America ReFramed


Blood Memory

For Sandy White Hawk, the story of America’s Indian Adoption Era is not one of saving children but of destroying families and tribes. As an adoption survivor, Sandy sets out to reclaim the missing pieces of her stolen past only to discover that her’s was not an isolated case. BLOOD MEMORY explores the communal healing that is sparked by the return of this stolen generation.

AIRED: November 17, 2020 | 0:56:09

WOMAN: We want our children and our grandchildren,

but we are not allowed to keep them.

NATASHA DEL TORO: For decades,

U.S. adoption policies tore

Native American families apart.

KATHRYN FORT: 25% to 35% of all American Indian children

were removed from their homes.

90% of those children were in non-Native families.

DEL TORO:Now, the adopted and foster relatives

are coming together to heal

and reconnect with their heritage.

"Blood Memory" on America ReFramed.

(wind blowing)

SANDY WHITE HAWK: The day that I was placed

with my white parents,

I was always embarrassed to talk about this

because I didn't remember it

as being active in it, I remember observing it.

I remember being placed in this red truck.

(door squeaks and slams)

I remember the clutch,

the brake, and how the stick shift was just

the skinny stick with the round ball on it.

I remember everything about how that dashboard is laid out,

and I remember the smell.

Once I got in between who I now know

was my adoptive dad and my mom,

I remember turning and seeing

a really white skin with holes in it.

At the time, it just seemed like holes,

but now I look at it, and it was pores.

When I look back on that now,

18 months old, I was just a little kid

in between these two people.

And I was terrified.

We have story upon story upon story

off the different reservations of how

the government had a policy to remove children.

We were being taken

and just put into white homes and communities,

and so this was an era of removal.

We were targeted for removal.

MAN: Race and culture have influenced how we practice

adoption in this country.

Because how we do it is not necessarily how we did it

at the beginning, and it's not how it's done

in other places in the world.

It's hard when you get into the state child welfare system

to say, "Wow, here is a...

nationwide conspiracy to remove kids,"

except for the fact that

there were nationwide conspiracies to remove kids.

CHRISSI ROSS NIMMO: One generation,

their children were systematically removed

and sent to boarding schools; the next generation,

their children were systematically taken

by private adoption agencies and placed with

white Christian families, because that's what

was going to make them better people.

Through the agencies of the government,

they are being rapidly brought

from their state of comparative

savagery and barbarism to one of civilization.

MARC TAYLOR: When you look at the history of Native people,

it's a long history of movement

and being moved away from families

that precedes Indian child welfare.

FORT: Everyone knows the Cherokee Trail of Tears,

but there were multiple Trails of Tears.

BERT HIRSCH: There were members of Congress who stood up

on the floor of the House and the Senate

and called for, literally,

the extermination of tribal populations.

LEVI EAGLE FEATHER: I think it's still a policy

to drive us to extinction,

because we are the rightful heirs of everything

that's on this continent.

DENISE LAJIMODIERE: In the early 1800s,

the government said that it took almost a million dollars

for every Indian war that the cavalry waged

against Native tribes, and that was expensive.

So they decided to educate Indians as a way to save money.

PAULA PALMER: Many Christian denominations

were already offering boarding schools

and day schools for Indian children,

and the government decided to start funding the churches.

LAJIMODIERE: The policy of the boarding schools was

to get them away from their traditions and spirituality,

force them into Christianity and into

an education that was totally white European.

PALMER: The off-reservation government schools

were established with that goal,

"killing" the Indian and saving the man.

LAJIMODIERE: So it was to literally kill

the culture, the language,

turn the Native person into a white person.

Hair was cut, braids were cut off,

and there was a whole sacredness to our hair

with our traditions.

They were forced into labor

of working in the kitchens,

the laundry rooms,

the fields-- there was no safety measures for them,

and many kids died.

It was military-style everything,

including, of course, the discipline.

It was an absolute cultural genocide.

EAGLE FEATHER: Well, you went away to boarding school,

but after the school season was over, you had to go back home.

They didn't have no place to dump you.

I mean, you had to go back to the rez.

Whereas an adoption, it was the final assault.

You know, they took you away and you never went back.

