Trace L Hentz
In my dream I’m on a mountainside with an elder who tells me to look at all the lights flickering as far as the eyes could see. He tells me, “…those are new souls coming, coming soon, and many will be adopted out. Some will be lost birds like you. Some will need help. No matter who raises them, we still dream in Indian…”
That dream stayed with me.
No matter who adopts us, new parents will never erase our blood, ancestry, DNA… or our dreams…
No matter how much I want to believe things have changed for the better in Indian Country and in our world, the reality is there is still an “adoption-land” waiting to scoop up more children and more children who need healthy moms and dads. This anthology and this entire book series will be their roadmap.
This is the third edition you are now reading.
There are many adoptees called home, but very few are back living on tribal lands. It’s a testament to the courage to be in reunion as adult adoptees, as survivors who were part of the government plans to rid the world of Indigenous and First Nation People. Adoption didn’t kill our spirit but it hurt us deeply.
After ten years of researching the topic and history of adoption, sadly, states like South Dakota and South Carolina are still violating federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 when Native children are supposed to be placed with family, close kin, a relative, or with a different tribe. “Stranger adoptions” with non-Indian parents is supposed to be the absolute last resort or rare occurrence. However, it can still happen, you can read the chapter on Baby V.
Let’s face it: With a shortage of Native adoptive and foster homes in the US and Canada, children will be lost and later called Lost Birds, adoptees and Stolen Generations. Indian Country as a whole is still impoverished, living with daily reminders of broken treaties, remote reservations, soul-crushing poverty, loss of land, shortages of language speakers, and generations who are dealing with post-traumatic stress after centuries of war, residential boarding school abuse, food scarcity and neglect. Since so many are still subjected to Third World conditions, Indigenous children will continue to be taken and placed into foster care and adoptions. (Wasn’t this the original plan to erase all Indians?) Native American moms and dads can still lose their child (or all their children) in courtrooms of white privilege and cultural insensitivity.
On a visit to Brock University in 2014, Patricia Busbee (co-editor of the earlier editions) and I learned how foster and adoptive parents are invited to bring their Native child to First Nations Friendship Centres in the Niagara, Ontario area. Children are invited to hear stories, learn their language and songs, while their new adoptive parents can participate in activities, too. The entire family is welcome and nourished in this cultural exchange.
Indian Country needs to look to its northerly neighbors in Canada and start its own US-wide “Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC),” and reinvent and redesign its own child care protection systems for the sake of its own future generations. Maine is the only state with a TRC.
After many adoptees contacted me wanting to find their first families, I can say with certainty adoptees are CALLED HOME, called in dreams to be reunited with family members and their many nations. These adoptees do find a way to reconnect despite difficulties with archaic laws, a clueless public, biased lawmakers, closed adoptions, sealed court documents and falsified birth records.
It’s long overdue that North America opens their closed adoption files. When this happens, if this happens, the entire world will finally comprehend how adoption was actually colonization and the trafficking of Indigenous Indian children by the “Nation Builders” who call themselves America and Canada. We in North America are literally educated to be ignorant of the true history of our colonization, by the nation builders who use it and what really happened here. Hiding it only perpetuates continued racism and intolerance.
The fog is lifting now and it’s time we shine a light on the hidden history of the Indian Adoption Projects and Programs like ARENA, the Indian Adoption Projects, Operation Papoose, Project Rainbow and the 60s Scoop. You will read about these programs in this book.
For the writers in this book, adoption was the tool of assimilation, erasing our identity and sovereign rights as tribal citizens, intending it to be permanent.
For too many of us, states still won’t release our files to us, even as adults. We have included a section in this book for adoptees who are still searching for clues after their closed adoptions. Many adoptees are doing DNA tests with relatives and to find relatives..
As these books travel to new lands and new hands, I pray that adoptive parents accept that we cannot be the child they want us to be, or dream us to be, and that we are born with our own unique biology, ancestry and characteristics. We will always dream in Indian.
One thing I am learning from other adoptees is this: return to your tribe well, in a good way, with a good heart and a strong mind. With an epidemic of historical trauma, there are already enough broken souls on the rez and in our families. After they get to know you, become familiar with you, and know who you are, you will be welcomed home. This could take a long time. You might meet some relatives who accept you immediately! Other relatives, even our own mothers, may not accept us when we return. I know this is hard for some of you. I know it is hard because I never met my mother Helen.
Closed adoption left adoptees like me lodged between two worlds yet not quite fitting in any world.
So I dream of a new world where children and their safety are top priority, not who adopts them. I dream we are now working harder to unify families, preserving family units, helping parents care for their own children, not separating them unless absolutely necessary. Children should never be placed with paying strangers or paid caretakers if there is kin, other family members who are willing.
Our Day in Court
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has unearthed thousands of records of residential school abuses and documenting many of those survivors (including 60s Scoop Adoptees) who will finally and eventually receive settlements, reparations and an apology.*
These same practices affected thousands of American Indians in the US and someday I hope we will have our day in court. Then there will be congressional hearings for the survivors of the Indian Adoption Projects, an investigation into the government’s adoption policies and practices in the US, so then adoptees can be given our original birth certificates, and our history will finally be acknowledged, known about and widely taught.
By writing these wrongs, in our own words, in TWO WORLDS and CALLED HOME and the new anthology STOLEN GENERATIONS (2016)*, we ask that our own tribes create a Welcome Home for their adoptees, enroll us or re-enroll us, facilitate a reunion with our relatives, offer us a place to stay, give us a naming ceremony, and reeducate us on own tribal history.
For Lost Birds/adoptees coming after us, when they find this new book and the books Two Worlds and Stolen Generations, adoptees themselves documented this history and evidence.
Together we have created a roadmap, a resource for new adoptees who will wish to journey back to their First Nations and understand exactly what happened and why.
There is no doubt in my mind that adoption changes us, clouds the mind and steals years of our lives, but there is something non-Indians can never take and that is our dreams and the truth we are resilient!
Trace L Hentz, editor
*In 2016, a new anthology STOLEN GENERATIONS: Survivors of the Indian Adoption Projects and 60s Scoop (vol. 3) was published by Blue Hand Books, ISBN: 978-0692615560. In bookstores, Amazon.com and Kindle. [For more information: www.bluehandbooks.org]