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Monday, March 2, 2015

Janice Howe: Grandmother fights to preserve families #ICWA

'We get the kids back': Native American grandmother fights to preserve families

In South Dakota, 51% of children in foster care are Native American but one woman turned de facto legal counselor is using the law to change that
Janice at home, showing family pictures.
Janice Howe at home, showing family pictures. The South Dakota grandmother turned her outrage into a mission to help families on reservations know their rights. Photograph: Sue Purchase
Sitting on the quiet plains of South Dakota, the Crow Creek reservation is buried in snow. Janice Howe’s tiny home, nested in a sparse enclave of houses, is a warm haven against the winter chill. She slips bits of dough into a sizzling pan as her granddaughter and nieces joyously chase one another. As the girls tumble over one another, Howe talks about her work: her role is to bring Native American children back to the reservation. They were, she says, stolen by the state – and the story starts with her own family.
“They take children away [from families] because there’s no food in the house so I find a way to help them get food, keep their lights on, get their rent paid,” she says. “I remember that heartache. I don’t want any other families to go through that.”
The former public health nurse is still outraged about the day, five years ago, representatives from the state’s department of social services (DSS) showed up on her daughter’s doorstep without warning and hauled her grandkids away. Howe says the allegations of neglect were flimsy, and ultimately unsubstantiated. By placing her grandchildren in state foster homes outside the tribe, DSS also violated Howe’s rights under the Indian child welfare act (ICWA), a federal law that is supposed to protect children of Native American tribes from state interventions and removals.
That law, experts say, is a way to shield native families from allegations of neglect based on poverty. It reads:
In judging the fitness of a particular family, many social workers, ignorant of Indian cultural values and social norms, make decisions that are wholly inappropriate in the context of Indian family life and so they frequently discover neglect or abandonment where none exists.
It took 21 months for Howe to get her grandchildren back – enough time for her to study and use the act to her advantage by transferring her case to a tribal court. Afterward, she started a support group on Facebook for Native American mothers and grandmothers who are fighting their state courts for custody of their children.
“Is very comforting to know that there are others who have walked down this path in regards to our children,” posts Brenda Charger, a Lakota grandmother from Pierre, South Dakota. “So thankful to have found this group helps to know that I am not alone in this deal. Wopila, ladies!”

Raven Girl

Adoptive parents work to preserve Alaska Native daughter's culture

March 1, 2015 | Paula Dobbyn | Alaska Dispatch News
Olive Reed and her mother Paula Dobbyn play with Play-Doh at home in Anchorage, AK on Friday, February 20, 2015. Olive Reed is the adopted daughter of Paula Dobbyn and John Reed. Bob Hallinen / ADN

Haammom’ax. A gift that makes you smile.
It’s my daughter’s Tsimshian name. She received it last summer at her great-grandparents’ home in Southeast Alaska after we met them for the first time earlier that day.
The naming ceremony was my idea. Olive is growing up in Anchorage but she’s a daughter of the Tongass -- that fortress of towering spruce, cedar and hemlock, a rainforest that blankets the Southeast panhandle. She’s Tsimshian, a member of one of three Alaska tribes that have inhabited the place for thousands of years -- a rugged, bear-infested strip of mountainous coastline, defined by isolated communities, jagged fjords and huge runs of wild salmon.
Olive’s biological family is from Metlakatla, a Tsimshian community in the southernmost reaches of the panhandle. As her adoptive mother, I wanted Olive to know this rain-swept place, her blood relatives, her Tsimshian heritage.
I figured it could start with a name.

'Are you ready?' 

Olive entered the world on Sept. 1, 2009, born at Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka.
My husband, John, and I flew down from Anchorage under a full moon, within hours of learning that a young mother had chosen us. The teenage mom had delivered a healthy 6-pound, 10-ounce girl. We were told she wanted to place the child for adoption, and after looking through several portfolios of potential families, she selected us.
As the Alaska Airlines jet descended into Sitka, I felt nauseous with excitement.
Is this really happening?
After landing, we took a taxi to the 1950s-era hospital and stepped inside a dimly lit foyer. Karen, our adoption worker, met us and went over some details about the baby’s birth and what we could expect next.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Sure,” we said in awkward unison.
In truth, I was scared.
We followed Karen upstairs and settled into an empty room in the maternity ward. A woman who turned out to be Olive’s grandmother, Vicky, soon walked in, wheeling a bassinet. She scooped up the baby and placed her in my arms.
We looked down at the sleeping infant and then up at one another.
“She’s perfect,” I said.

