Adoption and Foster Care Linked to Assimilation of Native Children

Baby Veronica’s case, shows a little Native girl placed up for adoption by her mother, a Caucasian, after breaking off the engagement with Veronica’s father. A Cherokee nation native, her father had a right to be notified of the placement. Due to misinformation he was not notified until well into the process. The Indian Child Welfare Act was initiated in 1978. The act was passed to give Indian nations and tribes the right to decide with whom and the location of placement for Native children. This piece of legislation still has yet to be fully enforced.

The issue of adoption goes well beyond the right of placement; it is connected to foster care and the issue is of ideology about the Native peoples, imbedded by the colonizers. Janet Gould, just as in our readings discuss how the indigenous people were seen as inwardly deviant, dishonest, filthy, stupid, ungoldly, submissive, unfit, savages, and unworthy, they needed to be saved and civilized to justify the colonization of the people in order to use the resources of the land. A land according to the colonizer that needed to be used to its potential, a land that needed taking, just as the land was feminized so were the Native people. The stereotypes are still prevalent in current actions of today’s U.S. government. Policy regarding Native people have always been created to provide for the care and protection of this group of individuals, usually who don’t need or want the care being offered. These policies and laws are all most always contradictory to the Native peoples beliefs, values, and way of life.
In the 1800’s, boarding schools were erected to provide care for young Native children, to help them assimilate to a new life and new world, to become civilized. This care and help was offered, often in torturous ways forcing these children to turn away from their families, tribes and identities. I argue that boarding schools were an early form of foster care, resulting in displacement of Native children through “adoption” to render the Native culture extinct, a process that continues today. Janice Gould discusses this issue in her essay, “Telling Stories to the Seventh Generation: Resisting the Assimilationist Narrative of Stiya,” explains that change was created through inward self-destruction and separating oneself from their tribal life.

If boarding schools were shut-down, and laws passed, how else will Native people be subdued? Is it through the guise of help that the government continues erasing Native children’s heritage? Why do Native homes that are certified to be foster care never receive Native children from the child protective system?

Gould, Janice. “Telling Stories to the Seventh Generation: Resisting the Assimilationist Narrative of Stiya.” Reading Native American Women. Ed. Inés Hernández-Avila. Maryland. AltaMira Press. (2005)


2 thoughts on “Adoption and Foster Care Linked to Assimilation of Native Children

  1. Hi Susan. From what I understand, your analysis will be focusing on Native child (dis)placement (foster care, adoption, etc.) as a method of subjugation and assimilation. There’s a history of child displacement, such as in government boarding schools, that forced assimilation, and certain aspects of Native adoption today continue this legacy. If I’m reading your argument seed incorrectly and this isn’t your intended focus, please feel free to clarify!

    This sounds like a tentative working thesis: “I argue that boarding schools were an early form of foster care, resulting in displacement of Native children through ‘adoption’ to render Native culture extinct, a process that continues today.” I think this is an engaging idea with a lot to explore. What do you mean by “an early form of foster care”? Perhaps you could define foster care (at some point in your draft) for clarity. I thought the phrase “to render Native culture extinct” is particularly interesting. Some questions you could investigate/expand on could be: who is interested in rendering Native cultures extinct and why? How is Native culture perceived in the present day? How have Native groups historically resisted and continue to resist this cultural erasure? Although your focus seems to be the US, does this pattern show up transnationally?

    The idea that mechanisms (boarding school, adoption/foster care) may change but their goal (displacement, cultural erasure, etc.) remains more or less the same is interesting. I feel like several of the class readings also trace how methods of oppression and subjugation endure, albeit in different manifestations, throughout history. Maybe you could compare the rhetoric justifying boarding schools with contemporary discourses surrounding adoption.

  2. Susan– this is a great exploration of the issue; I’m really looking forward to your paper! Kat has provided really insightful feedback with which I concur. Defining ‘foster care’ early on will help elucidate your thesis (which sounds like it is redefining or broadening the definition of the issue). Andrea Smith has written a lot on boarding schools- I very storngly recommend including her work in your analysis.

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