From the Indian Adoption Project to the Indian Child Welfare Act: the resistance of Native American communities


  • Claire Palmiste Université des Antilles et de la Guyane


The right for Native children who are in the welfare system (foster care and adoption) to grow up within their community or in an environment which reflects Native American culture is guaranteed by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. We may wonder the reasons why adoption became such a sensitive issue for Native American communities in the 1970s. Why could we consider the ICWA as one of the legislations that could exemplify the resistance of Native communities? If there is resistance, we may wonder to what?

In order to better evaluate the significance of the adoptions which were carried out between the 1950s and 1970s, I am going to present the Indian Adoption Project, a contract that made possible the adoption of Native children by white families in the USA. Then, I will examine the social and political context and the conditions leading to the vote of the ICWA, before highlighting the expressions of resistance that lay underneath this federal law.

Author Biography

Claire Palmiste, Université des Antilles et de la Guyane


Alba, Richard & Nee V. (2003) Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. London: Harvard University Press.

Fanshel, David. (1972) Far from the Reservation:The Transracial Adoption of American Children. NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Graham M, Lorie. (1998) “The Past never Vanishes: A Contextual Critique of the Existing Indian Family Doctrine”. American Indian Law Review, Vol. 23.1: 1-54.

Nagel, Joane. (1996) American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Red Power and the Resurgence of Identity and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

National Archives of the United States. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. 93rd Congress, 2nd session, April 8 and 9, 1974. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1974.

National Archives of the United States. Hearings before the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, US Senate. 95th Congress, 1rst session on S.1214, August 4, 1977. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1977.