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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Trouble for newly federally recognized tribes | Indian Child Welfare Annual Report


An important need for Amherst County’s Monacan Indian Nation

Letters to the Editor for Nov. 26 

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gives federally-recognized tribes precedence in making determinations and placements in child welfare cases involving Indian children. It is vital that we support local tribes in engaging in the child welfare process. Children in foster care are much more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system.

Unfortunately, research recently completed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has shown that the number of Native American youth in juvenile detention centers has increased from May to August 2020. From March 1 to May 1, there was a decrease in the number of detained Native American children, while from May 1 to August 1 there was a 31% increase in the number of detained Native American children.

Tribes with newer federal recognition, such as the Monacan Indian Nation, have been unable, as of yet, to develop their own department of social services. This hinders the tribes’ ability to become involved in child welfare cases that could be determining the future of these native children. Our community needs to begin communicating with local tribes to determine if there are ways in which we can support them as they support their youth in need.

KATHRYN DURDEN, Lynchburg, Virginia

The BIA is seeking to renew the information collection conducted under 25 CFR 23, related to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Agency Information Collection Activities; Indian Child Welfare Quarterly and Annual Report



How state courts use disability to remove Native children from their homes

Subscribe to Fiat Vox.

See all podcast episodes.

This is the second part of the two-part series about how disability has been and continues to be used as a way to control and profit from Native populations.

Last week, we heard from UC Berkeley’s Ella Callow about how the U.S. government built a psychiatric institution in the early 1900s to imprison Native Americans.

Today, Callow discusses how Native communities are still forced to exist in societal systems that use disability to justify taking Native children away from their families, and to ultimately control, and make money from, their lives.

Exterior of a courthouse in South Dakota

A Butte County courthouse in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. In South Dakota, a Native child is 11 times more likely to be placed in the foster care system than a white child. (Photo by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr)

Read a transcript of Fiat Vox episode #67: “How state courts use disability to remove Native children from their homes”:

This is Fiat Vox, a Berkeley News podcast. I’m Anne Brice.

Last week, we spoke to UC Berkeley’s Ella Callow about how, nearly 100 years ago, the U.S. government built a psychiatric institution in South Dakota to forcibly commit and imprison Native Americans, often for reasons that had nothing to do with having a mental illness.

If you haven’t listened to it yet, I recommend going back and listening to it just to get a little bit more context.

Today, in the second part of the two-part series, Callow, the director of the Office of Disability Access and Compliance at Berkeley and who spent more than a decade as a lawyer before coming to Berkeley fighting for the rights of parents with disabilities, says that Native communities are still forced to exist in societal systems that use disability to justify taking Native children away from their families, and to ultimately control, and make money from, their lives.

Portrait of Ella Callow

Ella Callow, director of the Office of Disability Access and Compliance at UC Berkeley, is writing an article about how disability has been and continues to be used as a way to profit from and control Native populations. (Photo courtesy of Ella Callow)

Ella Callow: One of the things that really concerns me is the fact that this has bled into child welfare issues. Native and disabled people have very disparate impacts of child welfare involvement and removal of their children. In the American Indian context, the Indian Child Welfare Act should be a protection against this.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed by Congress in 1978, establishing minimum federal standards for when and how state agencies could remove Native American children from their parents’ custody and their cultural environment.

But when a parent’s disability is involved, says Callow, it’s used to override their cultural identity.

Ella Callow: What we see is that, often, if the parent has a disability, there’s an effort by the state in state courts, which unfortunately is where the cases often take place — they should be taking place in tribal court, but often they take place in state court, to say, ‘Well, we know that we should have, perhaps, a cultural expert. We know that we are supposed to place a child with kin and do all these things. But we all know that the real issue here is that Mom is schizophrenic, or that Dad is blind. And so, this really isn’t about all that Indian stuff. This is about the disability.’

[Music: “Morning Glare” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Although the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidelines in 2015 that specifically stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to all child welfare cases, it rarely ends up protecting Native families in court, says Callow.

Instead, counsel on both sides often kind of give up, affirming the underlying societal belief that parents with disabilities aren’t capable of raising their own children.

