Carrie had been with us now for only about three or four months. It seemed like a much longer period of time had passed, but that was only because so much had happened in that short period of time.
Child Protection informed us that although there was proof Carrie was abused, there was no proof as to who did it. Without proof, they couldn't hold anyone accountable. We were told Carrie's father and his family were to be allowed visits again.
Dalene, anxious to see her, took Carrie home for the weekend. On Sunday evening, they returned. Setting the baby out of the car onto the sidewalk, they handed her the overnight bag and gave her a nudge. We had heard the car drive up and had come out, surprised to see 18-month-old Carrie climbing the steps to the door - by herself - dragging the little bag behind her.
They watched from the road until they saw us pick her up, then drove off.
When Cheri finally came back a week or so later and took Carrie, I laid on my bed and cried for a couple hours.
I returned to the Ojibwe class in the last semester. I still felt it was important for the children to understand their culture, so I took Andrew and sometimes Joy with me to class. Pregnant again, I even considered wearing headphones on my belly in order to assimilate the baby to the language. Mickey’s brother Troy, whose friends had shaved his head during a drunk, moved in with us, too. I wanted the boys to get better at speaking also, so I wrote onto slips of paper the Ojibwe names of household objects and then stuck them around the house.
It seemed like a good idea, but no one was really interested. Those slips of paper remained stuck to our furniture for a good year, little noticed by anyone.
The boys weren't interested in the language, but attained other minor victories. While staying with us, Troy obtained his driver’s license, had his chipped front tooth fixed, and worked on getting his GED. Mickey worked on getting his driver’s permit and attended high school.
One day Mickey came home an hour early from class.
"What are you doing home?" I asked him.
"My advocate let me out."
"What do you mean, 'let you out'?"
"Well, I didn't like my art teacher, so a month or so ago my Indian advocate let me drop the class and go to study hall in his office instead. He'd ask me a couple questions and stuff, but I wasn't really doing anything there so now he just lets me come home instead."
I called the advocate. "In the first place," I told him, "I don't agree with letting him drop art. He has to work out his problems with his teacher. But in the second place, Mickey got two 'F's' last quarter! How come you’re letting him cut out of school?"
"What are you worried about?" the advocate, also a tribal member, responded, "He's got three years of school left. He's got time to catch up."
About ready to blow my top and getting nowhere with this man, I called the principal, who agreed Mickey shouldn't be leaving school early. It was too late to get Mickey back into the art class, so he placed him into the real study hall instead. Unfortunately, the principal didn't have the cojones to fire the advocate for being the idiot he was.
The following day, Mickey confided that the Indian advocate had told him "Don't listen to Beth, all white people talk like that."
'What a jerk,' I thought angrily, 'why isn't that so-called advocate helping Mickey apply himself? Don't they think an Indian kid can be expected to work hard? Do they look down on Indian kids that much? If anybody dares treat Andrew that way when he gets to school, expecting less of him just because he's Indian, I'll knock em to the moon!
Right - it's easy to blow up at all the fools outside the family. But to open my mouth and say something to family members? Not so much...