Re: Native American adoption/Kingsolver "Pigs in Heaven"

Michael John Evans (g8726246@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Wed, 13 Jul 1994 06:51:08 -0400

Heather writing:
Mike and I did our research in Tonga, with our daughter who was
18 months when we got there, and 3 when we left. We were offered the
'opportunity' to leave her there when we left, so that she would not
'loose her Tongan' (she thought she was Tongan, spoke only Tongan, etc).
We also discussed 'adopting' (fostering is a better word) a child from
the village, as a sibling for our daughter. To the Tongans, this is a
family matter: for a family with many children or grandchildren, sending
a child overseas is a good option, and learning to be Canadian is not
bad, since it extends that family's options in terms of remitances,
connections for travel, education, marriage, work, and so forth. It is
more likely that a boy would be given, b/c girls are in some ways more
precious, but girls are adopted away too.
The important thing to consider is the way in which 'adoption' is
considered: in N.A. social practice, adopted children are considered to be
'severed' from their birth parents (hence the angst when adoptees try to
find their roots). IN Tonga, there are several forms of adoption, ranging
from a giving of a child a few weeks after birth, to temporary terms of
fosterage which may last one or 20 years. but in all cases, the child
knows that they have birth parents and adoptive parents: both sets of
parents are expected to 'support' the child, finacially, with social
connections, inheritence, birth and wedding gifts, introductions, safe
havens etc; the child in effect can grow up to claim four parents in some
All this being said, adoptions are done most often within familial
lines, but definition of 'family' is in some ways opportunistic, and
people like ourselves are capable of being included into some people's
network, whereby through fostering of a child, we become 'family'.
The upshot of all of this is that if the African (who? which
people? "Africa" is such a pointless designation) family wanted to adopt
out a child, what did they think that would entail, for them, for the
child, for their future relations, for the adopting family?

'Oku fia 'amaua 'etau ngaue pupula pea nofo masiva
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Mike Evans, Anthropology &/ Heather Young-Leslie, Anthropology
McMaster University, Hamilton /or: York University, North York,
Ontario, Canada. L8S 4L9 Ontario, Canada. M3J 1P3
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