What Climate Organizers Can Learn From Two Centuries of Indigenous Resistance | in-digit-ous | Why ICWA still matters | poets I love

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.

READ: What Climate Organizers Can Learn From Two Centuries of Indigenous Resistance


Bobby Bridger’s son coined a phrase for his dad’s project: in-digit-ous environment.

Source: Timeless thought meets modern tech: A new company puts indigenous philosophy and history into audiobook form | Arts | rapidcityjournal.com


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.

GOOD READ: The Indian Child Welfare Act: Does a law meant to keep Native American children with their tribes help or harm them? – The Washington Post

The secretive Goldwater Institute is the force behind recent lawsuits in more than one state that wish to end the Indian Child Welfare Act.  This quote above explains WHY! ICWA is the gold standard for caring for Indian kids.

My story on being adopted out

Walking the Red Road


If I could read poetry and prose every single day, I certainly would.  Mystics live and breathe in today’s poets:


I will be posting book reviews of some of my favorite poets, who are also fantastic bloggers on my blog soon. (I plan to post their book links as well as links to their blogs.)

I want to thank everyone again for the love and support since last May’s cancer surgery. YES I am a cancer survivor now.  xox

The Indian Child Welfare Act: What Is It?

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Indian child in traditional dress, 1937. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Background:Federal Indian policy has deep roots in ideology which painted American Indians as “savage heathens” that needed to be civilized (based on legal principles such as the doctrine of discovery) for the ultimate goal of assimilation into American society. Assimilation meant the political erasure of the existence of Native Americans and was seen as the answer to America’s “Indian problem.” Embodied in the concept “kill the Indian and save the man” espoused by Col. Richard Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, was articulated what many felt was a compassionate approach toward Indian policy: separating the Indian from his culture. This took many forms, but most egregious among them was the forced removal of children from their families, beginning officially with the Indian boarding school mandate of the Dawes Act.

Even long after the repeal of the Dawes Act in 1934, Indian children were kidnapped from their families fueled by the same motivation to “save” Indians from themselves.

Social narratives focused on Indians as unfit for parenthood resulted in policies of forced sterilization of Native American women and placement of children for adoption in white families well into the 20th century. This is exemplified by the Indian Adoption Project which was funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and lasted from 1958 to 1967. As late as 1971 17 percent of Indian children were removed from their families and sent to BIA boarding schools. In its investigation of Indian child removal, Congress found that “State governmental actors following this pattern and practice removed between 25 and 35 percent of all Indian children nationwide from their families, placing about 90 percent of those removed children in non-Indian homes” (“The Origins of the Indian Child Welfare Act: A Survey of the Legislative History,” Michigan State University College of Law, 2009).

What the Act Does

ICWA acknowledges the history of forced removal of Indian children from their families as one aspect of genocide. It recognizes not only the sovereignty of tribal nations based on federal Indian law, but sees children as resources necessary for the perpetuation of tribal culture and community. Tribal nations are one of three sovereigns in the United States, existing alongside state and federal sovereignty, and the law forces states to acknowledge the superiority of federal law in the case of Indian adoption (adoption laws are regulated by states). Federal Indian law, while many times in history has proven to be a detrimental force to Native Americans, has also evolved the principle of the trust relationship between the federal government and tribes, and ICWA is an enactment of that relationship.

According to the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center, the law addresses the crisis in Indian adoption placement in two ways:

“First, it provides that no Indian child may be removed from the home unless qualified Indian expert testimony indicates that the child is in danger of experiencing physical or emotional harm. This requirement, if followed, will ensure that removal of an Indian child from the home is based upon objective indicia of harm to the child, rather than subjectively applied cultural or social standards.

“Secondly, where Indian expert testimony does indicate ]the] likelihood that continued custody in the home will result in harm to the child, the ICWA generally requires that the child be removed from the home, but placed, in order of preference, within the Indian extended family, within the family of the child’s tribal affiliation, or within another Indian family. Placement of Indian children in Indian homes was Congress’ way of ensuring that when state court and child-protection agencies place Indian children outside of the home, they do not sever the children from their only means of receiving their cultural heritage – the Indian family.”