Many potential pitfalls

We had completed adoption paperwork six months earlier, seeking to become first-time parents after eight years as a couple. We had traveled extensively and had careers that took us to remote places. It was time to settle down. When biology failed to produce a child, we started exploring adoption. A former newspaper colleague, Kim Rich, had adopted through Catholic Social Services in Anchorage and encouraged me to explore this route.
“You can do this,” Kim said.
Besides having twin girls, Kim is the mother of Charlotte, a Yupik-Irish-American child, adopted in Anchorage.
Adoption seemed like a long road with many potential pitfalls, but we pursued it.
In discussions leading up to Olive’s arrival, the social workers explained that most available children would be non-Caucasian. They asked us what we thought about parenting a child of a different race. We saw no particular issues.
In reality, we had no idea.
Five years in, we’re still scratching our heads. How do we keep Olive connected to her culture? We’re non-Native without a large circle of Native friends. How do we pull this off?
It’s unresolved. But contact with Olive’s birth family has allowed us to start feeling like things are coming together.

Growing up in a diaspora

Ever since Olive joined our family, I have thought a lot about the fact that she is Alaska Native. John’s background is Finnish and English. I’m first-generation Irish-American. How do we raise a Tsimshian child?
We’ve reached out to a Tsimshian dance group in Anchorage, and its members have welcomed us. But Olive is shy and has not wanted to participate yet. We have taken her to the Alaska Native Heritage Center for events and to the Alaska Federation of Natives conference when it’s in Anchorage. A Raven clan crest graces a wall in her bedroom. Occasionally we watch YouTube videos of Tsimshian dancing, and we speak with pride about Olive’s tribe and clan.
Sometimes our efforts seem to be paying off.
“I’m a Raven girl,” Olive will say, out of the blue.
Or when a raven flies overhead, she’ll point and say, “I’m a Raven too.”
I smile back.
“That’s right, Olive. You are my little Raven, and I’m so proud of you.”
But often I feel guilty for not doing more.
As someone who spent her childhood an ocean away from relatives, I understand how growing up in a diaspora feels. The isolation and disconnection can be tough. My parents and older brother immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the late 1950s. I’m the only person in my family born on American soil. Aside from an aunt, a nun in California who we rarely saw, all my relatives live in Ireland. We saw them for two weeks every other summer.
But those trips to Galway and Dublin are etched in my DNA. I didn’t appreciate it then, but the time spent with my Irish relatives and family friends offered a sense of place and belonging. Recognizing their blue-green eyes and their facial features in mine, I learned I was part of something bigger than my nuclear family in Cliffside Park, N.J.
I want Olive, and her younger sister, Drew, an Inupiat Eskimo from Point Hope, to have that too.

Tsimshian name

Stephanie, Olive’s birth mother, and I found each other through Facebook. That tentative contact developed into phone calls, texts and, later, video chats. During a trip to Sitka a couple of years ago, I met Stephanie in a coffee shop, and she said she was ready to meet Olive.
“I would love that,” I said.
“You guys should come to Met,” Stephanie said, using the town’s nickname.
We talked about maybe holding a naming ceremony.
I wanted Olive to have a name that would connect her to her tribe. Her English name -- Olive Connolly Reed -- is a combination of John’s surname and my mother’s maiden name. Her first name honors my father, Oliver, and my mother’s best friend, Olive. But John and I wanted her Tsimshian heritage recognized too. At the time of her adoption, we didn’t know her birth family, so it didn’t seem right to pick a Tsimshian name randomly on our own.
But after contact, I asked Olive’s Aunt Kandi if she could research the Tsimshian word for “treasured gift.” That’s what Olive has always felt like to me. Kandi said she would.
We decided to travel to the island in early August. Metlakatla celebrates its founding every Aug. 7 with a parade, dancing and food booths. Last year marked the community’s 127th anniversary, and Metlakatla’s four clans were planning potlatches.
The timing seemed perfect.
John’s parents, John Sr. and Judy Reed, residents of northern Michigan, decided to accompany us. We rendezvoused in Anchorage.

