Stateline: Indian Child Welfare Act likely headed to Supreme Court
By Teresa Wiltz
Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts
A case before a federal appeals court could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities. For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture. Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.) Overturning the law, its proponents say, could significantly increase the number of American Indian children adopted into non-Native families.
Hundreds of tribal nations vehemently oppose the lawsuit. They say it threatens the sovereignty of Indian Country and seeks to “return Indian children to the arbitrary and discriminatory whims of state courts and state agencies, unfettered by the centuries-old trust obligations this nation owes to Indian tribes and Indian peoples.” Meanwhile, some states and private adoption attorneys pushing for change argue the Indian Child Welfare Act interferes in state affairs and “requires them to place Indian children in accordance with statutory requirements based on race, rather than the children’s best interests.” Oral arguments in the case were heard last Wednesday in New Orleans. Whatever the outcome, the case is likely headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brackeen v. Bernhardt: Listen to a federal appeals court debate the future of the Indian Child Welfare Act. #ProudToProtectICWA https://t.co/lE8R1YAyNW— indianz.com (@indianz) March 13, 2019