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Sarah Deer, Elise Higgins, and Thomas White have published “Editorializing ICWA: 40 Years of Colonial Commentary” in UCLA’s Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance.
Despite studies concluding ICWA has been a successful law to curb the crisis of child removal in Indian country when implemented correctly, a significant number of attorneys, think tanks, and politicians argue that ICWA actually harms Native children and should be repealed. Others argue that ICWA has served its purpose and is no longer necessary. This article considers how newspaper editorials perpetuate misinformation about ICWA, its history and its purpose. Moreover, we explore how anti-ICWA authors employ “words of colonialism”—in particular, the use of derogatory words and phrases to portray Native people as bad parents and Tribal Nations as dysfunctional. Providing inaccurate and racist characterizations of ICWA is one of the primary tactics used by editorials to delegitimize ICWA. Emotionally triggering and wholly inaccurate language is often employed as a sensationalist method to grab the reader’s attention by presenting the law in terms of clear-cut morality.