Finally, a meeting

After a morning flight from Anchorage to Ketchikan, we boarded a ferry to Metlakatla, our clothes damp from rain. After a 45-minute ride through the Inside Passage, the ferry docked on Annette Island, a forested dot in the sea.
We walked down the gangplank, searching for a familiar face.
Olive’s grandmother Vicky had promised to pick us up. We had not seen her since the night of Olive’s birth.
I scanned the crowd and saw a middle-aged woman with a long, black ponytail. Wearing wraparound sunglasses, jeans and a blue Metlakatla Indian Community Casino T-shirt, Vicky waved when she spotted us.
“Olive, this is your Grandma Vicky,” I said, releasing Vicky from a hug.
As grandmother and granddaughter looked each other over, smiles lit up their faces. Normally shy with new people, Olive scrambled up into Vicky’s giant pickup and nestled next to her. I sat in the passenger seat. Everyone else squeezed into the back.

Mother and daughter

The 15-mile road from the ferry terminal into town cut through steep forested mountains on one side, a steely gray sea on the other.
Within minutes, we arrived in the heart of town. Vicky pulled the truck to a stop in front of a small ranch house with tan siding.
“We’re here,” she said.
A young woman with long brown hair streamed out of the house, two little boys behind her. She had the same round cheeks, pug nose, high forehead and brown eyes as Olive.
“Hi, Olive,” the young woman said, beaming at my daughter.
“Olive, this is your birth mom, Stephanie,” I said.
Stephanie swept Olive into her arms.
Cousins, aunts and other relatives gathered close by and watched. Everyone was smiling.
I wish I’d caught the moment on video.

Getting acquainted

The house, owned by Olive’s great-grandparents, Freeman and Marlene, smelled like stew and rice. Family photos covered the wall.
After hugs and handshakes, the adults sank into armchairs and an afghan-covered couch. We chatted about the weather and the trip from Anchorage, the polite and somewhat-stilted conversation people just getting to know one another might have. But it was happening, and it felt miraculous to me.
A gaggle of kids, including Olive and Drew, their new baby brothers, Tayler and Bailey (Stephanie’s other kids); and cousins Dorothy, Isabella and Ethan, played in the front yard. They searched for ladybugs in the bushes, played Ring around the Rosie, and stomped in rain puddles.
Giggles and squeals eased the awkwardness inside.
After a dinner of chicken chop suey and beef stew over white rice, Olive’s Aunt Kandi asked for everyone’s attention.
“Listen up! Go to the living room. Olive should sit next to Papa,” said Kandi.
John and I glanced at each other. We didn’t know what was coming next.

A Tsimshian name

According to Tsimshian tradition, when a child receives a Tsimshian name, the male head of household places his hand on the shoulder of the child and repeats the name three times.
Papa, or Freeman, would do the honors this evening.
“We’re going to hold a simple ceremony so that Olive can receive her Tsimshian name,” Kandi said.
Silence settled over the room.
Kandi handed her grandfather a piece of paper with words on it I didn’t recognize. She said the family is starting to learn more of the tribe’s traditional language and integrate more Tsimshian customs and practices into their lives. Olive would be the first member of the family to formally receive a Tsimshian name.
I was stunned. Vicky, Stephanie and I had traded messages about a naming ceremony through Facebook. But we never got around to organizing anything, as far as I knew.
Now it was happening.
“Let’s begin,” Kandi said, her voice shaking.
Olive perched in my lap. Freeman sat next to us. His hand resting on Olive’s shoulder, Freeman spoke in Sm'algyax, the Tsimshian langage, and read from the paper Kandi had given him. He would occasionally stumble over a word and Kandi would help him pronounce it.
Concluding his remarks, Freeman said Olive’s name three times.
Haammom’ax. Haammom’ax. Haammom’ax. A gift that makes you smile.
He smiled at Olive.
It was done. The way I saw it, my daughter had just been formally accepted her into her tribe. She was part of something larger than us now. She was a Raven girl. Her journey was just beginning.

