A blog by and about American Indian Adoptees, Split Feathers, Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. To teach the history of the Indian Adoption Projects, and the creation of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the effects of adoption on adoptees. A blog for and by American Indian and First Nations adoptees who are called a STOLEN GENERATION.
Darcy Olsen is the founder and president of Generation Justice, a new organization providing reform blueprints and public interest litigation services to extend the full umbrella of constitutional rights to children.
Olsen served as CEO of the Goldwater Institute for fifteen years.
Any tribal member and/or tribe can give testimony on this issue here:
Thursday, July 25, 2019 Unity School District Performing Arts Center 1908 150th St. Balsam Lake, WI 54810 Start time: 12:00 noon Please feel free to attend either session. If you would like time to speak please contact: Meagan Matthews at: 608-266-8551 or Meagan.Matthews@legis.wisconsin.gov
We would note that one outcome of the opioid epidemic is that some groups are pushing to terminate parental rights faster, particularly for children under the age of 3. A recent law passed in Arizona attempts to do just that, and was pushed by Generation Justice, a group founded by the recent past CEO of the Goldwater Institute.
Each time Elisia Manuel sees her daughter Precious rehearsing traditional basket dancing and humming tribal songs around their home in Casa Grande, Arizona, she’s overwhelmed with emotion. “It’s beautiful to witness,” the mother of three says. “She’s part of the community.”
This wasn’t always guaranteed. Elisia and her husband Tecumseh, who is a member of the Gila River Indian Community, became foster parents in 2012 after learning about the great need for Native American foster families in Arizona. They couldn’t have biological children of their own and felt a deep calling to help other families, Elisia says.
Within two years, the couple had taken in two foster children and adopted three more. Their two adopted sons are biological brothers, and each came to the Manuels when they were just days old.
Their daughter, Precious, also needed to leave her home as a baby but was going to be placed with a non-Native family at first. “She wouldn’t have received any education about her culture,” Elisia says. She knows what that would be like. Elisia’s family is Hispanic and has Apache roots, but, her grandmother was adopted and raised away from her biological family, so Elisia did not grow up learning about Apache culture and is not an enrolled tribal member.
Canada and South Africa both used similar commissions to grapple with their histories of racism and genocide. The U.S. could benefit from following suit.
In the context of the commission in Maine, Anne said she thinks the word “reconciliation” can be problematic in how people understand it and what their perspective is. During the commission’s work, White people wanted to get right to the healing, but the tribes needed to tell their truth, she said.
Ibahawoh said he thinks the U.S. should seriously consider a truth and reconciliation commission as a model to try to heal from injustices like slavery and persistent racism.
“I think it means a lot to our foster kids that we’re Cherokee,” said Carney Duncan, a gentle, soft-spoken man whose hair falls below his shoulders. “My mom and dad always helped people and took them in. I have an ‘Uncle Joe’ who is no kin but we took him in. And a ‘brother’ who lived with us who is no blood kin. We help our own. It’s a Cherokee value.”
Given the daily racism that Native people endure, Schon said, he thought it was important for Native children to grow up in Native families, to ground themselves.
Few of yesterday's articles about his life mention just how much work he did on behalf of Native children, including the March for Lost Children. In this interview, he speaks about making people uncomfortable--"Nothing changes until someone feels uncomfortable."
If you worked on ICWA in any capacity, you knew Frank LaMere. Keep making people uncomfortable.
“Babies don’t get born and run down to the citizenship office and file a petition,” said Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University. When his own child was born, he and his partner took a year to register him as a tribal member, in part because he was eligible for more than one tribal nation. “To say that somehow this kid hasn’t been enrolled yet and therefore doesn’t have a political relationship is really quite disingenuous.”
Reflecting on the rhetoric used by ICWA opponents like Sandefur, Nicole Adams, a spokesperson for Partnership for Native Children, pointed to the institutions that pushed for the use of boarding schools and adoption for decades before ICWA’s passage. “They were led by very well-intentioned Christian coalitions purporting that Indian children needed to be saved, and they were just the ones to do it. If you look at the rhetoric being put out by some of ICWA’s most staunch opponents, it is eerily and frighteningly similar.”