In South Dakota, for example, a Native American child is 11 times more likely to be placed in the foster care system than a white child. And even when there are many Native foster homes available, a majority of those Native children are placed with non-Native families or in group centers instead.

Ella Callow: In the cases in South Dakota just a few years ago, the state got into a great deal of trouble for its court’s practices around child welfare in the Native community. And what was really interesting was that things came to light, like the fact that they designate every single Native child they remove and place into foster care as disabled. And when they do that, they get more money.

So, what we’re seeing again is they’re taking these children out of the community, they’re identifying them as disabled and making money, and they’re controlling them in state settings or non-Native settings in a way that’s detrimental to the children, and is profitable to the state.

[Music: “Silent Flock” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Ella Callow: What I found in my research is that when tribes take control of their own child welfare systems, which many have done in the past 20 years, and when they have the latitude to build early intervention programs, they can use those to really support their families and address issues specifically around trauma and mental health that are so likely to be exploited and used as a way to control and profit off of Native people and instead create healthy families.

Callow is working with Susan Burch, a professor of American studies at Middlebury College, and Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, a postdoctoral fellow in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on a special edition of Disabilities Studies Quarterly that’s focused on Indigenous health and disability in the past, present and future.

As part of the effort, the team invited people from across the country to submit questions, ideas and thoughts about what they believe we can learn from Native communities around disability, health and well-being. Submissions could be in many forms, from essays and journal articles to art and poetry.

Ella Callow: We didn’t want to limit it to academic voices. We wanted to open it up, and we wanted to open it up to Native people, particularly, to tell us what they wanted to tell us about the subject. It’s so important for Native people to have an agency, and for Native disabled people to have an agency, because that’s what, for so long, people have tried to take away from them.

So, I think the most hopeful thing is to see how much tribes and tribal people have taken control of the narrative about disability and history in Indian country and the future of it and are building these programs, have built these programs, are running these programs on reservation, off reservation. And what we’ve seen submitted is amazing. The way people are able to talk about this, want to talk about this subject is really really heartening.

To learn more about Indigenous health and disability, check out the special edition of Disabilities Studies Quarterly, to be published in the summer of 2021.

For Berkeley News, I’m Anne Brice.

You can subscribe to this podcast, Fiat Vox, spelled F-I-A-T V-O-X, and give us a rating, on your favorite listening app. Also, check out our other podcast, Berkeley Talks, that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. 

You can find all of our podcast episodes on Berkeley News at

Additional sources for this article:

Monday, November 23, 2020

What can an adoptee do? I want my #OBC

These adoptees are Native Americans and opened their adoptions. That should give you hope.
By Trace Hentz (blog editor)

As adoptees, we all face the same questions: How do we open our sealed files and how do we find out who our tribal nation is and when can we meet our relatives?

The first place to start: KNOW that state where the adoption took place. What is their law governing your rights to your own adoption records? LOOK

Second: Get your non-identifying (Non-ID) from the state where you were adopted. Non-identifying information includes birthparents age and (in recent years) medical history at the time of the child's birth; their physical description (height, weight, eye color); heritage (religion, national origin, race); number of other children, and whether they’re adopted. More detailed data is collected describing your birthparents, not adoptive parents. 

Do not be discouraged if you will need to get a court order and pay to get your adoption file, in many states this is the law... The states that are closed do not make it easy.

I found out in my own search that none of this is easy -- but it can be done. 

Adoptee Rights Law Center PLLC
Gregory D. Luce
PO Box 19561
Minneapolis Minnesota 55419
T: (612) 221-3947

Luce has created an Adoptee-Driven Law Center:
Original Birth Certificates
Some states recognize adult adoptees' unrestricted right to obtain a copy of their own original birth certificates. I represent those who are denied that right.
Intercountry adoptees may not have received United States citizenship—or may have trouble proving it—even after being adopted in the U.S. decades ago. That's wrong. I advocate to correct it.
Personal Information
Adult adoptees are entitled to their own personal information, which may include information that is in an agency, court, or other locations. I help adoptees get what's rightfully theirs.

