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Esoterica

To Dry the Eyes of Indian Adoptees

adailyriot:

The story about the arrest of white missionaries trying to adopt allegedly orphaned Haitian children struck a chord with me. Similar media stories about well meaning white celebrities adopting pretty babies of color from poor third world countries have also rubbed me the wrong way. You see, American Indians have a long history of white folks trying to help us by taking away our children.  It is estimated that between 1941 and 1978, white parents adopted 35 percent of American Indians in the U.S., often forcibly.  Indians have learned that no amount of good intention can wipe away the painful loss of our culture.

Not long ago, I traveled to Minneapolis as I worked on a story about the Lost Birds. The Lost Birds are those Indian people who were adopted by non-Indian families prior to 1978. More personal than I had realized, this story caught me by surprise; it touched the center of who I am as an Ojibwe woman and as a mother. 

We adopted our son Danny from my tribe in 2005 when he was 7 months old.  Danny came into our lives as though directed by an outside force. Both my husband I felt that he was meant to be raised by us and that he was meant to know he is an Ojibwe man. That “knowing” has been a deep wordless tie between us and one to which I feel all people, non Indian and otherwise, are entitled. 

So, it was with some trepidation that I began a story about Rachel Kupcho, an Ojibwe women and her adoptive white parents. Would I be able to keep my feelings about interracial adoption in perspective?

I worried about this and other things during my flight to Minneapolis. Unexpectedly, I noticed the Mississippi River or Great River in the Ojibwe language as the plane descended into the Twin Cities.   The power of that great water caught me by surprise, pinching my heart in a nameless, primordial way and I felt a homecoming not without pain. With relief, I recalled that in Ojibwe tradition, we women are the ones who care for the water and I was comforted. I thought of our traditional Ojibwe stories describing this connection with place and the land.  Once again, I was awed by the wisdom and nuance of my culture that at once understands yet celebrates the ineffable.  A wave of calm washed over me; I knew that the story would emerge in the way that it should.

In the end, I came to see that many mothers, Indian and non-Indian but all women who care for the water,  built Rachel’s life and strength, like the Great River.

At first glance Rachel didn’t look like much of a Lost Bird to me. In fact she appeared to be just the opposite. Confident and beautiful, she strode around the Minneapolis American Indian Center with calm authority. She seemed to easily carry the pride that is so typical of an Anishinabikwe or young Ojibwe woman as she worked to organize the annual Gathering of Our Children and Returning Adoptees Powwow.

Sandy White Hawk has helped organize this powwow for several years. She is executive director of the First Nations Orphan Association, an organization that helps returning adoptees find their way back to their culture. Since Sandy suddenly took ill, Rachel stepped in at the last minute to coordinate the event. Organizing a powwow is no small task.  There is quite a bit of protocol involved and the potential for drama is high. Rachel, however, seemed born to the task; to look at her I would have never suspected this was the first time she had overseen a powwow or that until a few years ago had had very little exposure to her culture. Like many who attended this powwow Rachel was adopted at birth and raised by white parents.

When the doors of the Indian Center opened up, people began to trickle in. It was easy to identify the Lost Birds.  Their fear and guarded emotions seemed almost palpable as they stepped uncertainly into the gym. They were drawn by the sound of the drum that they may have been hearing for the first time on that day. Looking more deeply into their faces, I sensed hope, a hope that they might begin to return home.

rachel and young girls Mary Annette Pember Rachel Kupcho, herself adoped by non-Indian parents, welcomed participants at the Gathering of Our Children and Returning Adoptees Powwow in Minneapolis.

I noticed Rachel ushering people into the gym with a calm smile and I wondered how she has come by such self-assurance. The simple yet enormous answer begins with her parents, Keith and Lisa Kupcho.  Typically, they are in the background, quietly helping set up tables for the event. They discretely excuse themselves once the heavy lifting is finished. They will return when their daughter needs them later in the evening for the Wanblenica or Orphan’s Song and ceremony.

Like so many Indian children prior to 1978, Rachel was given up for adoption by her birth mother  from the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota and placed with a non-Indian family. Rachel, however, does not share the typical Indian adoptee history that is so often filled with stories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Painful and more insidious than the physical abuse that adoptees report, has been a rejection of their natural spirit. The shame of being Indian and therefore inferior is a lasting wound that remains open for countless adoptees. Too many try to medicate these wounds with alcohol and drugs, vainly trying to ease their pain.

This generation of “Lost Birds” as they are often called, resulted from the well -intentioned U. S federal policy of assimilation that sought to integrate Indians into mainstream culture. The policy was intended to help lift Indians out of the poverty and social ills that plagued the reservations. Instead, it supported the near wholesale removal of children from their homes, families and cultures.  Before the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, that gave tribes jurisdiction over their own families, thousands of Indian children who entered the social services system were adopted into non-Indian families. In their misguided efforts to help raise Indian people from poverty, churches and social service agencies mistook Indian culture as the culprit in the community’s problems. Therefore all things “Indian” were to be stamped out. Language, culture and the Indian tradition of child rearing that includes extended family, were viewed as backward and wrong. Understandably, many Indian adoptees internalized these messages and have had difficulty returning to their cultures. Rachel Kupcho, however, seems to have made her way back to her people with relative ease, achieving a comfort level that is enviable.

