With public art pieces, biting political, text-based work, and more intimate abstract paintings, this small exhibition illuminates Heap of Birds’s expansive career.
According to Bill Anthes’s book, Edgar Heap of Birds, the artist began his “Native Hosts” series back in 1988. Like the new commission displayed outside Bockley Gallery, the “Native Hosts” contain the “settler” name of a place written backwards, with the Native Host spelled forward, welcoming the viewer. Like many place names around the country, Minnesota is a derivation of a Native American word (“Mní sóta” means clear blue water in Dakota), but its appropriation by a state responsible for many atrocities against Native people warrants Heap of Birds’s critical treatment. Cloud Man Village, meanwhile, was a short-lived community led by Dakota chief Cloud Man, on the banks of the Bde Maka Ska lakeThe Bockley Gallery currently has on view a mini-retrospective of the work of Edgar Heap of Birds (whose Cheyenne name is Hock E Aye VI), which contains examples of different bodies of work the Cheyenne/Arapaho artist has created over his extensive career.
Heap of Birds’s showing at Bockley offers a small taste of the immense body of work this artist has created over a number of decades, and the only improvement I can suggest is that he deserves much more recognition. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from the “Scaffold” and Jimmie Durham controversies, it’s that there’s a need for more attention to be paid to Native artists working in contemporary practices.
Edgar Heap of Birdsruns through October 21 at Bockley Gallery (2123 West 21st Street, Minneapolis).
Over at THE ADOPTED ONES blog, Tao posted three questions that gave me an opening for something I want to put into words.
This is an excerpt of her post:
How did you feel…
16Sep | By TAO
I’m trying something new. New is scary for me, but, it’s something I thought of doing for a while on many different topics. I decided to start with adoptee rights which means that there are two different questions for adoptees, and a third question for other voices. Hopefully, hearing feelings of others may convince people to change their mind and support upcoming legislation.
1. When you are denied the right to your factual original birth certificate, how does it make you feel?
2. For those who’ve finally gained the right to the original birth certificate, tell me how it felt when you held your original birth certificate in your hands.
3. Other voices in adoption, how does it makes you feel knowing your child either has the right to their original birth certificate upon request, just like non-adopted do, or doesn’t have the same right.
(If you want to answer on Tao’s post, here is the link)
I will answer number one. I can answer number one.
When I was 22, I called Catholic Charities in Minnesota who said to me, “Sorry we can’t help you. All our adoption records are sealed.” They had my adoption file since 1956 and they had my name. They had me in their system somewhere – this church who had sold me into this adoption, and a life of lies and fake documents. These social workers/nuns/priests had my identity locked up in a drawer somewhere and they weren’t going to tell me anything? Exactly. (I felt very angry and very desperate. What could I do?)
Have you imagined what it would be like to not know your own family? How you might meet someone and wonder “could we be cousins or siblings?” I was 22. I had questions about my health, my medical history, and nothing to write on the doctor’s office forms. Can you imagine this? People who are not adopted, can you?
At age 22, I was hurt. I was. After calling them, I was so hurt. Actually devastated. And to make matters worse, my adoptive parents would never be helpful. (They probably had my adoption file hidden away – they never showed it to me or offered me any help.) At that point I was a college graduate and living on my own. This phone call to Catholic Charities was my decision and I didn’t need anyone’s permission to search for my own adoption records. AND I wasn’t sharing anything important about my search since my adoptive parents had very little contact with me.
WOW – I do recall how I felt anger. How in the world can I live this way? I might be dating my own brother! I might be working with a cousin or my own parent? Fuming hostile anger!
There was nowhere to put this anger. I didn’t have a counselor to guide me. I had no one. (Yet I never felt sorry for myself.)
Then finally I had an idea. Go to the courthouse. I did. The rest is in my memoir (in greater detail.)
I found out my name. I had my mother’s name. I had a physical description of my father and his age.
I was 22 and NAIVE so this adoption file was a thick legal file. I had no idea what I was reading but this court proceeding was about ME. I took notes. I kept two scraps of paper like they were my most important possession. (In 2010 I petitioned the state of Wisconsin where I was adopted and paid for my own adoption file, not the same thick file I read in the courthouse at age 22.)
