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The Indian Adoption Project

November 5, 2011

The purpose of the Indian Adoption Project was ostensibly to rescue American Indian children from poverty and give them access to the resources of the middle class, but many say the U.S. government was trying to eradicate the American Indian population.

Harness says that the Indian Adoption Project started as a 'handshake agreement' between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League.

Wednesday, November 9
Noon-1 p.m.
Aylesworth, Room C111

"I think the cruelest trick that the white man has ever done to Indian children is to take them into adoption court, erase all of their records and send them off to some nebulous family ... residing in a white community. And he goes back to the reservation and he has absolutely no idea who his relatives are, and they effectively make him a non-person and I think ... they destroy him."

~ Louis La Rose, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, testifying before Congress on behalf of the proposed Indian Child Welfare Act (enacted 1978)

Adoption as a tool of assimilation

Susan Harness (M.A. '06) Field Director for the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention will give a talk titled, "Outcomes of the Indian Adoption Project: Assault on indigenous cultures," in which she will explore:

  • The history and issues of American Indian transracial adoption; and
  • Its impact on American Indian families and culture, through an examination of its use as a tool of assimilation.

The talk will be held in Aylesworth, Room C111.  

Harness' research, personal experience

Today, many American Indian transracial adoptees seek to access records that allow them to establish their kinship with and to rejoin their tribes.Harness speaks with the authenticity of someone whose personal experiences and extensive research give her both knowledge and insights into the phenomenon of American Indian children being adopted into white families.

She was herself adopted by a white family when she was two years old. "At the time," Harness says, "it was considered the 'in' adoption. If you could save a poor Indian child, you were a good person."

Harness, who received her M.A. in cultural anthropology from CSU in 2006, completed a thesis titled, "After the Indian Adoption Project: A Search for Identify."

Her book, "Mixing Cultural Identities Through Transracial Adoption: Outcomes of the Indian Adoption Project (1958-1967) , states that the outcome of American Indian children being removed from their original ethnic group and placed in Euro-American families is conflicted feelings of identity.  Adoptees face an ongoing struggle to negotiate the complex issues of belonging and exclusion. 

Event sponsorship

This talk is being sponsored by the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, Native Women’s Circle and Native American Cultural Center.  

Native Women’s Circle is designed to help retain female Native students at CSU by providing a culturally inclusive and sensitive atmosphere on campus. It is our goal to provide a community that is the basis for academic success and help build the foundation for Native women to obtain professional careers.

November is Native American Heritage Month

Visit the Native American Cultural Center online for a complete listing of events.

Contact: Tyrone Smith
Phone: (970) 491-1332