry development.
ICWA is part of an ultra-conservative agenda to return Indian Country
to the Termination Era, abrogate tribal treaties, and made tribes and
tribal citizens fully subjects to state law,” said former tribal
prosecutor J. Eric Reed.
latest Indian Child Welfare Act challenge is again before the 5th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals. The court made the unusual decision to vacate
its August 9
decision in Brakeen v. Bernhardt finding child welfare law is not
race-based but a valid, constitutional statute; then the court announced
it would rehear the case En Banc.
use of En Banc, in which all judges of a particular court hear a case,
is a relatively uncommon legal procedure usually reserved for the purposes
of maintaining uniformity of the court’s decisions or to show that the
proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.
its original decision finding ICWA to, indeed, be constitutional, one
of the three judges, Priscilla R. Owen wrote her dissenting opinion in
an August 16 modification.
Owen wrote that in requiring states to maintain records relating to
placement of Indian children as part of compliance with Indian Child
Welfare Act violates the constitution’s 10th Amendment
anti-commandeering doctrine. According to the 10th Amendment,
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively
or to the people.”
wrote: “The defendants in the present case contend that the Indian
Commerce Clause empowers Congress to direct the States as it has done in
the ICWA. They are mistaken. Where a federal interest is sufficiently
strong to cause Congress to legislate, it must do so directly; it may
not conscript state governments as its agents.”
opinion underscores the rise of Federalist philosophies in conservative
politics supporting states rights over federal authority, questioning
the constitutionality of requiring state governments to carry out
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals long considered the most politically
conservative court in the country, has grown more so after five
appointments to its ranks by President Trump. A total of 17 judges
occupy the court.
to federal court watchers, President Trump is engaged in a quiet
revolution to populate federal courts with judges who align with his
brand of politically conservative politics. Although his 157 judicial
appointments place him roughly even with both Barack Obama and George W.
Bush during the same point in their tenures, his focus on federal
appeals courts sets him apart from his predecessors according to the New York Times. If all of his current nominees are confirmed, they will account for 1.4 of the country’s federal appeals court judges.
National Public Radio’s
Carrie Johnson described Trump’s appointment of James Ho to the Fifth
Circuit Court as exemplifying the Trump era. A first time judge, Ho’s
first Fifth Circuit opinion has been described by legal scholars as
political commentary rather than legal opinion. In Zimmerman v. City of
Austin, involving limiting campaign contributions in Austin, Texas, he
wrote in his dissenting opinion, “If you don’t like big money in politics, then you should oppose big government in our lives,”
Vanita Gupta, president and chief operating officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights issued
a statement about Trump’s court nominees: “The majority of his nominees
have long records of hostility to civil and human rights, and too many
are unqualified. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are
transforming our federal courts because their agenda is failing in
Congress and the court of public opinion.”
She notes that appointments to the federal judiciary are lifetime positions.
October 4, 2018, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern
District of Texas ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act is
unconstitutional because it’s race-based.
ruling was based on Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, non-Natives, experience
in trying to adopt a Native child, an enrolled citizen of the Navajo
and Cherokee Nations whom they had fostered for a year-and-a-half. In
2017, the Brackeens filed a lawsuit in Texas seeking to adopt the
two-year-old boy, identified in the lawsuit as A.L.M. Although a Navajo
family was available to take the boy in January 2018 the Brackeens won
their case in a Texas district court, and successfully finalized their
adoption. But their lawsuit, Brackeen v. Bernhardt,
proceeded anyway, joined by several other plaintiffs, including the
states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and eventually landed before
Most media coverage of O’Connor’s ruling, such as a story by National Public Radio, tended to gloss over the law's political and legal context and the far-reaching implications of its reversal.
failed to mention that conflicts concerning the child welfare system
that can often be traced back to the failure of state and county
authorities to notify a tribe when an enrolled child enters child
protective services. And most neglected to explain that tribal identity
is based not on racial identifiers, or whether a child “looks Indian,”
but on their political and citizenship connections to a sovereign
nation. And that gets at issues that go far beyond the ability of
non-Natives to adopt Native American children.
