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Friday, October 28, 2016


Washington Supreme Court Opinion Clarifies Rights of Parents under ICWA, WICWA

State and federal law protect the rights of Native American children even when one of their parents is not Indian. That’s the word today from the Washington state Supreme Court.
A woman with a child remarried. A court in southwest Washington agreed to terminate the parental rights of the child's father -- her ex. He was in prison and had problems with drugs.
But in this case, the state high court said that shouldn't have happened -- at least, not so fast. Because even though the child, the mother and the stepfather are all Indian and the father is not, the child's rights are protected under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and the Washington Indian Child Welfare Act.
Craig Dorsay represented the Samish tribe as a friend of the court. He called the opinion “a very good win for tribes, Indian families and Indian children.”
“The fact that the child may have an Indian parent and a non-Indian parent, should not avoid or reduce protections that the act is designed to afford to the child,” Dorsay said.
But Mark Fiddler, counsel for the child’s mother, argued the opinion lays out guidelines that “no other father would have to follow.” For example, he said if no parties had been Indian, the father’s rights would have likely remained terminated.
In the long run, Dorsay said it sets a precedent for all private adoption cases involving Native American children.
The Supreme Court has sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Adoption of Frances T #CANADA #60sScoop

An Interview with Allyson Stevenson, the recipient of the 2016 Arrell M. Gibson Award

by Lauren Naus for AMERIND
An interview with Allyson Stevenson, author of “The Adoption of Frances T: Blood, Belonging, and Aboriginal Transracial Adoption in Twentieth-Century Canada” is now available on the UTP Journals Blog!

Learn about the inspiration behind her article and about her research as a Historian of Canadian Indigenous History.

For excellence in Native American History, this article was given the 2016 Arrell M. Gibson Award from the Western Historical Association. Stevenson’s article appeared in the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire, and to celebrate this award-winning research, this article is Open Access until November 4. Read her article here - 

This article offers a case study of a transracial adoption involving a mixed-heritage child and a legally Indian adoptive couple. The legal adoption of “Frances T” in 1937, considered to be “in the best interests of the child” by social welfare professionals, took on gendered and racialized meaning in the discourse of the Indian Affairs bureaucrats who subsequently attempted to overturn it. The article uses the case to examine Canadian settler-colonial beliefs about blood and belonging. It also explores the complications that emerged as legally defined Indian people came into contact with provincial child welfare legislation. With the goal of eliminating Indigenous legal and kinship forms, the Indian Act colonized adoption so it could be used as a method of assimilation rather than as a traditional form of Indigenous alliance creation and childcare. The case highlights the themes of Indigenous kinship and sovereignty, legislated Indian identity, and the growing involvement of social workers in the lives of Aboriginal people in the mid- to late-twentieth century.

[I have the pdf and can email it if you don't make the download deadline... Trace]

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#BabyV Case analysis: A tension as old as the country

Legal scholars put focus on Native American rights

Teaching & Learning
Prof. Kristen Carpenter, the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law talks about the state of American Indian Law in light of the conference on indigenous rights in her Griswold Hall Office at the Harvard Law School.
Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerKristen Carpenter, the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law talks about the state of American Indian Law in light of the conference on indigenous rights.
Native Americans currently represent 1 percent of the U.S. population, but thousands of years ago they were the indigenous inhabitants of the territory known to some of them as Turtle Island and eventually to others as North America. Today, there are 567 federally recognized tribes. The largest are the Navajo Nation and Cherokee Nation.
Harvard Law School, the Harvard University Native American Program, and the Harvard Native American Law Students Association held a a two-day conference in October to examine relations between Native Americans and state and federal governments. Keynote speakers included University of Colorado Law School Dean S. James Anaya, Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Keith Harper.
The Harvard Gazette interviewed Kristen Carpenter ’98, Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at HLS, Council Tree Professor at University of Colorado Law School, and one of the event organizers, on the history of American Indian law, the friction between federal and tribal laws, and the rise of the indigenous rights movement in the United States.  

GAZETTE: Can you describe the state of Native American rights in the United States?

