AP, December 23, 2008
Name the location in Wyoming where 40 percent of the population was born in Ethiopia, South Korea or Vietnam, and where there has been a recent influx of HIV-positive children, adopted from Africa.
Oh, and 60 percent of its residents can be described as nonwhite Mormons.
The Henderson household, on Happy Valley Lane.
“A friend of mine said we’re single-handedly trying to diversify Star Valley,” Josh Henderson said with a laugh.
Star Valley is near the Idaho border, settled in the 1870s by Mormon pioneers, and it has remained relatively isolated since. It is perhaps one of the last places one might expect to find a family like the 13-member Hendersons—a veritable Rainbow Coalition inhabiting a six-bedroom home, including a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, both born HIV-positive in Ethiopia.
The valley remains an almost all-white community, historically home to dairy farms and other agricultural endeavors, surrounded by three national forests.
“Being a trans-racial family in Star Valley, we had to worry about dealing with race issues,” Josh said.
And when HIV-positive children were added to the picture, the Hendersons really didn’t know what to expect.
But all told, the community response has been generally supportive so far, they said.
Josh and Erin are white, and they have three biological children, all boys.
The rest of their 11 children were adopted between 2002 and 2008—one from Vietnam, one from South Korea, three from the United States and three from Ethiopia. None is white.
The most recent of the adoptions, Belane and Solomon, now 5 and 3, were born HIV-positive in Ethiopia. Nationwide, they’re two of fewer than 100 HIV-positive children adopted from overseas and brought to the United States.
Star Valley, like most of the West, is changing. The Hendersons, perhaps, are both symptoms and agents of that change.
The Hendersons believe just as the valley has changed, prevailing ideas about such things as race, and HIV, can change here, too.