I wanted and still want my REAL birth certificate. Many times, many letters I mailed to the state of Minnesota. I asked them for a copy of my original birth certificate (OBC). They always refuse. I talk to a judge friend and she made inquiries for me – nothing. I asked again last year and nothing.
A simple piece of paper – a copy of my own birth certificate – is not mine to have? Apparently not in Minnesota. If I lived in Alaska or Maine, I’d have it by now.
How do I feel about this, my fake birth certificate that lists two people as my biological parents when they are not? I am much older now… Now I feel this is an grave injustice, a human rights violation, a travesty. I didn’t agree to these conditions. I didn’t ask to be adopted. I DID find my biological family after I read my adoption file but I still want that simple piece of paper. I deserve it.
Anger is one thing. Feeling outrage is another.
I wrote a letter a few months ago to the ACLU in Minnesota and asked for their help. I wanted their help to sue Catholic Charities for stealing my identity and holding my adoption file and identity hostage. (ACLU turned me down.)
This is war. I am still fighting.
(A few years back, a member of CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) sent me a file. It’s a copy of my original baptismal record from Catholic Charities in Minnesota. On a single piece of paper is my mothers name and my name Laura Jean Thrall crossed out and replaced with new parents and my new name.)
I know it’s a sign when a couple of my friends mention “Orphan Asylums” to me in a single day. How children were called “inmates.”
I have no recollection of my time as an inmate in a Minnesota orphanage – this happened after I was born in St. Paul, MN and was shifted from The Catholic Infant Home (where unwed mothers wait out their pregnancy) to the St. Joseph’s Home for Children (Orphanage) then to a Catholic foster care (a house on Harrison St.) in Superior, Wisconsin. Apparently Catholic Charities moved infants/children across state lines without any scrutiny or trouble at all. And all the paperwork they created on me was sealed. (I phoned back when I was 21 and they refused my request for my file.) And I have two Catholic baptismal certificates – one with my mother Helen Thrall and a later one with the adopters Everett and Edith DeMeyer who are listed on my birth certificate as my biological parents. (Best to hide proof and evidence of a stranger adoption brokered by Catholic Charities.)
The Catholic Church (and others) created a charity and an industry with maternity homes, orphanages, churches, hospitals, big brick buildings to house priests, nuns and medical staff, all to handle the baby inmates that became their big business. Pretty clever those pontiffs denounce birth control of any kind so a steady stream of illegitimate children can be sold through their channels. And they are a non-profit so they get to keep their income. And devoted parishioners keep pumping them donations to this day.
Here is the photo of the orphanage where I was:
This is Catholic Charities current description:
When land was bought for the Minneapolis Catholic Boys’ Home in 1885, the intersection of 46th Street and Chicago Avenue was a half-day’s ride from the city. The green countryside that stretched south to Minnehaha Creek promised a pastoral experience for children. Both the Minneapolis Catholic Boys’ Home and St. Joseph’s Home for Children in St. Paul were founded to address a critical need of the late 19th century: children left parentless by epidemics and other hardships of pioneer life. The nuns who staffed the homes offered motherly care to hundreds of children well into the 20th century. The 1960s saw two important shifts. First, society turned to favor foster placement over orphanage care. The Minneapolis Catholic Boys’ Home and St. Joseph’s Home for Children were consolidated on the Boys’ Home property under St. Joe’s name. Today, St. Joe’s continues to serve the community as a part of Catholic Charities. Several programs for children, including an emergency shelter, health clinic and mental health services, operate at St. Joe’s. SOURCE (I want to note there are Orphan Cemeteries, too.) (How clever of them to leave out the adoptions they did. Really!)
Instead of using this blog to bombard you with my research, I have started to collect ORPHAN ASYLUM info: HERE (thanks to my Librarian friend Karen Vigneault-MLIS for sending me sources on these asylums. Karen is a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California.)
For any one looking to find an ancestor at an asylum, some have individual websites with census that has names and dates and even parents names on many of these young inmates.
It is staggering and upsetting to find out how many big brick institutions were built by churches and where these asylums operated… This out-of-print book by Reg Niles is selling for $999 on Amazon and has little known information about the various religion’s baby-broker-selling history.