The OBC: Data, Information, and Maps

51All 50 States + DC

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Maine’s Truth and Reconciliation Effort: A New Path Forward #TRC

The Unites States is a deeply divided nation, struggling to reconcile the legacies of its history. If that was ever in doubt, surely these last few months have exposed that stark truth, and this week’s election results made clear how far these rifts are from closing.

"The truth and reconciliation effort in Maine demonstrates how critical it is to build shared understanding of the different experiences each individual and community brings to the process," writes Martin Levine.

Individually and collectively, we are left to ponder a way forward that could change this depressing reality. Can we find a path that heals wounds? Can we find a way toward a common future, rather than seeing every issue as a competition over scarce resources? Are we doomed to a nation in which our success requires others to fail?

For real change, we may have to reconcile with those from whom we have grown separate and develop a shared understanding of our different life experiences. That’s the lesson we can learn from the state of Maine’s approach to meeting the child welfare needs of its Native American community.

Maine’s child welfare system was found to have entirely ignored the mandates of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was put in place to protect the interests of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes in their jurisdiction. Faced with the loss of critical federal funding, state child welfare officials moved quickly to create plans for making needed changes. As described in Next City by Valerie Vande Panne:

A group of social workers from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reached out to the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine for help with fixing the problem. The idea became to go around the state and train social workers in Maine about ICWA requirements. But the state social workers were totally ignorant of tribes, history, and the way state policies had harmed the tribes, and they were suddenly trying to work with the very people that had been abused by their system.

And then… they stopped. They recognized that in order to move forward, more than good intentions were necessary. If the biases and divisions at the root of the problems were not addressed, even the best plans would fail.

Denise Altvater (Passamaquoddy), a leader in Maine-Wabanaki REACH (Restoration, Engagement, Advocacy, Change, Healing) who had been hired to help state social workers better understand the culture of the Native communities they served, noted, “One day, we decided we were stuck.” When racial tensions wouldn’t ease, a decision had to be made: “Do we keep doing what we’re doing, and call it the best we can do, or do we take the giant leap and go deeper?”

They went much deeper, forming what would be known as the Maine Wabanaki-Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to explore that which separated Native and white communities before they returned to building a new and improved system together.

For Maria Girouard (Penobscot), the executive director of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, the barrier to moving forward was not the lack of a plan, but the lack of a trusting relationship. “How the TRC did the work and fulfilled its purpose was just as important as the product it produced,” says Girouard. “More important was the truth-telling. There was a good deal of pushback all around to the idea.”

Social work educator Gail Werrbach, one of the five commissioners, recognized the need to address the historic realities that we all have inherited.

The white people are dying to reconcile. “Let’s reconcile and [now] everyone loves each other.” It’s such important work, and it’s hard work. I think the biggest challenge is that white people, we want to go faster, fix faster, feel better faster. That’s just not how historical trauma works. So, any cities or communities looking at similar kinds of commissions need to take a long-view time frame in anything they set up, and not get trapped in thinking people will be reconciled and move on. It’s been 500 years.

Penthea Burns, now a board member of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, describes the key learning that must guide efforts to address deep, systemic change. “We should always be talking about repair and reparations through the lens of understanding the harm that has been done,” says Burns. “As a white woman, how do I get my association to hear, and repair from a different level of commitment? How do we be different together? Our state officials had a lot of reticence around reparations from a bottom-line perspective, holding that as just writing a check. Reparations is so much deeper and more engaging than that.”

From this process emerged a new approach for the state to provide needed child welfare services to its Native American residents. This would be a shared construct, supported from a foundation of common understanding and shared responsibility.

TRC Commissioner Sandy White Hawk says truth and healing will happen only when the people are ready. Only then it will be possible to make deep and systemic change together. “You cannot heal during trauma. You can’t get over something that is still happening to you. It’s impossible. You don’t say to someone suffering from cancer, ‘get over it.’”

The truth and reconciliation effort in Maine demonstrates how critical it is to build shared understanding of the different experiences each individual and community brings to the process. If we have the patience to take the time this will take, we can make a difference. If we have the strength to feel the pain, to recognize the hurt of others and our responsibility for it, we have a chance to move beyond it. In this moment of great division, we will need to be strong and brave if we hope to make the future better.