To know her story fully, I must meet all the mothers, the water caregivers who have contributed to her life and journey home.

Rachel is one of four ethnically diverse children adopted and raised by Lisa and Keith Kupcho in Chanhassen, Minnesota about 20 miles outside of Minneapolis. Small and brown at the front, the Kupcho home sits a bit further back from the street than do the other houses. I imagine a certain sweet shyness about the house. Inside, the walls are richly covered with paintings, photos and prints of women of color and their children, lots of children. Photos of the Kupcho children and a seemingly endless convoluted photo storyline of their friends’ children and grandchildren are everywhere.

Rachel and family Mary Annette Pember Lisa Kupcho, at right, and her daughters (l-r) Eve, Rachel, and Sarah, catch up around the kitchen table in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The Kupchos also have a son, Aaron. All their children were adopted.

We visited over coffee in her kitchen. There was an aura of love in that kitchen that seemed to speak of bottomless acceptance. I found myself moved to tears several times during the interview.

“Fortunately, I learned early on that I couldn’t fix everything in my children’s lives,” said Lisa.
Potentially, there was a lot to “fix” in being a white mother to her racially diverse clan. Now grown, the children are; Aaron, Filipino and Norwegian, Sarah, Scotch and Irish, Rachel,  Ojibwe and Italian and Eve, African American and German.

She recalled being confronted by an African American instructor years ago during a parenting class about adopting and raising mixed race children.

Lisa recovered from her sense of feeling unjustly accused and resisted storming out of the class.
“I realized that I needed to hear what this woman had to tell us. She prepared us for not thinking we could fix everything with parental love alone, “ she recalled.

Not only did she learn that she wouldn’t be able to isolate her children from the hurt of racism, she learned to be open to those who could mentor her through the parenting process.

Sandy Whitehawk Mary Annette Pember Sandy White Hawk, who directs the First Nations Orphan Association, began the powwow for adoptees and attended the most recent gathering with her husband, George. Enter Sandy White Hawk, a challenging mentor if there ever was one. Sandy recalls her Indian caregiver handing her, at 18 months, through the window of a pickup truck into the hands of white missionaries who had come to the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota to “help the Indians.” Sandy internalized her adoptive parents message that she was and ever would be a pagan, a member of an inferior race. She was also physically and sexually abused in the home. Seeking to soothe her wounded soul, she turned to drugs and alcohol. Nothing seemed to take away the hurt until she found recovery and  ‘came home’ over 20 years ago to her people and culture. She recalls the sense of relief and healing upon hearing the American Indian drum for the first time.

“The drum goes to that place where there are no words. As adoptees when we first hear it, we realize it has been what we were longing for.”

Since, she has been compelled, almost obsessed in an effort to share this experience with other adoptees, knowing in her belly that a healing path lies therein. Working with a number of elders and spiritual leaders including Jerry Dearly, Lakota, she helped bring the Wanblenica or Orphan’s Song and ceremony that wipes away tears to Indian adoptees. It was during a Wanblenica that she came into the Kupcho’s lives.

The first Wanblenica offered by Sandy’s group was presented at an annual National Indian Child Welfare Association conference in Duluth. Rachel had recently been hired at NICWA and was helping to organize the conference. Typically, her parents were there as well, pitching in where they could, happy to be of service to their daughter. The theme of the conference was “Reclaiming the Stolen Ones.”
Lisa recalls Keith’s look of surprise over the theme’s name. “Stolen? Ooooh, a bit harsh.” he said.
Rather than feeling threatened, Lisa saw the conference as a learning opportunity. Soothing Keith, she reminded him of their motto: “Whatever is good for our kids, is good for our family.”

Lisa has come to believe that there is a core piece of something missing for adopted kids, a piece of abandonment for which they must seek healing in their own way.  She has spoken often to her children about this need and assured them of her support if they choose to explore their biological background and culture more fully.


“Whatever I can do or bring into their lives that makes them more healthy and whole advances our relationship. When you’re a mother first, you do whatever you can to make your child feel well and whole and supported.”

She was excited and honored to participate in the Wanblenica .  In the end “Rachel’s growth has been our growth,” she affirms.

rachel and parents Mary Annette Pember Rachel Kupcho stood between her parents, Lisa and Keith, at the Wanblenica, the Lakota Orphan Song and Ceremony. Rachel said it was “the most profound moment of my life.”  

Lisa and Keith stood firmly behind Rachel during the ceremony, their hands resting on her shoulders.  Tears streamed uncontrollably down her face during the Wanblecheya. 
“I felt so unbelievably loved. It was the most profound moments of my life.” Rachel recalls.
For Lisa, the ceremony represented a healthy sense of completion. “It was an embrace and acknowledgment of loss,” she said.

