‘Although My Indian Identity Isn’t Simple, It’s Mine’: Readers on Adoption That Crosses Cultural Lines

Adoptive parents and adoptees share what they have learned based on experiences in their own families.

Comments: 19

  1. I was born in Canada to a Metis woman whose husband died just before the birth. I was adopted during the "Sixties Scoop" where thousands of indigenous children were taken from their home communities. An adoption to a white middle class family with an engineer father was seen as a big step up from the working class environment I came from. I had very conscientious adoptive parents, who were loving and did their best to help me be a part of a family of 6. They never lied to me. Unfortunately, that was not enough. I was taken from my mother. And my indigenous roots. Trauma. Period. This was never addressed, I muddled through life with an underlying sense of not being ok, faked alot and used various means of escaping. When I eventually found my birth mother, she had died two years previous. I have connected with cousins, but I have siblings i have not been able to locate. This kind of trauma and it's lifelong impact needs to be accounted for. It's a systemic issue. Not all, but many adoptive parents are entitled, short sighted, and will be dealing with the fallout when the children grow up and reject them outright for their hubris and folly. Children are not accessories to complete your magazine lifestyle. The cousins I have spoken to who knew my biological mother speak fondly of her; I think she must have hidden alot of pain, as she never spoke of children.

  2. @linda diane These children's parents were not able to care for them, from birth. It's not really the same thing. What was done to you and your mother is horrible and wrong. But it is not the same thing. The children were left with non-native foster parents, until someone wanted to adopt - then suddenly the tribe breaks in and prevents them from having a stable home.

  3. @SusanStoHelit: The tribe objected ASAP to taking the younger child away.

  4. @linda diane I am sorry for what happened to you. What you do not address is the fact that in the story profiled, the ‘tribe’ was nowhere to be found until an adoption was about to proceed. Then they stepped in. You are not talking about newborns as you (seemingly) were. As for trauma, do you not believe there would be trauma after you’ve had a child removed from a drug addicted mother, then in a stable home, then removed because a tribe swoops in at the last minute to move them yet again? No doubt there are & will be complexities. I’m not pro adoption, nor am I anti adoption. I believe each is a case by case situation. The issue I have with the idea of a tribe having all power is that ultimately, they try to force their agenda over that of a biological parent. That is completely wrong. The parent—whether they’re full or 1/16—is the person who gave birth. They should have a say in the person(s) they wish to have their child with if possible. To ignore that is yet another example of taking any choice away from women on the assumption that elders (men) know better.

  5. Although our child is not adopted, our experience is telling. When our child was about 3-years-old, my husband and I went to a Christian-church related party. At the party, several people in a small discussion group began to talk about a couple in the church who adopted a mixed "White and Mexican American" child. I felt the conversation was obsequious--"how wonderful the family was. . ."; "How courageous...," etc. I sat there for a while feeling slightly sickened. I finally blurted out, "Did you know our daughter is Mexican-American? Their response was immediately "How wonderful. I (we) didn't know you were one of these wonderful . . ." Then I said, "She's not adopted." The silence and the look on their faces was stunning. It said much about the fine line between accepting all human beings as "us" versus seeing "them" as others who we can treat as their savior or foe.

  6. The stories from adoptive parents and children are touching and raise many important issues. Many (both adoptive parents and children) point out the advantages of being raised in a loving home that is safe and secure in which they are also able to pursue and celebrate their tribal/cultural identity. This is a strong argument which however does not apply to the case in question, in which the adoptive parents show no interest in affirming or celebrating their children's native ancestry and culture AND there is a healthy and loving family of relatives that wants to adopt the two siblings in a home with other biological siblings. Therefore, as much as the arguments provided in the NYT article may merit discussion, they do NOT apply to this case, which represents a modern form of the legalized kidnapping that the dominant culture has perpetuated on Native peoples, notwithstanding the the adoptive parents claims of 'love' and 'religiosity .