Woven together

After the ceremony ended, I stammered a few words of thanks. John’s mom Judy, usually a model of composure, spoke next.
“As Olive’s grandmother, this means so much to me,” she said, her voice breaking.
Stephanie, Vicky and the other adults wiped away tears. We were all connected now -- two families woven together.
Over the next few days we attended potlatches hosted by the Ravens, Wolves, Killer Whales and Eagles. We dined on heaping plates of crab, halibut, salmon and deer and watched hours of dancing and drumming. Olive and Drew played with their new relatives.
After four days, it was time to go. We had a 7 a.m. floatplane to catch. At Vicky’s house, where we were staying, Stephanie slept on the couch, Tayler and Bailey curled next to her. She stirred as we moved our luggage toward the door.
“I love you, Stephanie,” I said, leaning down to give her a hug. “I hope to see you soon.”
“Bye,” she said. “Bye Olive. Come back soon baby. I love you.”
Olive smiled.
I hope to return to Metlakatla. When Olive is older, I will encourage her to travel there on her own.
I stopped going to Ireland with my parents when I was 12, no longer interested in traveling with them. But I spent the summer before college there by myself. I slept in my mother’s old bedroom in my uncle’s farmhouse in Kilcolgan, County Galway. I visited relatives, went to country dances in rural hamlets surrounded by stone walls, and became a regular at punk rock clubs in Dublin. As an adult, I return to rain-soaked Ireland as often as possible. It’s a way to stay connected with my Irish tribe.
I hope Haammom’ax will do the same.

Paula Dobbyn is a freelance writer based in Anchorage. A former Anchorage Daily News and public radio reporter, she has lived in Alaska for 20 years. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

RAD: Guest Post: Levi Eagle Feather Sr. (Part 3)

Part Two: RAD
by Levi Eagle Feather Sr.
Part Two: RAD
by Levi Eagle Feather Sr.

Part Three: RAD

By Levy Eagle Feather Sr.

The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more venues to express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom seems to stand out in the crowd of ordinary maxims... -Vine Deloria Jr. (preface to John Neihardts book "Black Elk Speaks")

Reality can be such a bastard sometimes! Just when you think you got it nailed, something happens and it all slips away. Good fortune, its second cousin, seems to operate along these same lines! You work hard, you’re ready, waiting, arms wide open and everything, then something happens blowing it all away. Does this sound familiar? Some people would say a person who thinks this way is just, “waiting for the axe to fall”. And if you think this way, too much of the time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  
In medical terms, they say someone who thinks like this or sees life in this way is showing signs of paranoia. Meaning that someone is showing “a tendency….. toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”1 In some situations, this kind of thinking can develop into a more serious condition known as schizophrenia. Noah Webster says schizophrenia is “a  psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior —called also dementia praecox — compare paranoid schizophrenia2   
In the two previous installments on RAD. I said my piece about certain spiritually abusive things that have happened to us American Indian people since western society brought its socially dysfunctional ways to our land. All of these happenings have been inducing an isolating oriented trauma on our people for several generations now. These things in particular, were the wars, reservations, boarding schools, relocation programs and adoption. Things which have worked in harmony, one after the other or simultaneously together, pretty much shattering and destroying the ways in which the beauty and magnificence of who we are as human beings can be fully realized, understood and enjoyed. I would say at this point RAD was intentioned and paranoid and schizophrenic type thinking and behavior are to be expected. 
The people who started these practices against us, in the past and continue to practice them today, have gotten away with it and continue making money off of doing it. Maybe not directly anymore, but indirectly still and that’s as simple and as good for them, as it can get! It indicates success, at least to them, of their westernized way of doing things.
By agitating and manipulating the destruction of others, confiscation of birthrights and through carefully and systemically applied abuses. These people have been capable, down through history of drastically changing tribal realities. Changing realities from systems which were built on self-reliance and were constructed for self-perpetuation to a single system which is built and designed solely for controlling and perpetuating the continued self-destruction of tribalism for profit. In short using you, your relatives and your friends to educate and labor towards your own self-destruction.      
If you think I'm wrong or misguided in my way of thinking. Look and see who has all the land, all the say and continues smiling all the way to the bank. We’ll call this group the top layer of western society. It is a top down system and we’ll call this layer the instigators or the 1% er’s of western society. The shot callers so to speak. There are other layers to this society. Here in America we know them as the middle, the lower, and the indigent classes. But for now I want to draw your attention to something else.
A simple fact! Obscured quite possibly by our own cultural amnesia of our individual ancestral roots is the fact we knew this was coming. A little less than 150 years ago my people, the Lakota, still understood our purpose. We knew and understood what sacrificing of ourselves was about. Of course, we still lived in Tipi’s on the wide open prairie and still hunted buffalo and much more. But we also lived in a civilized manner as civilized human beings then too. We knew and understood how fragile yet necessary keeping good relationships were to our health and wellbeing. We also knew and understood the threat and danger western thought and living posed to our health and well-being. The inevitability of this threat coming to fruition came through in dreams and visions of some of our great leaders of that time. Black Elk, a healer, was one of those leaders.
Black Elk was born in 1863 and lived until 1950. He was born well before the time of either the Sioux or the American Indian. He was born and lived as a Lakota. He thought, reasoned and behaved according to the Lakota way of being. He lived his life, perceiving reality understanding it and speaking of it in the language from within the worldview of his time. The Lakota worldview.
In the summer of 1872 at the age of nine Black Elk experienced a vision. In 1930, through a translator, Black Elk related his experience to John Neihardt, who in turn wrote about it as, “The Great Vision" in his book 'Black Elk Speaks". Whether this vision came to him through intuition, spiritual insight, or from hearing reports of what was befalling our Dakota relatives to the east, Black Elk's vision was spot on. Experienced well before the reservation, boarding school, relocation, and adoption eras of our people it was a foretelling. A vision foretelling the, as yet, unforeseen problems of becoming westernized. Something that we now experience on the regular, day in and day out. 