VERN LAMBERT: Who runs the boarding schools?

At that time, it was

the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

And who ran the social services program?

It was the Bureau of Indian Affairs,

and the Bureau of Indian Affairs was adopting the kids

off the reservation.

HIRSCH: They had, like, a registry of people seeking

to adopt children,

and fed into that registry were all these Indian kids

that these private agencies were grabbing every which way

they could possibly grab them.

And the whole goal was to place these kids

with white families as far from the reservation

as they possibly could.

FORT: 25% to 35% of all American Indian children

were removed from their homes.

90% of those children were in non-Native families.

But you might not know, if you're a tribal community

in Michigan and a tribal community in Washington State,

that both of those tribal communities are experiencing

the same levels of disproportionate removal

until Native women start organizing.

REPORTER: How does the Department of Welfare

justify taking children away from their families?

- We have a lot of questions against the Welfare ourselves.

It is a little-known fact that you people

can keep your children if you want them.

We want our children and our grandchildren,

but we are not allowed to keep them.

I hope that you'll stop and think

and help us to do something about it.

So these women went to New York

and then they went to Washington, DC,

and they, they testified before Congress.

JAMES ABOUREZK: Did the Welfare Department

prove that you weren't being the best mother?

- Well, they always come to me and said

that I wasn't, I wasn't a very good mother and everything,

and that my children would be better off

if they were in a white home or if they were adopted out,

and that this home, wherever they were, that would buy

them all this stuff that I couldn't give them,

and give them all the love that I could never give them.

We found that it was a serious problem in Indian Country.

Officials would seemingly rather place Indian children

in non-Indian settings

where their Indian culture, their traditions,

and the entire Indian way of life is smothered.

The federal government, for its part,

has been conspicuous by its lack of action.

(voiceover): So we thought,

"Well, there's one way to remedy that:

don't let them be adopted out to white families."

So that was the genesis

of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

HIRSCH: The Indian Child Welfare Act says

we, the United States of America,

have a national interest in protecting tribes,

protecting the right of tribes to exist as tribes,

to survive into the future as tribes.

SHANNON SMITH: The Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA,

recognized that connections mattered,

that family mattered, and that these tribal connections,

the identity of who these children are, mattered.

ICWA is actually a gold standard in social work.

Only when absolutely necessary should Indian children

be removed from their family, from their tribal placements,

because the recognition is that these connections

are fundamental to their best interest.

Despite all of these protections, 40 years later,

we are still struggling with high rates of Indian children

being placed out of the home.

We're still seeing Native kids taken, three times more likely

than non-Native kids, away from their families.

So we still need something that stops people

from discriminating against Native families

and taking their children away.

ICWA's trying to do that.

(birds chirping)

WHITE HAWK: You know, you heard the phrase "Adoption Era,"

and it's a phrase that

I would like to be used when we talk about

when people were systematically taken

through adoption prior to ICWA.

We don't have a phrase for it.

We don't even refer to it as anything.

If anything, they say, "Pre-ICWA."

You know, and it's an era!

It was an actual time where

literally, social workers drove

into driveways and took children on reservations.

I mean, it was pretty horrendous.

So I was adopted in 1953 by white missionaries.

They were called to "work with the Indians" from Illinois,

and they moved to Winner, South Dakota,

which is a border town to the reservation.

My adoptive mom was very abusive.

She really broke down

my identity as a Native person,

because the only thing she had was

negative things to say about it.

So we have to remember that

once the adoption decree is signed

and finalized, nobody goes back into that home

to find out if that child is indeed safe.

Is he being, um, molested?

Is he being beaten?

Is it a healthy environment for that child?

And yet, we say we've done this for

the best interests of this child.

No one goes back in to find out if it's true.

I, I think you're-- I'm really just taking a lot of things in,

and as someone who...

wants to adopt--

I've wanted to adopt for years,

um, from the Congo...

Um, and we, we did kinda start some of the process,

um, which starts with a bunch of education,

a bunch of online courses on education regarding culture.

And how do you find out you're being told the truth?

You mean, like, as an adoptive parent?

WHITE HAWK: Yeah, about his family or her family.

- Right.

'Cause you could not be given correct information.

