I've been blessed to get to talk to a couple friends who grew up as "lost birds" or "split feathers"— Native American children who were taken from their families and tribes during the "adoption era" in America.
I don't have words that can convey the power of their stories— the trauma of separation they grew up with, and the healing they experienced as they were guided back to their families and tribes by the hand of Creator and the prayers of their people.
I will share some videos instead, and may add some more embedded in this post later.
About ICWA, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the legislation Congress passed to try to halt the removal of Native children from their tribes—
Click here to watch a healing "welcome home" ceremony, set to the song of Michael Jacobs by the same name, which Creator also used to awaken my Native heritage.
A personal reflection:
I never heard about the Adoption Era while growing up. I think the first time I learned about it was when reading the liner notes to Michael Jacobs' song in the CD, and then reading David Treuer's book, "Rez Life".
Some time after my heritage was awoken, I began to discover a pain inside—the pain of separation from my tribe. Then the stories of the adoptees began to move me deeply inside and make me tear up... like that separation and longing for the tribe, for the birth family, like in some way I could feel a little of that, and even seven generations removed it just makes me double over weeping at times.
This painting is called "Creator Hears Their Cries". I painted it after little Veronica Brown was taken away from her Cherokee father and the tribe and returned to her adoptive parents. Creator hears the cries of the children, their parents and their relations. He is guiding many of them home, and I pray for more of this, as well as an end to the injustice that still goes on to this day across Turtle Island. (If you want to learn more and help, please visit and support The Lakota People's Law Project.)
The story of "Baby Veronica" affected me deeply last year, so deeply that I wondered at the pain it was tapping inside of me. As I prayed, I understood better and began to face the generational trauma of separation I had inherited. But I also worried that voicing my feelings would sound presumptuous because I didn't grow up looking "Indian" or looking different than the other members of my family. Though I did hear negative things about Indians, I never identified myself with them or as one of them. I am seven generations removed from my people, not immediately removed like adoptees have been.
I am surprised and blessed again by Native friends—adoptees—because they quickly understood the feelings of separation that I shared, and affirmed them as real. Their understanding of blood memory, human and family connections that span across generations is incredible and just God-given, if you ask me.
When I watched the beautiful, healing "welcome home" video, I realized that I can't picture this happening among any other culture but First Nations of Turtle Island. Truly this kind of welcoming home is one of Creator's gifts to First Nations. I pray all cultures can learn this and provide such welcome and healing for their lost children who return.
Update, January 8, 2015: a poem for Veronica Brown