When Native American Children Are Adopted By White Families, It Isn’t Always A Happy Ending

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Photo: Indian Child Welfare Act Protest 2013
Chebon Kernell beats a drum and sings as participants dance during a rally in support of three-year-old baby Veronica, Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, and the Indian Child Welfare Act, in Oklahoma City, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013.

In the 1950s and '60s, thousands of Native American children were adopted to white families. Because the adoptions were mostly closed, many of those children had unanswered questions about their birth parents and their identities.

Susan Harness of Fort Collins was one of those children. When Harness was 18 months old, social workers removed her from the Flathead Reservation in Montana and placed her with a white family. She wrote about the experience in her new book, "Bitterroot."

Harness talked with Colorado Matters about how federal law concerning Native American adoptions has changed, and about the issues that still persist.

At one point, a third of all Indian children in the United States had been taken from their parents. Then, in the 1970s, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law put great emphasis on whether the child is a member of a tribe or eligible to be. Some say the act goes too far, though, and has been the center of several suits.