Baby Veronica & Our Stolen Children: ‘Someday, They'll Come Back’

Sandy White Hawk

It is October 10, 2013. I just listened to Dusten Brown’s press conference. Listening to his voice reminded me of the accounts I heard from elders in tribal communities I have traveled to. Dusten with his grief stricken heart has let his baby go for her sake, not for his own. He didn’t hand her to 1890s Capobianco’s because they are better parents. He did it because he didn’t want her to be affected by all the fighting.

In the late 1890s; we survived massacres, removal from our homeland, disease and were forced into prison camps that were to become what we now know as reservations. Our ancestors had one resource left to secure our future. That, resource held the hope that despite the dismal circumstances, there was promise that our language, songs and ceremonies would remain. That resource was their children. These children being born into the harsh prison camp settings held within them the promise that we were not defeated that we, Indian people, were going to continue on.

The following oral history was told to me by Chris Leith in 2000. In my travels I have heard other elders share the same account of how child removal began in the prison camps.

“When they stared taking children to boarding school the Indian agent came to the camps to get the children. They forcibly removed them from their loving extended family to far away boarding school, government schools, orphanages and even farmed some out for slave labor to pioneer farmers. When the parents fought to hang on to their children refusing to let go, the agents shot the parents and the children on the spot. Watching this, grandparents who loved their children so much wanted them to live so they said, “Let them go. Someday they'll come back.”

So it was with broken, grief stricken hearts these brave parents let their children go with the strangers. Some of these children carried the last of any family resemblance of a relative who had died in massacres or the harsh conditions of the prison camp.

Grandparents are wise. They knew if these children could at least live, our future would be secure. It was through their love for their grandchildren that the future was secured. It was through our songs and prayers they sent in the wind that brought grandchildren home. It was those songs and ceremonies that kept the grandchildren from dying or committing suicide as many a hopeless separated one has done.

We all sat in the virtual camp and watched helplessly as Veronica was forcibly removed by the law. On, October 10, 2013, we listened to her father Dusten Brown express a merciful request so cease and desist the legal battle. His eyes looked dark with the trauma of having to let his little girl, his “princess” go. Grief gripped his throat making it almost impossible to speak. We wept with him; whispered prayers for his strength wishing we could stop it all. There were no Indian agents, no guns and no trains to boarding school.

The Indian agents have been replaced by unscrupulous, unregulated adoption agencies and lawyers. The guns are replaced by twisted use of the law and manipulation of adoption workers targeting birth mothers in duress. The trains are replaced by a court system used to manipulate the law to appease adopters who want to erase the histories of where the children come from. Boarding schools are now replaced by adoptive homes. Some boarding school experiences were not horrendous; some adoptive families are kind and loving. It doesn’t matter. Separation is just as painful when you are loved. Love does not replace the connection needed to know who you are. Veronica will be loved and told that it is enough. That they “fought” for her that this was her spiritual destiny that she was prayed for.

Indian people have prayers too. We are told to pray sincerely from our heart not our head; to ask for health and happiness for everyone. We ask for help; we don’t tell the Creator what to do.

Our beloved elder Chris Leith, was spiritual advisor to The National Indian Child Welfare Board, used to tell us when we were feeling the loss in battles over Indian children to remember:

“There is state law, federal law and then there is God’s law.” I have to believe this story is not over.

“He let her go, someday she’ll come back”

Sandra White Hawk is a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. She is the founder and Director of First Nations Repatriation Institute (formerly First Nations Orphan Association).




Two Bears Growling's picture
Ms. White Hawk, this is a very well-written piece my friend. You tell it as it is. It is true, those taken from our many peoples will come back. They do not forget who they came from if they were a certain age. They seek their people & some of them DO find those families they were stolen from. It is the same for those of us whose identities were denied us because our old ones were afraid to tell others they were Indian long ago. We were raised washichu in every way possible to distance us from being so terribly treated long ago. Those who could pass as white did so to sometimes save their lives. Our identities were kept from us to many times save lives in long ago times. Once we find out our roots we do get angry for a while as we slowly find out who we are & why our families of long ago denied their blood. The anger stops after some time once we know who we are & who are peoples are I have found. The anger is replaced with pride of a good way. We do not let a day go by that we don't tell our young ones about who they are & where we came from. We hide no more & live in the darkness of not knowing who we really are. To heal the spirit one must seek the past............the answers have always been there if we seek them my friends...............
Two Bears Growling
Anonymous's picture
i blame the governors of oklahoma and south carolina. there is a lot wrong with this case. baby veronica was taken out of an indian home when they took her. she did not have a best interest hearing in south carolina or oklahoma. they were going to arrest dusten brown for going to guard durty, get him out of the way for years. i do not believe these people are who they say they are. they would drag a 4 year old child away from her life, her tribe, her family. i do not like the way they acted in oklahoma. i live in oklahoma, i am part cherokee, i do not have a roll number. i know all too well about the indian schools, how the indians were treated in the 1940's to 1970's. i am 69 years old. i have seen in my life indians kicked, called half breed, kicked off their land. it got better for the tribes in oklahoma with indian gaming. they have money now and do not have to wait on the lies the bureau of indian affairs still tell. they should have checked out the adopted parents salary, living conditions, did they do this for a book deal, to break icwa? dusten brown tried to do the right thing. i have been upset before about adopted children but never like this case. it is wrong. the indian schools were a way for the government to get indian money, land. that is why so many people who were indian did not tell they were if they did not look indian or have an indian name.
Anonymous's picture
You can't be serious. This man never wanted anything to do with his daughter. He signed away parental rights. This was a case of a child getting in the middle of something not between both parents and adaptive parents, but of a tribe selfishly looking out for their own interests and not the childs. Whil I can sympathize and understand WHY the tribe would want to raise the child, it simy isn't their place. This child was less Indian than she was anything else. How could anyone USE an innocent, beautiful little girl like that? To me, it's no better than what the whites did to the Indians more than 100 years ago.
Anonymous's picture
Just finished watching Dr. Phil. They had TV behind all o9f this public relations so they come out smelling like roses. Also the birth mother who lies like a rug Sick sick