  7. It sounds to me that financial stability is over shadowing the rights of familial bond. That is a scary thought. Listening to this elitist adoptive couple explaining they heard a voice from God is both eerie and telling. These fundamentalists are a threat. Did they hear voices from God during the massacres that religion has condoned over the centuries? They haven’t a right to steal another baby away from a family that has a proven justification to savor all of their children. I hope the little girl returns home to her tribe.

  8. Indeed! Heart rending sledge hammer on my sensibility. Nobel laureate, Tagore moaned: Hey! Almighty: You've given me eyes to see, nice! Then why given sensibility? Or else You would rather have given sensibility to relish eternal beauty not pain, pang and pathos! Alas! Almighty dollar rule the roost and the tender heart gasping for breath! I mourn and write to recede bit by bit to the deepest layer of the hole! Make a robot "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

  9. the original attempt to obliterate the native peoples from this nation (and others-Canada, Australia, etc.) was a terrible stain on the birth of this nation. But there must be some way to preserve Native American culture without subjecting their children to alarming rates of drug abuse, incest, rape, suicide on the reservations as is well documented. I would advocate reparations and yes-integration into the general culture-preserve heritage the way that all other hyphenated Americans do. Reservations now are mostly places to allow gambling and untaxed cigarettes, time to end it.

  10. We adopted a child from the Northern Triangle. When people say "you did a wonderful thing" we say "No! He's a GIFT to us! We're lucky to have him!" His older brother wanted a brother and even proposed adoption (he was 8 at the time). The brothers are close and our older son has never forgotten how much he wanted his brother. Both sons know their parents would do anything for them, to protect them and enhance their lives. While we haven't given our son his Central American as much of his heritage as we could we've tried instead to give him anything else. Anyone says I'm not his "REAL" father is going to be sorry. Unfortunately, the countries of the Northern Triangle aren't safe, far less safe than when we brought him home. Of the 5 Marx Brothers, the one with the happiest and most secure children was Harpo, who, unlike his brothers, adopted all 4: Bill, Alex, Jimmy, and Minny (after his mother). (all the Marxes named their daughters after their mom, Minny: Chico's daughter was Maxine, Groucho's were Miriam and Melinda, and Harpo named his only daughter Minny)

  11. The whole "white savior" slur is being overused - it's being assumed to be true based solely on the race of the person who is doing charity work. Do people using that slur really want to suggest these children should be left without help if none is presented from someone of an acceptable skin color? If the tribe was so interested in protecting these kids - then why are they not there, taking care of them day by day?

  12. While I believe I understand what you’re trying to say, please don’t presume adoption, or even fostering, to be ‘charity work.’ It is hardly looked at as such in the majority of families who count adoptees as family members. In mine, there’s me & then a second cousin who are both adoptees. No one has ever treated us any differently than any of our other family members & it was charity to no one. While I recognize there are people out there who may well have a complex about saving orphans or something, that’s hardly a majority.

  13. I am an adoptee, though few know based on looking at me with my family. I cannot imagine any other life or having other parents. My parents, especially my mum, were supportive about questions or talking about it if I asked, but learned not to push it on me. I hated nothing more than being made to feel different because I was adopted. I still feel this way. Perhaps this is made easier because I look like my family, my coloring is similar, etc. but when people ask about my ‘real parents,’ I just get irritated. My ‘real parents’ are my parents. Period. Biology doesn’t make people family or any more ‘real.’ I recognize that not every adoptee feels this way. Nor should they. What I am saying is that the adoptee should be the one to determine what they want. Being forced in to a mold because you’re an adoptee doesn’t work for everyone. While well meaning, it concerning that many people feel the need to push a culture on an adoptee who may not want it (at least for now.) Be open & available, but also realize that adoptees are still individuals. What works for some or even most doesn’t work for all.