Affects of the Law

Throughout the years disputes have arisen in the ways that the law is implemented; for example, what defines a child as Indian, and court challenges to identity based on cultural connectedness. However, according to the American Indian Law Alliance, research indicates an overall benefit to Native communities as a result of the ICWA’s passage. Acknowledging that while the law is not perfect, other indigenous communities internationally can benefit from its model as it fits within the purview of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples mandate of free, prior and informed consent.

Part One: Interview with Anishinabe Scholar Elder Carol A. Hand

By Lara Trace Hentz

Hi everyone. The following interview with Anishinabe/Ojibwe Elder Carol A. Hand (Voices from the Margins blog) (Professor in Social Work and Sociology, Author, Guest Lecturer) will run over the next few weeks on this blog. Carol and I have roots in Wisconsin. I’ve been admiring her work and scholarship for quite some time. Please follow this important interview by this extraordinary woman. I am truly humbled and grateful that Carol has agreed to answer some questions. Our Elders are to be respected, listened to, and honored, so with that note, let’s read on….

Photo Credit: Carol Hand – Lake Superior - Duluth, MN – 2010 (Photographer – Jnana Hand)
Photo Credit: Carol Hand – Lake Superior – Duluth, MN – 2010 (Photographer – Jnana Hand)


Carol, please tell us, when did you begin blogging? [LINK]

Honestly, I don’t see myself as a writer, Trace, although I do write and sometimes say I am a writer when people ask me what I do.

In the past, writing was something I only did in the context of school or jobs that required concrete results – state policies, grants to address specific issues, or program evaluation reports (e.g., elder abuse, infant mortality, access to health services). I only started writing in my own voice as a means of surviving in the brutal context of academia, a new career for me when I was in my early 50s. The essays I wrote weren’t shared with others. Instead, they were a way for me to understand the senseless oppression I witnessed in institutions that I had formerly romanticized as the bastion of innovation and liberation. I wrote to save my life, to find my foundation. Through writing, I began to discover the roots of my differences with the competitive, oppressive paradigms that governed academia. The values and skills I learned from my (Ojibwe) mother were profoundly different and influenced how I understood the world, how I worked with students, and how I approached research. Based on the belief that all people were born in a state of original sanctity, an idea I found words for through Rupert Ross’s (1992) work Dancing with a Ghost, the ethics that guided me were always at odds in institutions that were based on the taken-for-granted assumption that education should be founded on saving people from their nature as beings born into a state of original sin.

Although my academic research and writing gained some national attention, my focus on Indian child welfare was not viewed as important by my Euro-American colleagues. At the same time, my critical stance on Indian child welfare policies, practices, and paradigms was also threatening to many people whose jobs and positions depended on preserving the existing policies and structures despite serious needs for greater tribal innovations and sovereignty. Rather than compete, I shifted research topics to Indian health, and again realized that the forces defending “business as usual” were too well established to yield before the modest work of a small number of researchers.

So for a while, I put my writing on hold and simply tried to teach and model how to apply Freire’s (2000) liberatory praxis ideas in the classroom. Rather than seeing my students as “empty vessels” who needed to memorize and accept whatever “experts” said as truth, I worked from a dialogic framework, asking students to consider issues from a variety of different perspectives and come to their own conclusions after critical reflection. But how can one transform a system that is controlled by insecure people who need to be “right” (and I use that word in both of its connotations) and whose socially-constructed hierarchical positions of power perpetuate “expert” knowledge, individualism and self-interested competition? After one too many battles defending vulnerable students and colleagues from destructive oppression, I left academia earlier than I planned. Writing then became a way for me to heal, and then a way to share stories that I hoped could touch people’s hearts and open their eyes to new possibilities. Journals were not interested in publishing these hybrid essays that often interwove stories and critical analyses.

And then I discovered blogging, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2013.

After my first retirement in June of 2011, I reconnected with a group of people that I had known in my early 20s when I experimented with living on a commune. (In case anyone is interested, the following link describes my commune years and insights: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/in-search-of-community/.) One of the friends I reconnected with was a writer and editor. When I mentioned the challenges I was having finding some place to publish what I was writing, she suggested that we start a blog together. I had no idea what that meant. I had never even seen a blog before.