designation that the children of enrolled tribal citizens are
automatically enrolled citizens as well “is foundational to federal
Indian law,” noted a statement
released by the Native American Journalists Association. In March 2019,
the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments
in the Brackeen
case and issued its now vacated decision in August finding that the
child welfare law is not race based, unconstitutional nor does it
counter the 10th amendment. If the court finds during rehearing that
ICWA is unconstitutional on any front, it opens the door to overturning
And without sovereignty, treaties between the U.S. government and tribes could be subject to debate.
the Indian Child Welfare Act would mean that “the hundreds and
thousands of federal statutes benefiting Indians would be open for
reconsideration,” said Michigan State University law professor Matthew
Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa
Indians and editor of Turtle Talk,
the leading blog on American Indian law and policy. “Federal services
for Indians and statutes such as the Indian Self Determination Act,
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and others could be challenged.”
that might be the point. Tribal leaders, legal scholars and child
welfare advocates speculate that attacks on the law are seldom rooted in
genuine concern for American Indian children, but are merely the latest
strategy for right-wing groups to advance agendas rooted in racism,
greed and the othering of poor people.
Since 2013, challenges to the law have gained new urgency and support from wealthy right-wing interest groups. Brackeen v. Bernhardt was
itself bankrolled by an unlikely alliance of right-wing political,
legal, economic and religious groups that outwardly appear to have
little connection to Indian Country or its children. They include
right-wing think tanks, representatives of the private adoption
industry, the evangelical adoption movement, anti-treaty rights
organizations and conservative fossil fuel industrialists.
the final goals of these seemingly disparate groups may differ, their
shared strategy of commodifying Native American children reveals a
colonial mindset that not only depicts Native American people as
incapable of managing their own affairs, but also frames their children
and resources as free for the taking.
to J. Eric Reed, former tribal prosecutor and a member of the Choctaw
Nation, the current legal fight is part of a strategy that feeds into
ending the federal government’s trust relationship with tribes as well
as challenging federal authority over states’ rights.
“Brackeen v. Zinke,” said Reed, “is a right-wing foot in the door to rewrite the Constitution.”
the decision to rehear Brankeen v. Bernhardt appears to be based on
Owen’s dissenting opinion that ICWA violates the Constitution’s anti
commandeering doctrine, it will mean all plaintiff’s complaints in the
original case will be up for reconsideration.
law’s opponents are emboldened by each small favorable court decision
in their favor. For instance, since 2013, with an infamous lawsuit known
as “Baby Veronica” that reached the Supreme Court, challenges to ICWA
have increased. In the Baby Veronica case—formally called Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl—powerful
interests in the adoption industry and evangelical churches joined with
high-profile attorneys to challenge ICWA’s authority regarding the
adoption of an infant citizen of the Cherokee Nation named Veronica.
Eventually the non-Native couple seeking to adopt Veronica, Matt and
Melanie Capobianco, prevailed.
the court found that ICWA was, indeed, constitutional, it found in
favor of the Capobianco’s because the child’s Native father had not
maintained custody since her birth. Not long after the Supreme Court
ruled in the Capobiancos’ favor, Veronica’s non-Native biological
mother, Christina Maldonado, signed onto a lawsuit against the U.S.
government claiming that ICWA was unconstitutional. (She later dismissed
the suit voluntarily)
opponents want another crack at the Supreme Court,” said Nicole Adams
of the Colville Confederated Tribes and advisor at the Partnership for
“Redefining ICWA as race-based furthers their final agenda of dismantling Indian law as a whole,” she said.
