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  • Residential schools and "adopting out" of Indian children...

    Does anyone have a direct connection to the issue of the residential/mission school experience and/or the adopting out of Indian children to non-Indians? If so please respond and tell your story. This is a very painful topic for many of us but it is important that we share with one another to heal and understand the impact these practices had on us as a people.
    "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
    "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

  • #2
    For me my story starts with my Mom. She was from Standing Rock. Her parents refused to send her to the schools. I guess they wanted to save her from the pain. However when she was 10 (early 1960's) the social workers got her & adopted her up into Canada. Her name was Nancy.
    I'm guessing that the adoption was painful. She married a french guy, he was crazy & a junkie. She also had a drug problem (my guess is self medication). The CAS took her boys while she was pregnant with me and my dad was in jail. Rather then have me end up in a foster home she arranged for my adoption privately before I was born.
    I was adopted into a white upper class (very) right wing christian home. My adopted parents had 2 real children after adopting me. I grew up being told that I needed to have god forgive me for being ndn. I had exersisioms done on me to get rid of the "evil ndn demons" my adopted parents were sure I had. It wasn't so great, never mind being a minority in my own home.
    I didn't do so well. I became a junkie as well & banged about through life. When I was 20 I got pregnant with my oldest child. Determined to end the cicle of adoption I went clean cold turkey & never looked back. I met a wounderful Woman in our community who took me under her wing & made sure I met the elders & learned. I felt at home (almost) at last. That Woman is no my sister in law. I have the greatest husband ever & 3 more children. Even my adopted parents like him although they think it's a shame that I didn't marry white so my children could be more white then me.
    I have been learning my culture & thrieving. I dance, sing & teach the children in our community about dancing. My Mom in Law is more of a Mother then I have ever known. Together she & I plan ceremonies & socials for the community. She takes me with he ron trips to met other elders to learn from & she even introduced me to a dear Dakota teacher who I learned much from until he passed a few years ago, he &became close as well. He helped me desighn my regalia that we decided I would make when I got married. He passed before that happened, I cried the day I finished because I had so wanted him to see it.
    It seems that despite all everything turned out perfect anyway, but not quite. My children have a set of grandparents that look down on who they are. And despite all the family I have gained I don't have my real Mom or Aunties or Grandparents. Because of 2 generations of adoption I am having trouble finding anyone to help me find them. I get that these situations have lef us with ppl who just want to find thier tribe, enroll & hope for benifits. Marring into a traditional Mohawk family I have learned much & don't give a damn, just want family, someone who can tell me about who I decend from, you know family history, grandparents etc. It leaves a whole, one that I know many others have.
    I was lucky, I have met many in my situation so desperate to know who they are that they are easy prey for the charletons (etc) out there. I have seen it happen. That is sad too, cause then ppl look at these ndn's & wonder if ther ndn or new age & those poor ppl have know idea, they didn't have someone to teach them, they didn't grow up knowing who to talk to & who not to.
    Well I am rambling, I have so much to say on this but I will let someone else talk & join in when I need.
    Thanks, It feels good, the tears come, but it feels good.
    Suzze