A few friends have told me what their adoptive parents paid for them. I don’t know what I cost mine.
And I thought about the many Catholic-run Boarding Schools for American Indian children who were also made inmates, imprisoned to be assimilated and educated, all to KILL THE INDIAN.
My mother Helen had to pay to stay at the Catholic Maternity Home in Minnesota – can you believe it? She made arrangements to pay THEM?
Wasn’t giving them me enough payment?
IN THE NEWS
The Thursday march coincided with the release a 12-page report by the Lakota People’s Law Project, “Native Lives Matter,” which asserts the U.S. justice system is responsible for those injustices. Read more of this post
Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, led the march…
“My relatives, I’m at a tipping point,” Iron Eyes told the crowd that massed Thursday despite the blustery weather. “I know you’re at a tipping point because we can’t take this any longer.”
If those in power had their way, Iron Eyes said, “We would exist in the margins of poverty for the next 100 years,” he said. “They would sentence us to death by poverty if they had their way.”
Iron Eyes said the fatal police shooting of 30-year-old Allen Locke in December was the most recent incident between Native Americans and the Rapid City Police Department. My Post about Allen
Building the First Slavery Museum in America
By David Amsden | February 26, 2015 | The New York Times
Louisiana’s River Road runs northwest from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, its two lanes snaking some 100 miles along the Mississippi and through a contradictory stretch of America. Flat and fertile, with oaks webbed in Spanish moss, the landscape stands in defiance of the numerous oil refineries and petrochemical plants that threaten its natural splendor. In the rust-scabbed towns of clapboard homes, you are reminded that Louisiana is the eighth-poorest state in the nation. Yet in the lush sugar plantations that crop up every couple of miles, you can glimpse the excess that defined the region before the Civil War. Some are still active, with expansive fields yielding 13 million tons of sugar cane a year. Others stand in states of elegant rot. But most conspicuous are those that have been restored for tourists, transporting them into a world of bygone Southern grandeur — one in which mint juleps, manicured gardens and hoop skirts are emphasized over the fact that such grandeur was made possible by the enslavement of black human beings.
On Dec. 7, the Whitney Plantation, in the town of Wallace, 35 miles west of New Orleans, celebrated its opening, and it was clear, based on the crowd entering the freshly painted gates, that the plantation intended to provide a different experience from those of its neighbors. Roughly half of the visitors were black, for starters, an anomaly on plantation tours in the Deep South. And while there were plenty of genteel New Orleanians eager for a peek at the antiques inside the property’s Creole mansion, they were outnumbered by professors, historians, preservationists, artists, graduate students, gospel singers and men and women from Senegal dressed in traditional West African garb: flowing boubous of intricate embroidery and bright, saturated colors. If opinions on the restoration varied, visitors were in agreement that they had never seen anything quite like it. Built largely in secret and under decidedly unorthodox circumstances, the Whitney had been turned into a museum dedicated to telling the story of slavery — the first of its kind in the United States.
ANCHORAGE – Opening the Arctic to development could bring an economic boost to the state, but it could also mean increased exploitation of Alaska’s residents — experts addressed the topic at a recent conference in Anchorage. If large-scale projects start popping up in the north, those same experts say sex trafficking will follow — and the communities may not be ready to prevent it or help the victims. Victoria Sweet says Alaskan Native villagers need to take an active role in defining the future of their communities and the Arctic, while making sure there’s no future for sex trafficking.
“It’s a very insidious crime that’s hard to track down,” Sweet said of sex trafficking. “But it’s everywhere and it’s affecting our communities, it’s affecting our children, it’s affecting our youth. Our society isn’t going to be whole until we stop exploitation.”
She says other ways to stop sex trafficking from following development in the Arctic is to put pressure on the companies to be proactive when it comes to human rights. Village leaders — like teachers, nurses and law enforcement — also need more training to recognize the signs of trafficking and know what to do when they see it. Read More
A carload of babies for adoption by Catholic families in the West was sent out last week from an Orphan Asylum conducted by the Sisters of Charity in New York. Forty-five of the sixty-five babies found foster parents in Minnesota. The ease in which suitable orphans speaks volumes for the charity of our people. It shows that there are many Catholic families in the state willing to adopt children, and give them all the advantages of a home.