CARPENTER: It is mixed. On the one hand, American Indian tribes are powerful, resilient communities, deeply steeped in tribal culture and ways of life, and continuing to live in their homelands and territories to this very day. As a matter of law, tribes have well-grounded and longstanding rights commemorated in treaties made originally with European nations and then with the United States. They also have rights that are established in the U.S. Constitution and in federal statutory law, which have long been recognized by the courts. In recent years, however, there has been somewhat of a retrenchment in federal courts, and especially in the Supreme Court, with respect to the recognition of tribal jurisdiction and tribal statutory rights that were enacted to remedy some of the past dispossessions American Indians endured.

GAZETTE: What are the main grievances of Native Americans toward the U.S. courts?

CARPENTER: My sense is that tribal governments are quite often seeking dignity and respect in the courts. Indian tribes were here before Europeans and others who came to what is now called North America. Tribal governments engaged in treaty-making with Europeans going back to the 1600s. Tribal rights to exercise their own laws over their territories and their members are traceable to treaties. One question in federal Indian law is often how to understand and implement those historic arrangements today. This is a question not unlike that faced in U.S. constitutional law, where a venerable document also presents questions of contemporary interpretation. Secondly, while federal Indian law clearly recognizes tribal self-government, various parties challenge the jurisdiction of the tribal courts and regulatory system. This sounds technical but what it really means is which government and whose values are able to regulate people’s lives, lands, and resources on a day-to-day basis. The foundational rules of federal Indian law provide that tribes generally retain jurisdiction within reservation boundaries, and especially over tribal citizens, and that states have authority off the reservation. That’s oversimplifying the situation and there are a lot of situations where things are a little bit messier in reality.

GAZETTE: A few years ago, there was a messy case that highlighted the strain between federal and tribal laws. A Cherokee girl was given back to her adoptive parents after the Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act didn’t apply. Could you explain what happened?

CARPENTER: Yes, this was the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, decided by the Supreme Court in 2013. To explain it, I have to share some history. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was enacted to address the historic removal of Indian children from their parents for purposes of their religious and social “assimilation.” In various iterations, dating back to 1850, assimilation was a federal policy implemented in part by religious organizations, state child welfare workers, and private adoption agencies. One of the views animating these practices was that Indian children would be “better off” with white families. By the 1970s, one in four Indian children was being raised away from their families. Congress noted the “wholesale separation” of Indian children from their families had devastating consequences for the children, who suffered high rates of psychological and physical trauma, as well as the parents, siblings, and tribes who lost their children, and passed ICWA to address this situations. Under ICWA, Indian parents and tribes must receive notice of custody proceedings involving their children, tribal courts have jurisdiction in some cases, and there is a set of foster care and adoptive placement preferences prioritizing the extended family and tribe.
In the Adoptive Couple case, a Cherokee baby was put up for adoption by her non-Indian mother in a set of events that did not comply with ICWA, such that the father — who was an active-duty serviceman — was served with notice of the impending adoption four months after his daughter’s birth and days before his deployment. When he returned from Iraq almost two years later, the father was able to appeal the case and the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that ICWA had been violated, granting him custody. The little girl then lived with her father, siblings, and grandparents and Indian community for two years. But the Supreme Court ruled ICWA didn’t apply because, according to Justice Samuel Alito, the statute required a parent show “continuing custody” to be eligible for ICWA’s protections. The little girl was then relocated back to South Carolina with the adoptive couple.

GAZETTE: What’s your opinion about the outcome of the case?

CARPENTER: In my view, the case was wrongly decided. ICWA is supposed to protect Indian families and remedy the legacy of federal policies that disrupted Indian family custody. The Supreme Court, completely missing Congress’ intent, created a new and narrow reading of the statute to deny a fully capable, fit, and loving Indian father the opportunity to bring up his daughter. Many in the Indian child welfare community are working in domestic and international venues for reform that will prevent this kind of outcome in the future.

GAZETTE: So the question is what’s the importance of Indian laws in U.S. jurisprudence?

CARPENTER: Indian tribes pose a lot of hard questions for the U.S. legal system. They’re governments and communities that predate the United States, but through conquest and colonization, they came to be dispossessed of many rights, whether it’s land, jurisdiction, culture, or family. Yet, those tribes still remain 500 years later through the resilience and determination of their people as well as the strength and beauty of their culture. Today Indian law tests the capacity of the U.S. legal system to acknowledge and respect the pre-existing rights of Indian tribes and to account for those interests and norms of legal pluralism in a democratic system that is more comfortable with individual rights. Those are real challenges. In my view, the answer lies in the framework established by treaties and the Constitution, specifically to respect the sovereignty and jurisdiction of tribes, for the United States to negotiate with Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis, and for cooperative approaches among all three sovereigns to address the problems contemporarily facing us.