Given her background with technical writing and publishing, she did the initial research on blogging platforms and suggested WordPress. I drafted a title and purpose statement and she figured out the technical aspects of actually creating the blog. We agreed that neither of us would publish anything on the blog unless we both agreed it was appropriate – a promise I would later regret. My first post (June 18, 2013) was a story I wrote about an issue of particular interest to my blogging partner. Gradually my topics and style shifted. I had so many backlogged stories that were waiting to be told that some days when I sat down at the computer it felt like the words were literally pouring out of my heart and my mind through my fingertips. My partner was a gifted writer, but rarely posted. Because of our agreement, I was constantly emailing drafts and pestering her for feedback. I know I was annoying.

My writing style was (and still is) eclectic, a blend of storytelling and academic analysis. Long ago, I learned to make up some of my own grammatical rules while other stylistic conventions were deeply ingrained habits from years in academia. As an editor for technical and literary venues, my partner didn’t approve of some of my punctuation – too many commas. (When I write, I hear the flow of language and try to show it on the page.) She did not like my failure to use contractions because it made me sound too academic, as did my use of citations – an absolute no-no from her perspective. And my long poetic titles had to be shortened. Many of her suggestions helped me improve immeasurably as a writer, but some were not negotiable. I listened to her suggestions thoughtfully but after reflection, I decided that citations – giving people credit for their words and innovations – were absolutely essential and non-negotiable. Eventually, we did agree that it was time to dissolve the partnership and I removed all my posts from her blog and created a new one in February of 2014, Voices from the Margins. My first post on the new blog was one my soon-to-be new partner liked: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/in-honor-of-caregivers/. My new blogging partner (Cheryl Bates) and I have a different agreement. We agreed that each of us has the right to post whatever we choose, although we often read each other’s drafts and give whatever level of editorial assistance is requested.

In retrospect, I can’t imagine what my life in retirement would have been like without blogging. I have met so many fascinating people like you, Trace – gifted, kind-hearted, committed to social justice. They have opened up new worlds for me and enriched my life immeasurably. In my effort to give something back to them in return, I have been willing to address new topics and experiment with new ways of writing. I have learned a lot about myself through writing, and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people who are now part of my life. I hope readers will visit Voices from the Margins and consider being guest authors. Cheryl and I welcome dialogue and guest submissions.

Works Cited:

Paulo Freire (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th Anniversary Edition). New York, NY: Continuum.

Rupert Ross (1992). Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian reality. Markham, Ontario, CA: Octopus Publishing Group.


About Carol:  About my enrollment, “My mother was initially enrolled in Mole Lake – the “Sokaogon Chippewa Community – Mole Lake Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa,” and it’s where my brother and I were enrolled as children. As you write in your book, One Small Sacrifice, tribes do have some authority over determining their enrollment policies. At the time my mother was enrolled, Lac du Flambeau (LdF) only allowed reservation residents to be counted as members, while Mole Lake allowed non-resident descendants of those on the original tribal roll to be recognized as members and enrolled. Although LdF later changed their residency requirement and my mother and brother shifted their enrollment, I decided to remain on Mole Lake’s roll for a number of reasons. Mostly, it’s a tribute to the grandfather, Ray Ackley, whom I never had an opportunity to meet. It’s a lost opportunity I have always grieved. The stories elders and relatives have shared about him paint a picture of a kind and gentle man who took other children “under his wing” when he realized he would never be able to be part of his own daughter’s life. (Here’s an older post about my mother’s relationship with her family: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/a-life-lived-as-a-song-for-her-people-an-ojibwe-womans-story-part-two/ ).”

Lara/Trace, I had an opportunity to read your book – I have learned so much from your experiences and insights. Your work helped me see new dimensions of harm caused by the colonialism that continues to underlie child welfare policies and practice paradigms in the US. It also touched my heart to read about you and glimpse your incredible tenacity and resilience.

(to be continued)


American warfare: Missionaries and Militia

By Trace Lara Hentz

American Indians know warfare. The hair stands up on the back of the neck at the mere mention of several deliberate massacres called Indian Wars in North America.  It’s estimated 95% of the American Indian population was killed by war and disease since first contact.

Every Indian has heard the words: the only good Indian is a dead Indian.

So if you can’t kill all the Indians, you civilize them.

The earliest form of America’s colonial warfare is when the missionary hand-delivers a message to a tribe: Christianize or die.  Tribes in New England convert and call themselves the Praying Indians.  For centuries, men in robes invaded with rosaries and crucifixes.  God’s men erect churches so they can teach Indian communities their way and declare it’s illegal for Indians to do sweats or hold ceremonies. The white God gave these orders.

