Q: Could you explain what you mean by the title phrase of your book, “our history is the future”?
I look at the Ghost Dance prophecy, which was an anticolonial uprising among particularly Lakota and Dakota people on the northern Plains in the late 19th century, but also a widespread spiritual movement that went up the west coast of Canada and down to parts of what is today Mexico. If they were completely harmless, then the United States wouldn’t have deployed its army against starving, horseless people at Wounded Knee. The reason it represented such a threat was not because Lakota and Dakota Ghost Dancers were going around and murdering white settlers — it was because it was a vision of the future. When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women.
Jered might not have seen his son again before the Indian Child Welfare Act. For decades beginning in the 1870s, native children as young as 5 were forcibly removed from their families and sent to authoritarian boarding schools in an effort to “kill the Indian, save the man.” Tribal law expert Matthew Fletcher, who is Anishinaabe, explains that boarding schools fell out of favor beginning in the 1930s, but whites still viewed native methods of child rearing, as well as concepts of family and community, with deep suspicion, and children were removed from their families for nearly any reason. It became standard policy, Fletcher says, to adopt them out to white families, all with an eye toward white acculturation. Often, they were never heard from again. “The wholesale separation of Indian children from their families is perhaps the most tragic and destructive aspect of American Indian life today,” Congress declared in 1978. It passed ICWA after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony by tribal leaders and afflicted family members. By then, according to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, an estimated 25 to 35 percent of all native children had been removed from their families. Of those, 85 percent were placed in white homes, even, NICWA says, when suitable relatives were available.
By Lara Trace Hentz (poet-writer) (founder of Blue Hand Books)
I am remiss in mentioning I’m in the new poetry anthology IN THE VEINS (released 2-1-2017) and last year I did mention the poetry book TENDING THE FIRE by Chris Felver that is coming out in 2017. Louise and I are both that book. NICE!
Louise’s bookstore BIRCHBARK BOOKS (top photo) in Minnesota carries some of our Blue Hand Book titles. I am very grateful to her for this. Supporting me as a small press and publisher helps me publish new Native authors.
click logo to visit them
I founded Blue Hand Books in 2011 to give back to my community, right after I did my memoir One Small Sacrifice. Since then we have published 18 books, with four volumes in the Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects book series. (TWO WORLDS was the first anthology.) In the Veins is Volume 4. A portion of the proceeds from this poetry book edited by Patricia Busbee will be sent to the Standing Rock Water Protectors Camps (#NoDAPL).
Here is one of my poems from IN THE VEINS
…When People of the First Light saw ships and strangers disembark
…When the conqueror ran out of the woods firing loaded guns
…When they loaded some of us onto slave boats in shackles
Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood
…When an Indigenous mother loses her child at gun point
…When her child is punished by a nun, kicked in the neck
…When her child dies in residential school, buried in an unmarked grave
Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood
…When a black sedan enters the rez and children run and hide, afraid
…When a Cheyenne adoptee is a small boy, watching westerns on TV, he is told he is Indian
…When a Navajo adoptee is taken at the hospital and disappears, raised by Mormons
Then a trickle becomes a river, then a flood ….. of tears.
The people who chained, who murdered, who hacked, who raped, who hated their way across North America… they are still here, too.
Read an IN THE VEINS excerpt HERE. My Ojibwe scholar friend blogger Dr. Carol A. Hand (who I interviewed on this blog) and my dear friend and Unravelling anthology co-editor MariJo Moore and many many other Native American and First Nations poets (some of them famous or soon-to-be) contributed prose and poems for this beautiful new book. If you love poetry, you will love this… LINK to BUY from BHB.
COMING SOON! Blue Hand Books is publishing a brand new novella by Barbara Robidoux, author of Sweetgrass Burning.
“It is no secret that Washington faces a serious debt problem, but last time I checked, it was not because we are spending too much on Indian housing, healthcare or education. It is not because we are spending too much on addressing the scourge of diabetes in Native communities, improving crumbling infrastructure or creating jobs in Indian Country. It is not because we are spending too much supporting Native American veterans who put their lives on the line to defend our nation, or creating economic opportunities for Indian youth. It is profoundly hypocritical that the United States, year-after-year, decade-after-decade, does so little to honor its trust responsibilities to Native peoples. It’s time for real change.” – Bernie Sanders READ MORE
By Lara Trace (Independent Voter)
The above quote is from Bernie Sander’s website on his stance on our government’s trust responsibilities to tribes. Bad thing is: most people don’t even know or care that tribes exist in 2016.
I’ve mentioned on this blog I worked at News From Indian Country (1996-1999). When I started working as a journalist, there were just two Native American-owned-operated national print newspapers. TWO! (There are still two and more online news outlets now*.) At that time, in the mid 90s, I was one of 350+ Native journalists and a member of Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). Very few of my friends worked at a mainstream newspaper like USA TODAY or the New York Times. I knew two Native men (John and Charlie) who held those prestigious jobs and neither are writing for those newspapers in 2016.
Minnie was among the leaders and founders of the American Indian Movement. Yep, those warriors like John Trudell!
