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Friday, March 29, 2013


Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a case in which the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a Native American (Indian) child could not be adopted by non-Indian parents without complying with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The court ordered the child returned to her biological father after she had lived with her adoptive parents from birth until 2 years of age.
In 2009, a couple from South Carolina sought to adopt an Indian child from her non-Indian single mother in Oklahoma. The biological father contested the adoption on the grounds that he was not properly notified in accordance with ICWA, and won his cases in trial court and on appeal with the state supreme court. The case has received extensive coverage in the national media, and spurred calls for Congress to review and make amendments to the 1978 law.
On October 1, 2012, the adoptive couple petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case. On January 4, 2013, the court granted certiorari and will hear the case on April 16, 2013.


For Immediate Release
March 29, 2013
Media Contacts:
Thom Wallace - National Congress of American Indians
O (202) 466-7767 ext. 207
C (202) 754-0466 
Nicole Adams - National Indian Child Welfare Association
O (503) 222-4044 ext. 133
C (503)754-0466
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl
Amicus Briefs in Support of Brown Family Include U.S. Solicitor General, 19 States, and Broad Coalition of Supporters
Twenty-Four Briefs Call for Brown Family—Daughter, Veronica, and
Father, Dusten—to Remain Together and
Indian Child Welfare Act to Remain Intact
Brown Family, Who Have Prevailed in Every Court So Far, Will Have
Fate Decided by the Supreme Court in a Case to be Heard on April 16th
Washington, DC—The United States federal government and 19 states are among a broad coalition who filed amicus briefs yesterday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the rights of Native American father Dusten Brown and his daughter, Veronica, to remain together as a family, calling for the nation’s highest court to uphold a previous South Carolina Supreme Court decision. The well-being of Veronica, the Brown family, and the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a focus of all the briefs.
The case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 16, 2013, involves a South Carolina couple seeking review of a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling and attempting to force Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to give his daughter Veronica up for adoption. Mr. Brown, who is now raising Veronica at their home in Oklahoma, has prevailed in every court that has considered this matter, including the South Carolina Family Court and the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Joining the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and 19 states, including 18 state attorneys general, are a large array of groups who submitted 24 separate briefs in all. The overwhelming support includes 17 former and current members of Congress; Casey Family Programs, the Children’s Defense Fund, and 16 other child welfare organizations; the American Civil Liberties Union; broad coalitions of psychology associations, child advocates, and legal experts; adult Native American adoptees; and tribal amicus briefs which include 333 American Indian tribes.
“The broad base of support in this case is historic. In the history of the work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project, no Indian law case has generated more of a unified message to the Supreme Court about Indian law,” said Richard Guest, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), noting the outpouring of interest and support for Veronica, the Brown family, and ICWA.
Many of the briefs highlight the findings of the South Carolina Family Court, which found that “the birth father is a fit and proper person to have custody of his child” who “has convinced [the Court] of his unwavering love for this child,” and were upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The amicus brief of the United States federal government emphasized the importance of ICWA, stating that "the United States has a substantial interest in the case because Congress enacted ICWA in furtherance of 'the special relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes and their members and the Federal responsibility to Indian people.'" The brief further defends the constitutionality of ICWA, arguing that "ICWA, which is predicated on Congress's considered judgment that application of its protections serves the best interests of Indian children and protects vital interests of their parents and Tribes, does not violate any substantive due process protections." It concludes that "[t]he South Carolina courts properly awarded custody of Baby Girl to Father."
In the brief of leading national child welfare organizations, the best interest of the child is highlighted, in addition to the value of ICWA.

