THIS HAS MUCH ON OUR AMERICAN INDIAN BACKGROUND
THE STORMY ADOPTION OF AN INDIAN CHILD -- MY FATHER (EXPANDED AND FEATHERED OUT IN MAY-OCTOBER 2012 -- ALSO SOME PHOTOS).
[ALSO, THIS ADDED PIECE: HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER, JR] JUNE 11 2004 WITH JULY 6 AND JULY 9 2004 ADDENDA -- ESSAY: "MINORITY ADOPTIONS" AND NATIVE AMERICA, LAND, RESOURCES [HUNTER BEAR -- FEBRUARY 16 2008 - UPDATED JULY 28 2012]
Spirit of Mt. Katahdin (Ktaadn) By John R. Salter [Frank Gray]
1968: Left to Right -- John R Salter, Jr [Hunter Gray], John Salter III, John R Salter [Frank Gray]
HUNTER GRAY (JOHN R SALTER JR) AT LARGE -- CONTEMPORARY PHOTO -- AFTER TOTAL VICTORY IN THE LUPUS WAR (2003-2011)
Dear Hunter, [July 8 2004]
Thanks so very much for sharing the details of your father's adoption that you experienced.
It is a valuable addition to those who are interested in William Mackintire Salter. Oh that we had his voice telling us the story.
I shall be sharing this bit of history with the archivist of the American Ethical Union and a few others that have been interested in you and your ancestors' lives.
Life is busy here and I never get everything I wanted to do done in the day. I'm sure you have the same problem. We are all grateful for your writings.
Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago
Hunter: The more we learn about you and the remarkable
various individuals in your family to important circumstances, events,
and movements in this country's history, the more urgent it seems to me
that you assemble it all into an autobiography. In my own case, I
started with my grandparents, but they did not represent the kind of
diversity, in every sense of the word, that yours and their forebears
do. Your book would SELL, and in my view a hell of a lot better than
mine has, among other reasons because you write very well.
William (Bill) Mandel 7/9/2004
Hi to all,
So glad to hear from you, hope all is well with you!!
Love & Prayers
Alta M. Bruce
Indian Health Service
Injury Control Specialist
Belcourt, ND 58316 [8/4/2004]
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
This is hard to write about. Initially
[7/9/04], I posted this only on
Bear Without Borders. As of the end of this July, however, I
have expanded it somewhat and am sending it out much more widely.
This is not an argument against sensible and committed cross racial
This page, now on our Lair of Hunterbear website at
http://www.hunterbear.org/James%20and%20Salter%20and%20Dad.htm, deals with
my Native father's adoption by a well-known liberal activist family, William
Mackintire Salter and Mary Gibbens Salter. Their brother-in-law, Professor
William James of Harvard, initially opposed the adoption -- not because Dad
was an Indian but because of the limitations of the Salters.
"I can't help from expressing the feelings which have been besetting me
throughout the day, and growing hourly stronger, about the Salters' project
of adopting a child. The plan seems to me fraught with terrible risks for
the remoter future and with a present inconvenience which I should think
would be fairly disastrous. If they were younger, securer in health, and if
they dwelt in the country or in a rural town it would be different. And it
would be different if, being as they are, they were richer. It would be
different also morally if they were now leading merely selfish lives and not
devoting themselves to arduous public ideals." William James, to his
mother-in-law, Eliza Putnam Webb Gibbens, June 20, 1900.
Among his several liberal affiliations, William M Salter was active in the
almost all-white Indian Rights Association -- which, during this era, was
mistakenly pushing the cultural assimilation of Native people. The IRA
was encouraging its members to adopt Indian children.
Dad was essentially a full blood. His mother, Mamie E Gray
[Wabanaki and Mohawk] and his father, Thomas Taylor [a Wabanaki mix -- including Mi'kmaq
and closely related Abnaki tribes], were Northern Maine Indians from the Moosehead Lake and the adjacent Allagash regions.