Yeah, that's a... WHITE HAWK: 'Cause remember,

I love that you want to adopt.

I really do. WOMAN: Mm-hmm.

I just caution you.

We are a commodity, as adopted kids.

We really are.

Someone will make money off of your child

that you're going to receive.

So you need to be extra scrutinizing

that you're not told lies.

And the other thing I'm going to tell you that--

I'm not trying to be mean or anything--

I know what it was like

to be the only person of color in a, in a town.

Will for sure

make it extremely hard for his development

of his feeling good about who he is.

That's all I'll tell you, and make sure

you're not being lied to. - Mm-hmm.

It's a business, it is a business.

It's not...

It's not adoptee-centric.

(birds squawking and chirping)

(dog barking, distant voices)

WHITE HAWK: So this would be my adoptive mom's pictures.

I should get a better box for these guys,

but it's what I got.

Okay, look at, "Christmas, 1910,"

so that's how old this is.

Oh, there she is, there's her...

My adoptive mom's, I think, graduation picture

from some nursing program or something.

She looks like she's maybe 19.

And I remember when I first saw that picture, I was, like,

"Wow, you look like, like, uh...

someone who you could talk to."

And the person I knew was just...

She had to have some mental...

'Cause she was not "normal."

She was probably bipolar, that's my guess.

Um, I know that she was on medication.

And I know that every once in a while,

she'd get put in the hospital for rest.

They would call it "rest."

I didn't know what it was.

And I think part of me that didn't understand it

as what it was is 'cause it was from my mother.

And I think in our society,

we understand sexual abuse as always being

male against female or female against male.

So I didn't take it as sexual abuse.

I just, I mean, she made me terrified.

It actually felt like a relief when she was gone.

Ooh, there I am in the first and third grades.


I grew up in a town of 4,000 people,

and I was the only Indian girl in the, in the town.

I acted like everything was right and okay,

and it wasn't.

It was just very difficult to grow up in an environment

where my image wasn't reflected in any way.

No teachers, no doctors.

Most adoptees have that compelling drive, that pull,

that wanting to find where we come from.

So that was always there, but I didn't know how to do it.

But I was 35 years old when I went home for the first time.

It's hard to find words to it,

but it just felt like coming home.

Finally, it was, like, this is where I'm from.

Oh, first picture with me and Leonard.

Oh, here's me and my sister Deborah.

See how she's got her nails painted, too?

She freaked out when she saw me painting my nails,

because she said our mother

always had her nails painted red.

Hi, here I am at my brother's house.

This is my brother Leonard, who we love.

We love Leonard. (laughter)

There's Deborah.

Yay, I met Deborah in 1994. - Whoo!

(gasps): I think that's my mom.

Holy crap!

And then there she is again.

I can see the similarities.

I can see it in the eyes, that I really look like her.

Oh, John Beaudin.

He's the one who even planted it in, in my mind

that we should get together.

He goes, "You adoptees should get together.

You have a lot to talk about."

And I remember, even when he said that, I thought,

"What do you mean, a lot to talk about?"

And I didn't realize how he was preparing me.

Maybe he didn't even know.

But all he knew is that it was important that this story be,

that this history be told, and that, um,

in telling it and retelling it, it helped me remove the shame.

It was really therapeutic, I didn't realize it at the time.

(archival): I'd like to share these thoughts with you

and these experiences, and hopefully,

it'll inspire you to take your own experiences

and take them and be willing to share them.

You probably think that I carry with me this history

of being raised in my culture and raised with my people,

and that's not true.

I always think that words are inadequate.

No matter how much I try to express it,

I think I fall short.

But it has given us an opportunity

to talk about a healing that really needs to take place.

(voiceover): In 1999, at Rosebud Fair,

I was watching a special for this Korean War veteran.

As I was watching this man walk around that arena,

there was a time when the honor beats came,

and they held their hands up in the air

acknowledging those veterans who died in combat.

And then another round of honor beats comes in

acknowledging all those veterans

who are right now in the service.

And then another round of honor beats

acknowledging all the veterans who are coming back.

And we're saying, "Welcome back, we're glad you're home."

And that's when it really hit me

that adoptees had never heard

"welcome home," and I wanted that for them.