No one understands the human toll custody disputes can take more than amici, 18 child welfare organizations who have dedicated literally scores of years to the on-the-ground development and implementation of best practices and policies for child placement decision making. Amici have seen up close what works, and what does not. In amici’s collective judgment, ICWA works very well and, in fact, is a model for child welfare and placement decision making that should be extended to all children. Much forward progress in the child welfare area would be damaged by rolling the law back.
A brief from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was joined by attorneys general from 17 other states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin— and argued against interference in the relationship between states and tribes in matters regarding ICWA, asserting, “States and tribes have collaborated to ensure that the mandates and spirit of ICWA are fulfilled…. Early and complete compliance with ICWA ensures the security and stability of adoptive families as well as tribes and Indian families.” The State of Minnesota Department of Human Services also filed a brief.
Not one state submitted briefs in support of Adoptive Couple.
“This brief includes nine Republican and nine Democrat attorneys general,” said John Dossett, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) general counsel. “Party affiliation does not matter. The federal trust responsibility is a nonpartisan commitment, which includes support for the rights of American Indian families and tribal governments to protect their Indian children—and in this case, for a loving father to be with his daughter and for her to be with her family.”
Seventeen current and former members of Congress also reflected this bipartisan support, noting in their brief the circumstances that led to the enactment of ICWA in 1978, as well as asserting Congress’s exclusive power to legislate with respect to Indian tribes. It stated:
In 1978, Congress enacted ICWA in direct response to state adoption policies that were draining Indian tribes of their future citizens. Such practices threatened the very existence of Indian tribes. Without children to grow up as their citizens, tribes would be left with no one to speak their language, carry on their traditions and culture, or participate in their tribal governments…. Ultimately, any decision limiting Congress’s authority to pass legislation like ICWA…would effectively preclude Congress from exercising its plenary authority in Indian affairs, and render Congress unable to fulfill its historic duties as trustee to the Indian tribes.
Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), commended former Senator James Abourezk for taking the lead on the brief, stating, “Senator Abourezk sponsored the bill that became ICWA because he recognized that the widespread removal of Indian children from their homes was a continuation of forced assimilation practices that had no place in our society. His leadership today sends an unmistakable message that there is unified support in defending his law from those who would return to the pre-ICWA era.”
Two national tribal amicus briefs were submitted. The first, focused on the legislative history and importance of ICWA, was submitted by the Association on American Indian Affairs, NCAI, and NICWA, who were joined by 30 Indian tribes and five Indian organizations. A second national tribal amicus brief addresses the constitutional issues raised by the petitioners and also includes 24 tribal nations and organizations. The members of the Tribal Supreme Court Project—NARF and NCAI—in partnership with NICWA, joined together to organize the briefs in support of the father. In all, 333 tribes submitted briefs in support of the father.
Oral arguments for Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl will be held on April 16, with a decision expected shortly thereafter.
All of the briefs filed by supporters of Dusten Brown's right to raise his daughter can be found at:
All filings for the case can be found at:
More information about the case can be found at:

Brock University honors adoptee Jolene Hill

Aboriginal students recognized for leadership, achievements

Posted by tmayer on Mar 21st, 2013   
Jolene Hill (left) and Renée Monchalin are this year's recipients of the Aboriginal Achievement Awards.
Jolene Hill (left) and Renée Monchalin are this year's recipients of the Aboriginal Achievement Awards.

Until three years ago, Jolene Hill knew nothing about the history of residential schools in Canada.
Life on a reserve was foreign to the master’s student who grew up in Arkansas as the adopted aboriginal daughter of white parents. In fact, just about any issue facing Canada’s First Nations was unknown to her.
Then Hill, whose birth family is from the Osoyoos Indian Band in B.C., came to Brock in 2010 to pursue her master’s degree in psychology. That’s when Hill got an education in being aboriginal in Canada.
Outside of school, she took at 12-week workshop designed to help First Nations peoples find employment. Hill landed a job at the Niagara Regional Native Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake where she heard the life stories of her co-workers and the challenges they’ve faced as First Nations peoples in Canada.
At Brock, she connected with Aboriginal Student Services and participated in the programs and services it offered.
Every experience with Niagara’s First Nations community on campus and off only solidified for Hill what she wanted to do with her career.
She wants to help those who haven’t been as fortunate as she has, getting her master’s in theology at Wilfrid Laurier University and eventually becoming a chaplain at a prison being built on Osoyoos Indian Band land in Oliver, B.C.
“When I was 15, 20, 25, people always asked if I was interested in my origins. I wasn’t,” Hill said. “I was busy running around with friends. But as you get older, you start to think about things.
“When I talk to my birth mom, I see someone who acts like me and talks like me,” Hill added. “Because she has an aboriginal background and is living on a reserve, I’m interested in how she grew up. She’s been discriminated against but I haven’t been because people always thought I was white.”
Hill was recognized for her leadership on campus and off, and her academic achievements, Wednesday at the 14th annual Aboriginal Achievement Awards at Pond Inlet. The awards are presented by Aboriginal Student Services and the Student Development Centre.
“As a recipient of this award, I promise to do my best to be a leader in the aboriginal community and to help facilitate harmony between aboriginals and the general population of Canada,” Hill told the audience at the ceremony.
Joining her in the accolades was Renée Monchalin, who is in her last year of studying public health.
Monchalin started at Brock as a communications student but quickly learned after connecting with Aboriginal Student Services that her passion was First Nations health issues. She changed her major to public health with the goal reducing drug and alcohol abuse in aboriginal communities.
Since then, Monchalin has worked with the Region’s public health department on youth health initiatives, as well as the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative (SOADI).
“Renée has really strong purpose, direction and passion for health issues affecting the aboriginal community,” said Prof. John Hay, who taught Monchalin. “I think she has all the trappings and skills to be an effective leader in the future.”
Monchalin said she was honoured to receive the award.
“I appreciate that I have the support system here,” she said. “I’m just really grateful and motivated to do more and more.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Important Briefs for Supreme Court

