Susan Harness

Keynote Topics

  • American Indian Transracial Adoption
  • Lifescapes and Landmines of American Indian transracial adoption: A Personal Narrative
  • Bourdieu and Child Placement: Why the Indian Adoption Project didn’t pan out.
  • Historical Trauma and Child Adoption: What happens when the fabric rips?

Travels From:

  • Fort Collins, CO

Fee Range:

  • Fees: On Request



Video 1

Susan Harness is the author of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption and High Plains Book Award winner in the categories of Indigenous Writer and Creative Nonfiction. A member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, her interest in transracial adoption in general, and American Indian transracial adoption specifically, extends well beyond the academic.  She has […]

Susan Harness is the author of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption and High Plains Book Award winner in the categories of Indigenous Writer and Creative Nonfiction.

A member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, her interest in transracial adoption in general, and American Indian transracial adoption specifically, extends well beyond the academic.  She has recently appeared on the TEDxMileHigh stage (Adopting a Child of a Different Race?  Let’s Talk…), and  interviewed by Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio, Corine Lesnes of Le Monde, Isaac Himmelman of HuffPost, and Rose Aguilar of KALW- San Francisco, as well as many others.

The issue of American Indian transracial adoption is beginning to receive a lot of scholarly attention, specifically from the perspective of the adoptee.  Susan has been speaking on this topic since 1993.  Academically, she has been presenting this information since 2006, as a panelist, a presenter, a lecturer, a keynote speaker and as a writer.

Most recently, Susan Harness worked with the Denver Indian Child Welfare Field Office of the Casey Family Foundation informing the people whose jobs determine then determining American Indian child welfare practices of the importance of Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

Using her research and her personal story, Susan Harness will discuss the historical policies that have most affected American Indian families, their purpose to undermine Native society and culture, specifically the removal of American Indian children for placement into non-Native families.

Susan Harness | Heritage Speaker

Ms. Harness’s experience as a keynote speaker, invited conference speaker and panelist for dozens of organizations has raised awareness in the need for transracial adoption reform.

Born in Montana to a family living on the Flathead Indian Reservation, she became a transracial adoptee at the age of two when she was removed from her home by a social worker because of “neglect.”  Bitterroot: A Memoir of Transracial Adoption (Released October 1, 2018 from University of Nebraska Press), is a sweeping examination of her life that explores the uneasy intersection of race, history and the brutal government American Indian policies that affect the lives of her and her families.

Bitterroot is available on, Barnes & Noble, as well as many other booksellers worldwide.  Signed copies are available.  To request, please fill out the contact form on this site.  Also, Bitterroot will be coming out in paperback on March 1, 2020!

Susan Harness received her B.A. in anthropology from the University of Montana,her M.A. in cultural anthropology from Colorado State University in 2006, and her M.A. in creative nonfiction in 2016, also from Colorado State University.

She is the also author of Mixing Cultural Identities Through Transracial Adoption: After the Indian Adoption Project (1958-1967).

Susan Harness is still very much involved in the issue of American Indian transracial adoption and continues to write and speak nationally and internationally about this topic as well as about American Indian assimilation policies and practices.

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