From east to west, government overseers and militias dole out rules, rations, and alcohol. The Great White Father (America’s president) amends traditional hunting territories and instructs Indians to farm, not hunt.  Marched to isolated reservations on Trails of Tears, many Indians starve (or die) en route. Treaties fence in the Indians so rations of food and medicine would need to be delivered. One government agent in Minnesota says, “Let them eat grass,” and steals their rations. The 38 Lakota men who fight to get the rations back are hung in a mass execution, ordered by then-President Abraham Lincoln.

Then a new round of messengers arrived as religion-wearing ministries and government social workers. Their message: Indians are not good enough to raise their own children. The Hopi resist and 17 of their men get sent to Alcatraz. Wagon-loads of Indian children are carried east or far enough away to be assimilated and taught in schools like Haskell and Carlisle. Some kids never find their way back to their parents or reservations. Generations of Indian kids are targets to be Christianized and civilized by these schools.

In the same manner of warfare, Indian children are placed in orphanages, foster homes or with non-Indian parents. The American government creates the Indian Adoption Project (IAP) run by Arnold Lyslo.  These little Indian kids aren’t black or Asian but exotic; their race is romanticized by Hollywood, and anxious adoptive parents sign up. Couples who had trouble conceiving a baby could have one or two Indian kids right away.

Lyslo travels to different states to convince the social workers to line up white parents for the flood of Indian kids being snatched for adoption. (In 16 states, 85% of Indian children were removed from their tribal parents). 395 parents agree to take part in Lyslo’s study and answer questions about their adopted Indian kids every year.

Lyslo claims poverty is the reason these children needed to be “saved” and adopted. ARENA continues and expands after the IAP. Thousands of Indian children are wiped from tribal rolls and disappear into white communities. States seal their records and amend the child’s birth certificate.

For over 30 years, Indian kids are the lab rats for Lyslo’s human experiment, to see how well Indian children will adapt being adopted. This warfare is called assimilation.

By 1976, American Indians go to Congress with these abduction stories and ultimately create the Indian Child Welfare Act.

(to be continued)


Christian Alliance works to end federal law ICWA

CAICW Issues Statement on South Carolina Supreme Court Decision: Court Rules in Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl; Clears Way to Finalize Adoption

Contact: Elizabeth Morris, Chairwoman, Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, 701-430-9210, administrator@caicw.org

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Today, the South Carolina Supreme Court gave Matt & Melanie Capobianco a victory in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in remanding to Family Court for prompt entry of an order approving and finalizing Adoptive Couple’s adoption of Baby Girl.  The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is relieved that Veronica will be returned to the parents chosen by her birth mother, who, according to the SCOTUS, was the only legal parent and had sole right to decide her child’s best interest.

SCOTUS has confirmed that State law determining abandonment trumps the Indian Child Welfare Act. In doing this, the Court has slightly limited ICWA. This is a good first step in the effort to stop the hurt ICWA is causing children and families across the United States.

We have a long way to go to unshackle other families asking for help. To meet their varied concerns, we need the “best interest of the child,” the rights of non-tribal extended family, the “Existing Indian Family doctrine,” and the wishes of all parents who reject tribal jurisdiction to be held in higher regard than the wishes and demands of governments. Our children are not chattel for tribal government.

CAICW continues to appreciate the June 25th concurring opinion of U.S Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his citing of the work of Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute, concerning the unconstitutionality of the ICWA.

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is both a ministry and advocacy group. CAICW has been advocating since February 2004 for families at risk of harm from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our advocacy has been both judicial and educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ www.dyinginindiancountry.com


NOTE: This is the same woman who dominated the Washington Post with her comments after the birthmother Christy posted her Op-Ed and she attacked anyone who expressed their opinion that Veronica stay with her father Dusten…. Read more at American Indian Adoptees: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com – in response to this group who wishes to disband ICWA… Trace

South Dakota tribes to reinvent foster care

South Dakota has a number of large Indian rese...
South Dakota has a number of large Indian reservations (shown in pink). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As fears mount over state misconduct, tribes focus on creating their own foster care systems

Daniel Simmons-Ritchie (RAPID CITY JOURNAL)

Following mounting anger over charges that the state has routinely and illegally placed Native American children with non-native foster parents, South Dakota tribes gathered Monday in Rapid City to discuss how they could form their own tribal-run foster care systems.

