National Native American Heritage Month and National Adoption Month: One Woman's Journey

Highlighting National Native American Heritage and National Adoption Month

A team member shares her family's journey with Native American Heritage Month and National Adoption Month

With Honor, Respect, and Love I invite you all to join our family as we once again (with “Kishcheetaysta” - Pride) begin the annual celebration of “American Indian Heritage Month” and “National Adoption Month.” I am humbled, and yet excited to share some of my life’s journey as an enrolled member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and a very proud mother of my two awesome adopted children, Isaiah and Gabrielle. As I travel back in time to some of my special memories of my entire extended family and friends, I am grateful for all their blessings, gifts, and lifelong love. They imprinted my heart forever, and yours too, for this special trajectory of a proud Indian girl.

From the day I was born as a member of the Turtle Mountain Tribe I was blessed beyond measure. My mom was a gifted strong American Indian woman, in Belcourt, ND where our tribe is located. She fell in love with my dad, who is Hispanic and was stationed in the Air Force a little over one hundred miles away. They married and my only brother Steve was born on the reservation. A few years later I joined this colorful and beautiful family for a journey that would take us all over the world for 20 years.

Lori Gurule-Rat, Native American, pictured with her adopted children, husband and dogs

I have always been an advocate of authenticity and used this principle to build a solid foundation for everything I wanted to accomplish in life. I come from a long line of Native American matriarchs, many of whom suffered at the hands of a U.S. Federal government policy and program designed to “assimilate”” native children into American culture. My grandmother (and other ancestors) had great resolve to stay true to their identity against all odds. Their pride and resilience inspired me with passion to become an advocate for inclusion of diversity and embrace differences in every facet of my life. My great grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunts, and cousins have a solid foundation of love, resilience and know what they want to accomplish in life. In my case, it probably started long before I can remember. However, I do know my great grandmother, Clara, had to use her thumbprint to sign off, as permission for her daughter, my grandma Mabel, to be taken away to a boarding school 500 miles away. Later, my grandmother, Mabel, would use her thumbprint to hitchhike from that boarding school. The story of resilience here is so grand and not pretty. My grandmother who was taken away was ordered not to speak her native language, as her head was shaved, and she was forced to live for three years under unbelievable brutality. She never forgot where she came from and when the time was right, she ran away 500 miles and found her way home. Her story is important to the truth and history of the USA. Sharing our stories is where compassion and respect begin for one another. We need to stay true to who we are and embrace the external factors that help shape us. We have an opportunity to change the trajectory every day.

My heritage has inspired me to put my arms around diverse traditions and cultural opportunities. This has helped me understand others. We need to heal from the past and continue to move forward together.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west…Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” – Isaiah 43: 5-6

I was fortunate to receive lots of beautiful sunshine the day my path led me to meet my husband, Emmanual, who is the father of our two most prized gifts, son Isaiah and daughter Gabrielle. My husband and I are thankful for them every single day. We celebrate many times throughout the year: their “gotcha day,” birthday, adoption day, and November brings a month where we try and advocate a little bit more on the realities and gifts that come from adoption. There are countless books out there on what it is like to adopt, from the financial hardships, prayers, waiting, the hard calls, prayers, the invasive home studies, the marriage strain, indescribable love, prayers, and miracles. Our story includes all of this. However, in the end, we always know we have been blessed with the greatest gifts.  A family formed, love gained…its beautiful, life changing and a true miracle.

Adoption of Son, Isaiah
Adoption of daughter, Gabrielle

I believe I have been planted and grounded as a unique authentic person because I have lived a very colorful life starting with always knowing who I was. By living my reality of being a proud American Indian, more than a proud parent, and knowing, respecting, and loving all people of all cultures has added “Love Value” to my family’s life. Love always wins and knowing who you are, at all times, is your compass that helps you on life’s journey.

Thank you for allowing me to share more about our world and my American Indian/Adoptive family as we not only celebrate life as we know it, but as beautiful human beings we proudly honor the real landlords of America, The American Indian, and the heartbeat of all of the families who are blessed with the spirits of our children.

November is a special month for all of America as we join together to celebrate the National Native American Heritage and National Adoption month of Thanksgiving. We are all blessed to have “Kishcheetaysta,” Love, Faith, and Gratitude.  Miigwech!!

If you would like to dive in and keep the conversation/knowledge-sharing going: please check out the following links and related facts below:

Native American Facts:

  • There are 574 Indian tribes legally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the U.S. Of these, 228 are located in Alaska.   
  • There are 40 Baptist Health Care team members who have identified as American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • Native Americans have served in the U.S. military in every major conflict for more than 200 years. After 911, almost 19% of Native Americans served in the Armed Forces, compared to 14% of other ethnicities.
  • The Indian Health Services (IHS) is the main federal health care provider and health advocate for the Indian people and provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • There are more than a dozen original Native American tribes in Florida.
  • Native Americans were granted American citizenship in 1924.

Adoption Facts:

  • There are 135,000 children adopted annually within the United States. This equates to one out of every 25 families with children having one that is adopted. This doesn’t include foreign adoptions, which the U.S. Department of State reports being about 7,000 every year.
  • A full 40% of all domestic adoptions are from the foster care system. The remaining 60% are from private agencies, inter-family adoption, and adoption within tribal native communities.
  • 2023, there are more than 107,000 children eligible and waiting for adoption in foster care. The average age of a child waiting for adoption is seven, and 29% of all children will spend at least three years in the system.
  • Two million children in the US are being raised by LGBTQ families and 30 years of social science research shows they are just as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.
  • The ethnicity that gets adopted: White: 50%; Blacke: 25%; Hispanic: 13%; Asian: 4 %; & Other: 8%.

Submitted by: Lori Gurule Rat, Manager, Talent Relations and member of the Baptist Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council