Although she has never felt lost or misplaced, Rachel felt the relief of being welcomed into the circle of her culture at last. Not only was the event a homecoming, according to Rachel, it was an acknowledgment from her parents that her quest for her heritage is important.

“Up until that point, it was the only thing they weren’t able to give me, but they were present when I received this gift,” she remembers.

Rachel is now convinced that without the unconditional love and support of her parents, she would not be strong enough to do the work that has now become her passion and her calling.
Working to support the Indian Child Welfare Act is now her life.  She is a court advocate for ICWA and helps Sandy in her efforts to gain funding for a project to create a social work curriculum that includes knowledge about Indian families and culture. “Everything that has happened in my life has prepared me to do this work.”

Lisa sees Sandy as a wonderful mentor and role model for Rachel. “It has almost been a relief to have others in our lives who could give Rachel what she needs”, Lisa laughs, recalling some mother daughter challenges. In the end, for Lisa, she has gained a friend in Sandy.

The passion of these three women, from such different backgrounds, has intertwined to form a tapestry of family love and support. I am reminded of my earlier vision of the Great River and how it unites its many channels into one big river, much like these women or water caregivers have united to grow Rachel into an Anishinabikwe.

As the Adoptees Powwow comes to an end, the Sisseton Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Color guards insist on having their photo taken with Rachel. Wearing full eagle feather headdresses and military fatigues, they surround her creating a vision of embrace, acceptance and support. She has, indeed, arrived home.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

Evelyn Blanchard went beyond the notion of culturally-determined best interests in asserting that “the question of best interests is much broader in Indian country than it is elsewhere. Termination hearings sever not only rights of parents but rights of children and rights of tribes.” She is referring here, like Jimson, to the right of parents to follow culturally-specific child-rearing practices, but also to the right of children to be affiliated with their tribes and the right of tribes to ensure their cultural and demographic survival- that is, in Lurie’s terms, the right “to persist as distinctive social entities.” The spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act is not only to broaden the principle of best interests beyond its individualistic basis but also to assert that the balancing act that any determination of best interests entails should be the responsibility of the tribal community in question.
Blanhard, Jimson, Abourezk, and others argued that the best interests of the Indian child could only be ascertained in tribal terms, not in the indivualistic terms of the dominant society. While arguments for the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act stressed primarily the destructive consequences of extensive extra-tribal adoptions upon children, the devastating impact of these adoptions upon the families and tribes was also emphasized. Building on the principle of tribal self-determination, the ICWA offered a radical challenge to an individualistic concept of best interest by recognizing the interest of tribes in their children and of children in their tribes.

Pauline Turner Strong, What is an Indian Family? The Indian Child Welfare Act and the Renascence of Tribal Sovereignty (via adailyriot)

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Indian Child Welfare Act: Does ICWA Resolve All Issues Regarding Indian Child Custody Proceedings?

adailyriot:

No. As discussed later, ICWA expressly exempts from coverage several types of custody proceedings such as divorce proceedings in which custody of the child will remain with one of the parents, and proceedings in which the child is not a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe. IN addition, ICWA contains courts to adopt various interpretations of them, creating some uncertainties (and leading to some inconsistencies).

To help state courts resolve these uncertainties, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a set of guidelines in 1979 entitled “Guidelines for State Courts; Indian Child Custody Proceedings” (“BIA Guidelines”). The guidelines are not binding on the states as is ICWA, but state courts have given them great weight and rarely depart from them. However, as discussed below, courts have reached conflicting decisions in some areas even with the help of the Guidelines.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

brandx

Dear Birth Mother: screw you. Do you think I want to beg a complete stranger for a kid whose own mother didn’t want him? You messed up and now you sit in judgment of the perfect parents for your baby… What do you know about parenting? About perfection?

If, by some fluke, you do us the great honor of pronouncing us fit to be adoptive parents, what will we owe you? Will we have to support you for the rest of your life? Name the kid after you? And what will happen once you realize what you’ve done? Will you come back and reclaim your child, rip her away and change her name? How could we ever trust you? How could we ever believe you?

Who are you, anyway? What kind of person would get herself knocked up by a scummy guy who runs away when he hears the news? Haven’t you heard of birth control? Of AIDS? Of abortion? Of OB/GYNs? Of monogamy? Of love?

I don’t want my kid to be your mistake.

- Jana Wolff, Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother

Wolff’s adoptive son is the birth child of a Mexican-American mother and an African American father.

Adoption agencies officially recommend Wolff’s book as a resource for prospective parents.

(via brandx)

WOW.

Not that there are no words beyond that, but that all the words I have to say about Jana Wolff right now are incredibly ugly ones, and gendered slurs at that, because so profound is my disgust my only on-hand means of expressing it succinctly is so stigmatized because it is at the lowest levels of the same sexist, woman-shaming culture Wolff is calling on and playing into right now.

I guess HER secret thoughts were really just bigotry, but presented in an “honest” and “edgy” way. Surprise! Here’s some “secret thoughts” for ya:

Fuck Wolff, fuck her condescending, classist, racist, sexist, slut-presumptive and slut-shaming ass, and fuck the fucking horse she fucking rode in on.

