I'm sure you haven't heard anyone say this before, but I love fall. What's there not to like? The leaves are turning, the holidays are quickly approaching, and literally everything is pumpkin flavored. Before you know it, all the little ones will be dressing up like Pilgrims and Indians to celebrate Thanksgiving (the best holiday of the year in my opinion) at school parties and learn about the feast that started it all.
It's around this time every year that I start to appreciate my crazy last name again (it's Native American for "big horse") and my heritage (I'm a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation). My dad's side of the family has always been involved in our culture, and my grandpa only recently retired from being the treasurer of the Otoe Missouria tribe. I'm very proud of where I come from and our customs, so it saddens me to think about the negative light that's recently been cast on the Cherokee tribe in regards to the Baby Veronica adoption case.
If you're unfamiliar, Baby Veronica was adopted at birth by a non-Indian family, the Copabiancos, chosen by the birth mother who at that point was separated from the birth father, Dusten Brown. Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, signed away his parental rights shortly after she was born but claims he did not know the birth mother was considering adoption for the child. In 2011, after Veronica had lived with the Copabiancos for 2 and a half years, Brown took custody of her under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which states that a family or tribal member should have the opportunity to adopt the child before opening the adoption to others.
My dad is an attorney and for many years has worked on adoption cases of Indian babies under the ICWA, so I've grown up familiar with this process and the law's intentions of tribal preservation. Native families have been torn apart for centuries, and the ICWA was intended to protect the small population (less than 2% of our nation's total) that remains by giving the child an opportunity to stay with his or her tribe or another tribe before allowing a non-Indian to adopt them. I know it might seem like the Cherokees uprooted a little girl from a loving home, but like the Copabiancos, the tribe also had the child's best interest in mind by wanting to keep her with the family she already had.
There's no doubt Veronica's case is a sticky situation, and I can easily sympathize with both sides. It's unimaginable to have your birth child taken away from you when you're a willing and able parent, and it's just as unimaginable to be adoptive parents of a little girl for two years and have her removed, too. It's a very sensitive and controversial topic and one that no one can truly understand unless personally involved in this particular case.
Although many Indians are devastated by the Supreme Court decision to return the child to the Copabiancos, I think what's most important is that Veronica is in the care of loving parents, regardless of their race. The fact that she has a birth mother and father, adoptive parents, and an entire tribe who want the best for her is something to be thankful for this year.
Image: Little girl wearing Indian costume via Shutterstock, waldru.