Many believe that “the past is past,” and it’s time to move on. Such thinking ignores the traumatic impact of genocide on future generations and the continued oppression of indigenous Americans. I recently watched the film “Dawnland” at Amherst Cinema, which highlights the first U.S. truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the government of Maine’s removal of generations of indigenous American children from their families. In the 19th and 20th centuries, tens of thousands of children on reservations were severed from their families and sent to residential schools and foster homes in order to eradicate indigenous Americans through forcibly acculturating their children — another form of genocide. The Indian Child Welfare Act was established in 1978 to end this century-long practice and to instead “... protect the best interests of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture.” Critics of the ICWA argue that the law is race-based, ignoring the sovereignty of tribal nations. A Federal Appeals Court judge will soon be deciding the fate of this 41-year-old law based on a case heard in March. The consequences of overturning the ICWA would once again threaten the welfare of Indigenous American families. Today, indigenous American children are three times more likely to be removed from their homes than white children, according to “Dawnland.”
The stories from adoptive parents and children are touching and raise many important issues. Many (both adoptive parents and children) point out the advantages of being raised in a loving home that is safe and secure in which they are also able to pursue and celebrate their tribal/cultural identity. This is a strong argument which however does not apply to the case in question, in which the adoptive parents show no interest in affirming or celebrating their children's native ancestry and culture AND there is a healthy and loving family of relatives that wants to adopt the two siblings in a home with other biological siblings. Therefore, as much as the arguments provided in the NYT article may merit discussion, they do NOT apply to this case, which represents a modern form of the legalized kidnapping that the dominant culture has perpetuated on Native peoples, notwithstanding the the adoptive parents claims of 'love' and 'religiosity.
I was born in Canada to a Metis woman whose husband died just before the birth. I was adopted during the "Sixties Scoop" where thousands of indigenous children were taken from their home communities. An adoption to a white middle class family with an engineer father was seen as a big step up from the working class environment I came from. I had very conscientious adoptive parents, who were loving and did their best to help me be a part of a family of 6. They never lied to me. Unfortunately, that was not enough. I was taken from my mother. And my indigenous roots. Trauma. Period. This was never addressed, I muddled through life with an underlying sense of not being ok, faked alot and used various means of escaping. When I eventually found my birth mother, she had died two years previous. I have connected with cousins, but I have siblings i have not been able to locate. This kind of trauma and it's lifelong impact needs to be accounted for. It's a systemic issue. Not all, but many adoptive parents are entitled, short sighted, and will be dealing with the fallout when the children grow up and reject them outright for their hubris and folly. Children are not accessories to complete your magazine lifestyle. The cousins I have spoken to who knew my biological mother speak fondly of her; I think she must have hidden alot of pain, as she never spoke of children.
By Trace Hentz (blog editor)I run across comments by adoptive parents and PAPS (potential adoptive parents) all the time on why is it wrong for non-Natives to adopt Native kids? Volumes have been written about this, on this blog, and in medical studies and published reports but we STILL have people who don't understand.Here is an example on Adoption.com:
I'm watching this documentary right now on demand. Its about these two Native American boys (now adults) who were adopted from foster (care) in Canada to an American (CC) family in Redding, PA. They were adopted as young boys so they remembered being with the bmom and now one of the boys is making a film about being between both families. I thing that bothers me is the younger brother has basically at 18 yrs old left his adoptive family and went back to Canada to bio family and he hasn't talked to his AP's in 8 years. His issues are growing up without his NA identity and racism he dealt with being NA in a all CC environment. Actually both boys are living in Canada now. The older brother still has a relationship with his AP's. As an AP I would take it as a slap in the face if my kid just left and wouldn't talking to me for 8 yrs. Its like these boys bio mom was an alcoholic who had her kids taken away because she was neglecting them. She said herself she would be drunk for 6 weeks straight and have no idea what day or month it is. Also leaving these babies at home by themselves while she's out partying and they have to change each diapers etc... So you have this family come in and give you a stable home and love and yet because they are CC you just leave?? Im wondering if this something that happens more often with older kids adoption from foster care? Like I said earlier it really annoys me but a great watch anyways. LINK
Curtis and Ashok Kaltenbaugh were born in Manitoba and are of First Nations ancestry. After the 1980 death of their younger brother, at ages of 7 and 4 respectively, they were removed from the custody of their birth mother and placed for adoption with a middle-class white family living in Pennsylvania.