The Roots of the child welfare act
people in the U.S. have never heard of the Indian Child Welfare Act,
enacted in 1978 to stop the near wholesale removal of Native American
children from their birth families to non-Native foster and adoption
placements. Today, under that law, tribes typically try to place
children who come into tribal or state care with a family member, a
member of their tribe or, failing that, a family from another tribe.
the mainstream press picks up a story regarding ICWA only when a
non-Indian family has somehow been injured,” said Terry Cross, founding
director and current advisor for the National Indian Child Welfare
the law stems from generations of abusive policies that tore Native
American families apart. Beginning in the late 19th Century, the federal
government forced or coerced the separation of thousands of Native
children from their families, sending them to federal or religious
boarding schools often many hours away from their homelands.
as part of President Ulysses S. Grant’s Peace Policy of 1869, the
boarding school era was framed as a bloodless, more humane answer to the
country’s “Indian Problem.” The schools’ explicit mission was to
destroy Native cultures, languages, and spirituality, and prepare the
children for assimilation into American society. Modeled on education
tactics used on Native prisoners at Fort Mason in the 1870s by Captain
Richard H. Pratt, the boarding schools followed a punitive philosophy of
rigid order and Pratt’s motto: “Kill the Indian, and save the man.”
Today, Native American and Alaska Natives remain overrepresented in foster care at a rate 2.7 times greater than their proportion in the general population.
these dynamics that ICWA was created to address: helping ensure that
tribes, as sovereign nations, have jurisdiction over their own children.
Since the act’s establishment, several prominent child advocacy
organizations have declared it the gold standard for child welfare
policies and practices for American Indian children.
the law, tribes often decide not to transfer eligible children to
tribal jurisdiction for a number of reasons: that the child may have
close tribal and family connections in a non-Indian placement, or the
tribe may lack the resources to intervene in cases located far from the
reservation. Notably, in the Brackeen, the tribs ruled in favor of the
non-Native family’s adoptions. These scenarios, however, seldom receive
There is little data regarding states’ compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act, but a 2015 study by Casey Family Programs
suggests that many government child protection agencies fail to follow
the law. The lack of federal oversight for enforcing ICWA adds to gaps
years, under ICWA, tribes have been making determinations in child
welfare cases based on the best interest of the child,” noted law
professor Matthew Fletcher. “Suggesting that tribes don’t routinely make
child welfare decisions based on the best interest of the child is just
legal battle over ICWA will likely continue for several years, and
Fletcher and others believe that future challenges are inevitable.
Termination of tribal sovereignty
the mid-1940s through 1970, the federal government employed a series of
assimilationist policies designed to privatize American Indian lands,
destroy tribal cultures, and reverse the tribes’ and government’s “trust
relationship,” which protects tribal treaty rights, lands, assets, and
resources.The assault on this trust responsibility and Indian rights
became known as the Termination Era.
But the 2018 ruling Brackeen v. Bernhardt, Judge O’Connor seemed to endorse the anti-tribal government view that it’s a race-based statue.
you’re a right-wing interest group and can figure out a way to get the
case heard in Judge O’Connor’s court, you can expect a sympathetic ear,”
leading figures in the newest anti-Indian Child Welfare Act drama
include the right-wing think tank the Goldwater Institute; the National
Council for Adoption, representing the private adoption industry; and an
evangelical Christian adoption movement that sees adoption as a means
to live out their faith.
Ancillary supporters include the Koch brothers; the DeVos family; the Mercer Family (who are among Trump’s largest donors); the Cato Institute; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); the anti-treaty group Citizens Equal Rights Alliance which advocates for the termination of U.S. and tribal treaty agreements; the Southern Baptist Convention, and others.
like this weird triad of strange and powerful bedfellows,” said Adams.
Some of the players may have unwittingly signed on to this war and don’t
necessary share the duplicitousness of others. But their combined
opposition to ICWA represents titanic influence, power, and money in
service of an anti-tribal sovereignty agenda.
One of the richest anti-ICWA funders is the Goldwater Institute.
