Forcibly adopted American Indians torn between cultures
By Monte Whaley
Harness, now 50, recalls being a teenager sitting on her front porch, listening to radio reports of the rising clamor caused by the American Indian Movement in the early 1970s. "I heard my dad say, 'What are those drunken war whoops up to now?'" Harness said.
"I thought to myself, 'If my dad was saying this to my face, what are other people saying about me?'"
In many cases, missionaries working on reservations would call local authorities to complain about housing conditions. A social worker would then do a home study and, more often than not, build a case recommending a child be taken away, White Hawk said.
Families felt they were powerless to stop the process and allowed white authorities to take over, she said.
Most of the forced adoptions were based on prejudices, White Hawk said. Many children lived with extended families—including aunts and uncles—and often did not have a room to themselves. Many of the homes also did not have running water or electricity.
"I think it's interesting that the state would be more interested in yanking a child away from his home than in helping to try to get utilities and other services to these homes," White Hawk said.
White Hawk's parents—both missionaries—viewed her biological family as part of a dangerous social and religious subculture.
"My adoptive mother constantly reminded me that no matter what I did, I came from a pagan race whose only hope for redemption was to assimilate to white culture," White Hawk said.
For more on the subject, see Campbell Brown Slams Indians.
Below: Susan Devan Harness.