So sometime after that,

I ended up telling this elder, Chris Leith, what I saw.

I was at World Peace and Prayer Day '99 in Costa Rica.

And I didn't know who he was, but everybody was saying,

"Is Chris here yet?"

And I'd be, like, "Who is this Chris guy

they're talking about?"

And then they had him pray.

And I remember he opened it by saying,

"Pray along with me in your own language or how you pray."

- Pray from your heart.

Don't pray from up here.

This is what gets us in trouble.

Let's open up our heart, sincerely.

WHITE HAWK: He just had that presence,

that calming presence of how to put faith into action.

Then I invited him down to MATC,

the college where I was working.

We always had speakers and all kinds of things.

So I asked him if he'd be willing to come down for that.

And he said, "Yeah!"

So he came down.

LEITH: Well, good morning, afternoon, whatever it may be.

I am, I am a Dakota, and my, my true name

is Brave Thunder Horse.

Wakinyan Sunkakan Ohitika.

WHITE HAWK: We had breakfast before he was to speak.

We talked and...

When I got to the part of saying,

"And I've never heard a song

"for adoptees ever, and I've been traveling now,

"been to Canada and we've been a few places,

"and no one ever even talks about us publicly

in anything that I've seen," and blah, blah, blah.

I'm going on like that.

And then that's when he said, um,

I remember he was eating his eggs, and he goes,

"You know? You're right."

And he puts his fork down, he stops eating.

He says, "You're right, there should be a song.

"I'll make sure there's a song.

I'll have Jerry Dearly make a song."

JERRY DEARLY (speaking Lakota):

But I was out here,

and I was sitting in the, early in the morning.

I think I was turning it over to

Tunkashila Wakan Tanka, Creator, you know.

And I kinda put the words together.

(singing in Lakota):

(singing continues)

WHITE HAWK: After the song was sung for the first time,

I was, like, "Oh, my gosh, every tribe should do this!

Every tribe should be bringing their relatives back!"

'Cause all of us have been impacted by adoption

and foster care.

And it's a collective wound,

it's something that we experienced together.

And so, we have to have a collective healing.

DEARLY: We have to understand, a lot of the people

that are here in this adoptee way

lost a vast amount of culture,

language, history.

WHITE HAWK: But today we're going to take care of that part

in our heart that is hurt

when we're taken from our families and our communities.

We're going to take care of that part in our heart

that our mothers and our fathers carry who lost us.

DEARLY: Sandy,

she never used to talk as much as she did,

but we kept on pushing her.

"You're the one with the story, you need to lead us.

We'll help you."

WHITE HAWK: I don't believe that I do the healing.

I've been brought to bring this to you,

and that, um, canupa,

the songs that go with it,

the ancestors who brought you here,

and the spirits who will take you forward

do the healing.

MARLIES WHITE HAT: The first time I sat in that group,

I was amazed at the horrific abuse

put on these children.

And Sandy, because she was from here, she, when we visited,

she said, "I would love to be able to see

a program here at Rosebud."

And so after I heard that, I got back to Sandy,

and we started working on developing something

for the Rosebud Reservation.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Native Voice One,

the Native American radio service.

(jazzy intro music)

MONICA BRAINE: This is Native America Calling.

I'm Monica Braine.

Thanks for joining us today.

We are talking about Native American adoptees

returning home.

Joining us now

from Rosebud, South Dakota, is Sandy White Hawk.

She's an advocate for helping Native American adoptees

finding out their families and culture.

- And fostered individuals! (chuckles)

BRAINE: And Sandy is Sicangu Lakota.

Welcome back to Native America Calling,Sandy.

- Oh,anpetu waste.

Cante waste nape ciyuzape, Sandy White Hawk.

Greetings, everybody out there in radio land.

I wanna say a, um, a welcome from my heart to--

a special one-- to all the adoptees

and those who grew up in foster care.

BRAINE:Well, it's great to hear your voice,

Sandy,on our airwaves.

And we have Marlies White Hat with us, as well.

She is helping Sandy with the Welcome Home Gathering

that's taking place this weekend.

Marlies, tell us a little bit about what you think

communities, tribes can do to make an environment

that is welcoming for them.