The discussion, hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe at the Rushmore Plaza, marked the first day of the three-day Oceti Sakowin Conference. The meeting is the third in a series of quarterly summits between the state’s nine Lakota tribes to discuss common concerns.

While the afternoon discussion touched upon preservation of sacred sites and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, the morning was dominated by debate over alleged abuses by the state of South Dakota under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Following a report by National Public Radio in 2011, concern has been building that the Department of Social Services has repeatedly violated ICWA, a law enacted in 1978 to ensure the preservation of Native American culture by ensuring that native children taken by social workers are placed in Native American foster homes. The NPR report found that 90 percent of native children in South Dakota are placed in non-native homes.

Since a conference held by the tribes in Rapid City in May, attended by Kevin Washburn, the U.S. Interior Department‘s assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, the Lakota have focused increasingly on steps to wrestle away federal funding from South Dakota and create native-run foster care systems.

The $56 million that’s going to the state of South Dakota should be coming to us so we can keep our families together,” Chase Iron Eyes, a private attorney and member of the Standing Rock Sioux, told attendees. “That’s the bottom line.

Speaking during a recess, Dan Sheehan, chief counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project, a non-profit that has provided expertise to the Lakota since 2006 about ICWA violations, said that it is looking increasingly likely that the tribes could attain that federal funding.

Sheehan, an attorney who was involved in cases surrounding the Iran-Contra scandals in the 1980s and the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, said that his group had recently met with officials in the U.S. Department of the Interior that favored creating an application process to give funds directly to Lakota tribes.

“The money will be taken away from the state and given directly to the tribes,” Sheehan said, adding that he was reasonably confident that could happen within the next two years.

Monday’s discussion also focused on potential models for native-run foster care systems. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Oglala Sioux have a tribal-run foster care system that is partially funded by the state of South Dakota.

The administering agency, called Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi (LOWO), only handles cases on the reservation and still must follow South Dakota rules that have been criticized by Native American advocates. Still, with a focus on traditional Lakota culture like purification ceremonies, reformers see it as a path to repair a system that has failed natives.

That doesn’t mean starting their own systems will be simple for tribes. Emily Iron Cloud, executive director of LOWO, said that the planning work alone was hugely time consuming.

“You need to have the community’s voice, their vision for what kind of agency they want to see, and there’s a lot of work that needs to happen,” she said.

Adopters, you do not own us

By Trace A. DeMeyer (reblogging from AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES)

OK, bear with me…
I am thinking:  The Supreme Court ruling has me dumbfounded. I am not a lawyer but the Baby Veronica case is now headed back to the South Carolina courts who already ruled in favor of Dusten Brown, the natural father of baby Veronica. It’s a legal technicality so the case is not over yet Anderson Cooper on CNN had an exclusive with the adoptive parents (on June 25th) who implied they won and can have custody? And Anderson was gushing at their angst and was so sorry they were suffering?
Really? What about the primal pain of abandonment and adoption on Veronica’s emotions and spirit? Has anyone on TV done any research on birth psychology?  It’s not obvious now since Veronica is still too young to show the signs of trauma, abandonment, confusion and reactive attachment disorder but they will come later — because she’s been adopted. (The birthmother did this to Veronica and is not off the hook by a long shot — Veronica will grow up and learn the truth eventually.)
I am thinking: What kind of parent would want to pull a child from her natural father now, after one year? Isn’t this selfish and not in the best interest of Veronica? What kind of trauma and confusion will this upheaval create for Veronica?
I am thinking: The fact that some of the Supreme Court Justices adopted children: THEY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE AN ADOPTEE. Like many adoptive parents, they prefer to think of every adoptee as grateful and humbled to be adopted. (These Justices should be aware of the effects of adoption, right? If they were adopted and denied their identity, this case might be different.)
I am thinking: Veronica will lose her identity as an American Indian being raised in South Carolina with non-Native parents – which is what the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was intended to stop. Being a Cherokee or a member of any sovereign tribe is a birthright for Veronica.
I am thinking: What do these adoptive parents know about the Cherokee tribe, their culture or traditions or language? If they do win custody, do they plan to offer Dusten and other tribal relatives contact with Veronica?
I am thinking it’s a birthright my adoption ended, with sealed adoption records and Minnesota being a closed records state and my adoptive parents not even aware of my ancestry. (I still do not have a copy of my original birth certificate from Minnesota with my name Laura Jean Thrall-Bland.) (My baby photo below)