This article was originally published by NPQ online, on Nov. 5, 2020.

Martin Levine is a Principal at Levine Partners LLP, a consulting group focusing on organizational change and improvement, realigning service systems to allow them to be more responsive and effective. Before that, he served as the CEO of JCC Chicago, where he was responsible for the development of new facilities in response to the changing demography of the Metropolitan Jewish Community. In addition to his JCC responsibilities, Mr. Levine served as a consultant on organizational change and improvement to school districts and community organizations. Mr. Levine has published several articles on change and has presented at numerous conferences on this subject.A native of New York City, Mr. Levine is a graduate of City College of New York (BS in Biology) and Columbia University (MSW). He has trained with the Future Search and the Deming Institute.


This article was originally published in the Nonprofit Quarterly(Volume xx, Issue xx, Season Year), Used with permission.


Monday, November 16, 2020

20,000 Native Children Died at America’s Indian Boarding Schools

Our Spirits Don't Speak English: Indian Boarding School


An excerpt from the film,"Our Spirits Don't Speak English:Indian Boarding School." Release date 2008 from

In New Mexico, ICWA bill coming in 2021 | Watch Dawnland Now (free)


Bill to codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state law an important step, say advocates

A bill to protect Native American children so they can remain within their tribal communities and extended families will be pre-filed in the state Legislature in January, supporters say.

The bill, still in draft form, will codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into state law if it’s passed by the state Legislature next year. The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act into law in 1978 but it is too often not enforced, according to experts working on the state law.

Because of implicit bias against Native Americans, Native children are often removed from the home when a white child in an identical situation is not, said Donalyn Sarracino, director of Tribal Affairs for the Office of the Secretary for Child, Youth and Families Department and of the Pueblo of Acoma.

She said this is a national problem and that, in some cases, the rate of removals of Native children from their families is sometimes four times higher than white children removals.

“(Native) children are removed for reasons white children might not be removed,” Sarracino said.

Jacqueline Yalch, President of New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium and of the Isleta Pueblo, said that often, tribal communities are seen “as unfit to raise our children.”

The consortium formed in 2015 to address this issue.

Keep Reading 



DAWNLAND (86 min)

For decades, child welfare authorities have been removing Native American children from their homes. DAWNLAND goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

World Channel: ‘Blood Memory’ tells history of Native American adoption


World Channel in partnership with Vision Maker Media commemorates Native American Heritage Month and Veterans Day with films showcasing the rich culture and history of Native Americans highlighting documentaries like ‘Blood Memory’ Nov. 17 and ‘The Blessing’ Nov. 24.

More information about the film can be found at and at, where audiences can also find the line-up of films being shown as part of Native American Heritage Month. 

A trailer of the film is available at

GOOD NEWS: World Channel: ‘Blood Memory’ tells history of Native American adoption | Navajo-Hopi Observer | Navajo & Hopi Nations, AZ

Are you searching? READ THIS:

Supaman - Let em go

Lyla June - All Nations Rise

Red Eagle - Song of Survival

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project


The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project 
is a new effort to tell the story of the thousands of American Indian children from forty Indian nations who attended the Genoa Indian Boarding School in Genoa, Nebraska. The school was open from 1884-1934 and sprawled over 640 acres. The first phase of the project has digitized and described government records. Later phases will digitize oral histories, community narratives, and artifacts. The project is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation; Community Advisors from the Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago tribes of Nebraska; and descendants of those who attended Genoa. It aims to bring greater awareness of the schools and their legacies at the same time as it hopes to return the histories of Indian children from government repositories back to their families and tribes. So far, project members have digitized, described, and published about 4,000 pages of documents. Communities and individuals will be able to contribute their own digital content to the record.

For more information on the project, visit or contact


Monday, November 9, 2020

Now what? Truth and reconciliation | Biden Victory #TRC #NativeLivesMatter #NCAI

news from around Indian Country

As the Biden-Harris administration prepares to take power, Crosscut asked six opinion writers to share early thoughts on what comes next.

don jr, donald trump and melania trump

caption: Healing our past wrongs must begin with a thorough accounting of transgressions committed by the Trump administration, write Fawn Sharp and Mathew Randazzo V. (Evan Vucci/AP)


It is an existential necessity that America finally face its darkest truths and reconcile ourselves to our core values. 

As Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic amply proved, we cannot treat a disease we refuse to acknowledge. Through a reckless disregard for the truth, we become complicit in its spread.

The 574 Tribal Nations that have experienced four centuries of trauma, genocide, rape and pillage will no longer accept lip service. Likewise, we must relieve Black Americans of the trauma of living in a hostile civic society defined by arbitrary state violence, mass imprisonment, systematic voter disenfranchisement and the multigenerational deprivation of resources from their communities.

America must draw the line with this generation to finally confront and remediate past and present wrongs — starting with a thorough and honest accounting of the Trump administration’s transgressions. 

We can’t let this essential work be sabotaged or shortchanged by the Washington D.C. establishment’s self-immunization from accountability. We either establish a precedent for accountability that was lacking after Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Iraq War and the 2008 economic crisis, or risk inviting a more authoritarian and lawless counter-attack.

The Biden-Harris administration must take a full-court press approach and utilize every investigatory and disciplinary tool available to the federal government to reveal the truth, devise effective solutions, bring the corrupt to justice and restore the constitutional balance between the three branches of government.

We need presidential truth and reconciliation commissions on the systemic abuses that Native Americans, African Americans and Latin American migrants all face; congressional select committees to provide a comprehensive overhaul of the laws restraining executive overreach, police violence and carbon pollution; and gloves-off inspector general and criminal investigations into the flagrant abuses of the Trump administration and its corporate accomplices.

Truth and reconciliation is not simply a racial matter. Working-class white families are also economically and politically disenfranchised by the inhuman corporate machinery that controls our institutions and toxifies our lands and food, preventing vastly popular reforms like Medicare for All, drug decriminalization, law enforcement violence de-escalation strategies and action on climate change from gaining national momentum.

The Biden-Harris administration offers hope that the executive branch will at least consider bold reforms. But passing the type of drastic legislation necessary to put this republic on a sustainable path will require the mass organization and activation of the public at large. 

Our society and governments can no longer serve the Dow Jones Industrial Average instead of the life, liberty and happiness of its citizens or the indispensable health of our ecosystems.

We are the ancestors of future generations.

We cannot leave them a sick, fatally flawed society.

To heal our country we must be courageous, and boldly confront generations of injustice and exploitation.

Fawn Sharp

Fawn Sharp

Fawn Sharp is President of the Quinault Indian Nation and the President of the National Congress of American Indians.

Matthew Randazzo V

Matthew Randazzo V

Matthew Randazzo V is a former government executive who advises Tribal Nations.



Indian Country reacts to Biden victory 





"I don't like hope. Hope was the last thing to come out of Pandora's box. It's a sedative word. If we want something to happen, it's better to pray; that way we're activating our intelligence."- John Trudell (Santee Sioux)


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh #60s Scoop #NAAM2020


Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised Somewhere Else): A ’60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home

by Editor


During the Sixties Scoop, over 20,000 Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their biological families, lands, and culture and trafficked across provinces, borders, and overseas to be raised in non-Indigenous households. Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh delves into the personal and provocative narrative of Colleen Cardinal’s journey growing up in a non-Indigenous household as a '60s Scoop adoptee. […]

Read more of this post


ANOTHER REVIEW: Book review: Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (”Raised somewhere else”) By Colleen Cardinal #netgalley – Amber Unmasked


NAAM2020 is National Adoption Awareness Month.  Every November this happens. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What Truth and Reconciliation Looks Like in Practice #ICWA #NAAM2020


Historical, generational trauma cannot be overcome by slogans, marches, or performative allyship. Determining who suffers from racially oriented, systemic harm cannot be measured by an evaluation of skin tone. The harms done to communities of color across the country expand well beyond the Black community and deep into Native, Hispanic, and immigrant communities.

We are now 528 years after Columbus’ unfortunate arrival in the Caribbean and the enslavement of the Native population, 401 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived on these shores. The deficit and trauma will not be reconciled in a week, a month, or a year.

GREAT READ: What Truth and Reconciliation Looks Like in Practice – Next City

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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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