I have a brother.
His name is, or was, Wakiya. Wakiya means Thunder in our language. The reason I say this “was” his name is because his name may have been changed. We don’t know this because none of us has ever met Wakiya.
He was taken from his mother in 1991 by the state of South Dakota.
I have always been curious about Wakiya, never really knowing if he was for certain my brother. I never asked, just heard something about him in passing when I was younger. I think I may have been scared to ask, or find out what happened to him.
Finally, one day, I read of the NPR investigation about how so many of the Native American children in South Dakota were being taken from their families, and never given back. So much so, that it was compared to when Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes back in the post-reservation days and sent to boarding schools where the motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 states that, except in the rarest circumstances, Native American children must be placed with their relatives or tribes. It also says states must do everything they can to keep native families together. The six-part investigation also noted that although Native American children only make up 15% of the children in the state of South Dakota, they make up more than 50% of the children in foster care. Many of the Native American children in foster care are lost to their families forever, as they are placed outside their tribe and eventually lose their culture.
After reading this, I thought more about Wakiya and wondered where he was. I looked for him on Facebook, but that was a dead end. I am sure his name was changed. I knew nothing of him except his first name. So I did a search on his mother and found her living in the same city as I am. When I first contacted her, I made small talk, trying to build up courage to ask if she was the mother to my brother. Then, she must have known.
She told me about Wakiya. How he was taken by the state, when she was battling her demons of addiction. She was now clean, and sober for over two years. She, too, wanted to look for him, but her rights had been terminated, so she had no clue how to even start. Then, she asked if I wanted to see pictures of him.
[read the rest here]