Since 2015, the libertarian non-profit has underwritten several legal
challenges to ICWA. Attorneys at the Goldwater Institute filed an amicus
brief in Brackeen v. Bernhardt,
reiterating its past claims that ICWA is race-based and
unconstitutional. And Timothy Sandefur, the Institute’s vice president
for litigation, compared ICWA to discrimination suffered under Jim Crow
laws, telling The Nation in 2017 that ICWA subjects Native children to an unfair set of rules based on race.
The Institute, along with the Cato Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the current Fifth Circuit’s decision to hold En Banc hearings on ICWA.
Institute describes Indian communities as environments “where poverty,
crime, abuse and suicide are rampant,” and cites data showing that
American Indian children have the highest rate of foster care of any
ethnic group as an argument against ICWA. In essence, this blames
American Indians for the outcomes of generations of federal
assimilationist policies and recommends more of the same as a solution.
yet, as Fletcher noted, “The Goldwater Institute has no history of
expressing interest in either Indian or family law.” Although the
Goldwater Institute has created an organization called Equal Protection
for Native Children and frequently works with other ICWA opponents such
as the Cato Institute, it has no history of working to improve the
economic, educational, or health circumstances of Native children.
Indeed, according to the organization’s income tax filing from 2016, its primary areas of research include constitutional law, education reform, and healthcare policy.
Among the Goldwater Institute’s major donors are the Koch
brothers, well-known opponents to federal power and spending. Through
their various advocacy organizations, the Koch brothers fund and support
groups such as ALEC, which, like the Goldwater Institute, has called
for a constitutional convention that would focus on elevating states’
rights and reducing federal oversight and regulation.
The other ally against the child welfare law the National Council for Adoption, and the adoption movement it represents. Matthew McGill, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney in Brackeen v. Bernhardt, is part of a husband-and-wife legal team with a long history of challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act.
wife, Lori Alvino McGill, also a lawyer, represented the adoptive
parents and the non-Indian biological mother in the Baby Veronica case
,accompanying them on a media tour, including an appearance on the Today Show that helped make their challenge to ICWA a national story.
The couple represent a larger constituency in the private adoption industry,
which has become a powerful lobby against ICWA. Private adoptions are a
lucrative business, with attorney fees routinely running between
$10,000 and $40,000. But as obstacles to international adoptions have
grown, there is a greater interest in domestic adoptions in the U.S.—including adoptions from Indian Country.
clients of private adoption attorneys like the McGills are members of a
Christian adoption movement that encourages evangelicals to see
adoption as a means to live out their faith help the needy, and
evangelize children. The statement of faith for Nightlight Christian
Adoptions — the agency affiliated with the Baby Veronica case — holds
that adoption fulfills the Bible’s mandate to make disciples of all
Practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population, according to a 2013 study by the Barna Group. The study also found that most adoptive parents are White, while the children they adopt are overwhelmingly non-White.
many Native Americans, these demographics bear a troubling resemblance
to historical interactions between White Christians and Native
peoples—whether the Catholic Church’s 15th Century documents granting
European Christian explorers permission to use any means necessary to subdue and convert indigenous peoples, or the more recent abuses of the boarding school era.
is nothing original about some of the evangelical Christian adoption
movements to focus on Native children and take it upon themselves to
decide what’s best for Native families,” said the Partnership for Native
Children’s Nicole Adams.
Sandy White Hawk, program manager with the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center in Minneapolis, and a team of researchers, found
that adult American Indians who were adopted to non-Indian parents
experienced high rates of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in their
adoptive families. Adoptees also experience traits common to trauma
survivors such as anxiety, intrusive imagery or nightmares, depression,
withdrawal/isolation, guilt, and unresolved grief. The National Indian
Child Welfare Association also cites studies
indicating that Indian children placed in non-Indian adoptive homes
suffer a far greater risk than the general American Indian population of
psychological damage and have a higher tendency to abuse drugs and
believe some of the motivation for evangelical Christians to adopt
American Indian children comes from a savior complex,” said White Hawk.