Minnie, John Trudell and Paul DeMain, founder of NFIC, made an indelible impact on me. I credit them for teaching me crucial things I could never learn from books or in a classroom. I met many fantastic Native journalists when I belonged to NAJA over the years. (NAJA AWARDS 2002) And I admit it was their influence that I am a publisher now at Blue Hand Books because the majority of journalists I know (and knew) are also great writers writing great books, not just news articles for tribal newspapers.
Now imagine this: The population of Indian Country in 2010 was 2,553,566. That number is growing. It’s not a huge population but it is noteworthy in the respect that state by state, very little is taught about Native people, or our history, or our ancestral territory or treaty rights, which can breed contempt among non-Indians, and even worse, breed racism. When I traveled to Pine Ridge in the early 90s, I was told South Dakota citizens were known and feared for their racism toward tribes—to me that was appalling, unreasonable and actually very dangerous. At one time it was said that Canada was more racist but that depends on who you’re talking to… This kind of hate is like a virus that spreads from one generation to another. The American Indian Movement was instrumental is bringing awareness of hate crimes and many unsolved murders happening in the 1970s involving Indians being killed by non-Indians across the USA.
If more non-Indian people understood history, it would definitely transform and diminish these hateful attitudes. With good consistent writing about tribes in mainstream newspapers, then perspective could shift attitudes and create unity and respect, which is sadly and sorely lacking today.
The following story is KEY to any discussion about Native Americans in news rooms and across Indian County. We need good stories and websites and newspapers who give accurate reporting and reflect the truth.
Police kill Native Americans at almost the same rate as African-Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 1999 and 2013, an average of .29 per 100,000 Native Americans were killed by police, compared to .3 per 100,000 for blacks and .11 per 100,000 for whites. “America should be aware of this,” argues Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer and a leader of the Lakota People’s Law Project, which runs a publicity campaign called Native Lives Matter. But for the most part, America is not aware of this.
That may be changing, albeit slowly, as both mainstream media and Native American-run digital outlets begin to cover American Indian issues more robustly.
“We’re not necessarily focusing on the shadows and the sadness,” says Jason Begay, a Navajo who grew up on a reservation and runs the Native News Project, “but on how people are persevering.”
Tristan Ahtone, a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma who often reported for Al Jazeera America, won a following among Native Americans and others for writing about new topics, such as how one tribe is invoking treaty rights to stop another oil pipeline, the rethinking of the militant American Indian Movement that grew up alongside the Black Panthers in the 1960s, and an international indigenous basketball tournament. His approach: “Stop looking at Indian Country as a foreign place with foreign people doing foreign things. It keeps us apart from each other, and reinforces the idea that these people are different, that they’re victims, that they’re helpless. They get covered when there’s doom, gloom, or there’s blood. The cumulative effect is that you’ve got communities that are isolated from the rest of the country and generally distrustful of journalists, and that just creates a continuing cycle.”
Ahtone is one of only a handful of Native American journalists. There are 118 self-identified Indian journalists working at U.S. daily newspapers, according to 2015 data from the American Society of News Editors. That’s .36 percent of all U.S. newsroom employees. Native American activists say there need to be more newsroom internships and training programs for aspiring Native American journalists.
And I’ll leave you with this quote about diversity in writing and publishing:
“You will be tokenized. Even when you get to write about your own experience of being a minority in America—you know, even that can be turned against you. Are you going to be used later on as leverage against an accusation of racism? Will you then be seen as a collaborator? In most cases the answer is yes….
“Hiring is a crucial step, but it is reformist. It’s not going to really fix anything, just sand off the rough edges, right? Because there is far more concern about appearing racist rather than not doing racist things. It’s not just a publishing thing. What else can I say but dismantle capitalism? And I don’t know that anything radical enough to do that wouldn’t hurt a lot of the people that we are trying to save. Barring world historical change, I don’t see really anything happening but a new paint job. It is systemic racism for a reason, it’s so essentially wound up with the system upon which everything is built. You can ameliorate it. You can palliate it. But you can’t cure it. This is what I sound like when I’m optimistic.” —Tony Tulathimutte, novelist, Private Citizens
My writing on this blog (and publishing new books here) is my humble attempt to broaden perspectives about Indigenous People/American Indians/First Nations… Thank you all for reading and following this blog! You matter to me! xoxoxo
Break out the cigars! We have a new baby — the brand new anthology CALLED HOME [Book Two: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects].
Whew – it took way more than nine months to make this baby!
I do treat books like babies, giving them love and attention while they grow. Eventually I let the book go off and travel on its own. It’s not hard to watch it travel to new hands and lands.
The 49 writers in this new anthology (plus one poet who is not an adoptee) didn’t spare us any details of what it was like growing up outside of their culture and trying to fit back in. They are not “angry bitter” but changed by their experience of being adopted outside their culture and tribal families. (Many were small children and separated from their siblings too. This is heartbreaking to read.) Finding your way back is usually the most challenging part, then come the reunions! Generations of families were affected and adoption does change all of us. That is the dilemma: adoptees feel we don’t know enough to fit back in but we have to be back HOME to re-learn what we missed!
Writing personal experience actually heals you in many ways. The changes I have noticed in the writers in TWO WORLDS (up to now) is significant. Each has grown more secure in themselves, most are still in reunions, and they have developed a unique voice as gifted writers! Some new adoptees had never been asked to share these personal details and for some, yes, writing was scary.
There is no shortage of talent in Native Americans, and these writers are from across North American (and one Lost Bird is from Ireland via Newfoundland and another is a LAKOTA living in Germany.) As much as I have changed in the past 10 years, you will see that clearly in the updates from Two World anthology adoptees in part two of CALLED HOME.
We cover topics like DNA tests, Baby Veronica (in depth), the movie PHILOMENA, Stolen Generations (60s Scoop history) and historical news like OPERATION PAPOOSE, one of Arnold Lyslo’s Indian Adoption Projects.
My husband was saying that the book press release needs to interest people who are not adopted. He said lots of people have difficulties being with their own family members. That is definitely true.
So is the question: will the general public care to know that thousands of American Indian and First Nations children were adopted out to white families prior to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978?? Will they care not every adoption was magical or perfect? Will they care that adoptees have opinions about their own experiences and the BABY V case which stunned many of us Lost Birds? Do Americans and others want to know what happened to the LOST BIRDS in this adoption history? That remains to be seen.
As a matter of record, every adoptee in CALLED HOME wanted to find and reunite with their tribal relatives. These are mini-biographies with twists and turns and so much courage!
Part Three, there is a section in the book for adoptees who are still searching and have been told that one or both birthparents are Native American.
They are all excellent essays, so I cannot begin to choose a favorite but Levi’s THE HOLOCAUST SELF will definitely stop you in your tracks. It applies to many humans who are marginalized, but especially Native Americans and adoptees in general.
Co-Editor Patricia Busbee’s introduction in the book is brilliant and heart-wrenching as she shares her reunion with siblings and shares pieces of the past in her adoptive mother’s diary.
Here’s an excerpt from a new writer Cynthia Lammers (who has found she has 5 brothers and they are Lakota.)
…My case worker told me I had to write a letter to my birth mother, explaining why I wanted to know her. I did this and sent it to her. Then I had to do some legal paperwork for the State of Nebraska and pay $15 to have it processed. Then I later received a phone call from my case worker, telling me to come to Omaha on a certain date. That I was not to come alone, to have a friend or family member come with me. My best friend Susan went with me to Omaha. We had no idea what this was about to happen? Was I finally going to meet my birth mother? We arrived at the address that I was given at the time they told us to be there. We were at a College Campus, in a classroom, filled with about 50- 60 people, sitting at round tables with 6-8 people at each table. We ate lunch. Then a Native American man started the meeting with a prayer. Then several different Native men and woman got up to speak, each one telling a story about their lives. The strange thing was, almost every story was almost the same about how they grew up and who they grew up with. Native people growing up in white families. We were all adopted. We all had alcoholic mothers who couldn’t take care of us. We all felt lost at some point in our lives and maybe some of us still did. We all had questions about who we really were. What was our Indian Culture or Heritage about, we didn’t know. Were we all related? Probably not, I thought to myself. Then suddenly, it hit me, I turned and looked at my caseworker from the Children’s Home. She had tears running down her face. I said to her, “You have been lying to me all these years, haven’t you?” She began to cry. I began to cry. Once I got myself back together, I told her it probably wasn’t her fault, that she was just doing her job. She’d been telling me what she was told to tell me…”
I am honored to be in this anthology too. The new book CALLED HOME (ISBN: 978-0692245880, $15.99) is on Amazon NOW. The e-book version will be on Kindle and all the e-readers in the next week or so. We have a Media Blog here with a link to buy the book on Create Space or Amazon.
Help us get the word out and tell your friends. Patricia and I and all the adoptees in this book are available for interviews, too.
As I wrote in the Preface:
“For Lost Birds/adoptees coming after us, when they find this new book and the earlier anthology TWO WORLDS, adoptees themselves documented this history and evidence. We have created a roadmap, a resource for new adoptees who will wish to journey back to their First Nations and understand exactly what happened and why. There is no doubt in my mind that adoption changes us, clouds the mind and steals years of our lives, but there is something non-Indians can never steal and that is our dreams and the truth we are resilient!”
From my heart to yours, I am so grateful to be able to do this work. Mitakuye Oyasin (We are All Related) and Megwetch (THANK YOU)….Trace/Lara
Trace DeMeyer, who lives in western Massachusetts, has been an important figure in the regional Native literary scene. In the late 90s and early 2000s she was an editor at The Pequot Times, the excellent paper published out of Mashantucket. She still freelances for News from Indian Country, keeps several blogs of her own (linked throughout this post), and Tweets Native news at ModernNdn. With all of her media savvy and vast network of connections, DeMeyer recently started Blue Hand Books, a new e-publishing collective well-positioned to support established and upcoming Native authors, who are often frustrated by more entrenched publishing houses.
Hot off Blue Hand’s e-presses is her own poetry chapbook, Sleeps with Knives (just over $5 at amazon). Writing under the pen name Laramie Harlow, DeMeyer revisits and expands some of the traumatic personal history she explored in One Small Sacrifice…