The following is an excerpt from this "The Great Vision:" 
And as we went the voice behind me said: "Behold a good nation walking in a sacred manner in a good land!"
Then I looked up and saw that there were four ascents ahead, and these were generations I should know. Now we were on the first ascent and all the land was green. And as the long line climbed, all the old men and women raised their hands, palms forward, to the far sky yonder and began to croon a song together, and the sky ahead was filled with clouds of baby faces.
When we came to the end of the first ascent we camped in the sacred circle as before, and in the center stood the holy tree, and still about us was all green.
Then we started on the second ascent, marching as before, and still the land was green, but it was getting steeper. And as I looked ahead, the people changed into elks and bison and all four footed beings and even into fowls, all walking in a sacred manner on the good red road together. And I myself was a spotted eagle soaring over them. But just before we stopped to camp at the end of that ascent, all the marching animals grew restless and afraid that they were not what they had been, and began sending forth voices of trouble, calling to their chiefs. And when they camped at the end of that ascent, I looked down and saw that leaves were falling from the holy tree.
And the Voice said: "Behold your nation, and remember what your Six Grandfathers gave you, for thenceforth your people walk in difficulties."
Then the people broke camp again, and saw the black road before them towards where the sun goes down, and black clouds coming yonder; and they did not want to go but could not stay. And as they walked the third ascent, all the animals and fowls that were the people ran here and there, for each one seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting.6
And when we reached the summit of the third ascent and camped, the nation's hoop was broken like a ring of smoke that spreads and scatters and the holy tree seemed dying and all its birds were gone. And when I looked ahead I saw that the fourth ascent would be terrible.
Then when the people were getting ready to begin the fourth ascent, the Voice spoke like someone weeping, and it said: "Look there upon your nation." And when I looked down, the people were all changed back to human, and they were thin, their faces sharp, for they were starving. Their ponies were only hide and bones and the holy tree was gone.

6 At this point Black Elk remarked: "I think we are near that place now, and I am afraid something very bad is going to happen all over the world." He cannot read and knows nothing of world affairs.