GAZETTE: Can you tell us whether those principles are being used in the Dakota Access Pipeline situation, the most recent case of friction between the federal government and tribal communities?

CARPENTER: The Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline less than half a mile from its reservation. The pipeline is slated to travel under the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source of drinking water, right through some of their sacred sites. So when the Standing Rock people claim that their very way of life is threatened now by the pipeline, I think they mean it quite literally. These lands and waters were originally protected by the tribe’s own laws, and later by the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851, which the U.S. later violated, such that the contested lands are now owned by the United States, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Various statutes require federal agencies to “consult” with tribal nations about federal undertakings that would affect their resources. The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes affected by the pipeline are litigating those rights in the federal courts right now. In recognition of the spirit of those laws, the Obama administration, through the Departments of Justice, Interior, and the Army, has called for a halt to construction in order more fully to consult with the affected tribes.

GAZETTE: What can the United States learn from other countries with indigenous populations?

CARPENTER: Currently in the United States, tribes’ aboriginal title, meaning the land they have occupied since time immemorial, is not recognized as “property” pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has held, in a case involving the Western Shoshone people, the rule of law in the U.S. thus violates basic norms of property, equality, and non-discrimination. In cases involving Nicaragua, Ecuador, Belize, Suriname, and others, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has recognized that property rights grow out of indigenous peoples’ land tenure. Some of these countries have, in turn, reformed their national laws to recognize tribes’ customary land tenure as a source of property rights and begin the process of demarcating and titling those rights. While those reform efforts are not without difficulty, I’d like to see the United States also recognize Indian tribes’ aboriginal lands as being eligible for the full set of property rights protections.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The untold story of "Bean" Swain and Roderick Taypaywaykejick, residential school runaways | Chanie Wenjack

In the coming months, Maclean’s will tell each of their stories, piecing together accounts from reports, relatives and archival material. To learn more, and to contribute to this report, visit

Facebook event poster leads to reunion for #60sScoop sisters in Saskatoon

Melika Popp recognized birth mom's last name on birthday party poster

By Stephanie Cram, CBC News  Oct 22, 2016

Sisters Melika Popp and Kimberly Switzer-Ashong were separated from each other as children - a result of the Sixties Scoop. They reunited for the first time on Oct. 6, 2016.
Sisters Melika Popp and Kimberly Switzer-Ashong were separated from each other as children - a result of the Sixties Scoop. They reunited for the first time on Oct. 6, 2016.

Melika Popp was surprised to see her birth mother's last name on a poster on Facebook for the 80th birthday party for Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Senator Luke Nanaquetung.
It was a chance sighting that led her home.
Popp, 41, is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop who was taken away from her mother in 1976, when she was two. She was placed in foster care and later adopted by a Métis family from Saskatoon.
"There was always something missing. I didn't know where I came from," said Popp.
"I was probably around eight years old when I recognized that I didn't really belong anywhere."
After she saw the name on Facebook, Popp decided to call the phone number on the poster and ended up speaking to her aunt.
From the conversation, Popp found out that Senator Nanaquetung is her grandfather, and her sister Kimberly Switzer-Ashong was living in the same city as she was — Saskatoon.
"It was a miracle, in a way. I think it was God's work of keeping us so close together," said Popp.
Popp was given a phone number for her sister, but she doubted calling it would lead to anything concrete.
"I had anticipated that I would just leave a message and we would play phone tag back and forth, but it happened so quickly.… She answered the phone and we talked," said Popp.
"It's a huge blessing to come across her, but at the same time, it's bittersweet, because we were both removed from each other's life due to being colonized."

