Lara Trace Hentz (formerly DeMeyer) is a Shawnee-Cherokee multi-genre author, poet, journalist and activist. Her work is heavily focused on Native Americans and Native American adoption issues. Photo: Herb Hentz and Trace in 1999.
DeMeyer was born on September 9, 1956 in St. Paul, Minnesota and was adopted by Sev and Edie DeMeyer in Wisconsin in 1958. She was raised in the Arrowhead region of Superior, WI, where the Chippewa, also known as the Anishinabe or “First People,” live. DeMeyer always knew she was Native American, though she was never told. Her curiosity about her Native identity grew as she became older.
When she was 22, DeMeyer began investigating her adoption, which was one of many that stemmed from the Indian Adoption Projects. With the help of a very kind judge, she was able to open her sealed adoption records. She discovered the name of her birth mother, as well as her own birth name—Laura Jean Thrall. With the information she found in her adoption file, DeMeyer spent the next 27 years looking for and connecting with her biological relatives. Unfortunately, her birth mother was not interested in having any contact with DeMeyer. She did, however, give DeMeyer the name of her birth father—Earl. Through him, DeMeyer connected with a sister and four brothers, as well as aunts, nieces and nephews. She also learned about her Shawnee-Cherokee heritage. Despite not having a relationship with her mother, DeMeyer was able to connect with some of her maternal family, including her grandmother, uncle, cousin, and two half-sisters.
DeMeyer was fortunate to gain so many relationships with her family. Many Native American adoptees aren’t able to open their adoption records, which makes it difficult to begin the search for biological relatives. Some adoptees never even learn of their adoption.
“‘Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’ I don’t know who said this but it says so much. Regardless if you’re Indian or non-Indian, adoptees from closed adoptions do battle with the same things.” –From One Small Sacrifice
One Small Sacrifice
DeMeyer understands the hardships that come with trying to uncover the mysteries of adoption, and wrote about her experience in her memoir, One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. The book chronicles the story of her own adoption, and comments on both the history of the adoption of Native American children and its substantial effect on adoptees.
“My husband Herb calls me a bird. I know he’s right.
“Every bird has a song. Birds learn to sing listening to their parents who learned it form their parents. Each generation, birds make nests, roost and sing in the season of spring. baby birds hatch in sync with migrations. Each chirp is a signal, warning of danger or predators. Birds must sing or they’ll surely die.
“Orphaned birds can’t sing. They can’t sing without parents to teach them. If baby birds are abandoned, they’ll die. If raised by foster bird-parents, they’ll sing just like them. Baby birds mimic and adapt.
“Like an abandoned bird, I was fostered (then adopted) by strangers. I learned to sing like them. Adoptees mimic and adapt.
“In Indian Country, grieving grandparents call us Lost Ones, Split Feathers or Lost Birds; they say we come from two worlds and there are so many of us, they call to us in dreams, as ghosts…
“I am a Lost Bird…” –From One Small Sacrifice
Two Worlds and Other Publications
DeMeyer is an advocate for other Native American adoptees who are trying to uncover their biological connections. Her advocacy led to her and fellow adoptee Patricia Busbee compiling many Native American adoptee stories into the anthology Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.
DeMeyer’s other published works include “Honor Restored: Jim Thorpe’s Olympic Medals,” a chapter from Olympics at the Millenium: Power, Politics and the Games; Sleeps with Knives (as Laramie Harlow); and Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time, co-authored with MariJo Moore.
In addition to her chapbook of poetry, Sleeps With Knives, DeMeyer has also contributed poems to a number of publications. These include “What I Know” in Spirit in the Woods; “The Silence is So Loud” in Invoking the Muse; “Your God Doesn’t Forget” displayed in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee in 2006; “Your God Doesn’t Forget,” “People Waking Up,” and “Heart-shaped Ass, beauty in pounds” in Yellow Medicine Review; “Jump” in Rabbit and Rose; “Earth’s Funeral,” “Swallow Manifesto” and “Heart-shaped Ass” in I Was Indian Vol. 2.; and “Swimmer” in 30 Poems in November.