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by SuzzeQ4
      For me my story starts with my Mom. She was from Standing Rock. Her parents refused to send her to the schools. I guess they wanted to save her from the pain. However when she was 10 (early 1960's) the social workers got her & adopted her up into Canada. Her name was Nancy.
      I'm guessing that the adoption was painful. She married a french guy, he was crazy & a junkie. She also had a drug problem (my guess is self medication). The CAS took her boys while she was pregnant with me and my dad was in jail. Rather then have me end up in a foster home she arranged for my adoption privately before I was born.
      I was adopted into a white upper class (very) right wing christian home. My adopted parents had 2 real children after adopting me. I grew up being told that I needed to have god forgive me for being ndn. I had exersisioms done on me to get rid of the "evil ndn demons" my adopted parents were sure I had. It wasn't so great, never mind being a minority in my own home.
      I didn't do so well. I became a junkie as well & banged about through life. When I was 20 I got pregnant with my oldest child. Determined to end the cicle of adoption I went clean cold turkey & never looked back. I met a wounderful Woman in our community who took me under her wing & made sure I met the elders & learned. I felt at home (almost) at last. That Woman is no my sister in law. I have the greatest husband ever & 3 more children. Even my adopted parents like him although they think it's a shame that I didn't marry white so my children could be more white then me.
      I have been learning my culture & thrieving. I dance, sing & teach the children in our community about dancing. My Mom in Law is more of a Mother then I have ever known. Together she & I plan ceremonies & socials for the community. She takes me with he ron trips to met other elders to learn from & she even introduced me to a dear Dakota teacher who I learned much from until he passed a few years ago, he &became close as well. He helped me desighn my regalia that we decided I would make when I got married. He passed before that happened, I cried the day I finished because I had so wanted him to see it.
      It seems that despite all everything turned out perfect anyway, but not quite. My children have a set of grandparents that look down on who they are. And despite all the family I have gained I don't have my real Mom or Aunties or Grandparents. Because of 2 generations of adoption I am having trouble finding anyone to help me find them. I get that these situations have lef us with ppl who just want to find thier tribe, enroll & hope for benifits. Marring into a traditional Mohawk family I have learned much & don't give a damn, just want family, someone who can tell me about who I decend from, you know family history, grandparents etc. It leaves a whole, one that I know many others have.
      I was lucky, I have met many in my situation so desperate to know who they are that they are easy prey for the charletons (etc) out there. I have seen it happen. That is sad too, cause then ppl look at these ndn's & wonder if ther ndn or new age & those poor ppl have know idea, they didn't have someone to teach them, they didn't grow up knowing who to talk to & who not to.
      Well I am rambling, I have so much to say on this but I will let someone else talk & join in when I need.
      Thanks, It feels good, the tears come, but it feels good.
      Suzze
      Thank you so much for sharing this. It is a blessing that you were able to find yourself back to the circle and reconnect to an Indian community. The break that occurred when children were removed from their Indian families was, for many, never healed. It is numbing how many generations this practice went on. Your mother was removed from her family in the early 1960s, my grandmother was removed from her family in 1922!
      Reading your description of the experience you had with your adoptive parents and their "christian" convictions was a painful reminder of stories my grandmother told me about her treatment by the nuns at the mission school where she grew up. They too impressed upon my grandmother that she needed to be "saved" and because she was a "heathen Indianher soul would forever be at risk for damnation to hell. They even went so far as telling her that the only way she could save herself from eternal hell was to become a nun herself. To her last day on this earth my grandmother was deathly afraid of all nuns and priests. She would cross the street or change direction if she saw one coming.
      My grandmother left the mission school at 14 but was never really able to connect back to her tribe. My mother has told me that when my grandmother was in her twenties she did start visiting the reserve that her parents came from in Canada but for some reason stopped going and never returned. My mother, her sisters and brothers, and the four generations of children that have come since my grandmother have been forever severed from our tribe and the family that still resides on the reserve. This disconnection has had tragic consequences in my family where self hatred, lack of identity, violence, and alcoholism has taken it's toll. The search for your biological family and the yearning for connection with your tribe that you described was almost too painful for me to read. Neither myself or my mother are willing to attempt this because we feel that any rejection would be too much to bare. It is hard enough to know the loss of what happened, the suffering my grandmother went through, and live with the grief. Like you my mom formed friendships with several Mohawk people, and just having these friendships (despite them not being of our tribal background) was healing for my Mom and helped her to develop a positive sense of being Indian and of Indian people in general. I have not been able to forgive the system (both religious and governmental) that did this to my family, and I struggle with a great deal of anger and hatred (easier to feel this than the sorrow) that almost destroyed me as a teen and young adult. It shows just how long this destructive legacy lasts.
      "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
      "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

      Comment


      • #4
        Because I know how wide spread this experience is (both in the US and Canada) my hope with starting this thread was that individuals might feel comfortable to share their own or their families stories and possibly find some comfort or even answers to long held questions. I know it has helped me immensely in talking to other people about this issue and I wish my grandmother, aunts and uncles had been able to find a community to share their experiences and know that what happened to them was not their fault or anything that they deserved to have happen.
        I am also aware that not all people had bad experiences being raised by individuals outside of their tribe or community. Unfortunately there are many who have had bad experiences and I feel that this needs to be talked about more, especially the generational trauma it caused.
        "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
        "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

        Comment


        • #5
          thanks.
          I do hope others want to make use of what you've started.
          I knew that what happened to me is an extention of what happened to my Mom.

          My niece who has started posting here is generation #3. I saved my kids from it, but only time will tell if I have saved them from the pain, like with you, that was just passed down.