(A portion of Thomas Taylor's family
was involved with the Penobscots near Old Town, Maine.)
When the adoption did occur, William James and his family got
vigorously behind it. William M Salter, however, soured badly on it
-- although Mary Gibbens Salter remained a kind and loving person.
The shadow of this adoption hung -- and in a very real sense still hangs --
over our family. I -- a consistent supporter of my father always -- have had
a very tough time coming to terms with it. Yet I can see how, in the
strange way in which the cards often fall out, Dad benefited from
In 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted -- providing considerable
protection for Native children and working actively to keep them within
their extended family, or the tribe itself, or in the Indian community.
THE STORMY ADOPTION OF AN INDIAN CHILD -- MY FATHER
[HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER, JR] JUNE 11 2004
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Amy Kittelstrom, has been doing a PhD
dissertation on William James [with substantial mention of W. M. Salter and some
mention of Dad]. She interviewed me almost two years ago. Her
work is now finished, will be published as a book, and here are a few very
salient excerpts. Our assumption has always been that Louise
Annance died quite young at Greenville, Me. [She is my great grandmother and
grandmother Mamie's mother.] But, as per these recently opened James letters, she worked for the James family at Cambridge-- as several other Annances did.
The Massachusetts state
agency to which Dad wrote for more of his background details in 1950,
providing bureaucratic confirmation of the essence of which we already
knew, referred to his mother, "Mamie E.
Gray" [born in Maine], and to Mamie's
parents, "Louise A. Gray" and "John E. Gray." John E. Gray is not to be confused with our other direct ancestor, John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha], Mohawk fur hunter in the Far West.
[John E. Gray was a violent and abusive person. Louise's relationship with him was short lived and centered almost completely in the Moosehead Lake region.]
Like most Natives in the United States at that time, my father's parents were very economically poor people. The Massachusetts agency noted that his mother, Mamie, "left home at ten years of age and had worked for two years in a private family. She came to Boston at age 12 and lived with an aunt; then began working out in private families and in restaurants." My father always remembered Mary Salter telling him several times, in kindly fashion, that he came "from very, very simple people"
His parents gave him a very strong physique and an extremely fine mind.
We don't know when Mamie's mother, Louise, died but it was still very
probably at a relatively young age. Ms. Kittelstrom
found this material on Louise -- a bit of which we have not known before today.
FROM THE DISSERTATION Democracy Upon Its Trial: Pluralism and Categories of Difference
"Not until the Shaw oration did James use language that advocated mixture.
Until that point he expressed distinct squeamishness about social mixing
across categories of difference. In 1880 he wanted to design his home's hall
to avoid "the disagreeableness of servants going through to the door when
there are guests," thinking aristocratically-for he wrote up his new plan
while in England-of a way to separate the household by "a lower kitchen." In
1881 James was pleased enough that his wife was retaining two Wabanaki
servants, although "with every allowance made for natives on sentimental
grounds, how poor a pick of them there seems to be." Yet he could not see
how his wife could keep Louise Annance, the Wabanaki female, as well as "one
white [female] servant." He seemed to fear the possible dissatisfaction of
his white servant, were her race not in the majority, over the Wabanaki's
desire for employment. . ."