Tribal Amicus Brief on Constituitionality of Indian Child Welfare Act

LIST OF MEMBER TRIBES OF TRIBAL ORGANIZATIONS who signed this important brief in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act:

All Indian Pueblo Council

Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico

Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico

Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico

Pueblo of Isleta, New Mexico

Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico

Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico

Pueblo of Nambe, New Mexico

Pueblo of Picuris, New Mexico

Pueblo of Pojoaque, New Mexico

Pueblo of San Felipe, New Mexico

Pueblo of San Ildefonso, New Mexico

Pueblo of Sandia, New Mexico

Pueblo of Santa Ana, New Mexico

Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico

Pueblo of Santo Domingo, New Mexico

Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico

Pueblo of Tesuque, New Mexico

Pueblo of Zia, New Mexico

Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas 2a

Maniilaq Association

Native Village of Ambler

Native Village of Buckland

Native Village of Kiana

Native Village of Kivalina

Native Village of Kobuk

Native Village of Kotzebue

Native Village of Noatak

Noorvik Native Community

Native Village of Point Hope

Native Village of Selawik

Native Village of Shungnak

United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas

Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Maine

Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina

Cayuga Nation, New York

Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana

Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina

Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Maine

Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, Louisiana

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Connecticut

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Massachusetts

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida 3a

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

Narragansett Indian Tribe, Rhode Island

Oneida Indian Nation, New York

Passamaquoddy Tribe—Indian Township, Maine

Passamaquoddy Tribe—Pleasant Point, Maine

Penobscot Indian Nation, Maine

Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Alabama

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York

Seminole Tribe of Florida

Seneca Nation of Indians, New York

Shinnecock Indian Nation, New York

The Mohegan Tribe, Connecticut

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Massachusetts
(These Tribal Nations make so proud they submitted this important brief in the Baby Veronica Case. They are some of the tribes who lost their children to the Indian Adoption Projects...Trace)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NARF/Casey Foundation Blog on Indian Child Welfare Developments

by Matthew L.M. Fletcher  (Turtle Talk)
Welcome to ICWA INFO, described as:
In early 2013 Casey Family Programs partnered with the Native American Rights Fund to create an online resource that would focus solely on Indian child welfare issues.  Thus, began the ICWA INFO blog.  It was envisioned that this site would provide the public with information and timely updates about all things related to Indian child welfare and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  This would include:
  • news about lawsuits related to ICWA in tribal, state, and federal courts,
  • related training and conferences,
  • legal analysis and research resources,
  • federal and state regulations,
  • information about relevant groups and agencies,
  • and job postings.
To see our most recent additions and edits, visit our home page.  To see past materials, you can use our search box or review materials by category, date posted, or topic from the links at the right.
We hope that you find this resource useful and we invite you to submit materials for this website at the contact page.
Highly recommended. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

ACTION ALERT, Briefs you need to read #Baby Veronica

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl & Cherokee Nation Respondents’ Briefs

by Matthew L.M. Fletcher

NICWA urgently requests your immediate action on three time-sensitive matters regarding Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, an ICWA-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court that has potentially sweeping ramifications for all of Indian Country far beyond issues in child welfare.  All supporting amicus briefs in this case must be filed by Thursday, March 28, 2013. For months, the Tribal Supreme Court Project, of which NICWA is a part of, has coordinated the development of these briefs. With one week until they are due, we seek your help in getting more tribes and states to sign on in support of the Respondents in this case, the Brown family and the Cherokee Nation.  
Please take the following actions below immediately and share this message with your personal networks.
More information on this case can be found at