          Hopefully wht your doing is bringing an end to it.

          I worry that if my sister has any more children (now that she's taken off again), I'll be looking at more family in pain, if I even have the oppertunity to know they exsist.

          My sister hasn't started to heal. I found an Aunt but she has substance issues too (pretty bad) some times she knows who my sister & I are sometimes she doesn't.

          The life my Aunt & sister lead make me feel alone as well when we all found each other I was so excited, I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for but when I cleaned my life all up & they didn't, they just teased me. Which is sad considering, it's also sad that they don't see how much better my life is now or how much I've gained. Or mabey they do & thats why they tease me.

          Not that I'm not still a little screwed up in my own ways. My adopted parents tried to but the fear of god in me but instead they just made me afriad of ppl like them. I started a new job today. the ppl seemed nice enough but I'm to shy around white ppl that I don't know. & if they're christian I'm just unable to talk to them at all; unless they've pissed me off, I'm not scared to rip a strip off of anyone. Normally I'm really out going. Well they made nice comments about my hair, but not directly too me. That's wierd right? But I just didn't talk to anyone.

          Damn, have I made any sense? Maybe it doesn't matter if I made sense, maybe it only matters that were getting this out there.

          Well I hope more ppl take part in this. I'll be back with more ramblings about how I feel later.
          Suzze

          Comment


          • #6
            Best of luck on your new job Suzze!

            I do hope that others will respond to this thread. Is there more recognition in Canada about this issue in your opinion? From what I have read and been told there seems to be much more activism and organization by Native people around the impact of adoptions and residential schools up there. Also the issue of generational trauma seems to be talked about more and I know there is a place called the "Four Worlds Institute" that specializes in working with Indian people and communities that have been impacted by this issue.
            I also know what you mean about not having family support while trying to move away from self destructive behavior. I do not drink or do drugs any more but I did for most of my teens and early twenties, I did pretty much anything I could to distract myself from the pain and confusion I felt and I made some pretty bad decisions that could have easily resulted in my death several times. It is hard to go it alone toward healing and watch your family continue to hurt themselves but one of my cousins who continues to drink explained to me that he believes if he stopped drinking and actually let himself feel he would die. I understand that fear, and I accept that everyone has to come to their own decision in their own time. Unfortunately not everyone believes or understands that they can face the pain and come out of it, and many in our communities continue to die, lose custody of their children, and become incarcerated because of this. Although I do not know you I have great respect for the decisions you have made in wanting better for yor children and in having the strength and belief in yourself to make positive changes in your life and not be conquered by what others have done.
            "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
            "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

            Comment


            • #7
              Well for res school survirors there are programs & there is a compensation thing going on. It was a total mess but the last government sat down & worked out a better deal just before they were outed by the conservatives (kind of similar to republicans). The conservatives have not up held the agreement. I mean at least there is something, but it could always be better.

              There are things set in place to end cross cultural doption of ndn children but the CAS (the people who take & place kids etc) pretty much ignore it unless forced to follow the rules. There are some res's with thier own children's services.

              As for anything to support those already adopted out, there is nothing that I'm aware of. I think it could be delt with in hand with res. school issues cause it had the same impact & the same issues & outcomes. The difference being that we were alone instead of in a group & we generally had ties cut preventing or making it difficult to return home.

              I don't know why there is resistence. It must come from pain. Sometimes I think it's like how Jewish ppl don't like acknowledging that the Roma (aka Gypsy) ppl went through the same thing as them during ww2 & had there numbers more decimated. Kind of a "we went through the worst thing ever & no one else can compare..."

              Does that make sense?
              Certainly it is talked about a great deal. There is a play about it, & books (of the play). I know a 49er song about it. I have an MP3 recording of the Woman singing it. I'm not sure if I can post (or whatever ) a song, although I do know how to email one.

