Trace L. Hentz
There was a reason Indian leaders went to the Senate and demanded an inquiry into the staggering number of children disappearing in Indian Country. It was not just boarding schools creating this mass exodus of children.
Programs like the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America (ARENA), established by the Child Welfare League of America in 1967, funded in part by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, paid states to remove children and place them with non-Indian adoptive families and religious groups like the Mormon and Catholic Churches, happening after the Indian Adoption Project run by the CWLA and BIA. ARENA expanded to include all Canadian and United States adoption agencies and offered them financial assistance. One state New York called theirs “Our Indian Program.” Maryland and Connecticut ran a similar program.
As William Byler, executive director of the Association of American Indian Affairs, testified back in 1974, for many tribes, survival was at stake; Congress agreed tribal stability was as important as that of the best interests of the child, which eventually lead to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. (Read excerpts in this book)
One striking example is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Indian Placement Program. By the 1970s, an estimated 5,000 Indian children were living in Mormon homes in the US and Canada.
Francis R. McKenna wrote in the Journal of American Indian Education, “… Christian churches have developed massive programs for adoption of Indian children. Adoption of Indian youth is some 20 times the national average. For Navajos alone, some 2,000 children are spirited away for adoption annually by a single agency, the Mormon Church.”