From The Mall To The 'Rez'
Ricardo Pitts and Cheryl, his wife at the time of the adoption, waged a very public fight over Baby K in going up against the Navajos, the state’s largest tribe.
Allyssa’s biological mother put her up for adoption in 1987 but the adoption hit a snag when a California judge said it violated the 1978 federal Indian Child Welfare Act which says any adoption of Native American children must be approved by tribal courts. Eventually, the Navajo courts approved the adoption for the Pitts.
Before the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed, hundreds of Indian babies were allowed off the reservation and taken for adoption by state courts, welfare agencies and religious organizations without the proper paper work. The tribes believed their future generations were being stolen and fought for the act and its enforcement.
Manuel Watchman, the Navajo judge who handled Baby Keetso’s guardianship case in 1988 said he was relieved to know Allysssa made her way back to her home in northern Arizona. After he ruled in favor of open guardianship, Watchman gave her a tribal enrollment number and ordered that she remain in contact with her biological family.
Now 62, Watchman said he wanted Keetso–Pitt to retain her identity. The mission of the act is to keep Native American
According to Nona Etsitty, a tribal court advocate for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice in Window Rock, Allyssa’s return home surprised her. “Most Navajo children don’t want to come back because they take the identity of who they are with and Navajo culture becomes foreign to them.” Not Allyssa!
Her biological mother, Patricia Keetso-Polacca attended her daughter’s graduation and Allyssa returned to Tuba City, AZ the next day, but did not stay there very long. She quickly moved to Red Lake with her grandmother, Susie Keetso, who just happened to be arranging a simple version of a “Kinaalda”, a Navajo girl’s rite of passage.
Allyssa had visited her mother and other family members several times over the past four years. “I feel like I live two separate lives,” she said. “By moving to the reservation, I can combine them. I never got to experience living with my mother or my Navajo family, I can go to school in Tuba City and work. This is my decision.”
She worries about leaving her adopted father, Ricardo Pitts, who has mixed feelings about his daughter’s liberation.
“I’m sad she is going so far away”, he said. “I’m happy for her because she has made a landmark decision from here. She has been saying for a while that she needs to know who she is. I’m happy she will get to know her real family.”
This column has been edited for content and length from a story appearing in the July 6th edition of The Arizona Republic bylined Betty Reid.
THIS WEDNESDAY - 7-13-05 - ON AMERICAN INDIAN AIRWAYS - 3-4 P.M.
Part 1: David Wilkins (Lumbee Nation) Indigenous Scholar and Professor at the University of Minnesota ( http://www.law.umn.edu/FacultyProfiles/WilkinsD.htm) on “Changing of the Guard: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation and legacy to Judicial Imperialism and the Masking of Justice.”
Part 2: Stan Rodriguez (Kumeyaay Nation) on traditional storytelling from the California Indian Storytellers Association (http://www.cistory.org/) 6th Annual Southern California Indian Storytelling Festival “Bridging the Pacific with Story and Song”.
**American Indian Airwaves regularly broadcast every Wednesday from 3pm to 4pm (PCT) on KPFK (http://www.kpfk.org/) FM 90.7 in Los Angles, FM 98.7 in Santa Barbara and by Internet with Real Media Player, Winamp, & Itunes.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
For news and information on Native American and First Nations actors, go to Annie's site at www.NativeCelebs.com and follow the threads.
The Conservative View by Ken Hughes: