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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/ .

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Monday, February 7, 2022

Minnesota foster care system perpetuates legacy of racist boarding schools, Native mothers say

Department of Human Services says reforms are starting to work and newer state program shows promise.  

Teresa Nord regained custody of her eldest daughter several years ago, but the experience still haunts her.

"I live with this constant fear," says Nord, 42, a Navajo and Hopi Indian descendant who lives in Glencoe, Minn. "I call it child protection PTSD, that they're just gonna one day knock on my door."

In 2015, Nord's then 6-year-old daughter told her she had been abused by one of her mom's close friends. Nord reached out to a social worker for help — only to have her daughter immediately removed by child protective services.

Nord spent three years fighting to regain custody, but her daughter's time in foster care left her with deep abandonment fears and exacerbated other mental health challenges. "The foster provider told her, 'Your mom is a bad mom. You're never going to see her again [and] you might as well get used to that,'" Nord says.

Recent discoveries of mass graves on former indigenous boarding school sites have led to an international reckoning over the atrocities committed by the U.S. and Canadian governments in the name of assimilation. And political leaders like Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz have acknowledged the deep trauma the schools inflicted upon generations of Native families.

However, Native parents and experts in Native child welfare in Minnesota say that many of the underlying beliefs about Native families that fueled the boarding school systems are perpetuated by the state's modern child welfare system, with devastating effects.

Many Native mothers like Nord can't shake the fear of having their children ripped away from them or the ripple effects of generations of Native removals.

"There's a really explicit connection in the indigenous community's mind between boarding schools and the child welfare system," says Nicole Martin Rogers, a White Earth Ojibwe descendant and senior research manager at Wilder Research, a research organization that works with nonprofits and governments. That's because boarding schools are "how the system first started taking kids away from their families," she said.

The boarding schools legacy

In the 1800s, the federal government established mandatory boarding schools for Native American children, with the mission of assimilating Native children. The first boarding school in Minnesota opened in 1871. Children in these schools often were starved, beaten and forced to sever their connection to their Native heritage and language.

Although these schools mostly were discontinued by the 1950s, Native children continued to be removed from their homes at staggering rates through adoption.

Native children were removed from their families in Minnesota and other states at such high rates that outrage from Native communities led to the creation of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

ICWA mandates that child welfare agencies give special consideration to cases involving enrollable tribal members in the form of consultation with tribes.

But for Native women like Nord, who is a tribal descendant but not an enrollable member, these protections don't apply.

Social workers and courts often fail to give Native parents adequate and culturally appropriate guidance on how to reunite with their children, a core tenet of ICWA, says Sadie Hart, an ICWA compliance court monitor in Ramsey County. And they often mandate parents to follow impossibly strict deadlines to resolve issues related to poverty or addiction to regain custody, without providing adequate support to do so, she says.

Looking back on the boarding school and adoption eras, it's easy to say they were wrong, says Shannon Smith, executive director of the ICWA Law Center. But she says the underlying mentality persists, as does the impact, often due to factors like cultural ignorance or mistaken beliefs about Native parents.

"I think a lot of times removals [are] society … equating removal with safety. And that is an equation that is just automatic. And I think that's fundamentally flawed," Smith says.

Indeed, some experts say, poverty can often look like neglect to social workers, especially in families of color. Even when poverty is causing instability that puts kids at risk, removal may not be the best option and can exacerbate rather than fix the root issues.

In Hennepin County, where the ICWA Law Center is located, Native Americans account for roughly 26% of those living in poverty, although they make up just 1% of the population, according to the county's 2018 report "Child Protective Services: Reform and Child Well-Being."

"There are so many indigenous families living in poverty," says MartinRogers. "It's hard not to consider it neglect … if the caseworker walks into the house and there's no food in the refrigerator or the kids don't have a bed to sleep on or other things that can result from someone just being really poor."

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Canada's Residential Schools

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.

no arrests?

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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.

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Did you know?
lakota.cc/16I9p4D

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.

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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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