Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dr Phil + ICWA

Veronica with her prospective adoptive family
On, October 18, 2012, Dr Phill did a show on Native American Adoption with the title, "Adoption Controversy: Battle over Baby Veronica." 

Veronica with her birth Dad
Here's the shows synopsis (watch below if you missed it): Matt and Melanie adopted Veronica after her birth mom handpicked them to be her parents. When Veronica’s biological father, Dusten, was notified about the adoption four months later, he decided he wanted to raise her, even though he had little involvement during the pregnancy and with the birth mother since Veronica’s birth. Dusten, who is part Cherokee Indian, was able to reclaim his daughter pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which was enacted “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” Devastated, Matt and Melanie petitioned the United States Supreme Court to regain custody of Veronica. Should she be returned to them, or should she remain with her biological father? Dr. Phil, along with Troy Dunn, who has reunited thousands of lost loved ones on his hit TV show delves into this controversial story. And, Chrissi Nimmo, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, and Les Marston, attorney and tribal judge, explain why they believe Veronica’s father is the best person to raise her. Then, find out why Johnston, who adopted two boys who are part American Indian, says the ICWA is racist, unjust and hurts children.

And MY thoughts after the show, ICWA and Dr Phil - Oil and Water

More about Native American Adoption, Native American Adoption

KEEP the conversation going about native american adoption....  these are NOT clear cut issues...


  1. Since I was in foster care, am a foster parent, lived and worked with Native Americans, I can honestly say - Bull. ICWA is there to prevent people from taking the Native American children and simply eradicating them by erasing their culture. While I know that kids are hurt by not having homes on the Reservations or with Native American relatives, I also know that a child of most minority cultures spends years trying to sort out who they are if they are raised by Anglo-American's and other white racial or ethnic groups. It makes it hard to be real. If you have any thoughts on that, look up the works of Trace A DeMeyer... a Native American woman raised by her beloved adoptive parents - who are non-Native White..... It might help the thinking process more.

    I have little respect for Dr. Phil. His brand of psychiatry often smacks of elitism and entitlement.

  2. Thank you, Lori. I've been seeing the commercials for this and so far they have incensed me. Unless someone who is not First Nations is willing to go out there and learn about that child's native heritage, and I do mean that child's specific heritage and not some ubiquitous "Native American" group, then they have no business attempting to raise a native child. That's just my opinion, but I know too many people who feel lost and incomplete because they were taken from their families and raised by people who had no clue. It's hard to explain to those who haven't had to straddle two worlds just how hard it is to deal with the intense institutionalized racism that is out there. This time of year, with Columbus Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving, we have it thrown into our faces that many people don't care who we are. Imagine learning that your own parents didn't have the knowledge to combat all of this. My kids knew to tell me when someone tried telling them they were supposed to say "How" or did the dumb woowoowoo thing in their faces. A lot of it is plain ignorance. I used to teach and had parents get upset that I refused to sing "10 Little Indians". They just could not see it as the racist song it is. The pull to our heritage and our people, for some of us anyway, is almost impossible to explain to someone who does not feel that connection. I have the utmost respect for foster and adoptive parents. I do personally know a Lakota mom who has fostered over 65 children and adopted 4. All 4, including my two god children, have native heritage. She knew how to teach them their heritage though, and how to teach them to combat the stuff we deal with that most people don't even think about. ( www.nativeappropriations.com has a lot of info on things we deal with on a daily basis)

    I will be watching the show too and I really hope it turns out better than the commercials I have seen so far. Sorry to the blog owner for ranting in your comments but this is a sore spot for so many. The ICWA is not perfect but it is there for a reason. Our children were being ripped from us for just the reason Lori mentioned, to eradicate and erase our culture.The government actually had written policies concerning the eradication of native identities. Many were thrown into boarding schools where a good portion of them were molested and otherwise abused. Others were adopted by people who had no idea how to teach their native heritage, especially since each native nation is not the same as the next. It's not actually something you can study well, but is rather absorbed in everyday life. I really hope the show turns out better than the commercials are presenting so far.