(via nijireiki)

(via moniquill)

Showing 'Indianness' for ICWA Benefits Isn't Easy - ICTMN.com

adailyriot:

Proving Indian identity, a sometimes-difficult task, is a crucial challenge when dealing with Native children in the foster-care system. To be eligible for Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) services a child must be a member of a federally recognized tribe or eligible for enrollment, and that’s where some county ICWA services in Colorado have had problems.

Jill E. Tompkins, Penobscot, clinical professor of law and director of the American Indian Law Program at the University of Colorado, says most of the problems relate primarily to improper documentation and poor record-keeping by child-welfare workers. “Proving that a child who comes into the system is Indian poses a problem,” says Nancy Lucero, Choctaw, an assistant professor who works in ICWA and child welfare research at Colorado State University-Pueblo. “Identifying Indian children is a complex task.”

ICWA defines an Indian child as an individual who is unmarried and under the age of 18, is the biological child of a tribal member and is either a member of a federally recognized tribe or eligible for membership.

Documenting that all the requests to confirm eligibility have been sent to tribes is a major challenge, and records must be kept of their responses as well. Colorado handles at least 1,000 ICWA cases a year, and there are many ways a case can go wrong. In one instance, several siblings who have one parent in common were enrolled by a tribe, but one of the children was refused enrollment for no apparent reason. Lucero says tribes can be overwhelmed with hundreds of requests each week relating to whether children are eligible or not.

Another problem, Lucero notes, is that “the courts have so much power” in making sometimes-arbitrary distinctions. “In Denver County, judges were deciding that it’s not considered an ICWA case until the tribe says it is enrolled or eligible for enrollment. The judge might not accept enrollment evidence from the family” but instead insist that it come directly from the tribe.

Another big problem in Colorado is that there aren’t enough people willing to run foster homes or be foster parents. There are currently 800 Native children waiting to be placed in the state, says Grant Davis, Tlingit, a foster care recruiter for Denver Human Services. “Being Native, it’s hard [for some people] to get into [providing foster care],” he says. “Some people have misdemeanors or other crimes on their record so they [wrongly] think they might fail the background check. Or they may take the first step but don’t follow through. They have to take a class, then another class—it’s a long process.”

At a recent kinship pow wow a few Natives showed some interest in offering foster care, Davis says, but he didn’t know if they would follow through. He believes “Indian people are losing their culture and depending on white values,” contradicting the Native practice in which “we take care of our own.” In that loss of culture, he says, “kinship is going by the wayside.”



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Daughters Given Up for Adoption Seek Knowledge About Their Culture and Birth Mothers - ICTMN.com

adailyriot:

This year, for the first time in a long time, Mother’s Day didn’t bring with it the painful unknowns for Jeanne Winslow and Rachel Banks Kupcho of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Jeanne and her daughter Kupcho met for the second time last October, more than 35 years after Winslow gave her newborn up for adoption. “The day I got the call was the day I knew my life had changed forever,” says Winslow. That call on a cool October day carried the news that her daughter had found her and wanted to meet.

Their reunion was not a made-for-TV event filled with balloons and flowers. Winslow recalls that seeing her daughter for the first time in such a long time was quietly powerful, a bit like the first time she heard the drum and knew deep in her body that she was American Indian. Like Kupcho, Winslow was put up for adoption as a newborn and raised by non-Indians. Their story puts a quintessential Indian twist on the standard Mother’s Day tale of maternal perfection, and shows the inexorable pull of blood and spirit that so many Native people describe when they speak of wanting to know their culture.

I first met Kupcho in Minneapolis back in 2008 while doing a story about the challenges faced by American Indian adoptees who want learn more about their cultures and their birth parents. At the time, she knew only that her birth mother was Ojibwe from Minnesota. Her adoptive family was supportive and understanding of her efforts. A bright, confident young woman, Kupcho is convinced that without the unconditional love of her adoptive parents she would not have been strong enough to pursue her passion and calling of working to support the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). While working with the National Indian Child Welfare Association, she met Sandy White Hawk, executive director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute in Minneapolis. White Hawk, an adoptee herself, founded the organization to advocate for Native adoptees in accordance with ICWA and to help unite adoptees with their birth families, cultures and tribes. In October, they informed me that they had found Kupcho’s birth mother, Winslow, a children’s counselor living in Iowa.

Winslow and Kupcho, along with Kupcho’s 18-month-old daughter Mika, quickly arranged a meeting. Kupcho recalls that Winslow seemed to be in quite a hurry to meet her. She soon found out why. Winslow’s birth mother (and Kupcho’s grandmother), Audrey Banks, who Winslow had met 20 years earlier, was dying. Winslow immediately rushed everyone to her mother’s bedside. “There were four generations in that room meeting for the first time,” Winslow recalls. “That was the first thing Kupcho and I did together. It was the greatest privilege and honor to be there with her. It was a very healing experience. This has all been about circles connecting. At first, it was just my circle but now I see that so many others are interconnected.”