While we have no intention of discouraging those who may be planning to take a child from the Orphans Home, we suggest that, before communicating with those in charge, they assure themselves that they cannot be supplied with one nearer home.
In St Paul and Minneapolis, for example, there are three orphan asylums conducted by Sisters, and in other towns of the state there are Catholic children who have been deprived of their natural guardians. Very often it happens that these institutions have boys and girls for whom suitable homes in Catholic families are desired and there is no reason why preference should not be given to them by the Catholics of Minnesota and of the Northwest. Even if the dioceasan orphanages cannot supply the demand made upon them by families anxious to adopt children, it does not necessarily follow that applications must be made to orphanages in the East.
Frequently priests and others who are interested in social work know of children for whom suitable homes are desired, and they would be glad to get in touch with people who may wish to adopt a child. If your pastor cannot help you in this matter, why not make an application to the City Missionary of St Paul or Minneapolis who may be
able to help you in this matter. Write to the Rev. L.F. Ryan, 239 Selby Avenue
St Paul, Minnesota or to the Rev. M.A. McGrath, 1623 Laurel Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota – who will gladly aid you in your laudable and charitable purpose.
St Cloud Visitor
Sept 27, 1979
Peterson, the child of a Norwegian mother and came to Minnesota in an
Orphan Train in 1912, the year she was born. Her new parents were Mary and
John Bieganek of Polish descent. They brought her into their home as their ninth
child, but her new mother These Minnesota Reunions began through the efforts of two orphans: Mrs Mary Buscher of Breckenridge and Mrs. J.B. Lenzmeier of Wahpeton North Dakota, who discovered each other Sister Justina was born Edith Peterson, the child of a Norwegian mother and came to Minnesota in an Orphan Train in 1912,
the year she was born. Her new parents were Mary and John Bieganek of Polish
descent. They brought her into their home as their ninth child, but her new mother These Minnesota Reunions began through the efforts of two orphans:
Mrs Mary Buscher of Breckenridge and Mrs. J.B. Lenzmeier of Wahpeton North
Dakota, who discovered each other through an article in a local newspaper.
They were able to make contact with a few others and to begin the yearly meetings which have grown each year as more of the orphans become aware of the organization.
Guy DeLeo came for the first time this year, only learning about the group a
week before the reunion. Many want to get together more often than once a year.
Mrs. Carmella Keaveny, the parish housekeeper for Father Robert Schmainda in Tintah, Minn., has invited the orphans to come to Tintah on October 28 for a day together, which will begin with 10:30 Mass. She will be assisted by Father Schmainda’s mother from Avon Minn., who is also an orphan from New York Foundling Hospital. All “Orphan
Train” orphans are invited to attend whether or not they have ever been to a meeting before.
Helen Schmainda is the orphan and mother of
ORPHAN TRAIN MEMORIES LIVE ON IN CHILDREN OF SURVIVORS
By Anna Remper – Daily News Intern – Daily News, Wahpeton, ND August 3, 2009
A train whistle blowing to most people may be a disturbance, but for a rider on the
Orphan Train it can resurface personal memories.
Jeanne Putnam, an aftercare coordinator at Joseph Vertin and Sons Funeral
Home, said whenever her mother heard a train whistle, she felt like she had to
get on the train. Putnam’s mother, Carmella Keaveny, nee Schend, was a rider
on the Orphan Train.
“We were talking about adoption one day at work and I brought up the Orphan
Train and almost no one had heard of it,” Putnam said.
Countless trains carried orphaned children from New York and Boston across
forty-seven states and Canada between the years of 1854 and 1929. An estimated 200,000 orphans were “placed out” during the Orphan Train Movement.
Carmella Keaveny was born Carmela Caputo to a 30-year-old Italian immigrant
in New York City in 1912. The actual date of her birth was never clarified, some
documents read April 6 and others read April 16, said Putnam.
“She never knew which day was her birthday so we had two birthdays for her,”
Carmella’s biological mother left her in the care of what is known as the New
York Foundling Hospital (NYFH), just ten days after birth. The Sisters of Charity of
St. Vincent ran the NYFH and placed the children into Catholic families.