  3. My Mother was one of the children taken from the Pine Ridge reservation, her hair was cut and she was forbidden to speak her language. It worked. My dad (Osage) and mom raised my older brother and I in rural Virginia. Never taught us our language. We KNEW we "were Indian", but just like those boys, we were not interested. My parents were ashamed to "Be" Indian. I found it "annoying". Fast forward to the Rapid City Regional Hospital 1998. I gave birth to my own daughter. I had moved to SD to try to recapture my heritage after graduating high school. My husband is Non-Native.The racism is appalling. I wasn't "raised" Indian. Many of my schoolmates and their parents thought is was "cool" that we were Indian. In that delivery room, I began questioning my parents decisions. I do not know what they endured. I had a small taste during the time we lived there.
    I am currently raising both our daughters in Florida. They are enrolled members of the Osage Nation. My mother has passed, a victim of alcoholism and stroke. My dad insisted I wear my hair long all my life. I do to this day, as do my daughters. I am told by some Indian women that I am "not Indian" and "what do I know". I AM PART OF THE STORY. As are my daughters. As are these children in the Dr. Phil show. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE INDIAN. Our stories continue to be written everyday. In my opinion, society owes all Indian Nations a chance to raise our own. they bash the mother, the way in which the children were kept. WHY...were they in those conditions??? Hmm? How did that happen? Our People managed to continue life on the continent for millinia, as "savage" as were were. How did we endure? Because we were in our Natural Element. We were family. Today's Indians are still in a process of "assimilation", unfortunately. How can these children in the midst of a custody battle have a say in whether they are "interested" in "being" Indian. They don't know it. And who's to blame for that? I'm sure those Missionaries thought they were doing the right thing all those years ago. But we know different now. Why is it Indians always must see it "your" way. I'm saddened that the children must be so confused. But there has been worse things in this World. Things that Dr. Phil wouldn't dare acknowledge or discuss. We have so many battles regarding what little we have left. One day my great grandchildren may have blonde hair, blue eyes...but no one will ever erase the Spirit of those who fought and died with THEM in mind. The Lakota always made decisions with the next Seven Generations in Mind. They agreed to treaties with exactly this Generation in Mind.

  4. As the birth mother to five enrolled children, and having raised four more who were placed with us through ICWA - I say that you are all wrong.

    It is a myth that all tribal members WANT or NEED to be part of Indian Country. Believe it or not, tribal members are INDIVIDUALS - with their own minds and hearts. It is extremely insulting for people to go around claiming to know what is best for everyone else - just because they have a certain heritage. If that isn't racism, what is?

    It is a crime is for our federal government to be signing over jurisdiction of our children to another government - and to be writing that law in such a way as to make it impossible to choose our own guardians for our children if we want them to be raised somewhere safer.

    No one in Tribal or federal government knows me, my husband or my children. No tribal "expert" has a clue what our family really thinks and feels. They don't know us.

    Further: Remember - MOST enrollable children, like Veronica, have MORE THEN ONE HERITAGE. Surprise! That means that they have more than one family, more than one traditional culture, and other people in their lives that love them just as much!

    Guess what? EVERY ONE of their heritages is just as valid, just as important, as the next. That people can be running around claiming that only a person's Indian heritage has any significance is, again, RACISM AT ITS WORST.

    How dare anyone assume those two boys on Dr. Phil, who are mostly NON-Indian, didn't know what they are talking about? I have met those two boys. They are both nearly adults - they had lived with their mother early on and they were there when she died. They DID try going to the reservation to see it and they didn't like it. End of story. They love the family they are with. You don't know them at all - how insulting to pretend you know their minds better then they do. I have met them and have known their father for years. But even I wouldn't go around assuming I can read their minds.

    I also know my children, my nieces and nephews, and our extended family. Many agree that they don't want their children to live on the reservation. It is one thing to love your family, which WE ALL DO. It is another thing to be willing to live under a corrupt tribal government in a tract house surrounded by drugs, alcohol and violence. Not everyone wants to do that.

    75% of tribal members have moved off of the reservations. Some stay connected to Indian Country, but many have left for the same reasons my family did. For a safer, better life.

    The people who are stealing children now are people like the Cherokee Nation - which has about 150 attorneys currently targeting about 1500 children across the United States, many of whom have only a few drops of Cherokee blood like Veronica had, and many of whom come from families that deliberately chose to leave Indian Country permanently - and did not want their children raised under the jurisdiction of corrupt tribal government.

    Further - what Nemmo said on Dr. Phil was basically that any NON-Indian mother had better know for certain that the birth father DOES NOT have even a drop of Cherokee blood, or they are in danger of having their choice taken away from them, just the same as Veronica's Latino mother had. She chose an open adoption and had been visiting Veronica while she was with the adoptive family. If it weren't for the fact of ICWA and the father's 3% heritage, her choice would have been perfectly legal and valid, because according to South Carolina state law, he had abandoned the family and had no standing.

    The dissenting opinion of the SC Supreme Court had lots to say about how wrong it was to give custody to the birth father.

  5. Point blank, if you don't understand the Native American culture, heritage or life in general then how is it ever possible to support, adopt or embrace it?

    ICWA is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under ICWA was to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.

    Too bad there is not a WCA-White Child Act. Then again, there was never such an oppression suffered as by those who inherited the land primarily in America. The Reservation is not the issue about keeping Indian Children, it is to retain the Native American race when it comes down to it. The more segregated the children become from their families(regardless of where they reside, on or off reservation), the more depleted the race is....before you know it there will be no more Native Americans left on this Earth. Not a hard concept to grasp as our people were nearly annihilated in prior attempts of genocide from White settlers.


It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa