A Child of the Indian Race

A Child of the Indian Race

A Story of Return

Sandy White Hawk


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An adoptee reconnects with the Lakota family and culture she was born into—and nurtures a new tradition that helps others to do the same.

In the 1950s, when Sandy White Hawk was a toddler, she was taken from her Lakota family on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Her adoption papers identify her as "a child of the Indian race," and her adoptive mother never let her forget it. This memoir of her removal from and return to her extended Lakota family is also the story of her life work: helping other adoptees and tribal communities to reconcile the enormous harms that widespread removals have caused.

Many people believe that adoption is needed to protect "unwanted children" from "unfit mothers," to offer a child a "better chance at life." White Hawk shows that this is a myth; that adoption, particularly transracial adoption, is layered in complexities that adoptees are left to navigate in emotional isolation, without a language to speak about what is happening to them.

White Hawk founded First Nation Repatriation Institute, which addresses the post-adoption issues of Native American individuals, families, and communities. Incorporating the testimony of adoptees, formerly fostered individuals, and birth relatives, she argues that those who experienced child protection need to inform the policies for child removal and placement—and that everyone involved in the issue must focus on family preservation.


Sandy White Hawk:
Sandy White Hawk is a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. She is the founder and director of First Nations Repatriation Institute, which offers resources for First Nations people impacted by foster care or adoption to return home, reconnect, and reclaim their identity. White Hawk is also the elder-in-residence at the Indian Child Welfare Law Office in Minneapolis. She is the subject of several documentaries, including Blood Memory: A Story of Removal and Return.