It was customary for a priest from the NYFH to visit Catholic communities before
the arrival of the train and scout the interest of families adopting another child. In
1914 a NYFH priest visited St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Tintah, Minn and was put
in contact with a couple, Peter and Mary Schend, who had lost their baby not long
after their marriage. When Carmella arrived on June 14, 1914, it became an
occasion for the whole town.
“The whole town was at the train station for my mother’s arrival. She was
two-and-a-half years old when she made the journey from New York to Tintah,”
Putnam said. ‘She was so sick when she arrived. She had contracted
pneumonia on the train.”
One of the first members of the community who came to congratulate the
Schend’s was Ellen Keaveny, who later became Carmella’s mother-in-law.
Although Carmella was placed in the Schend home in 1914 she wasn’t legally
adopted until Dec. 9, 1922, said Putnam. An agent from the NYFH would perform
follow up visits to check on the family to ensure the welfare of the placed child.
“There were so many children on the trains, it’s hard to believe all of these visits
happened,” Putnam said.
Carmella began her education at the local Catholic school and went on to be a
teacher. Not all of the children were placed in homes that were concerned about
“My mother knew she was fortunate to be in such a loving home. Some of the
older children were selected by families because they could work on the farm,”
Later; Carmella with the help of two other Orphan Train survivors, Mary Buscher
and Marie Lenzmeier, started the Orphan Train Reunion. The event still goes on
today in Little Falls, Minn. “We go every year, the children of the survivors are
taking over the reunions.”
One fellow survivor, 96 year old Sister Justina Bieganek, annually hosts the
In 1933 Carmella married Ray Keaveny and continued to live in Tinah.
Carmella Keaveny’s memories of the Orphan Train are also documented in a
book, “By Train They Came”, by Charlotte Endorf and Sarah M. Endorf.
Star Tribune July 31, 1994 | Variety
Desperate families put kids on Orphan Trains
Q: I understand that for several years trains from New York carrying orphans would stop at various Minnesota towns where couples would pick out children to take home and raise. I was told that the term “up for adoption” came from the practice of putting the children up on the station platform for the prospective parents to view. Why did this happen? Who ran these trains and what happened to these adopted children? A: The Orphan Trains, as they were called, ran from 1854 to 1929.
One of those Orphan Train riders, now a nun at St Francis Convent in Little Falls, Sister Justina Bieganek, O.S.B., writes of this time and provided the following story.
Conflict in Europe in the mid-1800’s caused many families to come to the United States. Lax immigration laws allowed people to pour into New York, where there was a lack of adequate housing, few jobs, poor medical care and no family to help. Many families were in desperate situations. Times were hard, food sparse and communication among nationalities difficult. Crime was uncontrollable. When disease, hunger, overwork, and later World War I, took their toll on these new Americans, many children became orphans and went to the streets. One report estimates that 10,000 homeless children roamed the streets of New York in the late 1800’s. In 1853, Charles Brace, a minister and social work in New York, co founded the Children’s Aid Society, hoping to take children off the streets and into homes out West.
Children filled train coaches, which took them to wherever anyone would accept them. No previous arrangements were made, so children weren’t guaranteed a home by the end of this journey.
The selection of a child was not a legal adoption. Instead, it was a non-legal agreement that the child would work in exchange for an upbringing in a family environment until he or she was of age. In that way, people in Minnesota and other Midwestern states, became the sponsors, employers and foster parents of this homeless throng.
Infants were special cases. The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who ran a hospital and orphanage for abandoned infants, chartered several baby trains.
During this time, infants were abandoned everywhere – in alleys, church pews or doorsteps. The fortunate ones ended up in warehouse-like orphanages. In one year, more than 200 foundlings and 100 dead infants were discovered on New York pavements.
Notes were found pinned on some of the babies, for example, “This is the child of Mrs. Sheridan, who was murdered by her husband,” but most abandoned infants had nothing to identify them.
There was a placement program for infants. Numbers were assigned to willing parents, and when the trains arrived, the nurses on board would bring the babies, who had corresponding numbers stitched to their clothes, out on the platform where numbers were matched. The clergy arranged these “adoptions.”
How each child fared in the new environment depended on many factors, including the attitude of the adoptive families and the child’s ability to adjust.
