For 37 years, I was Teresa Diane Tommaney, a German/Irish female born in Oklahoma City to Mike and Betty. My roots were in the soil of Chickasha and Oklahoma City.
In 1952, when I was six months old, my folks moved to Southern California. I spent my childhood in moderate affluence. My father was a plumbing contractor. He built the Los Angeles Airport, contracted the plumbing for the KMarts in the Los Angeles area (along with many other large corporate buildings), and he was one of the inventors of a device called the Backflow Prevention Valve used in City Water systems. My mother stayed at home until the early 1960’s when she went to real estate school and began a successful real estate career.
In the meantime, my folks presented me with a baby sister in 1954 and a baby brother in 1964.
I grew up in blissful suburbia with a nice big house, a swimming pool in the backyard, and at my doorstep the morning of my sixteenth birthday, a new Mustang. I had the promise of an education at any college I wanted. I was devoted and proud to be an Irish Tommaney. Yet, something was missing from my life. (This is a very common feeling that us Native adoptees have, I am finding out.) I felt this ‘something missing’ even when I was young. My siblings seemed to fit in the family, where I did not. The bond seemed closer between my siblings and my folks. Maybe it was because they all looked and acted alike. Maybe it was because they talked alike. Maybe it was because they thought alike. Maybe it was just my young imagination. I had no idea that I was adopted, let alone Native. I just felt ‘different.’ Native America and Indian People had always fascinated me. I had a love affair with the West before it was ‘acceptable.’ I collected Native American items on my family’s trips through the Southwest every summer on our way to visit relatives in Oklahoma. I dressed in a Native Way, admired Native Way, and much to the dismay of my folks; I now know I thought in a Native Way. I had dreams about Indian people, old places, and old languages. In 1987 I finally confronted my ‘mother’ about the possibility of my being adopted. She was shocked that I would ask and admitted, yes, I had been adopted. I heard the chosen child story from my mom and was told I was the product of an affair my birth mother had and that I was probably half (very little) Cherokee. My journey started then to find my Native family. Little did I know my journey would end up with losing my adoptive family, due to their inability to share me. I was told to go ‘home’ or ‘back to the blanket’ as they called it; this would be a disgrace. I knew in my heart that I was way more than one-eighth Native, Cherokee or ?
It took me two long years to find my Lakota mother and family. In 1989, my husband and I, our four children, and two foster children, all traveled to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. My mother introduced me to my Tribe and I participated in some ceremonies.
When we arrived at Pine Ridge, I felt I had been there before and when I heard my many relatives speaking Lakota, I felt as if I should be able to speak it too. My mouth should have been forming Lakota sounds and speaking the Lakota Mother Tongue. It was a very emotional time for me to be where my ancestors lived, and where my People and Family still live. My naming ceremony was the highlight of our visit in 1989. The tears flowed and the feelings of belonging began to overtake me. Lakota People danced with me when my honor song was sung and they drummed. They cried as they hugged me and welcomed me home. Old aunties wiped their eyes as I, the Lost One, returned home to the People.
Many of these Lost Birds, as we are called, are suffering because of their plight in not finding their Native families. I hear it over and over that they are lost, incomplete, and useless. Some of the people I meet need counseling and cannot seem to get anyone who understands the total disconnection of knowing they are Native but not knowing what tribe they are from, or who their family is. For a Native, that is like being dead. You have no roots, no beginning, no stories and no future. There is a movement of these People to join and form their own ‘Tribe.’ In Canada they are known as ‘Métis.’ I am one of the few blessed ones to have found my family and my culture.
I am Diane Tells His Name, Oglala Lakota, of the Bad Faces Band. My family is from Calico, Porcupine and Wounded Knee. My families are the Lone Elks, the White Faces, the Fast Wolves, the Bissionettes, and the Red Clouds. I am learning the Lakota language and the Lakota Way. I know my family stories and my family history. I know my mother and I know my sisters and brothers. I am complete.