“Minority populations are often portrayed as unable to care adequately
for their children; some of the adoptive parents may believe they are
offering homes for unwanted, neglected children.”
too often, then as now, this impulse may spring from a failure to
understand American Indian culture or extended family structure, wherein
aunts or uncles might raise a child instead of her biological parent.
As child welfare workers labeled that tradition as neglect, generations
of Indian children were removed from their homes.
of saving Native families, these policies robbed them of the nurturing
traditional values where the whole community embraced the child,” said
Nicole Adams. “Who are these people to think they can take away ICWA,
one of the few good things Native people have to protect our families?”
now we know one judge from the panel (Owen) was concerned about one or
two sections of the statute, but not its entirety. It may be the En Banc
court will re-open the whole panoply of constitutional challenges; We
just don’t know yet,” said Matthew Fletcher.
briefs are due December 16 and January 14, 2020. Oral arguments and
case hearing are scheduled in New Orleans for the week of January 20,
Annette Pember works as an independent journalist focusing on Indian
issues and culture with a special emphasis on mental health and women’s
health. Winner of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship for Investigative
Reporting, Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, the
USC Annenberg National Health Fellowship and Dennis A. Hunt Fund for
health journalism she has reported extensively on the impact of
historical trauma among Indian peoples. She has contributed to
ReWire.News, The Guardian, The Atlantic and Indian Country Today. An
enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe, she is based
in Cincinnati, Ohio. See more at MAPember.com.
Holes in immigration laws are allowing state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families without notifying their deported parents, the Associated Press reported in October. The AP scoured hundreds of court documents and immigration records to reveal several cases of children being permanently, legally taken from their families after initial separations.
The case study presented is indicative of larger loopholes in the
immigration system, the AP contends. Because state governments tend to
run child-welfare systems, inconsistencies between federal law and its
application at the state level are frequent.
AP's conclusions are
especially important given that 300 parents were deported to Central
America without their children just this summer as part of the Trump
administration's "zero tolerance" policy at the border.
The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting
visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for
grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has
increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which
would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange
isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere
personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more venues to
express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities
because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the
multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate
the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom seems to stand out
in the crowd of ordinary maxims... -Vine Deloria Jr. (preface to John Neihardt's
book "Black Elk Speaks")
Reality can be such a
bastard sometimes! Just when you think you got it nailed, something happens and
it all slips away. Good fortune, its second cousin, seems to operate along these
same lines! You work hard, you’re ready, waiting, arms wide open and
everything, then something happens blowing it all away. Does this sound
familiar? Some people would say a person who thinks this way is just, “waiting
for the axe to fall”. And if you think this way, too much of the time, it
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
medical terms, they say someone who thinks like this or sees life in this way
is showing signs of paranoia. Meaning that someone is showing “a tendency…..
toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”1In some situations,
this kind of thinking can develop into a more serious condition known as schizophrenia.
Noah Webster says schizophrenia is “a psychotic disorder
characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable
deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by
disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as
delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior —called also dementia
praecox — compare paranoid
In the two previous
installments on RAD. I said my piece about certain spiritually abusive things
that have happened to us American Indian people since western society brought
its socially dysfunctional ways to our land. All of these happenings have been
inducing an isolating oriented trauma on our people for several generations now.
These things in particular, were the wars, reservations, boarding schools,
relocation programs and adoption. Things which have worked in harmony, one
after the other or simultaneously together, pretty much shattering and
destroying the ways in which the beauty and magnificence of who we are as human
beings can be fully realized, understood and enjoyed. I would say at this point
RAD was intentioned and paranoid and schizophrenic type thinking and behavior
are to be expected.
The people who
started these practices against us, in the past and continue to practice them
today, have gotten away with it and continue making money off of doing it. Maybe
not directly anymore, but indirectly still and that’s as simple and as good for
them, as it can get! It indicates success, at least to them, of their westernized
way of doing things.
