Frequently Asked Questions
have a friend that
is Ojibwe, She was adopted by a white family here in the US. She
wondering what it would take to get registered as she states her father
never registered her or her siblings. Could you send me some info
please. Thanks so much.
lost through adoption
At least in the U.S., enrollment in a federally recognized
through the 'tribal government,' and each one has different procedures
and requirements for enrollment.
What your friend would need to do, to start, would be to find out the
reservation that her father (and / or mother) is "enrolled" at, and
what are that particular tribal
basic requirements for enrollment. Some of
enrollment requirements are usually in the tribal constitution, or in
'enrollment ordinances' that were adopted shortly after the
was 'accepted by the tribe.' Most of the constitutions for
federally recognized tribal
governments in the U.S. were
from a B.I.A. (Bureau of Indian
Affairs) fill-in-the-blanks 'model constitution' that complied with the
provisions of the federal Indian
, and most of them
fairly similar. Some Indian tribal constitutions are online,
through the Native
, the National
, and/or on the
individual tribe's website.
Many federally recognized Indian tribes have '1/4 blood quantum or
more' requirements for tribal enrollment, and usually this means
'Indian blood quantum' from that particular
tribe, so that a
person could be a 'fullblood' but -- because of specific 'tribal' blood
requirements -- not eligible for enrollment in any particular tribe.
Also, especially with those tribal governments that have fairly high
incomes (from gaming, smoke shops, etc.) that are distributed
per-capita, there is a monetary incentive for those people who are
already enrolled, to limit additional tribal enrollment, since "more
people" means "less money" for each person. There have been some
about tribal enrollment on a number of
reservations, some of them involving people who were on the orgininal
"base rolls" for a particular tribe as mandated in the constitution,
but who have since been excluded.
Your friend is also going to need to provide some kind of legal
documentation for tribal enrollment -- exactly what depends on the
was put up for adoption as an
infant. My mother passed away several years ago. I had
several brothers who
were put up for adoption as well, and my birth family was
scattered I have met some of them. Is there any way you
could put me
in touch with the others? Thank you.
I don't know if the First
Nations Orphan Association
would be able to help you, or not ...
but, at the very least, they are in touch with a network of Indian
people who are confronting the same issues as you are, and their
executive director, Sandra White Hawk (email address firstname.lastname@example.org
much better ideas than I do, about how to even begin the process of
locating your lost brothers.
and, a friend adds:
The systematic removal of
children from indigenous communities through
adoption and long-term foster care is clearly in violation of the
United Nations' Convention on
the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide, Article 2 (e),
and, like other war
crimes banned under international law, has repercussions extending
through decades, generations.
Red Cross, including the American Red Cross under its
1905 Charter, is legally obligated to 'provide relief ... to victims of
conflict and disaster' -- specifically including intenational tracing
services and other aid to 'facilitate reunion with relatives.'
to the best of my knowledge, the Red Cross does not help 'Indian'
adoptees locate lost relatives; perhaps an organized international
effort could change this?
Tens of thousands of 'Indian' children were forcibly removed not just
from their homes, but also from their communities, and far too many of
these people have searched for years - in some instances their entire
lifetime - for lost relatives, for their 'real' identity in the
disjuncture between 'two worlds,' and for personal and community
And yet - apart from the efforts of the First Nations Orphans
Association (FNOA) and other grassroots organizations - I don't know of
any organization that is set up to countless
Indian adoptees, find their relatives.
It's possible that
the brothers you are trying to locate, are on the tribal rolls, and
therefore that the tribal enrollment office (and
have a record of their recent addresses.
The way that the
federal government set up various aspects of its 'Indian' system were -
in my opinion - not in the best interests of indigenous people, and the
balance between B.I.A. 'service population' (not enrolled tribal
members) as among the criteria for determining levels of tribal
funding, and the clear disincentive to enrolling all eligible Indians
that's intrinsic to the federally-implemented system of 'per capita
payments' [the more tribal members, the smaller the 'share' for each],
has meant that many 'tribal councils' have set up some fairly rigorous
barriers to 'enrollment.' It's a contentious issue (and likely to
more-so) -- that's worth bearing in mind so that anyone trying to
access the information on tribal rolls would not take fairly vigorous
"rebuffs" by tribal enrollment officers as any kind of personal
Finding your lost relatives by asking the B.I.A. regional
office - the realty department
was making a serious effort to deal with probate backlogs a couple of
years ago - is
maybe like buying a lottery ticket: relatively low odds of success, but
worth a try, and with the B.I.A.'s efforts to improve their
record-keeping in compliance with court rulings in the case Cobell v.
the chances that the B.I.A. has accurate information
have probably improved. Presumably Indian probate records are
(administrative law) records subject to the Freedom of Information Act,
but the only ways I've ever accessed those records have either been as
a 'party at interest' ... or informally 'leaked'
Other just-maybe it'll work possible strategies of
accessing information held by the B.I.A. and/or the tribal
- Contacting the Office
of Trust Funds Management, just-in-case there
are IIM trust funds (for which the B.I.A. is presumably responsible for
finding all heirs). It seems to me that there's a
legal 'powder keg' involving the de facto disinheritance of
Indian people who were 'lost' after having been adopted out; I haven't
followed the Cobell case closely enough to know how that issue
was dealt with (if it was)
and don't have the legal expertise to
offer an expert opinion as to the possibilities of further legal action
to remedy such disinheritance
- Contacting candidates for tribal office during the most recent
absentee voter lists include contact information for some (not all)
tribal enrollees living off-reservation.
and, perhaps ...
- It would likely take quite a bit of time, but oftentimes what's been
a part of Indian people's oral history is sometimes pretty remarkable:
of your surviving relatives quite possibly remembers where your mother
was living when your brothers were born, and - on the order of a
'miracle' but possible - if you do some 'asking around' you might
'hit the jackpot' and find a sympathetic older person who remembers the
name(s) of the adoptive parents (and will tell you) - it's not quite
the same, but I found my great-grandmother by persistently
- Another just-maybe
: visiting with the older priests and other
on-reservation clergy, and with the older nurses at the hospital in the
where her mother was living when her brothers were born (especially if
they were adopted-away as infants; one of the nurses might remember the
adoption agency involved) ...
- Putting up your own website, thinking about meta-tags (indexing
that her brothers, looking for their
relatives (including her),
might use to 'search' with ... listing her website with the major
search engines [submission to Google
, and MSN
instructions via their home pages, it can take several months to get
'listed'] ... (and praying) ...
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