Adoption causes RAD and RAD is a more normal reaction to adoption than not. Adoption in western society, especially the transracial adoption of American Indian children was and is an unnecessary and unnatural situation. Historically, the process of taking American Indian children away from families who birth them, love them, view them and understood them as their future causes immense suffering and loss that reverberates and is felt throughout each one of our nations. It broke our sacred hoop keeping the beauty of life just out of arms reach or so it seems.
The destruction didn’t happen overnight of course. Each and every one of these abuses aimed at destroying us was applied incrementally, generation after generation. Each and every one of them has done a pretty good job at what it was intended, and it isn’t over yet. It happened, some of it is still happening, and there isn't a whole lot we can do to stop it at this point. At least, I don't know of anything I can do that will.
This is not the reason I started writing this article, however. To talk endlessly about the things I cannot do or cannot change. The past is the past and there isn’t much we can do about that. Blaming won’t help, blaming ourselves and each other definitely won’t, but by being responsible and holding ourselves and each other accountable for recourse and recovery can.
As depressing as these three articles have all sounded, it was! I now prefer to spend the majority of my time working against the effects it has had on the hearts and minds of our people. So this will be the last I will have to say about all of that.
I’ve been working against the negative effects our past has had on us for the past 35 years or so. Both personally in my own life and the lives of my family members. As well as, professionally and as a volunteer within the American Indian community. Whenever the opportunity arose wherever it was I might have happened to be living at the time. Most recently I was able to offer my programming abroad, as a side job, amongst the folk in Germany, whenever the opportunity would arise.
I started out slowly of course way back then with baby steps. Thirty-five years have gone by and I seem to be walking much better now. On good days I think I might even be able to walk and chew gum. We shall see.
In the next series of blog articles I will be breaking away from the past. 
This series I’ll call Recourse and Repatriation, I will touch a little more on Black Elk’s vision and segue into a more personal accounting of my own experience of recourse and recovery from RAD. As well as offer my personal understanding of cultural repatriation and spiritual re-acculturation Lakota style.    
I am an American Indian, rightly enough. A card carrying one for all it might mean and for whatever purposes to which it matters. And I was adopted at one time. So be it. None of this has ever changed the facts of what really matters. I am a human being and I belong and so do my people. We belong to Mother Earth right here on this the North American continent. Until next time I wish you all enough. Hau Mitakuye Oyasin!

Part One: Reactive Attachment Disorder

Part One: Reactive Attachment Disorder

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BIA Indian Child Welfare Act Guidelines #ICWA

New Guidelines!

From the website here. Press release here.

The new Guidelines, not updated since 1979, look really good. For example, there are fifteen examples of active efforts, which are explicitly separated out from ASFA findings. There is some clear language around determining putative fathers. They clarified 1922’s emergency removal provisions. They took out the “advanced stage of the proceedings” exception for transfer to tribal court. And quoting now,
There is no exception to the application of ICWA based on the so-called “existing Indian family doctrine.”
Thank you to everyone for all of the work on this. This is huge.


Measuring Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Assessment Toolkit

The NCJFCJ is committed to helping state courts achieve full ICWA compliance. A new resource is now available to the courts (or Court Improvement Programs) to help achieve this goal. Measuring Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Assessment Toolkit, provides concrete tools and recommendations for the state courts to assess their current compliance with ICWA. The Toolkit identifies strengths and weaknesses of different data collection approaches, provides sample tools or questions for the sites, and identifies resources and examples of putting this into practice. If you have any questions or would like additional information about measuring ICWA compliance in your jurisdiction, you can e-mail the research team at

 Measuring Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Assessment Toolkit - February 28, 2014

We can thank a little girl named Veronica Brown for these changes... she is in our prayers...Trace

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reinventing a better world for all children #AbolishAdoption

By Trace Hentz (adoptee-author)

Years ago doing research for my memoir, I spoke with a friend in Austria who told me about SOS VILLAGES. I had never heard of this or such a concept. It's so good it has spread to the US. READ HERE

We know that in Indian Country, taking children and placing them in adoptive homes was to assimilate them, erase them from tribal rolls, an act of genocide motivated by greed and for the taking of more land. We can't change the past in North America. It has already taken place. We are the survivors, the adoptees, left to cure ourselves but also to see to it that this doesn't happen to more children.

In 2015, I will say this: the adoption industry is like a very large building that employs thousands (if not millions) of people -- real people who collect a paycheck. They are lawyers, judges and social workers.  History shows us that children needed more than an orphange and thus began the system we have today - tiers of bureaucracy, unregulated agencies rife with corruption and kickbacks, the trafficking of children internationally to meet the supply and demand here in the US and even the black-marketing of babies. Read about one evil baby trafficker here.

We have to invent something better here in the US. We can't change what exists. We have to replace it and make the old adoption system obsolete!

If ONE TRIBE could make this happen and do this SOS VILLAGE concept in 2015, the word would spread and children would be saved. Children would not lose their tribe, culture or language. Isn't that the purpose and the reason for adoption - saving children's lives?

If someone wants my help to create this new reality in Indian Country, email me.