By agitating and
manipulating the destruction of others, confiscation of birthrights and through
carefully and systemically applied abuses. These people have been capable, down
through history of drastically changing tribal realities. Changing realities
from systems which were built on self-reliance and were constructed for
self-perpetuation to a single system which is built and designed solely for
controlling and perpetuating the continued self-destruction of tribalism for
profit. In short using you, your relatives and your friends to educate and
labor towards your own self-destruction.
If you think I'm
wrong or misguided in my way of thinking. Look and see who has all the land,
all the say and continues smiling all the way to the bank. We’ll call this
group the top layer of western society. It is a top down system and we’ll call
this layer the instigators or the 1% er’s of western society. The shot callers
so to speak. There are other layers to this society. Here in America we know
them as the middle, the lower, and the indigent classes. But for now I want to
draw your attention to something else.
A simple fact! Obscured
quite possibly by our own cultural amnesia of our individual ancestral roots is
the fact we knew this was coming. A little less than 150 years ago my people, the Lakota, still understood our
purpose. We knew and understood what sacrificing of ourselves was about. Of
course, we still lived in Tipi’s on the wide open prairie and still hunted
buffalo and much more. But we also lived in a civilized manner as civilized
human beings then too. We knew and understood how fragile yet necessary keeping
good relationships were to our health and wellbeing. We also knew and
understood the threat and danger western thought and living posed to our health
and well-being. The inevitability of this threat coming to fruition came
through in dreams and visions of some of our great leaders of that time. Black
Elk, a healer, was one of those leaders.
Black Elk was born in 1863 and lived until 1950. He was born well before
the time of either the Sioux or the American Indian. He was born and lived as a
Lakota. He thought, reasoned and behaved according to the Lakota way of being.
He lived his life, perceiving reality understanding it and speaking of it in
the language from within the worldview of his time. The Lakota worldview.
In the summer of 1872 at the age of nine Black Elk experienced a vision. In
1930, through a translator, Black Elk related his experience to John Neihardt,
who in turn wrote about it as, “The Great Vision" in his book 'Black Elk
Speaks". Whether this vision came to him through intuition, spiritual
insight, or from hearing reports of what was befalling our Dakota relatives to
the east, Black Elk's vision was spot on. Experienced well before the
reservation, boarding school, relocation, and adoption eras of our people it
was a foretelling. A vision foretelling the, as yet, unforeseen problems of
becoming westernized. Something that we now experience on the regular, day in
and day out.
The following is an excerpt from this "The Great Vision:"
And as we went the voice behind me said: "Behold a good nation walking
in a sacred manner in a good land!"
Then I looked up and saw that there were four ascents ahead, and these were
generations I should know. Now we were on the first ascent and all the land was
green. And as the long line climbed, all the old men and women raised their
hands, palms forward, to the far sky yonder and began to croon a song together,
and the sky ahead was filled with clouds of baby faces.
When we came to the end of the first ascent we camped in the sacred circle
as before, and in the center stood the holy tree, and still about us was all
Then we started on the second ascent, marching as before, and still the
land was green, but it was getting steeper. And as I looked ahead, the people
changed into elks and bison and all four footed beings and even into fowls, all
walking in a sacred manner on the good red road together. And I myself was a
spotted eagle soaring over them. But just before we stopped to camp at the end
of that ascent, all the marching animals grew restless and afraid that they
were not what they had been, and began sending forth voices of trouble, calling
to their chiefs. And when they camped at the end of that ascent, I looked down
and saw that leaves were falling from the holy tree.
And the Voice said: "Behold your nation, and remember what your Six
Grandfathers gave you, for thenceforth your people walk in difficulties."
Then the people broke camp again, and saw the black road before them
towards where the sun goes down, and black clouds coming yonder; and they did
not want to go but could not stay. And as they walked the third ascent, all the
animals and fowls that were the people ran here and there, for each one seemed
to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over
the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting.6
And when we reached the summit of the third ascent and camped, the nation's
hoop was broken like a ring of smoke that spreads and scatters and the holy
tree seemed dying and all its birds were gone. And when I looked ahead I saw
that the fourth ascent would be terrible.
