Susan Fedorko's first book, Cricket: Secret Child of a Sixties Supermodel

Native Adoptee Susan Fedorko: Veronica’s 'Lost Bird Wings' Will Fly Her Back

ICTMN Staff
10/1/13

Susan Fedorko was 40 years old when she found her birth family—or rather, when a long-lost sister found her. Her first book, Cricket: Secret Child of a Sixties Supermodel (Outskirts Press, 2012) chronicles Fedorko’s journey from Native American adoptee-turned “white” mother and wife, to a person reunited with her extended family. That family hails from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation people on her mother’s side and the White Earth Nation on her father’s, both Chippewa/Ojibwe. In an unexpected twist, Fedorko discovered that just a few years after her birth, her birth mother—Cathee Dahmen—had become an immensely popular supermodel, probably the first Native American woman to attain that status.

RELATED: Reclaiming her Identity: A Conversation With Native Adoptee and Author Susan Fedorko

Fedorko sent Indian Country Today Media Network the below gripping open letter to Veronica Brown's adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

RELATED: Adoptees Express Anguish Over Veronica's Separation Through Poetry

An Emotional Reaction: Mothers, Adoptive Parents, Adoptees Speak Out About Baby Veronica's Removal

Cherokee Nation Mourns As Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

Capobiancos Sue Dusten Brown for Nearly Half a Million in Fees

By Susan Fedorko:

My heart is heavy for Dusten Brown and the entire Cherokee Nation/Native American people.

He has done everything right he could do to keep his biological daughter Veronica.

I am a Native American adoptee who was adopted prior to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. I spent my entire life trying to return to my Native people. I finally returned at the age of 40.

These things we do know about what Veronica will likely endure as an adoptee:

1. She will most likely constantly be challenged with her identity. She knows who her biological father is. On paper, her father may be Matt Capobianco. But in heart and soul it is Dusten Brown.

2. She will most likely never trust again. You have ripped her away from her father and step mother and sibling.

3. She will most likely yearn to be accepted. Relocating her from her biological family will leave her “unsure” where she belongs.

4. She will most likely be reminded that she is an adoptee all her childhood years. School age children will serve as a reminder that she is different from the other kids.

My heart aches that Veronica will not be exposed to her Indian language and customs. These traditions and customs should be a part of her life as a Cherokee child. She should be able to dance and pray—it is her birth-given right that you have stolen from her. This child should have never been rendered as “adoptable”; she has a loving father and family.

The Native American community has been run over once again, cast aside without regard. Veronica Brown is of Native American decent, and her civil rights as Native have been violated. The rest of America just stands by and watches a non-Native couple steal her away from her father who was determined fit to raise her. 

She will one day become a teenager, and then adult Veronica. Her Lost Bird Wings will find her way back to Oklahoma.

Undoubtedly you will have 14 years with her—14 years of pretending to be her parents. It was obvious that Veronica was a member of a perfectly loving family. I just do not understand this degree of selfishness—to take one man’s biological daughter away from him, when clearly they were meant to be together.  What are we missing when a non-Native couple can waltz in and claim our Indian children? 

I am a Native American adoptee who wishes that I had someone fighting for me as diligently as Dusten Brown has fought for his daughter.

Adoption is not for the weak. I have survived it, and if there is one thing that I have learned it is that Native blood does not wash away, regardless of how much other blood runs through our veins. We are proud Indian people.  I am sure that Veronica will return home to stay after learning of the circumstances that led her away from her biological father.

I hope in the future our Indian Child Welfare laws will be enforced to protect our Indian children. To protect them from being planted into another non-Native family.

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LookoutMtn's picture
LookoutMtn
Submitted by LookoutMtn on
The only way to really stop this is to work for equal rights for men/fathers. A few states already have it where fathers rights at birth MUST are legal, all states must come to this. Reading adoption agencies owners like Laura Beauvais-Godwin, and others, talk that "birth mothers must be the ones to make the decisions" is just as wrong as when if a couple wasn't married, the father did not have to pay any support.

builds-the-fire's picture
builds-the-fire
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
This is a powerful letter. I hope someone shows the Capobiancos this letter. I am still struggling with how on earth a biological father could be so denied his rights as a father when he has fought so hard to keep his daughter as Dusten Brown has done. The Capobiancos are in a pretend world and poor little Veronica is probably scared to death. I believe Dusten Brown did the right thing, but God can not be please with those "Christians" who forced him into the corner that left him no real alternative other than to give his daughter up. I just saw a sermon on Psalm 34:19 on the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries telecast (yes that Jimmy Swaggart). Jimmy Swaggart also mentioned Mark 4:36-41. I needed to hear Jimmy Swaggart's sermon for my own life, and it has strengthened me tonight. I hope if Dusten Brown reads this and those scriptures, they strengthen him, too, while he is in this unnatural storm.

nokomis's picture
nokomis
Submitted by nokomis on
What does religion and verses from the bible have to do with this situation? The Capobiancos are loving parents and have had an open adoption with Veronica's birth mother from the day she was born. They have stated that they intend to keep Brown and Veronica’s culture a part of her life, which is more than Brown allowed when the roles were reversed. How can you make assumptions about her identity and how difficult her life will be? Look on the positive side and acknowledge that Veronica is the most loved child today and will have a big extended family growing up.

Gina 's picture
Gina
Submitted by Gina on
I still don't understand the Copobiancos selfishness . Why were they so determined to take a baby that has a father that loves her and wants her.

nokomis's picture
nokomis
Submitted by nokomis on
Sounds like Fedorko is writing more about herself and her experience. She is releasing her anger and bitterness and using Veronica as a surrogate for her experience. Being Indian is not about blood quantum but following the ways of the ancestors. If Veronica is connected to her Native heritage the drum will speak her. Maybe one day when she is around the drum, it will guide her to follow the “Red Road.” I know a lot of full blood Indians who are no longer Indian because they are assimilated and no longer follow the ways of their ancestors. Builds-the-fire, you sound like a bible thumper rather than an Indian. Maybe you should change your name to “Builds-the-Cross!”

Kim DeOcampo's picture
Kim DeOcampo
Submitted by Kim DeOcampo on
Native or Non-Native, if this father wants to raise "HIS" child. No one has the right to stand in his way.

Kim DeOcampo's picture
Kim DeOcampo
Submitted by Kim DeOcampo on
Native or Non-Native, if this father wants to raise "HIS" child. No one has the right to stand in his way.

joannie's picture
joannie
Submitted by joannie on
The Capobiancos have planted the seeds for a hollow victory. They are playing house with someone else's child. They started out childless and they will end up childless when, as you said, "Her Lost Bird Wings will find her way back to Oklahoma." Veronica is not a trophy. Their (Capobiancos) selfishness will bear a bitter fruit for them to swallow. It's not too late to rethink this deed, return Veronica to her loving dad, Dusten Brown and their extended family, and adopt a child who really is alone in the world.

Peggy Vega's picture
Peggy Vega
Submitted by Peggy Vega on
U agree about fathers rights, the same thing happened to my brother when he was in college, before the ICWA law.

Peggy Vega's picture
Peggy Vega
Submitted by Peggy Vega on
U agree about fathers rights, the same thing happened to my brother when he was in college, before the ICWA law.

Peggy Vega's picture
Peggy Vega
Submitted by Peggy Vega on
U agree about fathers rights, the same thing happened to my brother when he was in college, before the ICWA law.

Peggy Vega's picture
Peggy Vega
Submitted by Peggy Vega on
U agree about fathers rights, the same thing happened to my brother when he was in college, before the ICWA law.
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