UPDATE: MPL has postponed this event until January, date TBD.

On Saturday, November 4, at 4 p.m., the Montclair Public Library will host a discussion about the future of Native American adoption between Michele Kriegman, a Native American activist, adoptee and author of “Finding Faith” in The Birth Fathers Club Series, and Gabrielle Glaser, bestselling author of “American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption” and co-producer of the documentary “Stolen Generations” about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). A question and answer session will follow the conversation. 

Although the ICWA was recently upheld in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, new challenges are expected soon. The Act was passed in 1978 to safeguard the rights of Indigenous parents, families and tribes after studies showed that a high number of Native American children were being removed from their families by public and private agencies and placed in homes outside their cultures. However, some would-be adoptive parents claim that it discriminates against their claims to individual children on racial grounds and does not prioritize the needs of the individual child.

Kriegman, born before the ICWA was passed, says, “It’s only recently that I’ve begun getting to know my paternal family and learned that I should not have been available for adoption.” She adamantly opposes any return to “the horrible pre-ICWA” status quo. 

The United States has a long history of disrupting Native American families, including the infamous federal Indian boarding school system, which operated from 1819 to 1969, forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families in what some have called cultural genocide. Students were forbidden to speak their native languages or practice their religions or customs. Many endured physical and emotional abuse and, in some cases, died. This painful context is crucial to understanding the continuing struggles over the adoption of Native American children.