Native Americans and The Solomon’s Choice in Adoption

White America has a terrible history to overcome in terms of our treatment of Native American children. They were taken from their families, often under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and put into orphanages or foster homes whose focus was to destroy any shred of their Indian identity. They were punished for speaking indigenous languages, given “white kid” hair cuts rather than having their long braids, taught that their people were dirty and inferior, made to worship a light-skinned, blue eyed English-speaking God. Often the children were brutally beaten and sexually abused. They were rarely loved, or even treated with basic kindness.

Laws were passed, eventually, protecting the rights of indigenous tribes to have priority in adoption of their children. Hard to argue with that as a philosophy, or a corrective entitlement.

But there are individual Native American children who wind up in long term foster care with white families, and are eventually adopted by them after bonds of affection are formed on both sides. Hard to tell a three or four or five year old child that the only family he’s ever known is the not the right family for him, and that although he will suffer at being removed, he’ll be better off in the long run. Sometimes judges rule in favor of the adopting family, against the tribe.

The situation described in this article is even more complicated. At issue is a newborn Navajo girl whose brother is adopted by a white family. They want her too, arguing that the siblings have a right to be raised together. The Navajo nation takes the opposite stance. They have blood relatives of both children who will raise the little girl. The tribe has already lost her brother. They say they cannot lose her too.

This is one of those situations where two fundamental and legitimate rights are clashing and incompatible. I can’t fathom how any judge makes a right decision.

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