- Well, I think one of the most important things

is to start support groups.

And I'm hoping that

this gathering that we have on Saturday

will be a springboard to start a support group here at Rosebud.

It seemed like something we should be doing,

because of the trauma that the children,

and the families, also, went through.

BRAINE:And Sandy, is this something that you hear

from adoptees, when they're trying to reconnect

with their culture?

Maybe a sense of, of shame,

of not knowing their culture?

- That is one of the consequences,

or one of the effects of,

I should say, of the trauma of being separated from your,

um, your, the place that can tell you who you are.

What makes us Indian is our blood, who we are,

our relatives, our community.

That makes us who we are, when we connect back to that

and start becoming who we were meant to be.

We were always Indian, that just can't be taken.

We just didn't have a way to express it.

BRAINE: Absolutely.

We are gonna go to our phone lines, but I wanna let you know

youare listening to Native America Calling.

We're talking about being adopted out.

If you have a story to share... (audio fading)

WHITE HAWK: You did good, Marlies!

WHITE HAT: Thank you.

- You did, you really did-- I love that,

because if any tribal people are listening,

they got to hear about that

this could fit into their programs

so well.

If you were to say, "Sandy, what's your dream?",

it would be a national repatriation,

where we'd get help from the government,

because they created this.

(chuckles): And we'd get funding to do this.

And Chris, one of my teachers, used to always say,

"You can't stop a vision."

- Hmm. - You know, once...

So whatever was envisioned here...

- Mm-hmm. - You know?

That's how it is here, it's kinda like a ball rolling.

We can't stop it

or control it. - Exactly!

- And then it just takes on a life of its own.

- Isn't that something? - That's kind of

how this has been.

Man, Marlies, way to go!


WHITE HAWK: So we'll just park here.


(people chattering)

Hi-- Sandy.

Hi, it's nice to meet you, I'm Sandy.

You may or may not have heard that

the evening Grand Entry, there's gonna be a Welcoming Home

of our Sicangu adoptees,

and an acknowledgement and recognition of

our birth relatives who were left behind.

And it's very emotional for our people,

our relatives that are coming home.

Some of them will be here for the first time ever.

Some of them will be at a...

hearing the drum for the first time.

And we have that same kind of anxiety

and, like, sadness and all those mixed emotions.

It's very similar

to what veterans feel when they come back

after what they experience.

And so, when we do this Welcoming

for our, our relatives,

I have veterans stand in a circle as a symbol,

as a metaphor of that protection that we never had

as children, when we were taken.

Just your presence

will give them that support.

Your commanders

know what's happening, and will put you in place

when we do that honoring.

So thank you. (dog barking)

Hi, you're an adoptee from here? - Yes.

- And where'd you grow up?

- Uh, Nebraska. - Nebraska.

Are you gonna come tomorrow to the gathering from...?

- Oh, yeah... - Awesome!

Yeah, good!

What is your name again?

- Mervin Garneaux.

- Mervin Garneaux.

As in Nina White Hawk Garneaux?

- Yeah. - Did you call me years ago?

My daughter took a message

and lost, I lost the number.

- You called me. - I called you?

- When she died. - No, that was Deb, I bet.

My sister Deb.

- Yeah, somebody called me, yeah.

- How did Deb know about you, though, and not tell me?

- I don't know, 'cause I worked at the V.A.

that time she called me.

- All right, 'cause I thought I knew

who all her brothers and sisters were.

So, um, here we are.

During the ceremony,

it's even more powerful that I have an uncle

who is actually my uncle,

who will be standing there. (voice breaking)

So it's, um, it's a really wonderful surprise.

After the evening Grand Entry,

I'd, I'd like you to come over and meet my family.

We camp out.

Leonard's camp is right behind the flags,

the veterans' flags and stuff. - Mm-hmm.

- So... - The one's that's got all the

Vietnam veteran flags on it? - Mm-hmm.

- That's where we're camped.

- Are you?

So we're right next-- we're neighbors, awesome!

- (laughs): I gotta get going. - Oh, cool.

Yeah, you better go post your colors.

All right, we'll see you.