The film chronicles their search for identity and the meeting of their adoptive and birth families. The film won Best Public Service Award at the Annual American Indian Film Festival, held in San Francisco during November 2007.[wiki]
I am an adoptee and journalist who has documented the history and narratives of Native adoptees in three Lost Children anthologies. If the Brackeens had done any research prior, they would know the outcomes for Native adoptees are not good. Adoption gets pretty ugly when it doesn't work. Once kids are out of diapers, they start noticing and feel the isolation without kin. There are medical terms for our damage. The adoption industry will not advertise that most patients in psychiatric care are adoptees. They don’t warn adoptive parents their new child will suffer from “Severe Narcissistic Injury” or “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” This news would not be welcome. LINK
Of course some readers slam me for using the word "kin" ...or ask how do I know about the damage we suffer... No shock... I get it: they don't get it and they don't know the history or the Native adoptees I know personally... (There were 775 comments before they shut it off today and many are amazingly correct!)
An earlier comment from Ellen gets it:
This country has a long brutal history of removing Native children from their families with the intent of culture genocide. There is nothing different about this case. I am sure that the Brackeens are lovely (wealthy) people who care for Zachary, and the new baby they selfishly wrested from her family. Still, it does not undo the damage done to the Navajo nation, in losing 2 precious children, not to mention the damage done to the children in growing up apart from their culture...while being quite different in appearance from the rest of this family. But skin color is not the issue - the erasure of culture and sense of self is.
After reading the NYT story I am not surprised that the Navajo tribe and the Brackeens will share custody, as Judge Kim declared, but the Brackeens would have primary possession. Taking Indian children off the rez and changing their identity to white and ending their sovereignty and treaty rights and a connection to tribal lands: the old playbook is the new playbook.
It is always about possession.
We have covered this case on this blog for the past few years. (please look at Goldwater Institute (34 posts) for more insight on this case.)
Hundreds of tribal nations vehemently oppose the lawsuit Brackeen v. Bernhardtthat splits Texas, Indiana, Louisiana and a coalition of conservative legal groups, including the Goldwater Institute, against the federal government, hundreds of tribal nations, 21 state attorneys general, Native American civil rights groups and child welfare organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund.
The Navajo are appealing Judge Kim’s custody order.
What about the BRACKEENS:
Potential Adoptive Parents (PAPS) Chad and Jennifer Brackeen might want to learn Navajo history during this lengthy court battle in Texas. (Try this one in 2011: Illegal aliens? Deported adoptees?)
The total population of the Navajo people residing in their land is approximately 180,462 having a median age of 24 years old. Navajo Nation is situated over a 27,000 square miles of large land within the vicinity of the state of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. It is considered to be the largest land that is primarily covered by the jurisdiction of the Native American within the territory of the United States.
What most people don't know: The Navajo are survivors of a barely-known Mormon assimilation program from 1947 to the mid-1990s.
Year after year, missionaries of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints approached Navajo families and invited children into Mormon foster homes. As part of the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program, children would live with Mormon families during the school year to “provide educational, spiritual, social, and cultural opportunities in non-Indian community life,” according to the Church.
Typically, the Mormon foster families were white and financially stable. Native American children who weren’t already Mormon were baptized. Although the LDS Church reached out to dozens of Indian tribes, most participants’ families lived within the Navajo Nation.
Roughly 50,000 children participated in the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program, according to Matthew Garrett, a professor at Bakersfield College.
