Mary Puthoff was born on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation in South Dakota and raised by a family in the Black Hills after being adopted at age 5. Even though the family who adopted her was of Indian heritage, she did move off the reservation.
“One-third of Indians, nationally, haven’t been raised by birth families,” Puthoff told the LivermorePatch. Native children have difficulty appreciating their respective cultures. To keep those cultures alive for them, Puthoff now runs the Livermore American Indian Center in Livermore, California.
She told Indian Country Today Media Network that a number of American Indian students who come to the center have been adopted by white parents, even after the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, which was supposed to make it difficult for non-Native families to adopt Native children. But despite government efforts, the trend continues.
“The Livermore American Indian Center serves students of American Indian heritage in the Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Sunol Glen and Castro Valley school districts,” Puthoff told the LivermorePatch. “Families may sign up with the Indian center even with a small amount of Indian heritage, depending on the tribe.”
There are currently 109 federally recognized tribes in the state of California.
Services offered to Native American students at the center are free including culture classes, genealogy research, tutoring, summer day camp, tobacco prevention education, and referrals for social services and counseling. In June, the center took a group to Alcatraz Island, where they learned of 19 Native Americans who were imprisoned there for a year for refusing to send their children to an Indian boarding school.
“Working with kids, in a variety of activities, is never boring,” Puthoff told the LivermorePatch.
The museum at the Indian center has a large collection of artifacts on display. The center and museum are located at 401 E. Jack London Blvd. in Livermore and are funded federally through the United States Department of Education and Title VII, a federal program that provides culturally relevant educational programs to Native children from age 4 through grade 12.
“The family or guardians of kids of American Indian heritage fill out a form so the school can count each child for funding under the program,” Puthoff, who is a Title VII program specialist, told the LivermorePatch.
An American Indian Education Program Summer Camp was held June 18 to 21 at Lake Del Valle and Native American Day is coming up in September.