ABOUT THE ARTIST: Terry Niska Watson

hopi dancerThis illustration I painted years ago when I was in a very dark place in my life.  This is a painting of a subject matter that has always drawn my interest that is the Native life and the beauty of tradition, family and nature.  As my sister, Elizabeth Blake, said about this painting that still hangs on my wall, “the most interesting part is that the face is not visible.  That is how it is when you do not know your birth family.”

…My father is more of a mystery, but from what I do know, he was an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa tribe of Minnesota, Mississippi band.   He was raised by a paternal great aunt and her husband, who I assume had the Murray surname.  Apparently his mother, Josephine (Rice) Murray/ Maydwayausung died young and his father, George Murray could not take care of him.  He had a brother, whose name I do not know either, but I am investigating every lead I can get.

My father worked in the CCC camps and then joined the Army in 1950 and served until 1954, where he received a Korean Service ribbon, United Nations Service medal, Army of Occupation (Germany), Defense service medal and a Meritorious Unit Commendation.  He was a paratrooper part of the time and he reenlisted in 1955, according to adoption records, but no military service records reflect this.  He also received monetary compensation as a disabled veteran and this carried over into our lives as adoptees, as we got some financial help with school for a few short years.  It is unfortunate that apparently, my birth father became an alcoholic, what led up to this, I will never know.

I have gleaned some information from the Children’s Home Society paper-work which states “the birthfather reluctantly concluded that he and the birthmother could not care for their children and that the best plan for them would be commitment as wards of the state.  He was most unwilling to think in terms of adoption and could not discuss this rationally.  He became depressed and denied that the problem had to be solved that way.”  The same paperwork goes on to elaborate, “It appeared to the caseworker that the birthfather could accept guardianship just as he had the foster home placement simply because he recognized that his children needed care.  But he wanted to believe that he could still call them his own and that he was their father.”  I find this very sad and disheartening to think that my father tried to be a father and was told he couldn’t.  Because of my birthmother’s confirmed schizophrenia and inability to care for us, he lost his will and his right to father his own children—was this what made him dive deeper into the drink?  One can never be sure and this bothers me: I am so sorry, Father.   

NISKA_adult

Terry Niska Watson (White Earth Ojibwe) contributed her reunion story in the anthology CALLED HOME (Book 2) Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.

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