Rather than improving conditions on the Navajo reservation, the LDS Church asked that children assimilate to the way its white members lived. Some Church leaders interpreted the Book of Mormon literally and expected that Native American children’s skin would turn lighter as they grew closer to God.
The Church now admits that not all Native Americans are descendants of the Israelites, or Lamanites, as described in the Book of Mormon. (Oh really, thanks)
In addition to the claims of damage done by sexual abuse, the lawsuits involving the Indian Student Placement Program assert that the culture of the Navajo Nation was “irreparably harmed” by the LDS Church’s “continuous and systematic assimilation efforts.” Although the last student in the Indian Student Placement Program graduated in 2000, plaintiffs are asking the Church to do all it can to enhance and restore Navajo culture and create a taskforce for that purpose.
Participants in the Church-sponsored Indian Student Placement Program have filed at least three sexual-abuse lawsuits. Lilly Fowler Oct 23, 2016
Practices of adopting Native American children directly followed the residential/boarding schools. Such adoption practices, which came into fruition through forms such as the forced removal of Native American children during Canada’s 60s Scoop and its parallel in the United States, the Indian Adoption Projects, exemplify the adaption of adoption as a settler colonial tool for dispossession and disenfranchisement.
Narragansett author John C Hopkins wrote about his Navajo mother in law on his blog:
Chilocco Indian School opened in 1884 with 123 students. Its first graduating class was comprised of six boys and nine girls. The school finally closed its doors in 1980. The name Chilooco comes from the Choctaw word “chiluki” and the Cherokee word “tsalagi,” which means “cave people” in both languages.
A long, hard-used tarred road turns off Route 166 and ends where the abandoned, ivy-covered stone buildings stand in disrepair haunted by the ghosts from memories past.
Bernice Austin-Begay, a Navajo, recalled the long ride down the road when she was a child returning to school after a rare family visit.
“I’d be sad because I knew it would be a long before I would see them again,” Austin-Begay, Class of 1965, said. “I’d be thinking about my family, thinking about my sheep.”
Austin-Begay was 10 when she was first taken to Chilocco. More than 50 years later she still recalls the day the government agents came to Black Mesa, Ariz. and took her away.
“I was captured,” she said.
Many Indian families resented how the government swooped in and took the children away from their families and did all they could to thwart the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Austin-Begay’s family was one of those. Whenever her mother saw a car coming up the road she would send Bernice running, to hide in the hills until the “biliganas” left. (Biligana is the Navajo word for white man)
But one day the car arrived unexpectedly and young Bernice never reached the woods.
“I was too slow,” Austin-Begay said.
'CATASTROPHIC AND UNFORGIVABLE' Starting in 1958, the Indian Adoption Project placed Native American children in non-Native homes, in what it said was an effort to assimilate them into mainstream culture and offer them better lives outside impoverished reservations. The project was run by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal government agency, and the nonprofit Child Welfare League of America, in partnership with private agencies.
There was a reason Indian leaders went to the Senate in the 1970s and demanded an inquiry into the staggering number of children disappearing in Indian Country. It was not just boarding schools creating this mass exodus of children. Adoption programs in 16 states removed 85% of Native children. Programs like the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America (ARENA), established by the Child Welfare League of America in 1967, funded in part by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, paid states to remove children and place them with non-Indian adoptive families and religious groups like the Mormon Church. ARENA expanded to include all Canadian and United States adoption agencies and offered them financial assistance.
ICWA (the Indian Child Welfare Act) prioritizes placing Native children into Native homes or with kin or with families that are willing to keep them within a certain proximity to their cultures.
Associate Attorney General Tony West Delivers Remarks at the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s 32nd Annual Protecting Our Children Conference ~ Monday, April 14, 2014
"...There's more work to do because every time an Indian child is removed in violation of ICWA, it can mean a loss of all connection with family, with tribe, with culture. And with that loss, studies show, comes an increased risk for mental health challenges, homelessness in later life, and, tragically, suicide."