Native American hopes adoption story will give strength to others
A NATIVE American Indian who first told his incredible story in the Courier last year has contributed to a pioneering study on babies who, like him, were secretly adopted from Indian reservations.
Johnathan Brooks, who lives with his wife and daughter in Grecian Road, Tunbridge Wells, explained how he was adopted as a newborn baby by a German aristocrat and her husband, an American film producer.
At the time "closed adoptions" were the norm, erasing the babies' backgrounds in order to assimilate them into their new culture. The process left Johnathan with little information about his roots.
Mr Brooks, 48, who eventually tracked down his American family, said: "My new birth certificate showed the basic details, but the names of my natural parents were replaced by my adopted family. That's how it was done, and my adopted parents knew hardly anything about my background."
In a more open era he, like many other adopted children, wanted to find out who he really was. His long journey took him to a Cheyenne reservation in Montana where he eventually found his natural mother and father, who had separated before his birth, and discovered that his original name was Troy.
With more and more stories emerging of babies being taken from Indian reservations and placed with non-Indian families, some forcibly, American journalist Trace A DeMeyer, herself an adoptee, has produced a book on a subject she describes as: "Unofficial ethnic cleansing – a page of North American history that few even know happened."
From the late 1950s, Indian Adoption Projects removed a quarter of all American Indian children from their families and placed them in non-Indian adoptive and foster homes or orphanages.
Mr Brooks, who contributed a chapter to Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, said this week: "I hope my story gives hope and strength to other adoptees who wish to look for their biological parents as well as highlighting the perils if adoptive families keep it a secret."
His new parents, from backgrounds far removed from his own, were Countess Barbara von Bismarck-Schon hausen, the great-granddaughter of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and top Hollywood scriptwriter Steve Brooks.
His mother, who had been asked if he could be taken by a priest concerned for his welfare as a fatherless child, told him he was adopted when he was six years old. In the book, he recalls: "I was watching an old black-and-white western film. The scene was a typical stagecoach fight, with the Indians, as always, depicted as the baddies. With two fingers pointed at the TV, I began shooting. At that point my mother walked in and asked: 'What are you shooting at?' When I said: 'Baddies of course', she said: 'You shouldn't shoot Indians, because you're one of them. You were adopted.'"
Now running his own life-coaching business, Spirit Bear, Mr Brooks stressed: "The importance of this book is not just as a modern Native American history, but also because it underlines the importance of a good adoption structure. I used to wonder why my path followed that strange direction and I needed a lot of help to find out how things fitted into place."