5 History: Project Papoose

The Editors


Lyslo Project
Arnold Lyslo Project


Editor’s Thoughts:

Using adoption to disrupt Indian families, North American Indian children are placed in orphanages, foster homes or with non-Indian parents.  The American government creates the Indian Adoption Project (IAP) run by Arnold Lyslo in New York.  These little Indian kids aren’t black or Asian but exotic; our race is romanticized by Hollywood, and anxious adoptive parents sign up.  Couples who had trouble conceiving a baby, or were too old to adopt, could have one or two Indian kids right away.

Lyslo travels to different states to convince the social workers to line up white parents for the flood of Indian kids being snatched up for adoption.  Above is an article that ran in the MIAMI NEWS newspaper about OPERATION PAPOOSE.  [June 25, 1964]

In 16 states, 85% of Indian children were removed from their tribal parents.  Then 395 parents agree to take part in Lyslo’s study and answer questions about their adopted Indian kids every year. The kids themselves were not interviewed.

Lyslo and others claimed Indian children were unwanted, not abducted, (no mention of assimilation or genocide) – so this is the reason these children needed to be adopted.  ARENA (Adoption Resource Exchange of North America) continues and expands after the IAP.  States create their own programs, like New York’s OUR INDIAN PROGRAM.  Churches like the Mormons and Catholics run their own programs.  Thousands of Indian children are wiped from tribal rolls and disappear into white communities.  States seal their records and amend the child’s birth certificate.

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

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


Further Reading:

Indian Adoption Project

Bilchik, S. (2001, April 24). [Keynote address]. Speech presented at the 19th Annual Protecting our Children Conference, Anchorage, AK.

Child Welfare League of America. (1960, April). Indian Adoption Project. New York: Author.

Demer, L. (2001, May). Native receive apology for 1950s racial adoptions. Pathways Practice Digest, 1-2.

Lyslo, A. (1962, December). Suggested criteria to evaluate families to adopt American Indian children through Indian Adoption Project. New York: Child Welfare League of America.

Lyslo, A. (1964). The Indian Adoption Project: An appeal to catholic agencies to participate. Catholic Charities Review, 48(5), 12-16.

Lyslo, A. (1967, March). 1966 year end summary of the Indian Adoption Project. New York: Child Welfare League of America.

Lyslo, A. (1967). Adoptive placement of Indian children. Catholic Charities Review, 51(2), 23-25.

Lyslo, A. (1968, April). The Indian Adoption Project – 1958 through 1967: Report of its accomplishments, evaluation and recommendations for adoption services to Indian children. New York: Child Welfare League of America.

The new anthology STOLEN GENERATIONS: Survivors of the Indian Adoption Projects and 60s Scoop, Book 3 in the Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, edited by Trace L. Hentz, was published in 2016..


Called Home: The Roadmap Copyright © (c) 2016 Second Edition by The Editors. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.