Mary Pember: A family's journey through ICWA
"I’m mad at you!” my son Danny said one morning. He was perched midway on the stairs from my bedroom to the living room where I sat on the sofa drinking coffee. “Why?” I ask.

His arms are crossed tightly across his chest, his lower lip extended. “You left me!” he said accusingly.

He had crawled into our bed sometime in the wee hours and laid snuggly between us, oblivious to my husband and daughter’s early morning departure and eventually to mine until this minute.

Stomping down the stairs in his bare feet, he stands in the middle of the living room and gives me the full effect of his angry face. His lips are drawn back into a kind of snarl, revealing his teeth. I know better than to laugh at a 4 year old boy’s anger, so I open my arms wide and bow my head. He settles into my lap, curling his legs under himself and rests his head on my breast. “I like your boobs,” he says of my built-in kid pillows. I have to laugh gently to myself thinking, “This must be why men are so crazy about breast size.”

As we snuggle, he asks me a question I have long waited to hear. “I used to be in your tummy, Mom?” “No son, first you lived in another lady’s tummy, then you came to be my son.”

“Ooooh, too scary,” he shudders, his questions over for the time being. And so it has begun. Maangosit, Loon’s Foot, is ready to begin the journey to know his birth.

Although Maangosit did not emerge from my body, his roots are as deeply embedded in my belly as those of my biological daughter, Rosa. Since his birth mother is a distant cousin of mine, the roots also have a physiological base. At 7 months, Danny came to our family far from the reservation through the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA was enacted to end the near wholesale removal of American Indian children who entered state social services to non-Indian families. The goal of the act is to preserve and strengthen American Indian families and culture by re-establishing tribal authority over its children."

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: One family’s journey (Indian Country Today 3/23)

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