Margaret D. Jacobs

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Native American Studies] In 2012, a young Cherokee girl named Veronica became famous. The widespread and often coercive adoption and fostering of Indigenous children by non-Native families has long been known, discussed, and challenged in Indian Country. Now, because of an interview on Dr. Phil with the white South Carolina couple seeking to adopt Veronica, the issue went national.

Veronica’s mother had agreed to the adoption, but her father, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, wanted to raise her. And according to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), Indian children should grow up in Indian families whenever possible.

The Supreme Court disagreed. In a 5-4 decision in June 2013, they remanded the case to the South Carolina Supreme Court, who promptly placed Veronica with the white couple.

This story opens Margaret D. Jacobs’ new book, A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World (University of Nebraska Press, 2014). But instead of trading in the shallow myths that characterized mainstream media coverage of the “Baby Veronica” case, Jacobs offers a nuanced and often troubling history that puts such incidents in context, documenting the mid-century explosion of adoption and fostering of Indigenous children by white families, not only in the United States but other settler colonial countries like Australia and Canada.

Jacobs’ book is one of trauma and violence, but also of courage and resistance, as Indigenous families struggled to reclaim the care of their children, leading to the ICWA in the United States and to national investigations, landmark apologies, and redress in Australia and Canada.

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