Adoption is, in and of itself, a violence based in inequality. It is candy-coated, marketed, and packaged to seemingly concern families and children, but it is an economically and politically incentivized crime. It stems culturally and historically from the “peculiar institution” of Anglo-Saxon indentured servitude and not family creation. It is not universal and is not considered valid by most communal cultures. It is a treating of symptoms and not of disease. It is a negation of families and an annihilation of communities not imbued with any notion of humanity due to the adoptive culture’s inscribed bias concerning race, class, and human relevancy.

The Circle of Courage

“The Circle of Courage is a model of positive youth development first described in the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk, co-authored by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern. The model integrates Native American philosophies of child-rearing, the heritage of early pioneers in education and youth work, and contemporary resilience research.

The Circle of Courage is based in four universal growth needs of all children: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.
These traditional values are validated by contemporary child research and are consistent with the findings of Stanley Coopersmith who identified four foundations for self-worth: significance, competence, power, and virtue.

These are summarized below:

In Native American and First Nations cultures, significance was nurtured in communities of belonging. Lakota anthropologist Ella Deloria described the core value of belonging in these simple words: “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” Treating others as kin forges powerful social bonds that draw all into relationships of respect. Theologian Marty observed that throughout history the tribe, not the nuclear family, always ensured the
survival of the culture. Even if parents died or were not responsible, the tribe was always there to nourish the next generation.

Competence in traditional cultures is ensured by guaranteed opportunity for mastery. Children were taught to carefully observe and listen to those with more experience. A person with greater ability was seen as a model for learning, not as a rival. Each person strives for mastery for personal growth, but not to be superior to someone else. Humans have an innate drive to become competent and solve problems. With success in surmounting challenges, the desire to achieve is strengthened.

Power in Western culture was based on dominance, but in tribal traditions it meant respecting the right for independence. In contrast to obedience models of discipline, Native teaching was designed to build respect and teach inner discipline. From earliest childhood, children were encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, and show personal responsibility. Adults modeled, nurtured, taught values, and gave feedback, but children were given abundant opportunities to make choices without coercion.

Finally, virtue was reflected in the pre-eminent value of generosity. The central goal in Native American child-rearing is to teach the importance of being generous and unselfish. 
In the words of a Lakota Elder, “You should be able to give away your most cherished possession without your heart beating faster.” 
In helping others, youth create their own proof of worthiness: they make a positive contribution to another human life.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lost Daughters: Returning To Ethiopia, Searching For Our First Families And Seeking Justice

CLICK: Lost Daughters: Returning To Ethiopia, Searching For Our First Families And Seeking Justice

This is an important post: It makes the point that we are not the ones in power: it's the billion dolllar adoption industry who makes the rules and the money... And that TOWER OF POWER is like a large skyscraper built on myths and multiple stories of lies... Trace

I’m appalled to hear the same stories over and over again. I’m even more
appalled that people (adoption agency workers, orphanage staff or other
individuals) are getting away with having actively participated or been
complicit in fraudulent adoptions. This should not be happen. There
needs to be justice for us and our first families because we are the
ones paying the emotional and psychological costs of their corrupt and
unethical practices. Many of us feel powerless and are overwhelmed by
our situations. Those who have reunited with their families are happy to
have finally found them and are trying to figure out ways to return to
see them. But what about adoptees who are unable to find their families
due to a lack of information, time and of course money?

I blog at Lost Daughters too.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Between Two Worlds: Wayne Snellgrove

Wayne Snellgrove (center) lives in Miami (File Photo)
‘We were lost between 2 worlds,’ survivor of Canada aboriginal kids’ adoption tells RT

Download video (13.59 MB) Please watch!
Earlier story about Wayne on this blog HERE

US national swimming champion Wayne Snellgrove, one of the victims of Canada’s so-called “Scoop” program, an adoption scheme though which Aboriginal Canadian children were placed with white families, has told RT it stripped survivors of their identities.
“They’re lost between two worlds, they’re not part of the native culture and they don’t assimilate well with the white culture. They’ve lost their identity and it’s a really sad thing,” Snellgrove told RT about the thousands of kids who were taken from their homes from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which he was one.

Snellgrove himself was taken from his Saskatchewan mother at birth in the 1970s, and spent the first few years of his life in the care of the Canadian government. He was eventually adopted by a white family in the United States, and did not meet his birth mother until he was 32.
“I realized I had been in mourning my entire life and didn’t even know it,” he told RT of the adoption.