* * *
"When William Salter and his wife, a decade after the death of their only
child from measles, moved to adopt a ward of the state, the two-year-old
grandson of James's Wabanaki servant Louise Annance, the character of the
adoption is unclear. Were they taking the young Frank Gray to be their son,just as though he were flesh of their flesh? The legal formality of the
adoption and the changing of his name to John Randall Salter would seem to
suggest so. So does the fact that he played with William James's kids-the
children of his adoptive mother's sister, and therefore his cousins-on terms
of equality, eventually receiving a wedding present "from your cousin Alice
and me," that is, from William James, Jr., and his wife. But he often did
not live with the Salters in Chicago, mostly staying back east in Chocorua
near where the rest of his extended family ranged. The Salters did not make
sure he attended school every year, extending such little oversight that he
never attended any high school at all. If they viewed him as their own son,
wouldn't they have taken him along when they spent a year in Europe? Instead
they placed him with a family in Evanston, Illinois. But John Dewey and his
wife also left their sons behind when they traveled in Europe, with
heartbreaking consequences: two of their three sons died while the Deweys
It could be that the Salters wanted John to remain near his extended family
to cultivate his Indian culture. William Salter was apparently open to
talking about John's background, although he made no effort to help him
retain the language or the Catholic religion to which his ancestors had long
since converted. But Salter mostly seemed quite distant from his adopted
son. Acrimony increased between them until 1913, when John was fifteen, and
Salter dragged him to an Army recruiter to try to sign him up and be rid of
him. The recruiter chastised Salter, saying John was "far too young." The
rift, by that point irreparable, led John to escape as a cabin boy on a ship
out of Boston. Salter cut him out of his will. Mary Gibbens Salter set up a
small trust fund for him at the State Street Bank in Boston, and eventually
the James estate paid for John Randall Salter's education at the Art
Institute of Chicago.
Of his years with the Salters, John Randall Salter would remember Mary
Salter's warmth and lovingness, William Salter's emotional reserve, and
sylvan times in Chocorua with the James family. "There was nothing ever even
slightly remote about William James," John would teach his own son. John
remembered sitting by Lake Chocorua with James discussing the possibility of
frogs having souls. He never forgot visiting James's deathbed in Chocorua
with Salter, a day or so before James passed. He also remembered the
contrast between James's children's camaraderie with him and Salter's
brother Sumner's children, who taunted him, calling him "Sitting Bull," and
once accused him of stealing a watch from them. And of John's years with the
Salters, what would William Salter remember? He never wrote of it, left no
record of the meaning of it for him. He would remain a member of the IRA
until 1916, three years after John ran away, by which point he would have
reached the age of majority and Salter could have felt his responsibility
Mary Gibbens Salter and John Randall Salter (Frank Gray) and William Mackintire Salter at Silver Lake, N.H., in the White Mountains, August 1911. My father was 13 years old.
Note by Hunter Bear:
In early May, 2003, Eldri and I drove to Chicago where I delivered a major Founder's Day talk to the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago. This had been founded by William M. Salter.
my speech at Chicago -- a packed house with a number of non-Society
members present, I spoke of the enduring influence on our family of my
ggg/grandfather, John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha], fiery and committed
leader of the Mohawk fur hunters in the Columbia and Snake River country in
their disputes with the Anglo fur bosses. I spoke, too, of a maternal great
grandfather, Michael Senn -- Swiss immigrant to Kansas Territory in the
early 1850s, Abolitionist, Civil War veteran, founder of the Knights of
Labor in Kansas, major leader of the Populist Party and a Populist state
senator, denouncer of atrocities against the Indian people, cousin of Chris
Hoffman ["Millionaire Socialist of Kansas" who died of a heart attack while
addressing an IWW rally at Kansas City.] Michael Senn became a Socialist
But now, for the first time publicly, I also spoke of the very positive
influence of William Mackintire Salter for our family: his great commitment
to the Haymarket victims and their families, his opposition to American
imperialism, his many endeavours on behalf of Indian and Black people, his
staunch support for civil liberties which never wavered in the several
nefarious periods of spontaneous and concocted fear and hysteria through
which he lived and worked. . .
In the end, however oft-turbulent Dad's adoption, he
got the best of both
worlds -- Native and Anglo social activist -- and my parents passed all of
that along to me."
KASS FLEISHER WRITES AN EXCELLENT POST ON JULY 9 AND I RESPOND:
"hunter, this is painful indeed. i knew there was strain betw your
father and his adoptive father but didn't know that w.s. had broken
with him entirely. do you have a sense of the reason? or should we
conclude the obvious, that racism was eating at him? anyway. you
have come a long way, a long walk. what a miracle you are." k
I very much appreciate your kind words, Kass. This is the first anniversary
of our realization that something was seriously wrong with me, medically.