  14. My husband and I had both lived in Japan for 5+ years and spoke the language. When two children were found in a Japanese orphanage, we decided to adopt them. It was very complicated as their biological mother had abandoned them in a train station and they had been at the orphanage for two years, unclaimed by any family members. Their father was, after an extensive search, finally found and he signed release papers. What we came to realize, nearly 35 years later, was the desperate need those two children had was to “look like someone” in their family. They grew up in a small community where the only other “different” kids were Afro-American. Eight years ago, after searching for information about their birth mother, we learned of four half brothers, two born to their mother in a second marriage (deceased) and two to their father, also in a second marriage. The latter have maintained an email correspondence. In July our daughters will make a 3rd trip back to visit an aging father. They seem to hold little resentment about how his actions changed their lives so many years ago. I am happy they are honoring their Japanese heritage but their need to do so has certainly given me a new appreciation for the complexities of cross-cultural adoptions. What

  15. should minors be asked if they want to be raised as homosexuals. I assume heterosexuals want their minors raised as hetrosexuals.

  16. I am white and my husband is Asian Indian. We are very fortunate to have adopted a wonderful baby who is now in his twenties, also Asian Indian. If a child is adopted into a family that loves them, raises them to value their heritage, then I don't see a problem with mixed ethnicity families at all. In our extended family, we have every religion & race imaginable, and our diversity strengthens us. While preparing to adopt our son, we went thru two adoption agencies, one in the US and one in India. We had to go thru interviews to assess our ability to parent a child. We had to submit letters of recommendation from friends and family recommending us as future parents. We had our home evaluated, to make sure it was safe. We even had to be finger printed at our local police station. If all parents had to go thru the process my husband & I did, maybe more children could be born into better situations? As long as prospective adoptive parents are fairly assessed, adoption can be one of the most beautiful things to happen to both the child and the parents. Although my skin is a different color, my son means more to me than anything on this earth. I am so grateful to have him in my life. He has told my husband and I many times how happy he is to be our son. We are a lucky family, thanks to adoption and 2 brave souls that decided to marry despite cultural, religious, and racial differences.

  17. There is a thing called the "triad" the birth mother, the adoptive parents and the child. It is only the child who experiences what we refer to as "adoption". But that also does not truly exist. There are not such things as "biological children" either. We all are. There are no such things as "adopted children". We are sons and daughters. Culture and ethnicity may seem important to a lot of people..but it's the love of a parent and the acceptance of child that matters..regardless of ANYTHING. When I became a parent..this became clear. Crystal clear. I will never understand why the woman and man who gave me life also chose to give me away as an infant. I will also never understand why my "real" parents chose to adoptee an infant from Korea in 1960. So yes..my identity is mine..as are my daughters. You would have to kill me to give them up. So I'd take my real parents over Kim Chi any day. But I can have both. And like the 80's song says "No one is to blame".

  18. Thank you for posting these stories from adoptees and adoptive parents. There is no one right answer for the problems of children who cannot be raised by their birth parents for whatever reason. There is one very proper answer however: love them, cherish them, put them in homes where they will be loved and cherished and part of the families for as long as those families exist. I'm not advocating for any child's heritage to be ignored here. In fact I think that it's vital for a child, especially one who does not resemble his/her adoptive parents, to have a sense of where s/he "comes" from. Open adoptions can and do work. I do believe that children need permanency in their lives. They are youngsters only once and their safety ought to be paramount along with being loved by whomever is raising them.

  19. This story just hurts my heart. My two siblings are adopted, so I am aware that adoption can be beneficial for children who might otherwise suffer in a non-loving home, or in abusive foster care. I used to be very against white families adopting black children, for the same reasons as this article presents: that the kids would grow up not seeing themselves reflected in their parents faces, nor would the parents be able to understand the world that these kids come from, or would face, based upon their race/ethnicity. My opinion has softened on this, because at the end of the day, a child raised with love and stability can eventually find their cultural home. In this instance, however, both of these Native children have loving family and homes who desperately wish to raise them. While Zachary has bonded with the Brackeens and they seem to have financial well being, he will not grow up with the day to day of his culture and blood-relatives. He might be raised with all of the benefits the Brackeens can provide, but that comes at a cost that he may or may not be able to realize later in life. The last bitter pill is that the Brackeens are evangelical, a form of religion that is miles away from the spiritual world of Native Americans, and the type of religion that underlies the oppression of native peoples across the Globe. For the Brackeens not to understand this, and to hold these children away from their natural and cultural family, is the epitome of white privilege.