A case before a federal appeals court last week could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities. For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture. Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)
“This is about attacking Indian law and Indian sovereignty,” said Chrissi Nimmo, deputy attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “This is just the first step.” The Cherokee, Navajo, Oneida and Quinault Indian Nations, as well as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, asked to be included as defendants in the lawsuit.
As we learned from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, negative childhood experiences are often kept secret, downplayed, or repressed because of our powerful desire to put such things behind us. Unfortunately, our minds and our brains don’t work that way. Patterns can play out automatically, no matter how hard we try to be original and create our own realities.
Just as it is important to know family medical history (e.g., diabetes or tuberculosis) it is equally important to know about our social inheritance.
…There is a chilling quote from Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow, from his ACES-informed book, Heart: “Generations are boxes within boxes; inside my mother’s violence you find another box, which contains my grandfather’s violence, and inside that box (I suspect but do not know) you would find another box with some such black secret energy—stories within stories, receding in time.”
Our job as humans is to connect the dots. I published this link on the ACE STUDY and learned about that important study while I was writing my memoir One Small Sacrifice.
What does it mean for an adoptee to be raised outside your ancestry and culture that isn’t white/American? I have some answers in this new anthology CALLED HOME: The RoadMap. [ ISBN-13: 978-0692700334 (Blue Hand Books) ]
Here’s an excerpt of the PREFACE
No matter who adopts us, new parents will never erase our blood, ancestry, DNA… or our dreams…
No matter how much I want to believe things have changed for the better in Indian Country and in our world, the reality is there is still an “adoption-land” waiting to scoop up more children and more children who need healthy moms and dads. This anthology and this entire book series will be their roadmap.
This is why Patricia and I chose the title CALLED HOME for this anthology. Roadmap was added to the second edition you are now reading.
There are many adoptees called home, but very few are back living on tribal lands. It’s a testament to the courage to be in reunion as adult adoptees, as survivors who were part of the government plans to rid the world of Indigenous and First Nation People. Adoption didn’t kill our spirit but it hurt us deeply.
After ten years of researching the topic and history of adoption, sadly, states like South Dakota and South Carolina are still violating federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 when Native children are supposed to be placed with family, close kin, a relative, or with a different tribe. “Stranger adoptions” with non-Indian parents is supposed to be the absolute last resort or rare occurrence. However, it can still happen, you can read the chapter on Baby V.
Let’s face it: With a shortage of Native adoptive and foster homes in the US and Canada, children will be lost and later called Lost Birds, adoptees and Stolen Generations. Indian Country as a whole is still impoverished, living with daily reminders of broken treaties, remote reservations, soul-crushing poverty, loss of land, shortages of language speakers, and generations who are dealing with post-traumatic stress after centuries of war, residential boarding school abuse, food scarcity and neglect. Since so many are still subjected to Third World conditions, Indigenous children will continue to be taken and placed into foster care and adoptions. (Wasn’t this the original plan to erase all Indians?) Native American moms and dads can still lose their child (or all their children) in courtrooms of white privilege and cultural insensitivity.
On a visit to Brock University in 2014, my co-editor Patricia Busbee and I learned how foster and adoptive parents are invited to bring their Native child to First Nations Friendship Centres in the Niagara, Ontario area. Children are invited to hear stories, learn their language and songs, while their new adoptive parents can participate in activities, too. The entire family is welcome and nourished in this cultural exchange.
Indian Country needs to look to its northerly neighbors in Canada and start its own US-wide “Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC),” and reinvent and redesign its own child care protection systems for the sake of its own future generations. Maine is the only state with a TRC.
After many adoptees contacted me wanting to find their first families, I can say with certainty adoptees are CALLED HOME, called in dreams to be reunited with family members and their many nations. These adoptees do find a way to reconnect despite difficulties with archaic laws, a clueless public, biased lawmakers, closed adoptions, sealed court documents and falsified birth records.
It’s long overdue that North America opens their closed adoption files. When this happens, ifthis happens, the entire world will finally comprehend how adoption was actually colonization and the trafficking of Indigenous Indian children by the “Nation Builders” who call themselves America and Canada. We in North America are literally educated to be ignorant of the true history of our colonization, by the nation builders who use it and what really happened here. Hiding it only perpetuates continued racism and intolerance.
The fog is lifting now and it’s time we shine a light on the hidden history of the Indian Adoption Projects and Programs like ARENA, the Indian Adoption Projects, Operation Papoose, Project Rainbow and the 60s Scoop. You will read about these programs in this book.
For the writers in this book, adoption was the tool of assimilation, erasing our identity and sovereign rights as tribal citizens, intending it to be permanent.
For too many of us, states still won’t release our files to us, even as adults. We have included a section in this book for adoptees who are still searching for clues after their closed adoptions. Many adoptees are doing DNA tests with relatives and to find relatives..
As these books travel to new lands and new hands, I pray that adoptive parents accept that we cannot be the child they want us to be, or dream us to be, and that we are born with our own unique biology, ancestry and characteristics. We will always dream in Indian.