Adoption Fraud in Kentucky

From Non-Ethical Adoptions on YouTube:

"Children are being stolen from their parents in record numbers all over the United States, thanks to federal grants given to states for completed adoptions. Already a problem, this trend skyrocketed when the Bush administration increased these grants in 2005. We know from the 59 videos on our channel alone that this is continuing to happen all across the nation. It must be stopped. It is unacceptable for this to be going on anywhere, much less in the nation that claims to be the flagship of the free world. This is the best news story we have ever seen on this subject."
The link:

As they say on this news program, federal and state monies are based on statistics in each state - which is unethical on the part of Kentucky (and South Dakota) to up their numbers to get more money. The billion dollar adoption industry is then legally profiting from child trafficking and selling children. It's about money---not protecting families and children from these abusive practices.

One commenter who saw this news story wrote: What do you expect in a nation where economic prosperity has been built on slavery and 'indentured servitude' --- the system out which adoption grew.  If the roots are rotten, why be surprised that the tree growing from those roots is also rotten...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Necessary: How my Adoption was like the Baby Veronica case

NEWS: United States Amicus Brief in Support of Affirmance in the Baby Veronica Case

Click here to read:

By Trace L Hentz (formerly DeMeyer)

It's important to Native adoptees that the history of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 be placed in the forefront in this case headed to the Supreme Court. It is more than relevant. It is necessary.
A quote from this brief states ..."The case for the ICWA's application here, where the biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, wishes to raise his child as a member of the nation, is even stronger."
I spoke with a reporter at NBC News a month ago, and telling him about my own adoption, how my father Earl would have kept me and raised me. The reporter at NBC said I am like an early Baby Veronica case. 
Yes, but I was adopted before the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 as many Native adoptees were. Federal law did not protect me or my father's rights back in the 1950s. The social workers did not contact my father before I was placed in a stranger adoption. Therefore I lost contact with my relatives and my culture. That is no longer acceptable, since ICWA was passed.
Do the people who wished to adopt Baby Veronica know this history? If not, they need to read the anthology TWO WORLDS and understand how adoptees feel.  Did they ever consider the child's needs above their own?


In my research for both books, I found that Department of the Interior Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins is an adoptee and Navajo. Tompkins is part of this brief. A story about her ran in the Navajo Times a few years ago.
Keep good thoughts that this important case respects existing federal law and this daughter remains with her father and in her tribe. It is important. It is necessary.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leland P Kirk Morrill: a follow-up interview

Earlier interviews with Dine adoptee Leland P. Morrill (Kirk) have been so popular on this blog, we decided to check in with him again and see what he's been up to. Leland is one of 10 children adopted by one Mormon family. He has been working on several projects concerning American Indian Adoptees.

How is your reunion going with your family on the Navajo reservation?
Leland Morrill: I am in constant communication with my Uncle Ernie & Aunt Carrie on Facebook. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with them this past year. Facebook has been a "blessing in disguise." I am meeting more and more Navajo family and friends through Facebook and it's been a treat to be able to have a platform of communication.
Last year my cousin Elton hosted a pow wow here in Los Angeles called "Celebrating Life & All Creation." (He founded that pow wow and some of us are organizing it for this year since he moved to Denver.)
Of note, Elton and I (on October 18, 2009) each provided "public comment" at the HIV/AIDS Community Discussion: Los Angeles for the White House HIV/AIDS Community Discussion held at Hollywood High. Back then we didn't know we were related. I was coerced to attend by a friend and then he said you should say I prepared comments while waiting in line after filling out the "comment request card."  Elton spoke before me and I thought I was going to be the only Native American, let alone a Navajo, who was going to present a comment. He was so eloquent and well-spoken. I talked to him then but it wasn't until this past year we found out we are cousins. Funny how life throws those curveballs. 
Can you give us an update on your work concerning the REAL ID ACT of 2005:

LM: I have taken somewhat of a break from this, because I needed to pay off bills, get a new career started and find myself and enjoy meeting new family, the Kirks and the Pachecos. I've been attempting to balance that and continue to volunteer for NALEO Education Fund Citizenship Classes, filling out the N400 forms for qualified applicants.