Some children were treated like slaves or pariahs, but others were given love and were made family members.
Scholars have concluded that the outcome for most of the children was better than if they had stayed in New York. Their findings show that about 87 percent fared well, 8 percent were returned and 5 percent were arrested, ran away or died.
Eventually, federal and state governments intervened with compulsory education, child labor restrictions and foster care. The last Orphan Train made its run in 1929.
Since then, the one-time orphans have organized yearly reunions in Minnesota. This year’s OrphanTrain Reunion will be Sept 8 and 9 at the Holiday Inn in Alexandria. For more information, call Bieganek at 218-632-2981 or Mary Buscher in Breckenridge, Minn, 1-218-643-4926.
The U.S.-Dakota War was one of the formative events in Minnesota history, and despite the passage of time, it still stirs up powerful emotions among descendants of the Dakota and white settlers who experienced this tragedy. Hundreds of people lost their lives in just over a month of fighting in 1862. By the time the year was over, thirty-eight Dakota men had been hanged in the largest mass execution in United States history. Not long afterwards, the United States abrogated its treaties with the Dakota, confiscated their reservations along the Minnesota River, and forced most of the Dakota to remove westward.
While dozens of books and articles have been written about these events, scholars have largely ignored an important legal development that occurred in Minnesota during the following summer. The Minnesota Adjutant General, at the direction of Minnesota Governors Alexander Ramsey and Henry Swift, issued a series of orders offering rewards for the killing of Dakota men found within the State. The first order authorized the creation of a corps of volunteer scouts that would scour the “Big Woods” in search of Dakota men. They were to be paid not only a daily wage, but an additional $25 for each scalp they were able to provide the Adjutant General’s Office. Subsequent orders permitted individual citizens who were not part of the volunteer corps to claim up to $200 for proof that they had killed a Dakota. These bounty orders remained in effect until at least 1868, when their constitutionality was finally questioned by the Minnesota Supreme Court in State v. Gut.
Minnesota was not the only state that placed a bounty on their Indian inhabitants. Around the same time, a bounty system was enacted by the Territory of Arizona, and one was also implemented by private citizens and local governments within the State of California. Like the bounty system in Minnesota, these programs were creatures of state and territorial law, but they were implicitly and explicitly approved by the federal government. In fact, they could be viewed as part of a much broader extermination program that was at the heart of federal Indian policy during this time period.
This article uses primary historical sources to describe the events leading up to the enactment of a bounty system in Minnesota, its creation, and subsequent on-the-ground implementation. In an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of “presentism,” the legality of this bounty system is analyzed according to the laws in effect in 1863, when it was created. This article concludes that the Minnesota bounty system was illegal from its inception, as it was contrary not only the international law of war, but also the Lieber Code, which was issued by the U.S. Secretary of War in April 1863, and used to govern the conduct of Union soldiers during the ongoing Civil War.
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.
For every object that ends up in a library or museum collection – whether it’s a manucript, a photograph, or something more approaching the concept of “art” – there is a narrative, a story that gets told. The story a visitor to an exhibit ends up hearing, of course, is dependent upon who is telling the story and the slant of their own perspective. When the subject of the exhibit is Native Americans in the Upper Midwestern United States during the extraordinary upheaval of the 19th century, one must be particularly careful about the story being told since the narrative that largely exists is one of cultural denouement, of endings, as told by a colonizing population to its descendants.
The dominant narrative of the demise of traditional Native American culture in the face of colonization, conversion to Christianity, confinement to reservations and economic collapse is, however, not the only story that can be told. The accounts of the lives of Native Americans during the 19th century that are told by Native peoples themselves are strikingly different to those recounted in history books, movies, and all too frequently in museums. Rather than narratives solely recounting destruction and demise, Native stories about Native history tend to focus on what White Earth Ojibwe scholar Gerald Vizenor has called survivance – a narrative incorporating themes of survival and resistance that insist on the inclusion of the Native presence.
The following is an exhibit of resources that can be found within the Digital Public Library of America retold through the lens of Native American survivance in the Minnesota region. Within are a series of objects of both Native and non-Native origin that tell a story of extraordinary culture disruption, change and continuity during 19th c., and how that affects the Native population of Minnesota today.