For any adoptee,

any person who is taken from their original parentage

and placed in another family to be raised,

most of the time, they have some question,

"Where am I from?

Who do I look like?"

Once we connect with relatives, then this sense that we had,

that we didn't have a word for,

wakes up.

And we begin to understand that we belong.

They may have been told they weren't wanted.

I was told I wasn't wanted.

I just went and started asking questions.

I looked around and thought,

"I wonder if any of these people are related to me."

'Cause I hadn't seen Indian people.

Finally, when I meet Chuck Holquin,

he decides that he would help me look,

'cause I tell him, "I'm here, I'm trying to find relatives."

He was looking up in the phone book

for White Hawks and stuff, and who was Nina related to,

and, and he just took a few phone calls.

And we drove around a little bit.

And that's when somebody put it all together.

He knew Leonard from Neighborhood Youth Corps.

Um, so...

He knew where Leonard lived,

and I went, "Whoa, let's go!"

And as we were driving,

I was telling him that

I felt that the trip was divine intervention,

because of the way it came together.

But that the only thing that I regretted

was that I wasn't going to meet my mother,

'cause she'd already passed.

And he took his hand and swept it across in front of him,

and he said, "This is your mother.

She's been here waiting for you."

And even though I had never understood it before,

I knew it in my heart that day that the Earth

had been taking care of me this whole time.

Most adoptees expect nothing,

'cause we've learned to not expect anything.

I had not thought of meeting Leonard,

but it felt like I saw myself for the first time

when I met him.

Well, this is the kind of car I drove

when I first had my license. (Leonard laughs)

Yeah, it was a Chevy Impala.

- My very first car was a 1953 Chevy, yellow and white.

- Ugh! - Bel Air.

I was, just turned 16 years old.

I bought it out of my own pocket, $80.

(White Hawk chuckles)

- You had a hot car, your first car.

- Yeah.

WHITE HAWK: The easiest way to visit

was to just go for a ride,

and so we'd go get a candy bar and pop

and drive around a little bit.

That's when we would talk.

He'd tell me about different people,

that maybe they were a distant relative.

You know, just kinda filling me in about the area,

the history.

- Okay, I'm gonna go drink a pop, I'm thirsty.

- All right, let's go drink a pop.

So Leonard was raised by our grandparents.

He grew up speaking only Lakota, the old way,

and living the old way.

He knew who he was as a Sicangu.

And even though he ended up having

a brutal experience in boarding school,

that foundation that he had with our grandparents

is what he still carries with him today.

You can see it in the kindhearted person that he is,

the generous person that he is.


(drumming and singing)


WHITE HAWK: What's happening today is, we have a lot

more education and advocacy.

So we've made progress.

Yet we still have a lot of historical trauma

from boarding school

to the Adoption Era.

Our families are still in that place of healing.

And as adoptees share their story, it encourages everyone

to share what happened to them, as well.

Us guys, we got up at 4:30, 5:00 every morning

at the old boarding school.

Line up to go eat, all single file, just like the Army does.

One guy got in trouble, we all lined up for a half-hour or so.

We'd all stand there.

Whoever gets in trouble, we all catch it.

McCAULEY: How long were you there?

LEONARD: Jeez...

Eight years at the old one.

And then two years at the new one.

I used to get embarrassed of that bus we had to ride.

Great big letters that said,

"Rosebud Boarding School, Mission, South Dakota."

We pull up in the bus to go to some school, we all get off,

the guys, those guys start waving.

"Hey, G.I. guys!"

"Old G.I. guys," that's what they called us.

(laughter) - Is that where you went, too?

LEONARD: You went to St. Francis or an old boarding school?


They sent me to the... St. Francis,

I was begging to go back to boarding school.

Too strict at St. Francis!

You thought the boarding school was strict,

it was worse over there.

FARMER: When we'd first go back, they'd spray us for...

remember the lice, the powder stuff?

Under your arms and...

LEONARD: That's what they did to me.

They put white stuff all over my hair, I didn't know what it was.

FARMER: Yeah. WHITE HAWK: It's lye.

LEONARD: They cut my braids off right off the back...

FARMER: Yeah? LEONARD: When I first got there.

Old boarding school.

I had braids so they cut it all off, zipped all my hair off.