Prior to being a published author, DeMeyer was involved in many different industries throughout her lifetime. Beginning in her college years, DeMeyer was involved in various entertainment outlets. She modeled, appeared in commercials and magazines, and starred in a student film. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1978 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater and Communications, DeMeyer began singing in a band. She went on to join six more bands over the course of her music career, many of which she was the lead singer for. When she wasn’t involved in music, DeMeyer worked at the Heart Six Dude Ranch in Wyoming; owned a successful gift store in Portland; managed a Smithsonian Museum audio tour in Washington; and returned to the music industry as an assistant for the president of a record label in Seattle. DeMeyer’s varied career led her to many different parts of the country, including Las Vegas and New York City.
Throughout her travels around the country, DeMeyer’s network of Native American connections grew large. People from many different tribes taught her a great deal about Native American culture. Her passion for Native American issues led her to become a staff writer, an editor and a publications manager for the Native American publications News from Indian Country, Ojibwe Akiing, Pequot Times and Sawyer County Record. While working for these publications, DeMeyer was able to experience a number of significant events. In 1998, DeMeyer interviewed the famous political prisoner Leonard Peltier while he was still an inmate in Leavenworth, a federal prison in Kansas. She also attended the first inter-tribal Wiping the Tears Orphan Ceremony that was held in Wisconsin in 2001, where a public apology was issued by the Child Welfare League of America.
DeMeyer’s past has influenced her career as a journalist, leading her to write for, and about, Native American tribes across the country. She has written for a number of Native American publications, and many of her pieces were awarded or honored by the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA).
Publications that DeMeyer has written for include Greenfield Recorder (Greenfield, Massachusetts); Indian Life (Winnipeg, Canada); Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (Nixon, Nevada); Native Peoples Magazine (New Mexico); News From Indian Country (Wisconsin); News From Native California (California); Ojibwe Akiing (Wisconsin); Pequot Times (Connecticut); Sawyer County Record (Sawyer County, Wisconsin); Talking Stick (New York); Tawacin (Poland); and Turtle Mountain Times (North Dakota).
DeMeyer joined the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) in 1996 and has received many awards from them, including awards for General Excellence (News From Indian Country, 1996); Best News Story, Honorable mention (“Free Peltier,” 1998); Best Feature Writing (“Kusah Hakwaan” film, 2001); Pequot Times General Excellence, Honorable mention (2001); Best News Writing Monthly, 2nd place (“America Stands United in the Shadow of Tragedy” 9/11 coverage, 2002); Pequot Times Best Layout and Design (Tabloid, monthly, 2002); Pequot Times Best Layout and Design (Tabloid, monthly, 2nd place, 2003); Pequot Times Monthly General Excellence (2nd place, 2003); Best Feature Writing (Eastern Pequot Tribe, 2nd place, 2003); and Pequot Times Monthly General Excellence (2nd place, 2004).
In addition to her awards, DeMeyer is an accomplished blogger, having created an impressive online presence. She has a number of blogs on multiple social media platforms, all dedicated to her activism related to Native American issues. She created a Twitter newspaper titled Modern Ndn, and founded an online publishing company called Blue Hand Books. The publishing company features Native American authors, and helps those authors publish their works through the use of Amazon Create Space and Pressbooks. Among Blue Hand Books’ published writers are John Christian Hopkins, James Chavers Jr., and DeMeyer herself. DeMeyer is also currently teaching Introduction to Blogging 101 and Exploring Social Media, both technology courses at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Trace DeMeyer’s official website (now defunct)
DeMeyer, Trace A. One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. Greenfield, MA: Blue Hand Books, 2010. Print.
Harlow, Laramie. Sleeps with Knives: poems. Greenfield, MA: Blue Hand Books, 2012. Print.
Busbee, Patricia and Trace A. DeMeyer. Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. Greenfield, MA: Blue Hand Books, 2012.
Amanda M. Weissgerber (University of New Hampshire Class of 2013) http://indigenousnewengland.com/items/show/303