MD 2 270x220 Daughters Given Up for Adoption Seek Knowledge About Their Culture and Birth Mothers

Jeanne reading book to her granddaughter, Mika

Kupcho didn’t know it at the time, but she had previously connected with her grandmother—Audrey was well known and respected in the Minneapolis Native community for her work helping social service agencies maintain compliance with ICWA. Like Kupcho, she earned a master’s degree in social work in order to better serve Native children. “There has definitely been something bigger at work in my life; there has been a path I am meant to walk,” Kupcho says of this coincidence.

In many ways, Audrey’s experience as a young Ojibwe woman may have helped set the direction of that path. Born on the Leech Lake reservation, she was sent to the Pipestone Indian boarding school at age 9 and remained there for the remainder of her childhood. After moving to Minneapolis she gave birth to three boys and three girls. According to her daughters, social workers from Catholic Charities showed up at her bedside after each birth, pressuring the single mother to give the girls up for adoption. “She said that she felt coerced by the social workers that said that the girls would have better lives if they were raised by white people,” recalls Bernadine Harroun, Audrey’s second daughter. “I think that influenced her decision to go into social work and help keep Indian kids with Indian families.”

Bernadine and her younger sister, Winslow were adopted by the same family and raised together. Bernadine initiated the search for Audrey and Winslow and was responsible for their first meeting in 1989. They learned that Audrey, all of her children and Kupcho all lived and grew up within 20 miles of each other.

“Most of the stories of Native adoptees finding their families are like miracles,” White Hawk says. The distinguishing factor for Native adoptees, according to White Hawk is that the children were prayed for by generations of parents who knew hard times were coming. “Native people have that spiritual pull, like a spiritual umbilical cord that compels us to seek out our families,” she says.

Many Native adoptees report that hearing the traditional drum often activates that spiritual pull. Indeed Winslow recalls the first time she heard the drum. “I heard it and I knew I was Indian. The drum goes to some place so deep,” she recalls. (She didn’t know it at the time, but her uncle, well-known activist Dennis Banks was one of the people at that drum. He was giving a presentation at Winslow’s suburban high school about the happenings at Wounded Knee.)

Except for the strange longing awakened in her by the drum, Winslow says life in her adoptive suburban home was good. Ironically, because of this positive experience, she was able to make the difficult decision to relinquish her own daughter for adoption. Newly independent and sexually inexperienced, she found herself pregnant at age 19. “I knew that I couldn’t give my daughter the chance she deserved unless I did something drastic,” she recalls.

With the support of her adoptive family, Winslow put Kupcho up for adoption. “Leaving the hospital without her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. Over time, however, she was at peace with her decision although birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day were hard. “I never stopped wondering about her,” says Winslow.

There was always a lingering, fear, too that Kupcho would be angry with her if and when they reconnected. She says, however, that her meetings with Kupcho and Mika have been smooth and joyous. She compares it to dancing in the circle for the first time with Audrey. “Somehow my feet knew what to do,” Winslow recalls.

“I can’t imagine the pain Winslow went through in making the brave choice to give me up for adoption. I give her tons of credit,” says Kupcho, adding that Winslow needn’t have feared she would be angry. “If anything her love gave me the wonderful life I have now. The home I was adopted into has afforded me the ability to do the work that I do.”

Kupcho is starting a new job with a non-profit organization that licenses foster homes for Native children. Her main focus is creating permanent, supportive homes. Although her adoptive placement was loving and good, advocating for a child to be in a loving home is not specific enough. “Being with family is ideal,” she says. “Love is not always enough. Going to the occasional pow wow is not enough. We need to know about our traditions and culture. Even knowing you’re Indian is not enough. With the experience of meeting my birth family, I understand this more fully.

“As a mother and as an adoptee I have a better sense of myself. I have a stronger, more confident gait. This is the only thing my adoptive parents haven’t been able to give me.”

Finding her birth mother, however, was not the whole key to Kupcho’s search. “I needed to know where I came from and make that tribal connection. When visiting the reservation I am suddenly among family and I feel good,” she says.

Both Kupcho and Winslow report that they are going forward with their new relationship without expectations and going with that process as it unfolds. Their first Mother’s Day was one of quiet joy. “I’m a mother, now I have somebody,” explains Winslow. “Plus it’s great to be a grandma.”

“Mother’s Day is definitely more complicated now, but only in my mind. I’m taking it as it comes,” says Kupcho, laughing.

Sandy White Hawk’s message for Mother’s Day and every day thereafter: “We need to encourage our birth mothers to forgive themselves and remember we wouldn’t be here without them. We need to tell them that regardless of the kinds of lives we have had, we can have good lives from this day forward and for that we are grateful.”

NOTE: This is an update to a 2010 story that was published on DailyYonder.com.



