Welcome to THE MIX and our first post by our co-editor.
By Lara/ Trace Hentz (adopted in 1958 in Wisconsin)
When I opened my adoption files in northern Wisconsin in 1979, I never guessed Eire is my blood and ancestry. The Kilduff family who migrated from Ireland to Quebec then Ottawa then Michigan then Wisconsin would be someone else’s story, not my own. If I had not done my memoir One Small Sacrifice that described my maternal grandmother Helen Kilduff’s ancestry, then a cousin in Ontario never would have found me. He let me know we shared the same great-grandfather Michael Kilduff. After years of hunting, my cousin Peter sent me a booklet that explained our family’s migration across Canada to the United States. Our Irish great-granddad Michael was killed in a logging accident in Ashland, Wisconsin. My cousin and I keep in touch and we plan to find his grave and visit him.
For me, the adoptee, I always wanted to know the truth. For me, being adopted was like being torn to pieces: I inhabited the world I grew up in and only dreamt the world and people I lost.
Here is how I explained it in my memoir:
Stop and think about this… Who are you?
Think about your parents, your grandparents and great-grandparents, who you knew when you were growing up. Remember the stories of when, where, even how you were born.
Now… imagine you disappear, you’re erased, no longer a part of your family history and genealogy. How would you feel? Grateful? I don’t think so.
Now … imagine an adoptee who doesn’t know who they are … nothing, anything, zilch… Can you imagine looking in the mirror, not knowing anything? How might that feel?
“Adopted people” are the only people in the world without free or unlimited access to their personal history…. we simply vanish into thin air.
This decision was made for us. Someone decided this long ago. Someone decided adoptees were better off not knowing anything. Someone decided this for me – I’d be fine, never knowing my identity.
Wait … I can’t live like this.
“You must know where you came from yesterday, know where you are today, to know where you’re going tomorrow.” – Cree saying
Getting this life and this experience is no coincidence. This makes me an adoptee and writer uniquely situated. I experienced two worlds growing up, American and Indian, being raised in rural northern Wisconsin. Today I’m a journalist and write about Indian Country. I’m good at chasing ghosts.
So there are two ways to read history – as the victimized or the victor.
I don’t consider myself a victim any longer because I went to a judge and he let me read my sealed adoption file. This was long before Facebook and the world-wide-web/internet. I’d searched years to find my ancestry, my people. I am the mix of Indian on my dad’s side and French Canadian and Irish on my mother’s side. It makes me happy and proud to know the truth. I consider myself blessed to have this information and my ancestry. No one could tell me anything growing up.
Why? My adoption was closed, sealed by law.
Every adoptee needs to meet their family and know their ancestry.
“Real courage owns up to the fact that we face a terrifying task, admitting that we are appropriately frightened, identifying sources of help and strength outside and within ourselves, and then going ahead and doing what needs to be done.” – Dr. Alla Renne Bozarth
Trace/Lara Hentz (formerly DeMeyer) is co-editor of THE MIX and lives in western Massachusetts and is the author of One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir, Two Worlds, Called Home, Stolen Generations, in the book series Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects and has contributed to many anthologies on adoption. Her blog about American Indian Adoptees: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com. Her blog about adoption issues and much more: www.laratracehentz.wordpress.com. Her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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