Giving thanks for mom and dad, and simple things

by Paul DeMain (NFIC Editor)
Paul DeMain
and grandson Jaxson

The urge to write and communicate has been a life long process for me, a process that has been very fulfilling as it has taken me to places and into subjects that many people will never feel for or want to understand. There was always a newspaper or two and the evening news to watch in the home I was raised in.

My parents there, the ones that adopted me at a very young age, engaged in discussion about daily, local and national events. As a young person, I don’t think I came to realize how important the impact of those actions would some day be, until many years later.

But I thank them for that amongst many other things I have come to appreciate, like the love they extended in opening their home to the eventual adoption of three children, and a place that was often the home for other foster children as well, including children of several different ethnic backgrounds and race.

The subject of adoptions in general seems to have come through a number of cycles. Now days, a whole industry of studies, books, organizations and scientific methodology including DNA samples mark what quietly took place between families and relatives many years ago

If a natural parent, or parents passed away it was simply a custom to move a Native child to the next closest relative for upbringing. It may be part of the reason that Native people’s extended family was a much closer and wider relationship than that of European in nature.

A mother’s sisters were, and are often considered to be mothers of the same child, and historically, it was they who were responsible for the enforcement of discipline, freeing the mother of the dualrole of nurturing and admonisher.

A grandfather and grandmother where the educators, freeing up able bodied adults to farm, harvest or protect.

My inquisitive mind at a young age brought me to the understanding that my Native heritage, while important, played only a partial role in how I would later relate to my tribalness, my clan, my extended Native family and tribe.

As I said earlier, in my home there were newspapers, and news and encyclopedias and we were all encouraged to explore the world beyond us. For me, it meant discovering thosethings intimately important to what I thought my identity was about.The family that raised me was never secretive about the adoptions, and I learned at a very young age that my mother was an Oneida woman, who voluntarily gave me up for adoption as an alternative to a future she could not see. Over the years I think I have conveyed to her the idea that there was no reason to forgive anybody for wanting and trying to do the right thing.

It was the 1950s and what seems to be a modern day option of extended family adoptions, or open adoptions, or the adoption triangle were not available. When somebody was given up for adoption back then not only were documents sealed permanently, but sometimes destroyed.

The stories of those adoptees are being told now days, as thousands of Native children removed from their their homelands are finding their way home.

According to the encyclopedia Brittanica at the time, there were some 7,000 Oneidas located or enrolled at Oneida, Wisconsin, some 200 at Maple Hill on the old Oneida territory of New York and some 1,500 or so, at the purchased community lands of Southwold, Ontario, Canada.

At some point it was obvious to me that if half of that population was male, the other was female, and the odds of one of those women being my mother had been reduced to 4,350 potentials, without even working on the age categories, down considerably from several hundred million potential mothers around the world.

I would later find out that she, and I, had relatives that spanned from the Mohawk and Delaware nations of the east coast to the Morrison Clan (of Scottish descent) of the Ojibwe Nation in the Great Lakes. Relatives now number ever 4,500 names in the little time I have spent researching the subject over the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, that story will have to wait, just as the story that the title you see above describes, as well. The story I was going to tell was about one of the largest Ojibwe/Dakota war battles in 1790 just north of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation here where I live.

Manyfathers and sons never returned home to their families from both sides of that battle, some 600 warriors losing their lives. There had to be much mourning.

That’s why we need to be thankful for the simple things in life sometimes, like having a mother and father, or a couple of them, and sometimes step ones or have beens as well – something I have been blessed with.