We had gone to ISU to pick up Josie who had just finished her last exam
prior to graduation. She had no vehicle then but is now a working LSW
Social Worker and she and Cameron [IBEW] have a fine new Jeep Liberty. The
world seems a bit more distant to me each day!
On William M Salter: It was an almost total break all the way around --
though there were occasional points of contact, at least with Mary Salter.
Although Mother met both William and Mary, it was only briefly and they died
not long before I was born. They may have been a little frightened by her:
Western horse ranching and Idaho and Washington state mining engineering
antecedents on one side of her family and rambunctious Populism on the
other. Obviously, the reservations expressed [however delicately] by William
James vis-a-vis the Salters are points very well taken indeed. In addition
to that, Salter's high idealism which had traveled and survived so many
rough trails apparently could not -- in the instance of a lively child --
avoid the rocks and rapids of the River of No Return.
I definitely don't believe he was a racist -- at least not a conscious one.
With his close colleague, Jane Addams and several dozen others, he signed
the Call to Organization of the NAACP in 1909. As I've noted, he was, for
better or worse, involved in the Indian Rights Association. He was
consistently opposed to American imperialism. His courage in defending the
Haymarket victims and their families and his advocacy on their behalf with
Governor Altgeld was tremendous. But Salter was old -- well beyond his years
as it turned out -- and brittle.
He took voluminous notes -- his books are full of them -- and, if no written
record of his feelings on the adoption were found, there is at least the
possibility that he destroyed them. After both William and Mary Salter
died, my parents, visiting their large home [the Hilltop] in the
Chocorua/Silver Lake NH setting, went into their large barn. There,
partially concealed at least, was a box with two dozen photos of Dad at
various points and some adoption documents. We speculate that Mary Salter
put them there to avoid their destruction by William. All of these have
been in my possession for many years.
All best, Kass. Humans were made to survive and, as I was told when I was
near death from Scarlet Fever at the age of five or six, "Only the good die
Indian Scholarship Committee. Seated: Jimmy Kewanwytewa; John Salter, Chairman; Raymond Naiki; George Kirk and Willie Coin. Standing are: M.T. Lewellen; Ellery Gibson; Dr. Garland Downum, Secretary-treasurer; Dr. William Tinsley; Melvin T. Hutchinson, publicity chairman; and Dr. Lewis J. McDonald.
My father, John Salter, and associates. Arizona State College, Flagstaff, (later Northern Arizona University), ca. 1956. This is the precise listing and name spelling of the Indian Scholarship Committee members as given by NAU. However, it is Raymond Nakai -- not Naiki.
MARTIN LUTHER KING AND FOUR NATIVE RIGHTS ACTIVISTS -- INCLUDING MYSELF -- HONORED BY NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION (INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY, JANUARY 16, 2012)
Elder Recognition Award of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers: http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm
I served a full Active Duty hitch [and then Inactive Reserve stint] in the U.S. Army -- receiving an Honorable Release from Active Duty and, following several years in the Inactive Reserves, an Honorable Discharge. I am a member of veterans' organizations. Note the reference to my father in this document.
John R. Salter, Jr. [Hunter Bear], age seven, painting a war drum. I had just been given -- as an extremely significant gift -- a very powerful Iroquois boy's bow at Onondaga.
My father at 77 years of age:
(Photo by Bob Fronske, Flagstaff, Arizona, August 1975.)
It has been in our family for several generations. It came originally from the Onondaga Nation and thence to Mohawk Nation and then back to Onondaga -- and then to us.
In the Spring of 1941, my father and I [seven years old] made a long auto trip into the far Northeast. He was interviewing for an art professor's position at Bennington College, Vermont. (As it turned out, he didn't get the job.) The interview completed, we then traveled into New Hampshire and then into up-state New York where we visited several Native reservations. In a very interesting context, we were given this Belt at Onondaga -- and I was presented with a sturdy Iroquois boy's bow. The bow was stained with sweet grass and I've always recalled that great aroma from one of the fields on the reservation.