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Pre-Thanksgiving March Will Memorialize Iowa’s Lost Children - ICTMN.com

adailyriot:

(nov. 20, 2011)

In the days before Thanksgiving, mourners and protesters will participate in the Ninth Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children. The pilgrimage takes walkers from South Sioux City, Nebraska, over the Missouri river and into Sioux City, Iowa, where Native children have for years been swept up by the child-welfare system and even died in its custody. The route evokes the passage of Nebraska tribes, including Poncas, Omahas, Santees and Winnebagos, who came to the city looking for jobs after World War II, as did Sioux people from South Dakota and others.

“They were seeking a better life,” said Frank LaMere, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and executive director of Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, which is organizing the march. “But it didn’t work out that way.” The consequences have been devastating for the Native children of Sioux City, surrounding Woodbury County and Iowa as a whole, according to LaMere, who is a national leader in child-welfare and juvenile-justice issues. “If you’re a Native parent in this county, you’re many times more likely to lose your kids than a white parent. In recent years, three of our Native children—Hannah Thomas, Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell and Larissa Starr-Red Owl—have died after being taken from their families. We march to remember them and all the children who have been separated from their families and communities.”

Memorial March Poster 2011 270x349 Pre Thanksgiving March Will Memorialize Iowas Lost ChildrenThe march has changed lives. Several years ago, an Internet image of the march inspired a Native boy to stand his ground. “The child had acquiesced to adoption into a white home after years of being told, ‘your people have forgotten about you, your people are drunks and no-goods,’” said LaMere, who was present at a final adjudication in the case. Then one day, the boy was clicking around the web and saw a photograph of the march. “He was shocked. He told the court he’d been lied to. He said he saw hundreds of people looking for their lost children. ‘They were marching for me,’ the boy said. ‘They were looking for me.’ He balked at the adoption and was returned to his tribe.”

On another occasion, an adoptive family watching a television segment on the march happened to see a Native mother who’d lost her parental rights years before carrying a baby picture they recognized. “All excited, the adoptive mother called me and arranged to bring the child to be reunited with the birth mother,” recalled LaMere.

Events surrounding this year’s march—which is also supported by other local groups, including the Community Initiative for Native Children and Families, a coalition of government agencies and nonprofits—begin November 22 with a prayer gathering at 7 p.m. at the Marina Inn, in South Sioux City. The next morning, November 23, at 9 a.m., the marchers progress, rain or shine, into Sioux City, where they stop at the Woodbury County Courthouse and the Department of Human Services. In both places, strangers decide the fate of Native people, according to LaMere.

The reception at each building is expected to be different than it was nine years ago, when a sheriff tried to stop marchers from entering the courthouse, said LaMere. This year, the group will be welcomed and will have an opportunity to read a letter calling for a national investigation into non-compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. “There are no grey areas in ICWA,” said LaMere. “But racist judges, attorneys, guardians ad litem and more are feeding the system, making money off our kids with their decisions.”

Two special guests during the event will include Cade and Jace Courtright, 14-year-old Rosebud Sioux twins who’ve just been reunited with their mother with the help of LaMere and Four Directions program director, Judy Yellowbank, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Cade relies on a wheelchair, and Jace is blind, so LaMere suggested the twins meet the march at the Four Directions Community Center dinner that closes the event. However, the boys insisted on making the journey with the other marchers. “We’ll do whatever is necessary to make that happen,” said LaMere. “An elder once told us that the prayers of children are very powerful, more powerful than those of adults. Those boys’ presence during this time is a gift to us.”

Things are changing in Woodbury County, he added. “When it comes to Native child-welfare decisions, we have a place at the table now, along with the Department of Human Services. They even support our parenting and leadership programs. We can hold their feet to the fire on the issues, and no matter how heated the meetings get, we come away from them knowing we are going to move forward together, as collaborators. We in the Woodbury County Native community are winning the battle to keep our families together, one family, one child at a time.”

Recently, LaMere sat in on a meeting concerning an Omaha child. The judge announced that the tribe had intervened, and the child was going home. “Everyone’s jaws dropped, including mine. Hopefully, the good we see growing here will spread, and more of our children nationwide will be going—and staying—home.”



(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

The State and the American Indian: Who Gets the Child?

adailyriot:

In 1978 Congress enacted on of the most sweeping statutes in he field of Indian law, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Prior to the ICWA, cases involving Indian children were resolved within the general framework of Indian law principles governing civil jurisdiction, that is, when all contacts were within Indian Country, tribal jurisdiction was exclusive, and when there were few reservation contacts, state courts possessed jurisdiction. This dominance of judge-made principles was altered by the ICWA, whose underlying premise was that Indian tribes as sovereign governments have a vital interest in any decision as to whether Indian children should be from their families. Upon enacting the ICWA, Congress declared that

it is the policy of this Nation to 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 from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture.

The emphasis of the act was to make certain that the cultural values of Indian tribes were not denied the orphaned Indian child, and to further ensure that tribal government possessed the legal means for protecting its minor members. In so doing, Congress codified the disparate court decisions that had begun to form the body of Indian child welfare law, provided jurisdictional safeguards for tribal governments, and established an order of preference for the adoption and placement of Indian children. Congress specifically addressed its relationship with Indian tribes, Indian children, adn Indian culture when it acknowledged

that Congress, through statutes, treaties, and the general course of dealing with Indian tribes, has assumed the responsibility for the protection and preservation of Indian tribes; and that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes that their children; that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and… that the states have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.