I am thinking: How does adoption serve this child VERONICA when her own father wants to be her parent? Is it because the adoptive parents paid their money and had custody of Veronica since she was born – even when this child had federal protections as a member of a tribal nation?
I am thinking: Children are only children a short time. Veronica is reported to be strong-willed, even as a little girl. What will she have to say about this in a few years? Will her adoptive parents expect her to be grateful and accept and understand how they chose her — yet they took her away from a father who wanted her (even though it was very messy with her natural mother abandoning her in the beginning of her life?)
I am thinking: After watching Anderson Cooper interview Veronica’s adoptive parents, they still do not get it: you do not OWN us.  All that matters is the well-being of the child.  What does Veronica need to grow up to be a healthy and happy adult and a member of the sovereign Cherokee Nation?
I am thinking: This lawsuit is going to hurt everyone.

Kill the Indian: Why ICWA still matters

“A nation that does not know its own history has no future,” is a quote I read recently by the late activist Russell Means, Oglala Lakota.


By Trace A. DeMeyer

Being an adoptee myself, someone who ran into major obstacles trying to open my adoption files, it’s very important that Native American adoptees (and all Americans/Canadians) know the history of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA).  Thousands of children (no one knows exactly how many) were taken from their tribal families and placed with non-Indian parents since the late 1800s. This was government-planned ethnic cleansing, a coercive form of assimilation, a way to erase tribal connections to make the children white and not Indian.  “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” was a motto by Capt. Pratt. of Carlisle Indian Boarding School in PA.  It was intentional to train and civilize children.

Native American and First Nation Children, intended victims of assimilation programs, are now and forever called the Stolen Generations.

You might think assimilation worked – and in some ways it did.  But I can tell you adopted children do grow up and want to know who they are and meet their tribal family. I know this because I lived it. I did find my way back after a closed adoption. I know many other adoptees who agree: adoption cannot erase our blood or history.

In my new anthology TWO WORLDS: LOST CHILDREN OF THE INDIAN PROJECTS (with my co-author Patricia Busbee), we gathered stories from survivors who opened their adoptions and went full circle back to their tribal families after adoption. Some of these stories are heart-breaking and astonishing.

One thing is clear: adoption did not kill our spirit.

Where-ever there were Indians in North America, there were programs to assimilate, conquer, colonize and civilize Indian people. They couldn’t kill all of us, but they tried to kill the Indian in us.

We are still here

9781479318285_COVERI wrote the following preface for my anthology TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects:


All of our lives the adoptees in this book have lived under an “adoptee stigma” of assimilation. We are often called transracial adoptees because we were raised outside our culture and by non-Indian parents. With a book, our sense of self-worth would rise, knowing many of us shared this (sometimes difficult) journey. Our success in finding our tribes could make big waves in the adoption world.

Most who read history are aware it is interpretation, told by the same conquerors who declared victory and Manifest Destiny. Indians cannot and do not rely on stories told by non-Indians isolated in their institutions. Some published scholars never visited a reservation or even know an Indian. It is their interpretation of who they think we are and that is very dangerous because we are not dead. We are still here.

Even the Smithsonian Museum, an institution called America’s national treasure, kill us again with vulgar displays of our bones and skulls, our medicine bundles, our sacred pipes, our masks and our drums. This treatment and disregard for what is sacred to our values and us can hardly be called understanding of tribal cultures. We are not relics. We are not the past. We are still here.

What about adoptions? Those who interpret its value to society protect their agenda and myths, spouting benefits for the adoptee. But we are called the Stolen Generations for a reason. Children did not ask to be removed. It is undeniable our assimilation was the government’s answer to Manifest Destiny, to make us non-Indian prototypes of American citizens.