When our family moves to a new home, the first thing we do is to post the Confederacy Belt in such a fashion that it faces the East.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER, JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
HUNTER GRAY/JOHN R SALTER JR/HUNTER BEAR AT 18 -- JUST BEFORE ENTERING THE U.S. ARMY
OIL PAINTING BY FRANK DOLPHIN, AT FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA
HUNTER GRAY/JOHN R SALTER JR/ HUNTER BEAR
AT OUR FAR UP HOME IN EASTERN IDAHO (2005)
THREE GENERATIONS: MY FATHER, MYSELF, AND JOHN SALTER III (AT FLAGSTAFF, JUNE 1967)
MY PARENTS -- JOHN R SALTER (FRANK GRAY) AND JOSEPHINE HEATH SALTER, AT SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, GTO, MEXICO, ca. 1974. FOLLOWING HIS RETIREMENT FROM NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY, DAD TAUGHT FINE ART FOR A FULL YEAR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUANAJUATO.
A very contemporary photo of part of our family. Left to right: Eldri, John, Josie, Hunter, Peter. Maria took the photo. (2010)
Among our many Family Links [with genealogy] are:
Personal Narrative: http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm
Family Stuff: http://www.hunterbear.org/family_stuff.htm
The Gray Family in the Western Fur Trade:
My mother's family -- in the West: http://hunterbear.org/mother.htm
Also see my father's Native art: http://hunterbear.org/my_father_was_micmac_and_st.htm
AND FOR A FEW PHOTOS OF OUR OWN PERSONAL FAMILY, JUMP AHEAD TO SEE THESE PAGES:
A REFLECTION ON WILLIAM MACKINTIRE SALTER BY HUNTER GRAY (JOHN R SALTER JR) 2010
In little more than a week, the New
York Ethical Culture Society will be
celebrating the 100th anniversary of its home building. Quite some time ago, I
was asked to provide a reflection on my adoptive grandfather, William
Mackintire Salter, who, in the Old Time, with Dr. Felix Adler was a major
leader of the Ethical Movement. That reflection, which will be read at that
celebratory event, is attached. The background and nature of our own family's
relationship with the ghost of William Salter is found via this link:
WILLIAM MACKINTIRE SALTER
[By Hunter Gray, formerly John R. Salter, Jr. July 22, 2010]
For the 100th Anniversary of the dedication of the home building of the New
York Ethical Culture Society. William Mackintire Salter spoke at that event on
October 23, 1910.
I have been asked to provide a short reflection on William Mackintire Salter
[1853 -1931], my adoptive grandfather. I am very pleased to do so. Now in
Idaho, I am a life long activist organizer on behalf of social justice, often
under very challenging circumstances -- and, too, a retired university
professor [sociology, urban and regional planning, Native studies.]
Those acquainted with our family are aware that my father, a full blooded
Native American [Mi'kmaq, St. Francis Abenaki and Mohawk] originally named
Frank Gray, and born in 1898, was adopted as a small child and partially raised
by William Mackintire Salter and Mary Gibbens Salter, prominent New England
liberals. They renamed my father John Randall Salter. [In time, I myself
returned to our "original" family name of Gray.]
William Salter, trained in philosophy [still considered a leading authority on
Nietzsche], was a courageous and dedicated social activist on a number of
critical [and controversial] fronts over many decades. Among other things, he
was a key and enduring activist on behalf of the martyred Haymarket anarchists
and their families, a signer of the Call to Organization of the NAACP in 1909,
was active in the Indian Rights Association and a sparkplug for what became the
American Civil Liberties Union.
He was also, of course, a very key person and enduring stalwart on behalf of
the Ethical Culture movement.