'The timing was right' 

The sisters ended up meeting in person on Oct. 6.
Switzer-Ashong, 39, said she always imagined meeting her sister would be emotional, but she was surprised by how calm she was.
"I'm almost 40 years old. I think I was just ready for it," said Switzer-Ashong. "It was natural. I embraced her. The timing was right."
The sisters only met two weeks ago, but they are already spending lots of time together.
"Our children are going to be part of each other's lives, and we plan on making up for time lost," said Popp.
Popp has shared her story with audiences, speaking about the Sixties Scoop and the practice of coercive sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada, which also happened to her.
Popp is part of a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for Sixties Scoop survivors from Saskatchewan. Currently she is helping her sister join the lawsuit.
"We lost our culture, we lost our identity, we lost our language, we lost our family," said Popp. "And you know, that really impacted our self-concept and our self-esteem as Indigenous women."
The sisters hope their story will inspire other survivors of the Sixties Scoop to find their family members.
"With raising national awareness, it helps encourage and inspire transformative change and healing for survivors and people who suffered at the hands of the federal and provincial governments," said Popp.

Related Stories

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tribal Court Judges and Montana Judges Connect #ICWA

Judges connect at conference in Polson

POLSON, MT — Montana District Court judges, water judges, workers’ compensation judges and Montana Supreme Court Justices met at Red Lion Inn in Polson last week for the bi-yearly meeting of the Montana Judges Association, where they exchanged ideas, learned new laws, and got to know each other face to face.

This year Tribal Court Judges from across Montana were invited to join the conference.

“We have the advantage of having a good relations with our tribal judges,” said Twentieth Judicial District Judge Deborah Kim Christopher, president of the Association. “It was really special.” The Association is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of the judicial system, continue education, and provide a forum for the exchange of information and ideas, according to their website. The conference is educational in nature as judges must earn 15 continuing legal education credits per year.

“They were all here making an effort to coordinate and care about what we are doing within the context of what we can accomplish under the law,” Christopher said.

The National Judicial College presented information about the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federally-imposed mandatory regulation for how courts must treat tribal children. The conferences gave judges the opportunity to discuss issues, such as which court has jurisdiction over the cases and how to best maintain family relationships.

“That is why it’s really cool to have tribal judges here,” Christopher said. “Most of the other reservations are closed, but even courts not on reservations must follow the regulations, taking into account social and cultural backgrounds.”

Other larger issues focused on child pornography and how quickly kids can be made a victim in social media, plus what new changes to laws must be taken into account, and how secondary trauma is impacting judges and attorneys.

Polson businesses showed Montana hospitality to the visiting judges, museums opened their doors, and the Polson Chamber of Commerce provided informational bags. Rob and Halley Quist provided music, Polson Mayor Heather Knutson gave a tour of Country Pasta in Polson, Vine and Tap hosted a social time, and other local restaurants and business just treated the judges “really, really well,” Christopher said. “The judges were made to feel welcome, and they said so.”

Meeting face to face and just talking with each other was the highlight of the conference, Christopher said, which helps reach across cultural borders.

“People to people, Montanans can always get things done,” she said

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Stephanie Woodard: The Police Killings Noone is Talking About

Native Americans killed by police (L to R) from top: Marcus Lee, Lance McIntire, Daniel Covarrubias, Raymond Eacret, Jessie Lee Rose, Jacqueline Salyers, Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, Richard Estrada, Jeanetta Riley, Larry Kobuk, Jamie Lee Brave Heart, Loreal Tsingine, Corey Kanosh, Allen Locke, Sarah Lee Circle Bear
Hi Readers,
You may recall Stephanie Woodard for her excellent writing in the anthology TWO WORLDS.
She has reported on adoptees many times.

This new report is just as disturbing. Please read. 

"The Police Killings No One Is Talking About": Native Americans Most Likely to be Killed by Cops

A new investigation by In These Times explodes myths about who is most likely to die at the hands of police by revealing that, compared to their percentage of the U.S. ... Read More →

You may recall I wrote about Alan Locke (above), who is a relative in my Lakota Tiyóspaye. Read about him and The Phone Call here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lost Children Book Series #60sScoop

Just in time for November's Adoption Awareness Month or #NAAM? Yes.

Photos of the Native children in the anthology Two Worlds (vol. 1) and Called Home (vol. 2). These anthologies are a major and important contribution to American Indian history told by its own lost children/adult survivors.

On Amazon and Kindle!

ISBN-13:  978-0692700334 (Blue Hand Books)

Are you searching for your tribal family? We have the roadmap and advice you need in this book series Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects...
There is a growing need for answers, answers adoptees have trouble finding. In this anthology, you will hear their answers and how other adoptees were able to find their tribal relatives, but most importantly, how they healed....

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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You are not alone

You are not alone

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Diane Tells His Name

click photo

60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

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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