              Anyone able to walk me through it & I will try.
              Suzze

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree strongly that there are many similarities between adoptees and residential school survivors. Living here in the north east I have met several people from western tribes who were adopted as infants by white families living in New York and Pennsylvania. In fact I have met many Sioux in particular, which leads me to believe that there must have been some type of concerted, systematic effort to ship Lakota/Dakota kids out to white adoptive families here in the N.East. Honestly in my discussions with the adoptees (and children of adoptees) I have met, there seems to be more similarities to the residential school experience than there are differences. What I have also found interesting is, like my grandmother, individuals who knew, or were able to find, their relatives back on the rez, and maybe even meet them once or twice, ultimately did not decide to go back. It seems like many of us remain severed from feeling like we are part of those families or communities even when we know our tribe or family of origin. The separation is deeper than just being physical, it lives within us and I believe this is why there is such self destruction as a result.
                "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
                "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks for the thread

                  I think this is a very brave thread and I appreciate it very much.
                  My grandfather was adopted by white people. They never told him he was adopted. He had a good relationship with his adoptive parents for the most part except for the fact that they didn’t tell him. His adoptive father was also adopted himself so I guess he thought they were doing the right thing. My grandfather found out that he was adopted while reading his father’s obituary. It said, “survived by wife and adopted son.” Then he found out that he wasn’t white when his sister found him and she was Indian. All we know is that his mother was Indian. The issue of his ancestry and adoption is so traumatic that he will not approach it at all. He never did make the connection with his sister that she tried to make with him. It was just too painful for him.
                  Fortunately we know we are Choctaw on my mother’s side but even there, there was separation from tradition and family. My mother’s father could pass for white so he did to survive and work and eat. He was separated from his Choctaw mother during the depression and then lost her to illness.
                  So, I have been dealing with the adoption issue and the mixed-blood issue. I was always taught that you are not a real Indian unless you are full-blooded and believed it too for a long time. I don’t believe that anymore but many of my family members do. My identity has been in flux but I am starting to make sense of things and find my place.
                  I know what you mean about the being sober and other family members are not and they tease you and think they will die if they let themselves feel the pain. I know that so well.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by yellowthunders mama
                    I think this is a very brave thread and I appreciate it very much.
                    My grandfather was adopted by white people. They never told him he was adopted. He had a good relationship with his adoptive parents for the most part except for the fact that they didn’t tell him. His adoptive father was also adopted himself so I guess he thought they were doing the right thing. My grandfather found out that he was adopted while reading his father’s obituary. It said, “survived by wife and adopted son.” Then he found out that he wasn’t white when his sister found him and she was Indian. All we know is that his mother was Indian. The issue of his ancestry and adoption is so traumatic that he will not approach it at all. He never did make the connection with his sister that she tried to make with him. It was just too painful for him.
                    Fortunately we know we are Choctaw on my mother’s side but even there, there was separation from tradition and family. My mother’s father could pass for white so he did to survive and work and eat. He was separated from his Choctaw mother during the depression and then lost her to illness.
                    So, I have been dealing with the adoption issue and the mixed-blood issue. I was always taught that you are not a real Indian unless you are full-blooded and believed it too for a long time. I don’t believe that anymore but many of my family members do. My identity has been in flux but I am starting to make sense of things and find my place.
                    I know what you mean about the being sober and other family members are not and they tease you and think they will die if they let themselves feel the pain. I know that so well.
                    Thank you very much for sharing.
                    The fact is, like it or not, this is as much a part of Indian history as anything else. The residential schools, the adoptions, the mixed children and inter-marrying with other races, all of it! But we have survived!!
                    To believe that the only "true Indians" are full bloods who live on the rez is to deny the rest of us our rightful place in history, these are our ancestors, this is our family and tribal history, and this is a crucially important aspect to our identity as Indian people. Regardless of how complex or painful sorting through all of these experiences is it ultimately must happen. If we continue to allow ourselves to be shamed into silence then we will never make the connections that are so necessary to heal.
                    "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
                    "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks

                      Thanks DaCotau. You are so right! I guess a part of me never believed that about full-bloods being the real Indians. I kept participating in Indian community events, powwows etc… when no one in my family would go with me. At first I was treated as a wannabe and then one day I was talking to a vendor, a Choctaw woman, and I told her about my grandfather and his mother. She said to me, “that makes you Choctaw too!” That one statement changed my life and perceptions forever. That was the moment in time that I was ready to hear what she was really saying.
                      My husband a 100% Indian: ½ one tribe, ½ another. He had to choose which tribe to register with. Since we married, things in my family have changed a lot. My family loves him and I am the only woman he had been with that his mother has ever liked. He has never considered our marriage to be inter-racial but intertribal. Now we have a son and he is registered but unless he marries an Indian, his children will not be able to register despite the fact that he is 5/8ths Native. That is more than 1/2 but still 4 different tribes. Why are we the only people that have to qualify ourselves with a number? It divisive and destructive but I guess it was meant to be.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks yellow thunder for joining us in this thread.