Tell us about the conference you attended at Pepperdine and what topic you presented:

LM: I was invited by Bert Ballard, co-chair for the conference INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION: ORPHAN RESCUE OR CHILD-TRAFFICKING?
Bert had invited me to a previous conference at Claremont Colleges in California last year for the same InterCountry Adoption conference and I'd attended their dinner. Bert Ballard is one of the Operation Babylift Vietnam babies and he also adopted two children with his wife.
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs (who I've known throughout this past year from the same events) has kept in constant communication with me. She was the organizer for our breakout session FORGOTTEN, DETAINED, REMOVED: TRANSNATIONAL ADOPTED PERSONS AND CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS. Caittlin Kee, McClane Layton (author of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000), and I were the presenters for this group.

I specifically told my story and I started with the video of The Morrill Family on National Television (Summer 1981) when my adoptive parents adopted seven Native Ojibwe Adoptees from Ontario, Canada:
Then I talked about my story and my issues with citizenship being native, born on US soil. I went long but it was an introduction to putting Native American adoptees on the international map, especially with so many attendees from around the globe attending.One of the highlights was a private lunch with Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children's Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, US. Department of State.  Marshall Derks, Branch Chief InterCountry Adoptions/US Department Of State/Bureau of Consular Affairs, McClane Layton, Bert Ballard, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Caitlin Kee and I were able to speak with her.
It was a "standing lunch" and I didn't eat much because we had a lot to cover; we went about 40 minutes with the seven of us. During the lunch I brought up my story and also Brent Snavely and Lisa Kay's contributions. (I'd asked for experiences on the Facebook page NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES, hoping for different angles.) Those proved to be very good to support my story as well. We also briefly discussed Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl (the baby Veronica case). All in all it was a wonderful lunch, all of us spoke about many angles, including genocide, the Hague and UN definition; with Jennifer being a Korean Adoptee, me being Navajo with citizenship issues and how I had recently overcome the Real ID Act; and McClane Layton's authoring the Child Citizenship Act.

Who attended and what significance do you think the Pepperdine conference had on the people who attended:
LM: Notable attendees were: U.S. Ambassador Susan Collins; Ambassador Susan S Jacobs; Marshall Derks, Branch Chief, Intercountry Adoptions US Dept. of State; Whitney Reitz, Senior Policy Advisor on International Child Welfare, Office of US Senator Mary Landrieu, Louisanna; David Smolin, Cumberland Law School; Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law School; Benyam dawit Mezmur, Chairperson of the African Commitee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Isaac Obiro, Attorney Ekirapa & Co Advocates, Kampala Uganda; Mark Riley, Adovcate & Consultant at Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Uganda; and many others.
I gave copies of the anthology "TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects" to Mark Riley, Marshall Derks, Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Bert Ballard, Whitney Reitz, Caitlin Kee, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Kit Myers and then left some on a central table, where they were snatched up.
Also, of interest, one of the attendees, Katheryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Beacon Press, 2009) and The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption, had our book TWO WORLDS on her "to read list." She described the cover, but unfortunately, I had given out all the copies and went back to the table the second day & the remaining ones had been claimed. Hopefully she reads the book.
David Smolin at Cumberland School of Law posed the question: "Do you think this is an issue that my law school's new center for children, law, and ethics could usefully take up?" I told him YES, and sent him some information. 
Also, I had informed Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly about the conference and he responded: "Thank you Mr. Morrill for sending this over. I look forward to learning more about this issue. It is also good to know that our Navajo people, like yourself, are included in these important discussions. We wish you all the best with your upcoming event."
Hopefully some great networking has begun and we are on the page internationally, not only through my efforts but as a collective group of Native takes a village.

You gave copies of Two Worlds: Lost Children to the Dr. Phil show. Do you think they plan to do an update to the Baby Veronica case closer to the Supreme Court hearing in April?
LM: My humble opinion is only if the case Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl (the baby Veronica case) provides enough media coverage for the show to boost ratings and to have a re-visit. Just from observing, being in the audience on several occasions, I know Dr. Phil McGraw & his wife Robin are great caring people. Television is edited so you only see the "drama" that will keep people captivated, get viewership, and draw advertising.
So, hopefully the Baby Veronica Case will create a buzz.
Big thanks to Leland Morrill who is a contributor to the anthology TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. He lives in Los Angeles and works as an actor.
Two Worlds (paperback) is available on and the e-book version is on Nook, Kindle, Kobo and more.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NPR update: Maine, Tribes Seek 'Truth And Reconciliation'

3 min 50 sec

In Maine, an unusual and historic process is under way to document child welfare practices that once resulted in Indian children being forcibly removed from their homes. Many of the Native children were placed with white foster parents and with white adoptive families.  Chiefs from all five of Maine's tribes, along with Gov. Paul LePage, have created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help heal the wounds.