But William Salter, old beyond his years, was not suited for fatherhood. And
Dad's adoption was in some respects an almost train wreck. [Mary Salter was
consistently kind and loving.] A major silver lining in my father's experience
in that setting was the nearby presence of William James -- brother-in-law of
the Salters -- who lived near them at Cambridge, Massachusetts and Chocorua,
New Hampshire. William James and his family provided an enormous amount of
personal support for my father and James encouraged what he accurately
perceived as Dad's self-developed incipient fine art abilities. William James
died in 1910. My father and William Salter had visited him a day before his
passing, About three years later, Salter attempted to sign up Dad, age 15, in
the U.S. Army -- but the recruiter rejected that on the basis of Dad's youth.
Soon after that, my father left the Salters. William Salter cut him out of his
will but Mary Salter provided a small trust fund at the State Street bank in
Boston. Some years later, the estate of William James provided the funds that
enabled Dad to secure his B.A, from the Chicago Art Institute. Later, he
secured two graduate degrees from the University of Iowa. My father always
maintained his American Indian and tribal identities and commitment, and as a
very long time artist and professor at what became Northern Arizona University,
worked for decades on behalf of Native students and tribal nations until his
passing in 1978.
And, a few years after their marriage in 1930, my parents wound up with all of
the written works of William Salter and those of William James, and much of the
William Salter died in 1931 and Mary Salter a couple of years thereafter. My
mother, an Anglo, was from an old American frontier family -- mostly Scottish
and Swiss. I was born in 1934 and grew up at and around Flagstaff, Arizona.
And, as I developed, my view of William Salter was, to understate it,
ambivalent. [Our view of William James, of course, was very positive.]
But even as a smaller kid, I'd been interested in James' writings and Salter's
social justice advocacy. When, at the beginning of 1955, and just turning 21,
I got out of the Army after a full hitch, my intellectual horizons were
broadening fast. When home on visits, I spent a good deal of time reading in
the many James and Salter books -- which, as I've indicated, had wound up with
my parents. In time, my father suggested I take them all personally [along
with all of his adoption and related legal papers] and I did so -- and, having
survived many moves, all of those came right here with us to Idaho.
And, in time, though not really crystallizing in full until May 2003 when I
gave the annual Founder's Day address at the Chicago Ethical Humanist [Ethical
Culture] Society -- which had been directly founded by William Salter -- I
myself quietly buried the hatchet and made my peace with the ghost of the man
whose memory had been, for us, mixed -- and sometimes a "burning scar".
As I've written elsewhere:
"For my interracial parents and myself and my two younger brothers, in a
small and isolated town in Northern Arizona, the many Salter books in our
family library -- and those by William James, his father [Henry], and his
brother [Henry] which were initially given to the Salters -- were, I have
come to realize, far far more important and enduring than I had once
grasped. Salter's great courage and commitment played a key role -- along
with our other activist forebears -- in stimulating my parent's social
justice endeavors in Flagstaff [a town with considerable racial segregation
including "No Indians or Dogs Allowed" signs on many restaurant doors]."
The history of Humanity is replete with those who, despite the vicissitudes,
courageously choose to serve their communities rather than to serve themselves.
His limitations as an adoptive parent notwithstanding, I give high marks to
William Mackintire Salter. He did not wall himself into, and remain, in a
cloistered "safe" atmosphere. He went out into the world and challenged it to
become infinitely better. As we all move along as people -- into the perennial
murkiness and dangers of an always uncertain future where the challenges are
now coming faster and faster from the very four directions, William Mackintire
Salter, his thinking and his good works, stand as a fine and inspiring example.
