- A GENERATION REMOVED: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World by Margaret D. Jacobs
The important and tragic topic of Indigenous children being fostered and adopted into mainly white families as a tool of assimilation was studied by a handful of scholars at the end of the twentieth century, but their work languished. Since [End Page 151] 2000 this issue has come to the fore, although the majority of the writing has been at the local or national level in all of the settler society nation-states. Margaret Jacobs’ A Generation Removed focuses on the United States, but she also brings in the transnational history of this policy with Canada and globally by comparing the phenomenon with Australia. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the effect of assimilation policies and the history of Indigenous peoples in the second half of the twentieth century.
Taking advantage of documentary and oral histories of individuals, families, and activists, Jacobs tells the history of the strategy to place Indigenous children up for adoption with white families in order to assimilate them under the guise of “saving forgotten children” and the disastrous results. She forcefully argues that this experience was not only a national trend, but also a transnational and global one as well. Despite the tragic nature of the history, it is also a narrative about agency and Indigenous women reclaiming their roles as caretakers of their nation’s children and culture. Each chapter begins with an individual or a family’s history with this system, which Jacobs’ uses to reinforce the theme of that specific chapter. The book is written in three parts. Part One explains how the program and (ab)use of the social welfare system was connected to previous assimilation approaches, especially residential boarding schools and the termination policy of the 1950s in the United States. (In Part Three she compares similar Canadian and Australian efforts that echoed American legislation.) Part Two describes how this adoption-to-assimilate practice affected American Indian peoples, their resiliency in the face of losing so many of their children, and the campaign to end this policy resulting in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and successful local endeavors to keep Indigenous children with their people and families. The third part demonstrates the transnational and global collaboration of this type of strategy between nation-states and some of the consequences both Indigenous and settler societies now face as a result of this misguided plan.
A Generation Removed is well researched and very readable; it is a thoughtful and solid contribution to this history. The few minor issues consist of matters like the many uses of acronyms being a bit distracting, but to be fair, this is a hazard for any history about policy. In addition, the 1976 Foster Care Table is not as obvious to some readers who are not social scientists (I assume). A short explanation of a couple of the columns would have been helpful. The section on Canada is thorough but the term “the 60s Scoop” is missing and probably should have shown up similar to the book’s use of the name “Stolen Generations,” which Australians use to represent this historical occurrence. These are minor criticisms. All in all, A Generation Removed should be in every library that caters to anyone who wants to understand this situation both nationally and globally and to situate Indigenous peoples’ history into the second half of the twentieth century. This book could be useful in upper-level undergraduate courses, as well as for graduate students. University, state, and local libraries, and anyone with an interest in the history of Indigenous peoples during this period would find this book to be an important addition to their collection. [End Page 152]