Then when the people were getting ready to begin the fourth ascent, the
Voice spoke like someone weeping, and it said: "Look there upon your nation."
And when I looked down, the people were all changed back to human, and they
were thin, their faces sharp, for they were starving. Their ponies were only
hide and bones and the holy tree was gone.
6 At this point Black Elk remarked: "I think we are
near that place now, and I am afraid something very bad is going to happen all
over the world." He cannot read and knows nothing of world affairs.
Adoption causes RAD and
RAD is a more normal reaction to adoption than not. Adoption in western
society, especially the transracial adoption of American Indian children was
and is an unnecessary and unnatural situation. Historically, the process of taking
American Indian children away from families who birth them, love them, view
them and understood them as their future causes immense suffering and loss that
reverberates and is felt throughout each one of our nations. It broke our
sacred hoop keeping the beauty of life just out of arms reach or so it seems.
didn’t happen overnight of course. Each and every one of these abuses aimed at
destroying us was applied incrementally, generation after generation. Each and
every one of them has done a pretty good job at what it was intended, and it
isn’t over yet. It happened, some of it is still happening, and there isn't a
whole lot we can do to stop it at this point. At least, I don't know of
anything I can do that will.
This is not the
reason I started writing this article, however. To talk endlessly about the
things I cannot do or cannot change. The past is the past and there isn’t much
we can do about that. Blaming won’t help, blaming ourselves and each other definitely
won’t, but by being responsible and holding ourselves and each other
accountable for recourse and recovery can.
As depressing as
these three articles have all sounded, it was! I now prefer to spend the
majority of my time working against the effects it has had on the hearts and
minds of our people. So this will be the last I will have to say about all of
I’ve been working
against the negative effects our past has had on us for the past 35
years or so. Both personally in my own life and the lives of my family members.
As well as, professionally and as a volunteer within the American Indian
community. Whenever the opportunity arose wherever it was I might have happened
to be living at the time. Most recently I was able to offer my programming
abroad, as a side job, amongst the folk in Germany, whenever the opportunity
I started out slowly
of course way back then with baby steps. Thirty-five years have gone by and I
seem to be walking much better now. On good days I think I might even be able
to walk and chew gum. We shall see.
In the next series of
blog articles I will be breaking away from the past.
This series I’ll call
Recourse and Repatriation, I will touch a little more on Black Elk’s vision and
segue into a more personal accounting of my own experience of recourse and recovery
from RAD. As well as offer my personal understanding of cultural repatriation
and spiritual re-acculturation Lakota style.
I am an American
Indian, rightly enough. A card carrying one for all it might mean and for
whatever purposes to which it matters. And I was adopted at one time. So be it.
None of this has ever changed the facts of what really matters. I am a human
being and I belong and so do my people. We belong to Mother Earth right here on
this the North American continent. Until next time I wish you all enough. Hau
The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.
Almost 7000 bodies found and not one member of the church has been arrested. The names are out there. The church must be held accountable. #NeverForget#EveryChildMatters
The Justice Department is protecting the names of many perpetrators of abuse of Indigenous children. We need a special independent prosecutor who can force the government and church to turn over the documents. There can be no reconciliation without justice.@MumilaaqQaqqaqpic.twitter.com/5TL6OxKM5O
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.
Did you know?
Did you know?
New York’s 40-year battle for OBC access ended when on January 15 2020, OBCs were opened to ALL New York adoptees upon request without restriction. In only three days, over 3,600 adoptees filed for their record of birth. The bill that unsealed records was passed 196-12.
According to the 2020 Census, 3.6% of Colorado's population is American Indian or Alaska Native, at least in part, with the descendants of at least 200 tribal nations living in the Denver metro area.
Diane Tells His Name
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.