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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Pivotal Year

The rights of Tribes and Native American families face a pivotal year in 2016.  

In the last year of Barack Obama's presidency, we are redoubling our efforts to build on our historic victories before the transition to a new administration. Please become a member and a donor, and make 2016 a breakthough year for Native families and Tribes.

In December, Lakota People’s Law Project released a report detailing the need for the United States government to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to acknowledge the brutal crimes against Indigenous communities during the Indian Boarding School Era. The report focuses on the continuing intergenerational trauma and destabilization created by the Boarding School Era, a period from the early 19th century into the 1970s when the federal government undertook a program of forced assimilation, ­attempting to rob Natives Peoples of their culture, language and heritage.

In addition to our report, the Lakota People’s Law Project is building a coalition to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Boarding School Era in the United States. We recently sent a delegation to the NCAI conference in Washington DC and the National Reservation Economic Summit in Las Vegas to recruit support for our Truth and Reconciliation project. Our close ally, the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, NABS, has a similar effort, and we are working with them to maximize the effectiveness of both campaigns. We have more collaborative meetings with NABS and NARF, the Native American Rights Fund, planned in the next few months.
We are collecting endorsements from tribes, individuals and aligned organizations, and we need your help. We have begun a petition calling for the U.S. Government to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The more signatures we can gather, the more pressure we can exert on elected officials. Please take time to sign the petition.

“The history books are awash with the atrocities leveled against the Indigenous peoples of North America since European settlers first arrived on this continent in the 15th century,” said Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project. “Despite this consensus among historians, the United States federal government has never formally acknowledged how its policies directly led to the near eradication of the Native inhabitants of this land. A formal acknowledgement needs to occur. Healing for all parties begins with the truth.”

Also in December, a campaign by the Adoption Attorneys Association of America (AAAA) to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act sustained a significant setback as a federal court judge threw out their case that attempted to argue that new ICWA guidelines violated the civil rights of Indian parents. The lawsuit, filed simultaneously with other AAAA federal cases in Minnesota and Arizona, bizarrely argued that ICWA violated the civil rights of Indian parents who wanted their children removed by state­-run social services departments and placed with non­-Natives. Not only did Judge Lee dismiss the case on technical grounds, i.e. lack of court jurisdiction, but he also confirmed that the ICWA guidelines are non-binding interpretive rules and are thus not subject to adjudication.
“Rarely does one see a legal complaint so utterly crushed by a federal court,” says LPLP Chief Counsel Daniel Sheehan. “To see a case get dismissed, without any oral arguments, on both technical grounds and the merits demonstrates not only the flimsy nature of the legal grounds cited, but also the clumsiness of the crass legal maneuverings and utter lack of moral clarity on the part of those who were behind this ill­advised legal gambit.”
Read more about this case in our press releases.

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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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