Whenever we'd line up to go shower, we had to get checked

before we took a shower.

We had to spin around, she'd check us,

had to lift your towel... bare naked and spin.

"Okay," they'd sit there.

WHITE HAWK: What were they checking for, I wonder?

Other than looking?

If you get in trouble, they'd make about 20 guys

all line up and turn their...

put their legs like this... spread your legs.

About 20 guys like and make you go through a "hot line."

You guys ever go through a hot line?

Yeah, line up in the hallway and you run through there...

LEONARD: Gotta crawl through there, boy,

you better crawl fast. - Hit you, kick you,

or hit you with something.

LEONARD: Some guys cheat,

try to use boards on you. - Yeah.

And then when they whip you, they call it "cracks."


WHITE HAWK: These guys were Indians

who had been then trained.

They were schooled to be mean like that.

LEONARD: Yeah. WHITE HAWK: Taught to be mean.

LEONARD: Even our own people were mistreating us.

They'd been conditioned

to be that way. LEONARD: Yeah.

FARMER: Survivors, that's why we're called survivors

We know how to survive out here now.

Don't have nothing, but we can survive.


(crickets chirping)

(man singing in Lakota)

(singing in Lakota continues)

For those of you who are just coming here for the first time,

share that one thing that's on your heart.

There's no right or wrong thing to share.

If you become-- if you cry, that's okay because these tears

that we shed are healing.

I used to always feel like if I cried,

and if I let that open, I wouldn't come back.

And over time, through telling and retelling of my story,

it taught me we have to express some of that

and have that nurturing that we didn't get.

(man finishes singing in Lakota)

I was raised with white people...

and, uh, went to Catholic school.

You know, I didn't know my heritage.

I didn't know my culture.

Nobody, um... like, took me in and...

(chokes up): I just never felt loved.

I felt like I wasn't wanted.


And there's always, "Why?"

There's always...

"Why were you... why were you given away?"

Like, "Why didn't she love me, to keep me...

to hold me?"

You know, a daughter always needs her mother.


WOMAN: I grew up in Austria, in Vienna.

I always felt inside I'm different

than the other kids over there.

So growing up was hard because them kids,

they know you're different.

They gave me bad names.

They even called me "Mongoloid" in school.

They bullied me.

I was an outcast over there.

I even tried to end my life at that time.

After that, I had really bad identity crisis

'cause I did not know who I am, where I come from.

But I thank Tunkasila that he brought me home.


my experiences as a youngster were terrible

and heartbreaking.

After I found out I was Indian,

I was still living with them.

And, um... but then my stepmother,

like, I didn't understand why she would put

Clorox in the bathtub...

and she would put Comet...


And call me "a dirty Indian."


I came home from school one day, second grade, first grade...

and my brother was gone.

And they didn't tell us.

Nobody told us for a long time where he was or nothing.

We didn't know where he was.

And to find him again and to see him as an adult

and to see him doing good,

I'm so proud of him.


The things that make me feel connected,

the things that make me feel like I belong

are the graves, when I go to the cemeteries,

I see the bones of my ancestors.

When I see that my father's grave,

where I spend some time, and I see my

great-grandfather's grave, who I just recently found,

Conrad His Blue Horse.

Some of these other ones that, uh...

my relatives, that are buried here,

they let me know I belong here, they let me know I'm home.

Sometimes it's the living that I still struggle with

that, uh, I don't feel comfortable being around,

but that's just me, I guess.

MAN: In my life, I've never heard anybody acknowledge

that America did this to us.

The United States did this to us.

I've ack... I've never heard that acknowledged.

And it's very hard for us to acknowledge that somebody did

this to us and that we didn't do this to ourselves.

And I look... (voice breaks)

(heavy sigh)

I look at my grandsons... and my granddaughters...

and I feel for my mom and my dad.


And I feel for all the people that stayed here

once we were gone.

Because this was a

big, big evil that hit us.

WHITE HAWK: There's a spiritual truth

in a word,

and it's what we say about adoptees,

and that's "Wicoicage aki un kupi."

Generation after generation, we are coming home.

"Wicoicage" means that generation past,

the generation present,

and that generation yet to come.

