OUR HISTORY

“The history books are awash with the atrocities leveled against the Indigenous peoples of North America since European settlers first arrived on this continent in the 15th century.  Despite this consensus among historians, the United States federal government has never formally acknowledged how its policies directly led to the near eradication of the Native inhabitants of this land.  A formal acknowledgement needs to occur.  Healing for all parties begins with the truth.” ―Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project

“They are committing the greatest indignity human beings can inflict on one another: telling people who have suffered excruciating pain and loss that their pain and loss were illusions.” ―Elie Wiesel, Night

…Shannon Smith, executive director of the ICWA Law Center in Minneapolis, explained that the Indian Child Welfare Act federal law was created in the wake of devastating “kill the Indian, save the child” practices designed to “educate the Indian out of a child.”  “If you could remove children from families, they would be better off, have a better way of life, [and] a better future.   Not only were Native American kids losing their language, customs, and cultural heritage, but tribes were losing their future members.  By 1978, tribes recognized these practices were destroying the ability of tribes to continue to exist.”  [http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2016/04/08/3754462/indian-child-welfare-act-case-goldwater/]

…It was for this reason the Department of Indian Affairs in Canada and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the United States, shared ideas about the eradication of Indigenous minds through the effective use of the residential schools for the purpose of assimilating Indigenous peoples by way of attack on the fundamental base of the knowledge systems and their realities, their languages.

One residential school survivor tells her story through her children’s storybook.  She states,

We were told what time to get up, what time to eat, when to pray and when to go to the bathroom.  Everything was timed; everything was regulated, and I realize that during that process they had stolen my will…my will to do anything and my freedom of choice in all matters.  If we didn’t do what we were told they’d take you to the principal’s office and they’d pull down your pants and give it to you on your bare ass.  Also during this process, we weren’t allowed to speak our language and we were taught nothing about our traditional ways, or our heritage or anything about our culture… (Harper, 1993, p. 3).

Since the inception of residential schools in Canada, Indigenous people have suffered a serious blow to our communities and our ways of life, the most prominent loss being the loss of our languages.  Taiaiake Alfred states in his book, Peace, Power and Righteousness, “Our bodies may live without our languages, lands, or freedom, but they will be hollow shells.  Even if we survive as individuals, we will no longer be what we Rotinonhsyonni call Onkwehonwe—the real and original people—because the communities that make us true indigenous people will have been lost.” (Alfred, 1999, p. xv).

My parents who adopted me had no idea I was stolen,” said Nina Segalowitz, a child of what’s known as the 60s Scoop. “They had no idea the scope of how many kids…had been stolen and were in the system.”  Segalowitz grew up in Montreal, the daughter of a white Jewish father and a Filipino mother.  But she was born Anne-Marie Thrasher, in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.  LINK: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/real-talk-on-race-sixties-scoop-not-recognized-1.3494343

Telling our stories is a critical piece to healing the trauma of Indigenous adoption and so, as an adoptee, it is important to be both a teller and someone who “bears witness” to the stories of others.  Although I am happy to be closing the door on telling mine, there are so many stories yet to be told.—Raven Sinclair, LAND OF GAZILLION ADOPTEES

“Storytelling is an important aspect of Ojibwe culture.  My ability to tell a good tale can be used as a tool for teaching and connecting.  Even though I grew up outside of my Native community and culture, my stories helped me to become a part of the community that I had lost.  Adoption is part of the contemporary tales that Native people need to tell…” —Tamara Buffalo, published author-poet-visual artist

One by one, as the years pass me by, I still find it so amazing that the grief and trauma that I still carry from being separated at birth from my mother continues to follow me around and exposes itself at the most inconvenient times. I feel like my heart and spirit is that of a gypsy where although I physically stay in one place, my soul keeps wandering around searching and gets so lost. I often stuff it back into its compartment but at times it just creeps out with no warning and slaps me upside the head and I am forced to confront the emotions time and time again. I don’t know that I will ever actually organize this all within myself and find a place of comfort and peace with it all.” —Janey Martin Hart, Red Lake Ojibwe Split Feather Adoptee, 2011
Scott LaVergne left a comment on “American Indian Adoptees”:  Thank you. I am a father who lost his daughter to this insidious practices of welfare.  Thank you for exposing its underbelly.  I think great shame should exist for all those parents who make a child live secrets.  We are all learn or should know secrets are tantamount to lies, corruption.  I am angry my daughter has grown up to support the people that raised her in secret and what they care about is that their family not get broken up?  Wow, wow, wow? wtf eh?  Who the hell are they kidding? Apparently my daughter has bought into it, she carries a picture of the welfare lady who played the cruelest role in this whole mess smiling her ass off in the hand-off.  What’s worse they (the adoptive family, including my daughter) have idealized that moment.  She knows she is a lost bird herself now.  I am so angry how systematically mothers are taken advantage of…encouragement, not discouragement, to keep their own child.
“The child is everything.  They’re the gift from the creator.  They are life.  They are the ones who are going to sustain the tribe.”Loa Porter, Ho Chunk Nation adoptee and elder, Missing Threads documentary
It’s not just about removing children, it’s dismantling every aspect of their being in the process. —gkisedtanamoogk, First Light Film

Media coverage accounted for the large impact of the [Indian Adoption] project.  It induced white couples to adopt Native children. …Indian Adoption Project Director Arnold Lyslo listed the main newspaper articles which contributed to stimulate the desire of white couples to adopt a Native child.  [For example,] Arlene Gilberman’s article, “My forty-five Indian godchildren” issued in the review, Good Housekeeping.  Eight hundred couples favourably responded to it.  Other articles such as “God forgotten Children,” “Indian children find homes” and “Interracial Adoption” also encouraged white couples to adopt a Native child. —Claire Palmiste  [“From the Indian Adoption Project to the Indian Child Welfare Act: the resistance of Native American communities,” Indigenous Policy Journal Vol. XXII, No. 1 (Summer 2011).]

It is also worth noting how overall spikes in suicide prevalence found in Indigenous communities around the world indicate a strong correlation with the socio-political marginalization brought on by colonization. In other words, the suicide epidemic—which is at heart a crisis of mental health—is directly related to, if not directly caused by, the loss of culture and identity set in motion by colonialism.  Cultural continuity—and perhaps most specifically, native language preservation and retention—plays a crucial role in overcoming the ongoing native suicide epidemic—and indeed near  universal barriers to indigenous mental health—once and for all First Nations, on a community by community basis. —Courtney Parker and John Ahni Schertow / Intercontinental Cry

 

…scars are souvenirs you never lose… —Goo Goo Dolls lyrics

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