By Trace A. DeMeyer
OK, as promised, I have more thoughts after I went to the hallowed halls of Yale Law School last Friday to hear a review of the Baby Veronica Case - and to hear what NCAI, NARF and the Tribal Supreme Court Law Project at Yale were doing while this major case was going on... and I reported to you yesterday what they said essentially…
There weren't any surprises for me unless you count how these panelists didn't use the time to discuss the genocide that actually occurred prior the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and the child abductions by social workers and missionaries - nor did they mention human trafficking and the Nightlight Adoption Agency dealings with Maldonado, the birthmother. They did mention boarding schools.
So, I was truly upset. From what I heard, it appears American Indians are eons behind in civil rights and we can't seem to win a case in the Supreme Court. I’d heard that warning years prior but this time at Yale was a bit more in my face. This case was about adoption by non-Indians, something I lived myself.
We had Justice Alito writing an opinion that Veronica is 1.2% Indian. NARF attorney Joel West Williams asked the Yale audience, "Who in America is 1/16 or 3/256th anything?" Yet we have a judge issuing his opinion by measuring an Indian for their Indian-ness which equates to measuring a child’s blood? This is still happening?
· JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court:This case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2% (3/256) Cherokee. Because Baby Girl is classified in this way, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that certain provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 required her to be taken, at the age of 27 months, from the only parents she had ever known and handed over to her biological father, who had attempted to relinquish his [**736] parental rights and who had no prior contact with the child. The provisions of the federal statute [*2557] at issue here do not demand this result.· Jun 25 2013: Judgment REVERSED and case REMANDED. Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., and Breyer, J., filed concurring opinions. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg and Kagan, JJ., joined, and in which Scalia, J., joined in part. Read more here·
I couldn’t sleep ... Dusten Brown never had a chance. He went to Iraq knowing the Capobiancos had his daughter but he had to serve a year and a JAG lawyer took his case. The puzzle remains why Maldonado mysteriously breaks up with him and severs all communication. Was she punishing her high school sweetheart Dusten by selling his baby or was she manipulated by the adoption agency to take their money?
Then it hit me - keeping America ignorant of Indians, culture, actual history - this all works to take Indian children. Judgment is easy. Third World poverty (which we didn’t create) somehow equates to abuse of children. Add their general ignorance of sovereignty and culture, what it means to be Cherokee or Lakota or Navajo or any tribe - and it means you can't win public opinion polls or cases before the Supreme Court?
Ignorance about Indians? Exactly!
It's been going on since colonial contact. Please, let's not call them settlers anymore but invaders. America has always been the Great Divider, building its fences, writing its laws, counting on classism and racism to divide us.
America wins every time when it perpetuates this ignorance of Indians. Do Indians do a good job of educating others about culture, or what's important to us? Not really. We're way behind in any civil rights movement. We've had movies romanticizing us over 100 years and it's hard to kill those "savage" “redskin” stereotypes drilled into all our heads!
What do Americans know about Indians? Nothing. Practically zilch.
America's "taking care" of Indians only works to create HATE among Americans who view us as privileged in some way that they are not. Like why do we even have a law that keeps nice white people from adopting Indian babies? Trust me, ICWA is under attack.
I do know that Indians are way ahead in surviving every broken treaty and then fighting each other over small scraps of power. Some tribes even subscribe to "blood quantum" as if they need to purge their citizen rolls of those who may be too white or too black.
We have Supreme Court Justices using the blood quantum argument and you see that is not entirely their fault (they all went to law school but didn’t even have a course on Indian Law at those Ivy League schools) but it tells me - do not go anywhere near them. They are not even aware of their ignorance. Dusten Brown didn't have a chance, not in that court.
We Indians shouldn't go anywhere near that court or any court with that level of stupidity. No, you can't tell America they are stupid.
What the panel did say was each and every tribe needs to create and have their own child protection network. I agree since it's pretty evident that you can't trust any non-Indian social worker to go to the reservation and use their mother- father “family unit” example. Only Indians can decide who the right people are to care for its children. That person might be an auntie, grandmother or another relative, depending on who in the tribal family is willing and able.
And the panel said we need more American Indian lawyers who become judges - because the way it is now - Indians can’t win.
For many years Vine Deloria and others did try very hard to educate others (with their brilliant books) on the white man’s level, even earning degrees in white man’s colleges like Yale and Harvard, but it all comes down to this: whites don’t really care.
And if we really think about it, this is a very dangerous situation to be in.
Footnote: I attended white schools like most everyone else - Really nothing I learned was true or real about Indian culture or history. I learned more sitting at the kitchen table of my friend Ellowyn who is Oglala Lakota, who gave me an education about Indians not written about anywhere. Then there was my one adoptive aunt (a first-born American) who calls me a liar when I told her there were Indian Boarding Schools, and this was right after I visited Haskell in Kansas. No, Americans are not learning about Indians or the truth of our history.
The Baby Veronica case is the sign, whether we wish to see it that way or not - but we can no longer ignore the ignorance or the danger surrounding this case.