Hunter Gray [formerly John Randall Salter, Jr]
2000 Sandy Lane
Pocatello, Idaho 83204
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER, JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
ESSAY: "MINORITY ADOPTIONS" AND NATIVE AMERICA, LAND, RESOURCES [HUNTER BEAR -- FEBRUARY 16 2008 -- UPDATE JULY 28 2012] WITH COMMENT
UPDATE JULY 28 2012 [HUNTER BEAR]:
precursor of ICWA, which developed a few years earlier, was a compact
between the Wabanaki nations of Maine and the State of Massachusetts which
for decades and decades had been seizing Native kids. This
agreement initiated a number of protective measures for Native children
endangered by state seizure and summary adoption by non-Indians. ICWA, as
Federal law, is much stronger. [H]
Note by Hunter Bear:
Jyri Kokkonen, a Finn of course, has also lived in Australia and visits there on occasion. He knows the general situational setting of which he writes. His good note and comments follow this of mine.
[I say at the outset that this is not an argument against all -- all -- cross-racial and cross-cultural adoptions. Some can work out -- depending on a variety of factors including bona fide situational needs and genuinely positive motivational currents in the basic, primary sense -- heavily mixed with empathetic understanding. Even so, much commitment and work are required.]
The seizure of Aboriginal -- indigenous -- children in Australia by government and their adoption-out to Euro-Australians in an effort to promote assimilation [a goal that invariably failed but produced plenty of serious difficulties for the kids and their natural families] certainly has its parallels in other national situations. In the United States, this was attempted by the almost all-White Indian Rights Association in the latter 19th century and the beginning years of the 20th. The reasons were altruistic but dead wrong nevertheless and, behind all of it, was the hand of the government and the corporate forces that sought to eliminate Native people and secure Indian lands and resources. This was also accompanied by the nefarious Allotment Acts [Dawes 1887 and Curtis 1898], which, with a sheen of ostensible altruism provided by the misguided Indian Rights Association, promoted [and arbitrarily pushed] the breakup of tribal lands into small individual/family portions and the creation of individual Native land ownership, This was a super cunning effort to strike at the embracive and protective Native communalism, break the tribal national structures, and eliminate Indian cultures. Again, the coveted goals were Indian lands and resources via "assimilation"
Although the Indian Rights Association early on reversed its "adoption policy" and ended its support for the allotment process, a great deal of pain and suffering occurred on multi-faceted fronts. The land allotment campaign -- which affected, partially or massively, many tribes [not all, there was much resistance and other inhibiting factors] -- resulted in the loss of two thirds of the then existent Native land base via a myriad of Machiavellian legal devices within a matter of a relatively few years. The allotment process was halted as one of the first steps taken when John Collier was appointed Indian Commissioner by FDR at the very onset of the Roosevelt Administration and designed and implemented the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Some of the lost land, not much, was eventually restored.]
In all of this, Native tribes and cultures survived -- and while most Native individuals did also, not all did by any means. In the post WW2 Cold War epoch, attacks were made on the Roosevelt reforms -- and this included initiating new "assimilation" campaigns. Again, whatever the "altruistic" window-dressing, the real goals once again focused on Native lands and resources. The "termination" policies sought essentially to functionally break the protective treaty rights of Indian nations -- and did in some cases. "Urban relocation" forced -- through a carrot-and-stick approach -- many tens of thousands of Native people from reservations into the large cities, deliberately situating them as far from their Native homes as possible. Public Law 280 removed, in a number of reservation instances, Federal coverage and replaced this with the even far more problematic state jurisdiction.
Natives resisted vigorously, with slowly growing success. Termination was ended and, in slow due course, there was -- and it's still continuing at glacial pace -- some substantial redress in the context of "restoration"
All of this also included new efforts to promote the adoption of Indian children by non-Indians. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in these dismal 1950s worked closely with a number of state welfare departments to summarily seize Native children and "place" them in Anglo adoptive and foster home situations. And, as had been the situation a half century and more before, these efforts usually hurt kids and their natural families badly. The National Indian Child Welfare Act , though often under attack right to the present, has pretty successfully implemented its mandate of -- should a transfer from natural parents be genuinely necessary -- placing the child in its extended family as first choice, or in a family setting within its tribe, or at least with another Native family of another tribe.
