A New Low for Adoption? A New Sign of Hope? Or More Backlash?

I feel it almost gratuitous or senseless to post this update on the legal fandango, all done openly and above board, in the public theft of Veronia from the Cherokee Nation, but nonetheless, the discourse of the article still seems so rich and impenetrable (see here):

In the context of that “victory,” however, what I more want to draw highlight involves the renewed and still increasing enthusiasm for further disenfrancising North American people by so-called evangelicals (see here). Daniel likes to ask “how low can they go”; I think we have a new low mark:

Motivated by their faith in God and a distrust of federal Indian policies, a few evangelical organizations are campaigning to abolish the federal Indian Child Welfare Act at the heart of the dispute.

Evangelicals, who have recently seized on adoption of orphaned children as a moral imperative, want fewer barriers to providing Native American children homes and see the federal law as an obstacle.

In a milieu of more and more unchecked neoliberalism, in an era that sees the repeal of the Voter Rights Act, the above shouldn’t be jolting or cause for gaping disbelief, should it? At this rate, how long until rape get decriminalized?


Elizabeth Sharon Morris of Hillsboro, N.D., believes the child should stay with her adoptive family.

A former registered nurse and mother to five children who adopted one and reared seven more, Morris runs a nonprofit organization of about 400 members that advocates for abolishing the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Morris said she was motivated to get involved after watching her late husband, Roland John Morris, Sr., a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa, battle alcoholism while his family succumbed to suicide, drug addiction, and crime.

When she saw a South Dakota tribe force a 5-year-old Native American girl to leave the stable home of her white adoptive parents, she feared the girl would return to a similar environment on the reservation.

“I just felt sick to my stomach at the thought,” Morris said.

In 2004, she and her husband founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.

I feel like commentary on the above can only be gratuitous. But I wonder if anyone sees this as analogous to arguments that we now live in a post-racial world (in the dis-United States), i.e., Native Americans are “racist” for insisting their kids be not raise by Whites, &c. But also, having been recently scolded for raising the issue of racism–where the scolding consisted basically in making a historically contextualized argument, “Systematic racism is far, far, far less pronounced these days”–the changing discourse of adoption seems to be taking a similar tack (i.e., the bad old ways and days are over and done with, so we’re post-adoptive now).

If there’s a kind of bright note in this, it comes from the fact that when an extreme evangelical like Morris becomes a headline crusader, it’s actually a sign that the support base is not strong. (The Tea Party points to a more diffuse case of this), though this also means a time of even more increasing social violence, due to the greater desperation and more concentrated funding in those (narrowed) channels.

Hard to tell if I’m not deceiving myself.

5 thoughts on “A New Low for Adoption? A New Sign of Hope? Or More Backlash?

  1. I had some exchanges with the heads of this organization, and I was disturbed by the nonchalant, scoffing, and joking tone of the emails I received, given the seriousness of the issue. Perhaps I should air them out in public, because they stink up my inbox.

    They reveal in no small way the inability of going up against the fundamentalist who decides she is right, and decides what defines “right” after that. So anyone looking for some kind of fruitful dialectic should steer clear.

    This is combined with a persecution complex that is an Orwellian inversion when its source is in lockstep with the dominant modes we deal with on a day-to-day basis: The legal, governmental, social, cultural systems that it manifests.

    To keep in mind though is that our perception of this phenomenon is altered by our relation to it. When swimming in it, it seems overwhelmingly and despairingly inescapable.

    From the outside though, there are breakthroughs. Like this article in a South African online magazine [link]. It’s disturbing, this supreme focus on the “hearts and minds” of young people (read: indoctrination). Adoption would seem to thus be the “purest” form of such inscribing of “blank slates”.

    I can tell you that there is much in the way of mistrust locally in Lebanon of such groups—I mean, this is the place that saw the dawn of religion, and so the “arrogant newcomers”, usually interloping outsiders, need not apply.

    Your comparison to racism I think is well stated; this desire to be “post-” something, without actually committing the effort to get past it is a red herring, and need be called out as such.

    Until such a time that the argument at hand is willing to acknowledge the possibility or even the desirability of the abolition of adoption, then we are still only getting toward making even the playing field. Which is immeasurably tilted against us.

  2. Being an attorney and having been “adopted” by a protestant minister/missionary I think your post is neither gratuitous nor senseless.

    What took place relative to Baby Veronica involved the assertion of power using “the law” as a vehicle of violence. US relations with the North American Indigene Nations have always been based on the taking of resources by violent means, with all takings justified by the “Discovery Doctrine” found in Papal Bulls. One can either “take” by overt physical violence (which is expensive and risky to one’s own life), or use more subtle means such as the social/cultural control device of “the law” (which, in the US of A, is always backed up by the iron fist the government’s violence monopoly).

    I find it fascinating Christian “mission” groups are seldom, if ever, viewed in light of what may be taking place behind the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz. Upon examination, it may be seen that those groups are agents acting for the benefit of elites/elitists who hold wealth/power and have absolutely no desire to “save” anyone unless there is a benefit to themselves. This is entirely in keeping with the feudal foundations of Colonialism which, despite the illusion of “democracy”, seems to comprise the central focus of US domestic and foreign policy.

  3. Even though I do research into Native American adoption and history, it was Daniel who alerted me to this group. Morris attacked my American Indian Adoptees blog publicly on the WA Post calling it garbage. They are just getting national exposure now since Veronica’s case and their partnership with PR Jessica Munday. It’s very troubling and I appreciate your words Snow Leopard and Brent and Daniel. I’d like to see her emails.

    • Me too, very much! From where I sit racism is alive and well, just as adoption is alive and well and how often the two go hand in hand and we are told by ‘true believers’ that things are different now.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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