Riddle- The Backstory
Prior to 1978 and the enactment of something called the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) aboriginal children were removed from their families and put into foster care or adopted to non-native families with the mistaken belief this would improve their lives. If this had happened to any other group of people the hue and cry raised would have been resounding. Instead it was encouraged.
In the past Native American children were removed from their homes and families by the thousands. Away from their tribes they became rootless, forgetting their cultures and traditions. Many of these children were placed in boarding schools operated by non-native groups. Instead of improving their lives hundreds were abused. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was often responsible for the removals. Some religious groups also stepped up to “save” these children and provide them with better lives. By the 1970’s in the US about five thousand aboriginal children were living in Mormon homes. Deemed by social workers to be “in the best interest of the child” these removals were carried out with state approval.
In 1978 Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act. This was supposed to keep native families intact or at least keep them with some relative or in their tribe. As recently as 2011 up to thirty-two states were not complying with the law and aboriginal children were taken from homes citing such circumstances as neglect. Placed in situations where they may be physically or even sexually abused they lose touch with their roots possibly even feeling abandoned.
Needless to say Congress was ineffective in stemming the tide of legalized abduction. Native children placed in white homes and communities do not assimilate easily nor should they have to. With family and tribal members willing and able to care for and raise the children the injustice to the aboriginal communities is egregious.
While this book is a romantic thriller there is something to be learned from Kort Eriksen’s experiences. Based on the stories I’ve heard from those who were “lost” children; children ripped from families and communities, I built Kort’s world. As you read this book I hope you will think about the system that works against aboriginal youth in America. Every child has the right to know where he comes from. If a responsible and caring family member or community member is available to take on the responsibility of raising the child every effort should be made to see that solution realized.
When my son, Josh, was about seven years old we had the privilege of meeting actor Eric Schweig. He was in North Carolina filming a television movie, “Follow the River”. I was immediately impressed with the way he interacted with my son who thought he was the coolest thing since Bomb Pops.
My curiosity about this attractive young man was piqued. Being a writer I did a little research. What I learned led me to other more disturbing subjects; most notably the government condoned kidnapping and adoption of First Nation babies. Eric’s story is just one of thousands. But his long road to the man he has become is somewhat unique.
In the fifth grade my son became interested in film making. He entered a local film making contest for children and won Honorable Mention with his first production; a PSA on drugs and alcohol. His second production, a short based on a story he wrote, also did well. By the time he was in the sixth grade he wanted to do a piece on how art can help young people overcome violence. As a student in an inner city magnet school he was exposed to a significant amount of both violence as well as students involved in the arts and sciences. Reaching out to Eric he was thrilled to be able to interview him. By this time Eric had been carving native masks. Surprisingly Eric was also the only person involved in any kind of art who was willing to be interviewed by this “kid” making a film. Unfortunately the film was never completed. However, Eric’s kindness made an impression on both Josh and me.
Following are links to pages that will enlighten you more about this fascinating man. He was the original inspiration for the character of Kort Eriksen. While Kort is not based on Eric, some of his experiences are.