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Mother To Daughter: 'That's When I Knew I Was Adopted'
Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 8:35 am
Diane Tells His Name, 61, grew up never knowing she was adopted.
"When did you first feel like you were different?" Bonnie Buchanan, 23, asks her mother during a recent visit to a StoryCorps booth.
"Probably elementary school," she replies. "I had a younger sister, and I really didn't like doing the same things that she would do."
Instead of tea parties and dolls, Tells His Name spent her time outdoors, peering at the clouds and stars.
"And my sister was blond, tall and thin like my mother, and I was round and brown," she says with a laugh.
She remembers flipping through family albums, searching for her face in the old photographs and never finding it.
"Eventually when I was 37-years-old, I happened to see a picture of my mom in October of 1951, and it shocked me because I was born in November of 1951, and my mother was not pregnant," Tells His Name says. "That's when I knew I was adopted."
"How did you feel?" Buchanan asks.
"It was very satisfying to know that I wasn't crazy," Tells His Name says. "I didn't blame them, I wasn't angry with them. In 1951, you just didn't talk about those things."
She discovered her Native American roots on her original birth certificate, which also pointed to her birth mother's name and her first home, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
To get in touch with her beginnings, she returned to South Dakota, received her Indian name and took what she calls a "crash course on how to be Indian." After that experience, she and her husband contacted Indian Family Services to adopt a child from her Lakota tribe.
"And, finally, they faxed us a picture of a little Indian child, and she was drinking chocolate syrup out of a Hershey's bottle. And our son said, 'That's her! That's the one we need to adopt.' And it was you," Tells His Name says to Buchanan, who chuckles in response.
After researching Buchanan's family tree, Tells His Name discovered they are cousins.
"I thought that was just — that was amazing," Tells His Name says. "I'm glad you're my baby."
"I know. I'm glad you adopted me," Buchanan replies.
"I am too," Tells His Name says. "It's like our whole family was just planned out so that it would be best for all of us."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall with Jasmyn Belcher.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And it's time now for StoryCorps, the project recording the stories of everyday Americans. And today, we're going to hear from Diane Tells His Name. She's a Lakota Indian. Growing up, she never knew anything about her heritage. She was adopted when she was a baby. And at StoryCorps, her daughter, Bonnie Buchanan, asks Diane about her childhood.
BONNIE BUCHANAN: When did you first feel like you were different?
DIANE TELLS HIS NAME: Probably elementary school. I had a younger sister, and I really didn't like doing the same things that she would do. She would do tea parties and play with dolls, and things like that; and I was always outside, looking at the clouds or the stars. And my sister was blond, tall and thin, like my mother; and I was round and brown.
TELLS HIS NAME: I remember going through the family albums, looking for my face in the old photographs, and I didn't see me. And eventually, when I was 37 years old, I happened to see a picture of my mom in October of 1951. And it shocked me because I was born in November of 1951 - and my mother was not pregnant. So that's when I knew that I was adopted.
BUCHANAN: How did you feel?
TELLS HIS NAME: It was very satisfying to know that I wasn't crazy. I didn't blame them. I wasn't angry with them. In 1951, you just didn't talk about those things. So when I got my original birth certificate, it said on there my birth mother's name; and it said that she was born at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. So I went to South Dakota to receive my Indian name, and get a crash course in how to be Indian.
After that, my husband and I told Indian Family Services we wanted to adopt a child from my tribe, a Lakota child. And finally, they faxed us a picture of a little Indian child, and she was drinking chocolate syrup out of a Hershey's bottle. And our son said, that's her! That's the one we need to adopt. And it was you.
TELLS HIS NAME: I started doing research on your family, and when I started looking at your family tree, I saw one of my relatives on your paper. So we are cousins. I thought that was just - that was amazing. I'm glad you're my baby.
BUCHANAN: I know. I'm glad you adopted me.
TELLS HIS NAME: I am, too. It's like our whole family was just planned out so that it would be best for all of us.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: You can take a moment to collect yourself. That's Bonnie Buchanan with her mom, Diane Tells His Name; at StoryCorps in San Francisco. Their story will be archived with thousands of others, at the Library of Congress. The podcast is at npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.