Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Indian Adoption Project

This article at Indian Country Today discusses the First Nations Repatriation Institute’s second annual adult adoptees summit, and includes fascinating history as well as current effects of the federal Indian Adoption Project :
I’m an angry Indian,” Roger St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, told the First Nations Repatriation Institute’s second annual adult adoptees summit. The elite panel included child-welfare specialists, judges, lawyers, community activists and scholars. The most important experts, according to the organization’s founder/director, Sandra White Hawk, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, were adult adoptees—such as St. John—who related their experiences at the three-day meeting at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in St. Paul.

“I’m more than glad to tell you I’m pissed off,” continued St. John, a 49-year-old truck driver with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. “I was the youngest of 16 children, grabbed at the age of 4, along with three older brothers—no paperwork, nothing. The other kids in the family escaped because they took off.” Soon, St. John and his siblings ended up in New York City at Thanksgiving time. The year was 1966: “We were on the front page of the newspaper, along with lots of good talk about the holiday and adoption. We were brought up without our culture, which took a terrible toll on our lives. I grew up angry and miserable.”

* * *
At the summits and other events White Hawk has organized or spoken at since 2003, modern-day adoptees have recounted their dramatic life journeys, sometimes for the first time. “The stories vary from the most abusive to the most beautiful, but that’s not the point,” she said. “Even in loving families, Native adoptees live without a sense of who they are. Love doesn’t provide identity.”

“I never felt sorry for myself,” said St. John, “but if I ever got hurt, it wounded me to my soul, because I felt no one was there for me.” In recent years, he has found his birth mother and connected emotionally with his adoptive parents. “They were so young, in their 20s, when a priest convinced them to adopt four Sioux boys from South Dakota. It was too much—for all of us.”
Please read the whole thing -- I'm betting you'll learn some things you didn't know before.


Beth is Back said...

What's the obsession with stolen culture? The wronging of adoptees?
Your kids might read your words one day, and they'll wonder why the obsession. Guilt?
Let's add a little positive talk here.
New website? Positiveadoptiontalk.blogspot.com?

Anonymous said...

16 children?

Some of those didn't "escape" by fleeing/hiding, but rather would have been of legal age to make their own decision, one would presume.

St. John is of course entitled to his own experience, anger, sense of loss and deserves to have his voice heard.

But there are some glaring facts absent in this post/article.

Why were the children taken? What were their living conditions? Again...16 children?? Wow, that's a considerable handfull.

Balancing the why with the losses might offer perspective, if not alleviate his isolation and lost culture.

Of course, sadly, even had he stayed he might have fallen victim to that same loss as many reservations today are foundering under staggering alcholism/serial unemployment and depression among other issues....

Nevertheless...powerful words from an adult adoptee.

At the very least his perspective seems to indicate that providing some exposure to culture for adopted children, albiet limited and from "the outside", might still be something of worth. I see something positive in this too!