                        It has to have been hard for your family. I used to wonder where I fit in too. Having grown up out side the culture. It's more then stories, teachings & language that make us different. It's the mannerisms, the humour social do's & don'ts, you know the things ppl pick up without ever realizing. Things ppl don't think about.

                        I am half myself, & not all that dark, At one point I too thought that made be more on the outside. I know better now & am comfortable with all of who I am. I think it is easier to worry about these issues when you have so little to hang onto.

                        I also think it is very sad that we are always quantifing our blood etc. My husband always says he doesn't want to get his card cause he doesn't want to turn into that. He says all that matters is being recognized in longhouse by the traditionals (He's Mohawk).

                        And those cards are doing thier job, they seperate those of us in these situationsmaking us question who we are.

                        Suzze

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I need to start by saying that Suzze-your teacher saw you on your wedding day. As close as you were, people like that never leave you-especially when you think of them with love. My Grandfather was taken from his family in the early 1900's. His Grandfather was a Dog Soldier and you know how much the whites loved them. His family was aleady living in alabama because that's were they were relocated too.(Pesky Dog Soldiers). He told stories of being punished when he spoke Cheyenne and being beaten because he tried to explain that the white God was the same as his Great Spirit. They didn't quite agree with that.He and a friend couldn't understand why some kids wold be around at breakfast, yet gone at dinner. Of course nobody gave them a straight answer. One day he overheard a conversation about sending the "heathen ndn kids" to live with "right and proper" Christians. He was outta there 3 days later. He always told us that he made sure they wouldn't come after him-but never said how he knew that. He was presumed to be Welsh in the town he finally settled in and after he married my grandmother, a white woman, never bothered to let anyone but her kno he wasn't Welsh. He hated it, but it was the best way for his family to survive in the South during the Depression. My dad and his brothers and sister, turned their back on their heritage. I was a long time forgiving my dad for that. Again,I guess it was minority survival in the south. When Grandfather moved to N. Ala., he decided that he didn't care who knew his heritage. He was proud again. He was a brick mason by trade-nt only did he lay brick, he made them too. He was great with animals and the locals used to get him to help if one was sick. He used herbs and things-just "like their grannies" used too. Two of my cousins and I are the only ones who take after him and I'm the only one still living. I miss him and I miss my cousins too. I think maybe that's wy I'm here on this forum. It's like keeping in touch with where I come from-even though I grew up on the beach in fla. and am somewhat of a "hippie surfer chick". I learned to surf by the time I was 9 and when Grandfather woould come visit, he couldn't wait for us to go to the beach, so he could watch me surf. He would tell me that it was probably the closest thing I would ever get to horseback riding. I think I've rambled long enough. when I get to thinking about him, I feel like I could go on and on. His story is better than most of them-but it still isn't right.
                          Take nothing for granted. Life can change irrevocably in a heartbeat.

                          I will not feed the troll-well, I will try.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks Again

                            Thanks SuzeQ. It is amazing when you start sharing your story how many others you can find to relate to. It is like an on-line Talking Circle here.
                            Good to see Subeeds joing the thread too. I can relate to your story too. My family is from the deep south - different set of rules down there!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I am glad that others have felt comfortable enough to respond to this thread. One of the most diificult aspects of this issue is the isolation.

                              And Suzze you are so right when you wrote:

                              "It's more then stories, teachings & language that make us different. It's the mannerisms, the humour social do's & don'ts, you know the things ppl pick up without ever realizing. Things ppl don't think about."

                              Man you nailed it! And if you were not raised with these things from childhood (culture) then it is never quite the same no matter how often you are exposed to it as an adult. It compounds that feeling of "outsider" and others notice it. At this point in my life I have grown accustomed to always being the "different" one, never really fitting in anywhere, but it has enabled me to develop a strong ability to adapt. I can be completely comfortable in almost any crowd (almost) and if nothing else this is a great strength. Many of my friends are hispanic and they have accepted me totally, as a result I have assumed many of their mannerisms which is kinda funny, a mixed Dakota/Irish girl acting Puerto Rican lol.... but it's all cool! They love me for who I am and that is what matters in the end.
                              "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
                              "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

                              Comment

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