Oct 26, 2013 - The Missionary is Back: Or Perhaps They Never Left, By Trace A. DeMeyer
Is it possible Evangelical Christians like Lisa Morris of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) or Melanie and Matt Capobianco missed school the day they taught the chapter of American history on the Indian Adoption Projects or the tragic consequences of residential boarding schools? I think nearly all Americans missed that chapter. It’s not taught. College courses, maybe. I had an argument with an elderly aunt in my adoptive family that boarding schools existed. This was right after I had visited Haskell in 1998. She still didn’t believe me.
By way of background: Mrs. Lisa Morris found herself an Indian man, got married and had four kids. They brought their ministry to two reservations (in North Dakota and Minnesota) and worked diligently as missionaries to convert more Indians into Christians, like them. Apparently the Third World Poverty Lisa saw on the rez is the basis for her judgment of Indians and her organizing to end the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.
There’s been a lot of these Evangelical Christians, for a long time, who want to improve life for Indian Children. How? By taking the Indian children and raising them in non-Indian families. They don’t say “to save their souls” or “assimilate them” but they want us (including Congress) to believe that Indians are not raising their kids correctly. That’s their view. Lisa doesn’t preface poverty- she just sees the result of poverty and Third World conditions. She doesn’t plan to lobby Congress so Indian children can STAY on their reservations.
What has happened in Indian Country since colonial invasion is not theirconcern as missionaries – but they do want to freely adopt out those poor kids off the rez. Is this a new thing? Absolutely not. This type of missionary zeal was the reason behind the Indian Child Welfare Act to begin with: White people taking Indian kids (for boarding schools and closed adoptions) caused a genocide and despair and collapse of culture that is still being felt today.
Lisa “The Missionary” Morris has appointed herself judge and jury and is busy gathering evidence that Indians are not good parents. That is the basis for her CAICW goals and fundraising. She has even used the legalized kidnapping of Veronica Brown from her birthfather to promote and justify her pious work. Lisa claims children are being hurt by ICWA, when good white parents can’t adopt Indian kids. She collects letters from distraught white people who wish to adopt and can’t because of ICWA.
Lisa has a website about her missionary work here: http://caicw.org/2013/10/24/time-for-strangers-to-leave-veronica-capobianco-alone/. She references a recent CAICW fundraiser pool party with Ronnie Brown, now called Veronica Capobianco. She has a You Tube channel as well:
Audacity? Lisa Morris describes CAICW “as a Christian Ministry as well as Family Advocacy – is interested in the safety and well-being of individuals and families. Our advocacy is Judicial and Educative, in addition to a prayer resource and shoulder to cry on.” She promotes a book “Dying in Indian Country” on her website.
Because Lisa married a “Chippewa Indian,” this qualifies her as the leader of this movement? Apparently. Since her husband has passed on, we can’t ask him about his wife’s work to end ICWA since 2004. She claims it was his idea. She’s posted a photo of her husband’s baptism, which somehow makes this righteous work in her view.
Removing Indian children is the work of CAICW (and their goal in lobbying Congress to end ICWA) but preserving or helping Indian families is not.
Seem ridiculous? It’s not new. My concern is missionaries like Lisa do not grasp the lifelong pain of being placed outside your tribe and living as an adoptee. As an adoptee myself, I can speak to this. I speak to being assimilated by a stranger adoption and lost to my own family and culture. Other adoptees speak to this in the anthology TWO WORLDS: LOST CHILDREN OF THE INDIAN ADOPTION PROJECTS which I edited with another adoptee Patricia Busbee and it was published in 2012. These adoptees speak to their own loss after being adopted by non-Indian parents.
Until these missionaries actually gain some compassion, learn some history and advocate for improved living conditions for everyone on Indian reservations, this history will repeat itself.
History will repeat itself until Christians like Lisa begin to understand sovereign tribes are handling their own Indian Child Welfare cases since ICWA was passed in 1978, and are working every day to heal the mess left by colonialism and earlier missionaries like Lisa.