The Supreme Court, in upholding the constitutionality of the ICWA, followed precedents established in earlier court cases that recognized the unique status of Indian tribes as semi-sovereign nations dependent on the United States for protection. In 1832, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall recognized American Indian tribes as “domestic, dependent nations” with full tribal sovereignty, having recognized territorial boundaries, within which their authority is subject only to congressional authority. This landmark legal case stated that “the treaties and laws of the United States contemplate the Indian territory as completely separated from  that of the states and provide that all intercourse with them [the Indian nations] will be carried on exclusively by the government of the union.

More than one hundred years later, in August 1970, President Richard Nixon stated before Congress that

it is long past time that the Indian policies of the Federal government begin to recognize and build upon the capacities and insights of the Indian people. The time has come to break decisively with the past and create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.

As the nation approaches the end of the twentieth century, and despite President Nixon’s admonition, the federal government still struggles with issues of extreme importance to American Indian people. One such question is, what entity will determine the future of Indian children who, through no fault of their own, enter into the Anglo American child-placement system? In this essay, I will address several questions arising from the passage of the ICWA, court cases, and presidential proclamations. Why did Congress recognize that Indian tribes require special treatment and continue to recognize statues and treaties made during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, most of which have been abrogated by the U.S. government? Why were American Indians, as an ethnic group, given special treatment at all? Why was the American Indian perceived differently and accorded special treatment and specific legislation? What was considered to be special about the Indian child? Why did Indian children need to be protected? From what, from whom, and why? why were Indian children singled out and not other children? Why does the United States Recognize the need for “the protection and preservation of Indian tribes and their resources”?

To answer these questions, I provide a brief but important review of the evolution of state policy toward the American Indian from the development of the you United States to the passage and implementation if the ICWA. I then answer the question, Who gets the Indian child?

(check out the article)

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Dr. Phil Show To Feature Perspective of Adoptive Parents in 'Battle Over Baby Veronica' - ICTMN.com

adailyriot:

Today, the DR. PHIL Show will tell the story of  Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the non-native adoptive parents of 3-year-old Veronica (Cherokee), who was removed from her home in South Carolina at the age of 2 this past New Year’s Eve to live with her biological father, Dusten Brown, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a neighboring city of the Tahlequah-based Cherokee Nation.

The widely publicized and controversial custody case, which has been going on since 2009 when Veronica was four months old, has been heralded by some as a victory for the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Cherokee Nation, and for Veronica, who will remain with her family who have “a deeply embedded relationship” with their heritage, as the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling states.

But others have criticized the decision as destructive to the toddler and an injustice to the adoptive parents.

In a taped interview, the Capobiancos sat down with TV talk-show host Dr. Phil McGraw to share their anger and frustrations at losing Veronica and at the ICWA of 1978, which gives placement preference of adopted American Indian children first to family members, second to members of the same tribe and third to members of another tribe.

“The Child Welfare Act is destroying families,” Matt told Dr. Phil. “Veronica’s our daughter.” The couple was present in the delivery room for Veronica’s birth, and Matt cut the umbilical cord. “I just can’t put it into words how incredible it felt to have a little girl.”

Veronica’s birth mother, Christina Maldonado, signed the adoption papers for the Capobiancos to take Veronica without Brown’s consent. When Brown learned of the adoption, he immediately began pursuing custody of his daughter.

In a preview clip posted to the DR. PHIL Show website, Dr. Phil questioned Chrissi Nimmo, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, why the ICWA has the power to overrule a mother’s decision. “Does this mother need the permission of the tribe to do what she wants with the child if it’s not to the child’s detriment?”

Nimmo explained “…one of the concepts of the law is that the tribe has an interest in protecting its children.”

The ICWA was designed to preserve the relationship a child has with its relatives and its tribe, Craig Dorsay, a Portland, Oregon-based attorney who has worked on thousands of ICWA-related cases, explained to Indian Country Today Media Network. “In the South Carolina case, the tribe is painted as the villain,” Dorsay said. “But you have to remember the tribe is interested in the health and welfare of the child.”

Although non-native adoptive families can promise to expose children to ceremonies and culture, there is no substitute for immersion. “In the Indian community, grandparents, aunts and uncles, they all share equal responsibility for the child, and the child’s life is enriched by this,” Dorsay said.

Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, agrees that the ruling ensures Baby Veronica grows up surrounded by her culture and people and the rights and responsibilities that come with it. “I can’t say enough about the importance of a child’s rights throughout their lives,” Cross said. “These are things as simple as voting in tribal elections, running for office, taking advantage of tribal scholarships and benefits, participating in customary and ceremony rights, plus their relationships with extended families. It’s about a notion of a sense of belonging. Indian children are as tied to their extended families as they are to their parents. There’s a rich network of culture there, and that’s what we rely on for wellbeing.”

But tonight’s episode of the DR. PHIL Show paints the decision to remove Baby Veronica from the home of her adoptive parents as a heart-breaking “nightmare,” severing a young girl’s ties with the only caretakers she has ever known.

While Nimmo defends the purpose of the ICWA, she is repeatedly countered by Troy Dunn, host of the TV show The Locator, a non-native brother to an adopted American Indian man, and the person who pitched Dr. Phil to feature the story of Baby Veronica on the DR. PHIL Show.

While Nimmo is explaining the purpose of the ICWA, Dunn interrupts and alleges Veronica’s background is barely Indian.

“Have you told Dr. Phil how much of this child’s blood is actually Indian? Because I think we’re leading people to believe this is an Indian thing,” Dunn said.

“She is an Indian baby,” Nimmo replied.

“This child is more Hispanic than Indian, more white than Indian, more Asian almost than Indian,” Dunn charges. “There is like a drop of Indian blood in this child….” he said. “…[I]t’s a massive warning to any parent in America right now who’s considering adopting a child, because if there’s a drop of Indian blood in this child, this is a possibility, this event could happen to somebody else,” Dunn said. “Somebody from the tribe—not a birth parent—a tribal member can step up a make a claim, which is what drives some families into hiding.”

Nimmo clarified that the law applies to tribal citizens, not to native heritage. “It’s not about a drop of blood; this father is a citizen of the government. It’s not just if you have Indian in your background.”

The debate over the ICWA continued on the DR. PHIL Show with outside opinions in support and opposition to the act.

Lastly, Dr. Phil issues his opinion:

“To tear this child aware from y’all in an abrupt fashion like that, there’s no question that it was traumatic for her,” he told the Capobiancos. “There will be real issues for this child going forward. I will tell you, however, that research suggests long term that children can recover from this; children are resilient. She can have a happy and adjusted life in a new environment if in fact that environment is loving, nurturing and productive for her.”

Dr. Phil did suggest the couple should have permission to see Veronica. “The mature thing to do would be for her to have visitation; it puts the baby’s best interest above everyone else’s,” Dr. Phil said.

The Capobiancos, whose request for a rehearing in the custody case of Baby Veronica in South Carolina Supreme Court was denied on August 23, appealed on October 1 for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. They are still awaiting a response.

For local DR. PHIL Show channel and show times, visit drphil.com/shows/listing/.



So here’s what’s really ridiculous about this case, they never had the father’s permission. And even without the ICWA in most (if not all) jurisdictions this adoption still would not have been legal. They made this harder on Veronica by fighting for the last 20 months even though they knew the father had never actually surrendered his rights. They fought this case knowing full well that even without the ICWA, South Carolina adoption law & Oklahoma adoption law was not truly in their favor. Despite the hype the adoption was never finalized & they knew when she was 4 months old that they were acting in violation of the ICWA & that the mother hadn’t afforded him an opportunity to be part of this child’s life. 

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

brandx

Adoption is a White privilege.

elledy:

brandx:

lasoran:

girljanitor:

searchingforknowledge:

magicalorphanboy:

In 1904, a group of forty New York orphans were sent to live with Catholic families in Arizona. However, the Catholics turned out to be Mexicans and the local Anglos were so outraged at this race boundary transgression that…

TW THIS COMMENT IS FUCKING AWFUL

XD Maybe your children would stop being “stolen” from you if you stopped fucking like rabbits without the ability to care for your own kids. Then, they wouldn’t be put into adoption agencies and adopted by people who “AREN’T A PART OF MY MASTER RACE” hurr durr.

And is it any wonder international adoptions aren’t available to shit-hole countries in Africa? Why would we send innocent children to live in deplorable fucking conditions?

Take responsibility for your own mistakes. Keep it in your pants if you can’t care for a child. If you know you’ll want to adopt them out and you’re pregnant, FIND SOMEONE. GET INVOLVED! FIND A SET OF PARENTS *YOU* APPROVE OF.

Don’t blame me for the bad behavior of previous generations of white people. This isn’t because white people hate you and want to steal your children; it’s because we AS FELLOW HUMANS REGARDLESS OF RACE/SEX/ORIENTATION/FAITH want to provide a beautiful, precious child with a loving home. Stop being so self-absorbed and paranoid as to think this is all about hurting you.

Check your irresponsibility privileges.

Guatemalan Mothers Drugged and Locked in Closet, Babies Sold to American Couples

Stolen Generations of 25,000 Aboriginal children in Australia forcibly separated from their Parents

You can get away with buying babies around the world as a U.S. citizens: “It’s not a crime.”

UN Army Soldiers Commit Rape and Genocide in Korea, Adopting their Victims’ Children

US States Profit Whenever Native Children Are Taken From Families and Put Into Foster Care

Western Adoption Industry Purposefully Destroys Non-Western Cultures & Traditions

International Adoption Industry Grows to Realize Annual Profits in the Multi-BILLIONS

^ White people, it is time for you to come collect your own.

disgusting white people on my dash again, what a surprise

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