As a full-time University of Iowa professor [Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning] in the early and mid '70s -- and also its designated counselor and advisor for Native students -- I encountered a case [pre Indian Child Welfare Act] where two unrelated Minnesota Chippewa children [both girls] had been adopted and placed in the same white family when extremely small, via the BIA and the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare. The adoptive parents were sensitive and committed. Neither of the girls, as they became young women, felt any particular antipathy toward them -- in fact, their relationship was good. They did want to locate their natural parents and this effort was supported by the adoptive parents. Minnesota refused to provide any background info. The older of the two kids was able, through her own efforts, to make contact with her home reservation and her original family. The other tried but with no success. Minnesota remained recalcitrant.
I came into the situation when the younger of the two became pregnant via a local white boy -- with productive results. He and his parents wanted the baby -- and the still quite young Native woman wanted to keep the infant. In this, she was backed up by her adoptive parents. The young man and his parents went to court, enlisting the backing of the county welfare department. I located a first rate attorney, Patricia Kamath, who, although non-Indian had represented the Meskwaki tribe [of Iowa] quite well. We all wound up in a very long, closed court hearing presided over by a tough-looking, non-smiling older judge, a man. I testified as the designated expert witness for the young woman [and infant] for about two hours, dueling with the country attorney. [He had once been a Catholic seminarian and, for a time, we even argued theological doctrine.]
The tough-looking old judge almost immediately ruled for us and the young woman kept her baby.
A year or so later, the young man and his parents tried again. We went through the whole thing, I testified for an even longer period than before, and the old judge again backed us forthwith.
A corollary victory was our securing the young woman's family background data from Minnesota. I'd picked up suggestive info via Chippewa contacts in Minnesota. The state finally agreed to provide all of it, in full, through me -- with the understanding that I would handle it with "sensitivity.
That was, all things considered, a happy ending. A great many of these situations -- the majority -- certainly have not been happy.
But, again, through Everything -- physical genocide and attempted cultural genocide -- Native tribes, Native cultures, and Native people have fought back and persevered. And the Aborigine brothers and sisters are obviously hanging tough as well.
Always and Forever,
For something of our own family situation with the Indian Rights Association and its adoptive program, see
And from Jyri -- this short note:
You may have heard about the official address of apology by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (Labor Party) to indigenous people, re. the "lost generation" issue of aboriginal children taken from their families and raised in forced adoption with white families or in children's homes over a long period from the 1910s to the 1970s . I think it's something of a milestone in that country's history. It won't right the wrongs and it won't improve the lot of indigenous people in any direct sense, but it is an important statement nonetheless. I know rhetoric doesn't cost much, but this might point the way to better policies. The former PM of the Liberal Party (i.e. conservative) flatly refused to do so, and ultimately earning a lot of scorn even from his own supporters. He also lost his seat in Parliament in the last election. . .
Thanks for sharing this information. I wrote a book
titled Mixed Families: Adopting Across Racial Boundaries back in 1977 but
haven't kept up with what's happening in the field in recent years. A few of
the children in my study were Of Native American parentage.
Helen Lamb [Lumbee]:
". . .I read all your e-mails , you express yourself so well, let me know how you and your wife are doing." helen
Brian Rice [Mohawk]:
Don't forget the big scoop in Canada. Soon after Residential Boarding
Schools began to close in the 1960's, Canadian Social Services began the
process of removing children from their parents and having them adopted
out to all parts of the world including the U.S. There is a famous case
in your neck of the woods where one of these children was physically and
sexually abused to the point that he killed his adoptive male parent and
still languishes in prison. Spence was his last name. Some of these
children were designated as having mental illness. I believe Buffy Saint
Marie is a case of someone picked up and adopted out during the big
scoop. There is a repatriation organization for these now adults here in
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
Check out our Hunterbear website Directory
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
See Outlaw Trail: The Native as Organizer:
[Included in Visions & Voices: Native American Activism 
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and remembering