Adopting out Indian children would be as destructive as a war but it would last longer: it’d last a lifetime. The adoption program idea was not officially signed like other treaties made in Indian Country. These unique adoption program records were sealed and not made public. (It was acknowledged in an apology I heard in 2001. Read the Ultimate Indignity in this book.) The goal was adoptions would be permanent and closed, therefore adoption was used as the ultimate weapon. Native children adopted by non-Indians would be Americans and unable to open their records; and our tribal parents and grandparents were victims since they would never see us again, or be able to find us.

My close friend Adrian Grey Buffalo, a wise adoptee elder who has returned to his Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (People) calls us adoptees the lost drums and pipes who were locked away from culture, and stored in Americans homes. We are the people who need to be repatriated back to our nations. Adrian believes now is the time. Our People need us back.

With the creation of Indian Adoption Projects and Programs, this grand scheme didn’t make headlines. Their plan was not a war, not a signed treaty, but an idea they hoped would catch on and spread. Selling Americans and others on adopting Indian kids would be quite effortless. Essentially all social workers had to imply to parents was, “you’ll save these poor Indians kid’s lives.”

Judgments fell on First Nations and Indian Country in a very big way. This heavy-handed treatment and their adoption idea blanketed North America in every direction. In Canada it’s called the 60s Scoop. It was the same idea for single women who had an illegitimate baby. Women were told to forget they had the baby. Indians were not told anything. Indian children simply disappeared at the playground or from their backyard or babies were taken from hospitals. Some of our mothers were too poor and were pressured not to keep us. A big black government sedan was reported in many abduction stories and it was not against the law or illegal. Some Native children were removed to residential boarding schools. Others were placed in orphanages and foster homes, and others would be adopted.

But by the grace of Great Spirit, it failed. Indians who were adopted do find their way home. The writers in this book are living proof. We are still here and with these new stories, we make new history.

Many folks living in America and Canada still see Indian Country as a foreign land, alien like some other planet. In some non-Indian families, racism and ignorance about tribes is/was very strong. Opinions about Indians was never great to begin with and gets even more damaged and complicated with Indian reservations ravaged by poverty, alcohol and North America’s neglect.

For the past century, parents living on reservations could not prevent children from being stolen for boarding schools and adoption. Governments made rules and paid agencies and churches to remove and Christianize children, to civilize and train children, and raise them to be non-Indian. This truth is not widely acknowledged in history: the government’s plan was to ethnically cleanse an entire population of Indian children. Removing culture of Native children would not only destroy future generations of Indians but adopted children would not have treaty rights. Adopted children would disappear.

It’s probably a fact that our adoptive parents had no idea as to the motive or why there were so many Indian kids put up for adoption, or why governments ran these programs with public and private adoption agencies who could supply infants and children to non-Indian families.

By the 1970s, Indian leaders took these serious concerns to the U.S. Senate, leading to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. First Nations in Canada enacted their own law. In this book, we share what one Indian leader said in his congressional testimony.

I know I was stunned to hear it was government policy to run these various adoption programs. Many adoptees claim their adoptive parents never knew anything about this. Mine surely didn’t and would have scoffed at the idea.

When an adoptee becomes an adult, some question whether their family or their tribe will accept them back. Some were unsure which tribe or if it’s more than one tribe. Some did not know they had been enrolled in their sovereign tribal nations, filed earlier by relatives. Some learned their parents and tribal relatives were assimilated too, in boarding schools or in relocation programs, severely scarring them. It’s a painful cycle of loss in this past century.

The “adoptee stigma” of assimilation does leave adoptees lodged between two worlds. Can we be Indian enough when raised by non-Indians? Can we return to learn tribal culture and customs? Can we take back our identity? Can we be reverse-assimilated? Can we attend ceremony and get our Indian name? I tell them, “Yes.”

But neither adoptee or Indian parent will find government help in reconciliation or repatriation in America. It’s up to the adoptee and parents. It’s up to tribal communities to spread the truth of the Indian Adoption Projects and begin to look for their lost children.

Victims of these adoption programs have not received a formal apology in the United States. Few politician’s know or acknowledge it happened. With sealed adoption and closed birth records (in 2012), this will prevent full disclosure, which is why this book was planned and written. Politicians and lawmakers need to know our birth certificates were amended and falsified. Judges must abide by the Indian Child Welfare Act and not allow non-Indians to adopt Indian children.

The adoptees I know are some of the strongest-willed humans on the planet. They got around laws and sealed records, and as you will read in Two Worlds, many built their own bridge between the two worlds.