We are those who were yet to come

when our ancestors prayed for us.

They gave us this life

and it's all they could give us.

The greatest gift.

So with our wounded selves, as we heal,

we can move forward and be that healing movement

and that encouragement to our people.

(distant drumming)

ANNOUNCER: Now, ladies and gentlemen,

it's a beautiful gathering, beautiful evening here.

139th annual celebration

here at Rosebud.

We have a lot of things, duties, that we have to...

abide by, to make sure we observe the honorings

and respect that some of these things deserve.

Red Plains, pick it up after that.

Elk Soldiers, Grand River, Red Leaf.

(drumming starts) Be ready! All right,

no breaks in the music, hoka hey!

(singing and drumming)

(singing and drumming continue)

(singing and drumming continue)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen,

we have a ceremony, welcome home ceremony,

scheduled for this evening here

of our children that were adopted out.

We're gonna turn the microphone over here to

Jerry Dearly-- hoka hey,

and Sandy White Hawk.

(speaks Lakota)

DEARLY: Today, ladies and gentlemen,

we were at the Rosebud Elementary.

It was really encouraging

to hear some of those stories.

You guys are standing tall and proud,

singing loud and proud over here.

(speaking Lakota)

At this time, I would like to turn the mic over

to Sandy White Hawk.

WHITE HAWK (in Lakota):

My name is Sandy White Hawk.

(speaking Lakota)

In 1989, I stood for the first time

and heard the drum and saw the beautiful strength

of our beautiful Lakota people.

It was the first time I came home

after being raised in the white world.

Many people think that being in the white world

has a lot of opportunities and that we lived a good life.

Some had opportunity,

some had some stability,

but what we didn't have is that identity,

knowing who we are, knowing where we come from.

As adoptees, we're not looking to be pitied.

We're not looking-- we're not victims.

We're your relatives who have been stolen.

And many of us come back

into the community and we don't want to talk about

what happened to us out there.

And when we don't do that, it doesn't heal,

but we need to do it in the safety of our people,

the circle of our people.

One of the strongest and most important

healing energies for me was the drum,

our songs, our ceremonies, and most of all,

the visiting and the encouraging that we do

as Indian people.

So for those of my relatives who are out here,

this song is for you.

This healing...

we pray will go into that place

in your heart where no words go,

where no words can be expressed.

The sound of these jingles, the dance that they will do,

the sound of that drum, go into you and be a salve

in your spirit.

Someone else who is going to

stand with our relatives here,

and that's our relative Duane Hollow Horn Bear.

What he'd like to offer is to put on his regalia,

walk with them and bring them out.

So I thank you for coming

and standing here with them.

DEARLY: Hoka hey!

(speaking in Lakota)

And now the healing dance

of the Jingle Dress style of dance.


(drumming and jingles)

DEARLY: The Jingle Dress Round dance,

it is a healing time, a healing dress.

(singing and drumming)

That's how the Ojibwe people,

the Hahatunwan Oyate, wanted the people to heal.

And they gave this dress from their Jingle Dress Society

to the people and the world.

(singing and drumming)

(speaking in Lakota-Ojibwe)

At this time, I will sing this song

for all the adoptees as, uh...

(speaking Lakota)

(singing in Lakota)

(singing continues)

(singing continues)

(drum beats)

(group singing in Lakota)


lies that code that makes up who we are.

(singing and drumming continue)

I know anyone who

returns to their homeland, anyone,

whether they've been adopted or not,

if they've been away from their homeland

and come back, feel that reconnect.

It's something that's in our DNA.

As Indian people know

through our songs and ceremonies,

we can remove that trauma

that's at that cellular level.

We can change that

so that now our next generation

doesn't have to have that stored in their being,

in their essence.

Blood memory, to me, that's the best way

I can explain that.

(rolling drum beats)

(man singing)

WHITE HAWK: Thank you, leksi.

Thank you for being out there, thank you, thank you!

(men singing)

DEARLY: How about a big round of applause

for all our adoptees, friends and relatives.

Welcome home.


(drumming and singing continue)

(drumming and singing continue)

(drumming and singing continue)

(indistinct chatter)

(drumming and singing conclude)


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