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'Blood Memory' Takes Hard Look At Adoption Of Native Children

Drew Nicholas

The Shining Mountains Film Festival marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Aspen Monday with Native American films and events. The festival closes Monday evening with the documentary “Blood Memory.” The film delves into the damage wrought by the American Indian Adoption program.  

The 1950s and 60s-era policy saw state child welfare and private adoption agencies remove large numbers of native children from their parents.


Sandy White Hawk is featured in the film “Blood Memory.”  She was one of those children, taken from her Lakota family and placed in a white home. 

She likens the adoption program to genocide. 

"This was a systematic targeting of our people, really placing white standards of child welfare on our families," she said.



Credit Drew Nicholas / bloodmemorydoc.com
Sandy White Hawk, featured in "Blood Memory."

Director Drew Nicholas says that he was driven to make the film because the rates of removal of native children today aren’t that much different than the Indian Adoption era. 

“One in three children nationwide, ten to one [native to non-native] children in South Dakota are removed. In Minnesota, it's basically 22 [native] children for every one white child. Even though it’s forty years later, has anything changed?" he said.

The film starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Wheeler Opera House. It will be followed by a panel discussion that includes White Hawk and other native adoptees, along with members of the Aspen Ute Foundation and Indian Child Welfare Program Office in Denver.





Contributor Christin Kay is passionate about the rich variety of arts, cultural experiences and stories in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been a devotee of public radio her whole life. Christin is a veteran of Aspen Public Radio, serving as producer, reporter and interim news director.