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The Adoption Agency Lied About My True Identity

Story by Thomas Faltysek

Published Feb 08, 2024 at 9:07 AM EST

My name is Thomas. I could give you a last name, but my roots were severed from the day I was born.

The funny thing about roots is they can either grow or wither from what life has given to them. If your roots are cut, life may still occur, and new roots may still come forth, but the ability to flourish is all but gone.

My story began on August 9, 1963. My mother was sent to a home in Fort Worth, Texas, by her first husband, who, after realizing she was eight months pregnant, refused to allow her to keep me because my biological father was Native American.

The truly sad thing about all this is my father was never told anything of this. In a sense, my heritage was stolen and kept from me for almost my entire life.

During this period and generation of the 60s, the culture did not accept Native Americans as a valuable part of society. A lot of racism still openly existed. This forced the adoption agency to lie about my heritage. My adoptive parents were told that I came from an Italian family.

Thomas Faltysek pictured as a child (L) and after discovering the truth about his identity (R).

So, from day one, my identity was lost in a puddle of lies and unacceptance.

Still, there were good things in my life. My adoptive parents were good to me. I have an older sister who cared for me as her own brother and still does to this day. I went to school, made friends, celebrated, and lived as most children would, until one fateful day.

I was in third grade when I heard the word—the word that most adoptive parents strive to hide from their children in an effort to keep the facade of being a blood family—"adopted."

This rocked my world. I had always felt different from as far back as I could remember. But hearing that word made being different very real. During this time, I was also introduced to the words of racism that no child should ever hear.

I can remember looking in the mirror at my tan skin and dark hair. I would stare at my hands and wonder whose hands looked like mine. When we were in a crowd, I would look down at the hands that passed me by for similarities to mine, searching for someone to belong to.

In May 1975, my adopted father took his own life. He had struggled with PTSD from serving in World War II. My sister was already married and out of the house, so this left just my mother and me.

We moved in with my adopted grandparents and I continued life in this new reality. I can remember thinking: "What do I do now and where do I go from here?"

That day, my path in life was forever changed.

As time went by, the desire to find my roots became even more consuming. Over and over, I would try to gain information about where I had come from. Who was my mother? Father?

Unfortunately, in Texas, the records are sealed tight. I had all but lost hope—until 2016.

My family gave me a DNA test through Ancestry for Christmas. When the results came back, I was baffled. How could it be that I had Native American blood in my DNA? I had been told my whole life that I came from an Italian family.

This newfound information was a springing board to search for my family along a different path.

My connection with my biological family was overwhelming from the start. Since my father never knew about me and had passed away by the time I had connected with my biological family, this meant that my six brothers and sisters never knew about me as well.

From the beginning we connected in a way that I could not explain—it was as if we had always been together. I was accepted, loved, and embraced. I have learned that no matter how far one is separated from family we are always connected by blood, which is something no one can ever truly take away from you.

Meeting my family was a time of great joy and fear. It was a joy in the sense that I was finally able to put together the pieces of my life that had gone so long missing and the sense of fear was a fear of the unknown: Will they like me and will they accept me

Finding my heritage was a time of completion. For the adoptee, there is always that void of not knowing one's true heritage, it is that consent longing to find one's place in this world.

Most people take their heritage or ancestry for granted, for the adoptee in many cases, that heritage has been robbed from them. For me, I now have a rich and proud unconquered and unconquerable history of the Chickasaw people. This is something I can now pass on to my children, my grandchildren, and beyond.

Maybe each of us can see ourselves inside the interwoven threads of another's life. Perhaps the connections we make with each other encourage us to move forward.

My hope is that my story encourages you to never give up. If your story is similar to mine, keep searching. Your heritage is a treasure. When you search for treasure, you do not give up until it is found.

Until my treasured heritage was found, my internal growth was stunted. The fruit of my life was watered, from a spout that gave foreign water. Not that the waters didn't give life, but that the nutrients of belonging were lacking.

I will forever love and cherish my adopted family. They loved and cared for me when I had no one else. They gave me all they had to offer. They will always be a part of who I am today, and when I found my heritage, I did not forget those who loved me.

But I have found my roots again. They had been severed, but God brought me back and reattached me to what I had lost. It's a feeling of belonging that is blood deep. I am now in step along the beautiful path of my ancestors.

Thomas Faltysek is a Collection Intake Specialist at the Department of Culture and Humanities, the Chickasaw Nation.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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