Gathering these stories changed me, enlightened me, haunted me and astonished me. I only ask that you share these stories with your children so these governments never attempt this idea again. The adoptees in this book are my friends and relatives now. They are warriors though they may not call themselves that. Their courage and spirit shines through their words. I knew these stories would make us our own tribe, a unique band of survivors and warriors.

“A nation that does not know its own history has no future,” is a quote I read recently by activist Russell Means, Oglala Lakota.

So how do we write the story of North American Indian and First Nation adoptees when so many people know nothing about this history?

We gather round the adoptees and listen as they share their story, in their own words, in their own voice.

The only way we can change history is to write it ourselves….. and our truth shall finally set us free.

–Trace A. DeMeyer (Shawnee-Cherokee-Euro)
Author of One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects

Books to give and receive #Ebook

HAPPY HOLIDAZE! How are you all doing – it’s December already!!?!?

I am more likely to have a book on my mind than clothes, food or gifts. Maybe you are like me? I have at least 1,000 books in my personal library!  Now I have written two books (on Amazon and Barnes and Noble) that are non-fiction and history you were not taught in school.ebook and paperback

My memoir is One Small Sacrifice and it’s my journey to find my tribe and family and document the history I found as a journalist. There are excellent 5 Star reviews for my memoir on Amazon and Barnes and Noble – so why not give it to an adoptee you know?

My new anthology is other Native adoptee stories (USA and Canada) about their journey and reunion. The book is Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. Pick them up on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, as an ebook or paperback.This history will change your mind about American Indians and t9781479318285_COVERhe adoption industry! See link below for the press release)

You can certainly leave a comment on this blog if you want to know more about either book!

I’ll be appearing on the NightWolf Show in Wash. DC (www.wpfw.org) on Dec. 7 at 1 pm to continue my interview from last week!

Read more at my blog American Indian Adoptees: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com

The Real Criminals: Adoption Mafia

Please read this post THE REAL CRIMINALS on my other blog: http://splitfeathers.blogspot.com/

Jay Winter Nightwolf’s
American Indians’ Truths … the Most Dangerous and Enlightening Show on Radio”
WPFW 89.3 FM (Pacifica) – Friday Evenings – 7-8 PM
Online Live Stream … www.wpfw.org
Friday, November 30th, 2012
Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects and Some of the Many Re-Connections”
Author and Award-Winning Native Journalist Trace A. DeMeyer (Shawnee/Cherokee) and Her Second Book (Co-Edited with Patricia Cotter-Busbee)
From the preface of “Two Worlds:  Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects”
“It’s a big world.  With the invention of miraculous worldwide web, connecting is fast and free.  Humans can interact at the touch of a key.  Because of the internet, it connects me to a new people every day, new friends who are also adopted.
In this big world, where do adoptees go to find information?  How do we reconnect with our tribes after adoption?  How do we learn about culture?  Do we find adoptees to get advice?  Do we devour and search books, newspapers, or the web for clues?  Or do we hear someone, an ancient voice, a soul who lives with us, inside us, who guides us, even inspire us, after adoption.
Reading this book, you’ll know the answers.
In their words, adoptees were destined to live in two worlds, and each has a spirit uniquely their own.  We adoptees are like birds who migrate by memory and feed our hunger for culture by instinct and blood memory.  Our spirit was not killed by adoption, even if we lived far away from our families and our tribal lands.  We knew to be brave.  We hoped away loneliness.  We felt this was a test.  We knew it is not good to be isolated and went to look for other Indian people and relatives when we could.  Even as children we were aware we’d need to find answers to find our relatives.  More than one adoptee told me they heard the drum pounding inside them and calling them.”

(I will be on Jay Winter Night Wolf’s Radio Program on Nov. 30, at 7 pm (Eastern
Time). Listen in at http://www.wpfwfm.org)


an anthology about Native American adoptees who tell their stories with history of the Indian Adoption Projects!

We’re in the giving spirit and want some of our blog readers to review the new anthology TWO WORLDS! If you will read my new anthology and post your review (a few sentences) on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, we’ll send you the epub or pdf for FREE!

Here’s what you do: send an email to larahentz@yahoo.com by November 30th! Specify epub or pdf and we’ll email you!

It’s that simple! What are you waiting for? FREE!

And share this offer with your friends, too!