(interviewed by Christine Stark)
CS: When and where were you born?
SE: I was born on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota back in 1944 and my sister and I were adopted out when I was about three and she was about two. We were raised by Greek people in Minneapolis. It took years to find out why we were displaced.
Growing up, we didn't know that we were Indians. The people I grew up around all had blond hair and blue eyes and even though we had different skin color, it never dawned on us that we were Indian. They used to call me Blackie. The other kids wouldn't play with us because we were too dark. My adopted mom would take us out of the sun because we got way too dark. CS: How did your adopted parents treat you in other ways? SE: My father didn't know anything because he was away on business. My mom was the disciplinarian and she was mean to us. If you've seen Mommy Dearest, that was her. She made us drink Tabasco sauce so we wouldn't lie. She burned our fingers on the stove so we wouldn't steal. She tied us up and put us in a closet. That type of thing. She would come up in our room and if our clothes weren't on the hangers in the right way she would throw them all on the floor and make us get up and hang them up. Sometimes she had temper tantrums and took our clothes and Christmas presents and burned them. We just thought that was the way it was. CS: What were your teenage years like?
SE: I spent most of my teenage years in reform school. It was better than being at home. There were mostly Indians and a few white people at the school. My sister and I didn't know we were Indian then. As a matter of fact, some of my [biological] cousins were at the reform school and they see me now and comment on how they used to know me as Maria. That was my Greek name.
At the school there was a sense of belonging. My sister and I belonged there. There was a sense of love because your friend loved you. Today they call it lesbianism. We didn't know that word then. If there was any love in the family, we never knew it. If there were any hugs, we never got any. We just had to give my adopted mom a kiss on the cheek before bed. We never knew what love was in the family setting.