In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”
Now, four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.
click U of M students hope documentary prompts debate over apology to Native Americans.
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. An old saying, it came to mind as University of Minnesota lecturer Carter Meland talked to me about a thought-provoking video project of the 60 students in his introductory “American Indians in Minnesota” class.
Maybe the documentary they premier May 1 will in the end be little more than a classroom exercise. Or, maybe it will spark some kind of official, mighty-oak apology from the state of Minnesota.
At any rate, the exercise has already jump-started discussion among students about the tumultuous history of Indians in Minnesota, from their treatment after the bloody Dakota Conflict, to boarding schools for Indian children where they were often forbidden to speak their native language and many say stripped of their culture, to tribal land ownership issues.
Students earning required social justice and diversity credits are producing the 60-minute video that also explores a possible apology for what Meland calls “colonist policy and practices,’’ as well as reparations to the state’s Dakota and Ojibwe people, Meland explains. The public is invited to the premier, as well as Gov. Mark Dayton and University president Eric Kaler, though both are unable to attend. Find details at story’s end.
“I found out through this class how little I knew about what transpired and all those crazy things that happened as part of Minnesota history,’’ says class member Jennifer Hall.
“It’s really opened my eyes a lot,’’ says the junior, herself Objiwe. She says she and classmates are “kind of appalled” at government’s treatment of American Indians in the 19th century and the impacts on natives in terms of land loss and their traditional way of life.
“History is a living part of the present,’’ suggests Meland. By that he means, historic events and attitudes affect current attitudes and that these cause “ripple effects.”
The ripple effects in this case, he says, could be reflected in high levels of poverty among Native Americans.
According to the 2010 American Community Survey estimates (as reported in the “Greater Twin Cities United Way Faces of Poverty 2012”), American Indians make up the largest percentage of Minnesota families of poverty at 35.6 percent. Further, 51.8 percent of American Indian children, ages 0 to 5, are poor.
Meland himself is Native American, a fact neither he nor his father knew, because of a divorce that split the family, until about 1990 when his dad received a phone call regarding a payout to the family in connection with the White Earth Land Settlement Act.
This is the second offering of the class, which uses stories and literature to entice students to investigate ideas, Meland says, but the first time video has been included in course requirements.
The video, assembled by students, will be “easy to criticize on technical grounds, but we hope the story is compelling,’’ Meland says.
The movie premiers at 12:45 p.m. May 1 in room 231 of Smith Hall on the East Bank at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and is open to the public.
About the Author: Cynthia Boyd, MinnPost’s Community Sketchbook reporter, covers poverty, homelessness, mental health, and other topics related to the social and economic challenges facing communities. Community Sketchbook is sponsored by The Minneapolis Foundation.
CSArt IPO Party — On Sunday, May 22, 2011, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education introduced nine artists chosen to participate in its new Community Supported Art program at a reception from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at 42 Brattle Street in Harvard Square. This event was FREE and open to the public. You met the artists in person, ask questions, and buy a share before they sell out
What is CSArt? The Cambridge Center for Adult Education — in collaboration with the Somerville Arts Council, the Cambridge Arts Council, Cambridge Local First, and Somerville Local First — is running a pilot program called CSArt. This local project is inspired by a community supported art program created by mnartists.org and Springboard for the Arts in Minnesota — and is partially funded by an Adams Arts Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
CSArt builds on the model of community supported agriculture, getting the work of artists in Somerville and Cambridge into the hands of people who want to buy “local.” Rather than vegetables, fish, or dairy products, CSArt shareholders will receive original works of art created by nine local artists. How CSArt Works CSArt shares cost $300. No more than 50 shares will be sold, to keep the line of art special. Shareholders receive three works of art at three “harvest parties” (nine artworks total) in early fall – at a fantastic value – from emerging and mid–career artists; develop relationships with local artists; discover new artists; and explore a variety of disciplines.
CSArt will feature unique art, not commercial, mass-produced articles. That’s what makes it special! Score a share at www.ccae.org/csart2011/shares. You will receive three shipments of art in September, October, November, each containing three limited edition pieces by different local artists. FMI: ccae.org.
[photo from my archive and not one of the artists…lara]