Snellgrove also recounted some the fraught historical context for the misguided and damaging adoption policy.
“They [white European settlers] have a very dark history of the way they treated the Aboriginal population. They tortured, they killed them, they murdered them, they raped them. All these stories are part of my story they’re part of my culture.”

The swimming champ recalled feeling out of place and lost with his American family. Though Snellgrove says he was placed into a loving home and that his adoptive parents tried their best to raise him, he was still plagued by depression and could not assimilate into white culture.
“They gave me every opportunity, but the thing is I’m not white. I did not assimilate well into white culture… There were still feelings of loss and abandonment as to why I was with the family I was with,” he said.

Though Snellgrove got the chance to meet his mother after hiring a private investigator and searching for her for seven years, he says that others are not so lucky.
“There were hundreds of kids taken from my reserve, hundreds of kids taken across Canada – thousands of kids. And from my reserve I was the third one to make it back – the third one ever to touch my ancestral lands again,” he told RT.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 11, 2013. (Reuters / Chris Wattie)
ARCHIVE PHOTO: First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 11, 2013. (Reuters / Chris Wattie)

Many of these children are now seeking reparations from the Canadian government. More than 1,800 people have signed onto a class action suit lawsuit. The plaintiffs are being represented by the Merchant Law Group, which served the federal government with the suit in late January.
Tony Merchant, the head legal counsel at Merchant, claims that children suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse as a result of the program. He criticized it as a misguided paternalistic attempt at assimilating Aboriginal Canadian children.

"It was part of the paternalistic approach, that if we could get children out of the hands of Aboriginal people, we could give them a better life in the future by taking away their culture and turning red children into white adults," he was quoted as saying by CBC.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Aboriginal adoptees sue Ottawa for loss of culture, emotional trauma

Aboriginal adoptees sue Ottawa for loss of culture, emotional trauma

Photo: The StarPhoenix, file photo

Almost 1,200 adoptees in Saskatchewan have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for their loss of culture and emotional trauma. Starting in the 1960s, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes by Canadian child welfare services and placed with non-aboriginal families.

Aboriginals who were adopted into white families during the so-called '60s Scoop are suing the federal government for their loss of culture and emotional trauma.
Almost 1,200 adoptees have filed a class-action lawsuit in Saskatchewan seeking compensation from Ottawa for "cultural genocide."

From the 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes by child-welfare services and placed with non-aboriginal families, some in the United States. Many consider the adoptions as an extension of residential schools, which aimed to "take the Indian out of the child."
David Chartrand, who joined the lawsuit, was taken from his Manitoba family at the age of five and moved to Minnesota.

"They wanted maids, butlers. They wanted slavery and to do it legally. We just fit that criteria," said the 52-year-old Metis man. "I was made to clean the house, be their slave, be the punching bag."
Chartrand said Canada had a duty to protect him and others like him. Although he returned to his home community of Camperville, Man., in his 20s, he lost everything, he said.

"I lost my life, my childhood." he said. "We want to put it behind us so we can move on."

The lawsuit, which was filed last month, is seeking unspecified damages for everything from loss of identity to sexual and physical abuse. Regina lawyer Tony Merchant said many of the children who were adopted weren't in unsafe homes but were taken simply as another way to assimilate aboriginal people.

"It was a part of taking red babies and trying to make them into white adults."

Having been raised by a white family with no cultural support, many survivors have struggled to reclaim their roots, Merchant said.

"They've just been lost from their culture."

People who were part of the '60s Scoop have been calling for a formal apology from Ottawa. They also want compensation for their experience, which many argue was just as traumatic as that suffered by residential school survivors. But while those who were sent to residential schools have had a formal apology and have been able to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, '60s Scoop adoptees haven't been formally recognized.

Other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of adoptees. A class-action lawsuit by some survivors in Ontario in 2009 is still making its way through the courts.

Chartrand worries any resolution to this lawsuit will come too late for many adoptees who are aging and suffering from increasing ill health. For those adoptees who ended up in prison or committed suicide, Chartrand said, any resolution comes too late.

"As an Indian, you have a spirit. That spirit has to come back home.
"It's not about the money. It's about these kids that are dead out there."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SD epidemic: children still taken

Money? Yes. Money.
Every year, 743 Native American children are seized from their families and tribes. Of the ones who are not returned to their families, only half will make it into foster families- the rest find themselves in state institutions. Help us investigate South Dakota's foster care system! SIGN THE ‪PETITION:

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