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Monday, September 2, 2019

We are still fighting to protect Indigenous Children #ICWA

Commentary: Appeals court affirms indigenous children belong to a political class, not racial

Jodi Rave
Jodi Rave

The battle to keep indigenous children, north and south of the Mexico-U.S. border, with their families now plays out fairly regularly in the U.S. media. But, it’s not new news. Indigenous children have been stripped from their families for decades in the United States.
In 1978, the federal government recognized an alarmingly high rate of Indian children removed from their homes compared to white children resulting in the creation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Forty years later, a wealthy, white Evangelical Christian family threatened to uproot the law after winning a custody battle over a 3-year-old boy whose biological mother is Navajo and bio father Cherokee. A federal judge in Texas awarded Chad and Jennifer Brackeen custody of the boy. Not satisfied with the win and afraid they may possibly lose custody in the future, the Brackeen family led a charge to declare the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, unconstitutional. On Aug. 9, a federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the act.
The appeals court ruling affects the children of 573 tribes, including children in Texas which was historically occupied by tribes such as the Apache, Kiowa and Comanche. Alex Kim, a family court judge in Texas felt that once the boy’s mother left the Navajo Reservation she lost a connection to her people. In a New York Times article, Kim said his Korean-born grandfather and father understood they and their children would lose part of their heritage by moving to the United states: “But that’s part of the decision we make to immigrate to other cultures and countries.”
As indigenous peoples of the Americas, we didn’t move to another country. We lost our traditional territories to white immigrants, land grabs and squatters. As part of our forced assimilation, many of our children were sent off to Christian-based boarding schools or put up for adoption. As late as the 1960s, upwards of one-third our kids were being taken from Indian homes.
In the 21st century, we are still fighting to protect indigenous children whether it is north or south of the Mexican border. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act was a critical step to keep our families, communities and identities intact. Now, some legal protections need to be enacted for the indigenous children being stolen at the Mexico border.

Jodi Rave is the founder of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance. She is a Nieman journalism fellow of Harvard University.

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

Indian Country is under attack. We need you. Please join the ranks of Modern Day Warriors. Please donate today to help Native people protect their rights.

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?

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.