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In between: too White to be Indian, too Indian to be White




Harness, Susan Devan, author
Calderazzo, John, advisor
Thompson, Deborah, committee member
Browne, Katherine E., committee member

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This thesis is a work of creative nonfiction. As a memoir, its purpose is to reveal the lived realities of being born into an American Indian family, then removed from that family, citing 'neglect', and adopted and raised by a white couple, who lived in predominantly white, conservative communities. This work explores the unique aspects of my life between 1959 and 2013 that were affected by this placement, such as fitting into or not fitting into both white and American Indian communities, as well as trying to navigate the racial discord between the two, while at the same time navigating the racial and ethnic discord within me. This placement also required me to live up to the promises conveyed by such adoptions: my success of living, and thriving, in the environment of white America would provide proof that this mid-20th century policy truly ended the cycles of dysfunction and social ills so visible in American Indians. But the battle I fought was two-fold: I physically looked different from those around me, and more importantly, I carried the stigma of being American Indian. This stigma is etched deep into the social memory of America in the way American Indian history is taught and negative images and perceptions are generated and reproduced in the media and popular culture. This is the stigma that frames my work, which frames my life.


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