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Saturday, March 12, 2011

END THE CRISIS: Congressional testimony 1974 (archives)

archival photo of Residential Boarding School students
 William Byler at hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Program, April 1974

The National Institute of Mental Health publication, “Suicide, Homicide, and Alcoholism Among American Indians,” reports:

The American Indian population has a suicide rate about twice the nation’s average. Some Indian reservations have suicide rates at least five or six times that of the Nation, especially among younger age groups. While the national rate has changed but little over the last three decades, there has been a notable increase in suicide among Indians, especially in the younger age groups.

The report then singles out nine social characteristics of Indians most inclined to completed suicide. I think two of these are pertinent here: He has lived with a number of ineffective or inappropriate parental substitutes because of family disruption, and he has spent time in boarding schools and has been moved from one to another.

In our efforts to make Indian children white, I think it’s clear that we’re destroying them. In attempting to remove Indian children from communities of poverty, I think we help to create the very conditions of poverty. When we remove children from the home or disrupt family life -- with families as the basic economic, health care, and educational unit in human life -- when you break that up, you impede the ability of the child to grow, to learn, for himself or herself, to become a good and responsible parent later.

We have certain recommendations, in a general sense, that we would like to lay before you.

Mr. Hirsch will present some more specific recommendations that we believe could be acted upon by Congress this year without any kind of significant question of committee jurisdictions, and we believe are uncontroversial.

We offer the following summary recommendations. Congress should enact such laws, appropriate such moneys, and declare such policies as would:

(1) Revise the standards governing Indian child welfare issues, to provide for a more rational and humane approach to questions of custody; and to encourage more adequate training of welfare officials;

(2) Strengthen due process by extending to Indian children and their parents the right to counsel in custody cases and the services of expert witnesses, subjecting voluntary waivers to judicial review, and encouraging officers of the court who consider Indian child-welfare cases to acquaint themselves with Indian cultural values and social norms;

(3) Eliminate the economic incentives to perpetuating the crisis;

(4) End coercive detribalization and assimilation of Indian families and communities and restore to Public Law 280 tribes their civil and criminal jurisdiction;

(5) Provide Indian communities with the means to regulate child-welfare matters themselves;

(6) Provide Indian communities with adequate means to overcome their economic, educational, and health handicaps;

(7) Provide Indian families and foster or adoptive parents with adequate means to meet the needs of Indian children in their care;

(8) Provide for oversight hearings with respect to child-welfare issues on a regular basis and for investigation of the extent of the problem by the General Accounting Once;

(9) End the child-welfare crisis, both rural and urban, and the unwarranted intrusion of Government into Indian family life.

The ultimate of responsibility, of course, must properly rest with the American Indian tribes and urban communities, the Indian people themselves.
[Again, I am posting information and research from my archives...Trace]

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