Read the entire transcript here:

Sandy WhiteHawk is correct - we do not know how many children were taken. You can visit her website here:
Contact her organization, First Nations Repatriation Association!NS REPATRIATION INSTITUTE  

Friday, March 8, 2013

History: Indian Child Welfare Act

History Behind Enactment of The Indian Child Welfare Act
        In 1978 Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act ii (Act or ICWA), in response to a national crisis in which an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families were being broken up due to the often misguided removal of Indian children from their families and tribal communities. Prior to the Act's passage, Senate oversight hearings in 1974 yielded numerous examples, statistical data, and expert testimony documenting "the wholesale removal of Indian children from their homes ... the most tragic aspect of Indian life today." iii Congress also heard testimony indicating that, by conservative estimates, one out of five Indian children has lived in foster or adoptive home at some time. iv It was found in States with large Indian populations an incredible 25 to 35 percent of Indians were in out of home placement or adoptive homes at one time in their lives.v

        In Minnesota for example between 1972 and 1974, one-quarter of Indian children under one year of age were adopted. vi In Minnesota Indian children were placed in foster care or adoptive homes at a per-capita rate of five times that of non-Indians, and 97.5% of Indian children placed for adoption were placed into non-Indian families. The removal rates for Indian children in other states were just as alarming. In South Dakota Indian children were disproportionally represented in foster care at a rate of sixteen times that of non-Indians. vii In Washington Indian children were being adopted at a rate of nineteen times that of non-Indians. viii

        The disproportionate rate at which Indian families were being broken up has had severe consequences to Indian children, parents, and tribal communities.  Dr. Joseph Westermeyer, a University of Minnesota social psychiatrist, testified to Congress about his research, which indicated that Indian adolescents who are raised in non-Indian homes typically have difficulty coping in white society, despite the fact they had been raised in a white environment. ix A 1975 report prepared for the American Academy of Child Psychiatry states, "native American children placed in off-reservation non-Indian homes are at risk in their later development. Often enough they are cared for by devoted and well-intentioned foster or adoptive parents. Nonetheless, particularly in adolescence, they are subject to ethnic confusion and a pervasive sense of abandonment." x

        Puyallup Tribal Chair Ramona Bennet succinctly stated the parents' perspective: "If you lose your children, you are dead; you are never going to be rehabilitated, you are never going to get well." xi 
        For the tribes, Congress heard the testimony of Mr. Calvin Isaac, Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian, who stated:
Culturally, the chances of Indian survival are significantly reduced if our children, the only real means for the transmission of the tribal heritage, are to be raised in non-Indian homes and denied exposure to the ways of their People. Furthermore, these practices seriously undercut the tribes' ability to continue as self-governing communities. Probably in no area is it more important that tribal sovereignty be respected than in an area as socially and culturally determinative as family relationships. xii
Chief Isaac also summarized the principal reason for the high rates of removal of Indian children:
One of the most serious failings of the present system is that Indian children are removed from the custody of their natural parents by non-tribal governmental authorities who have no basis for intelligently evaluating the cultural and social premises underlying Indian home life and child rearing. Many of the individuals who decide the fate of our children are at best ignorant of our cultural values, and at worst contemptful of the Indian way and convinced that removal, usually to a non-Indian household or institution, can only benefit an Indian child. xiii
        One of the particular points of concern to Congress was the failure of social workers to understand the role of the Indian extended family. The House Report on ICWA thus states:
An Indian child may have scores of, perhaps more than a hundred, relatives who are counted as close, responsible members of the family. Many social workers, untutored in the ways of Indian family life or assuming them socially irresponsible, consider leaving the child with persons outside the nuclear family as neglect and thus grounds for terminating parental rights. xiv
        In addition to the alarming removal rates of Indian children is the Federal Governments well documented involvement in the destruction of Indian families through Federal policies. For example in 1971, 17% of Indian children where removed from families to attend Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding schools. xv The Indian children were often times isolated from families and punished for speaking their own language and practicing their own religion. Based upon this evidence, in passing the ICWA Congress found:
...that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child-custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families. xvi
        The Indian Child Welfare Act addresses the crisis in Indian placement in two ways. First, it provides that no Indian child may be removed from the home unless qualified Indian expert testimony indicates that the child is in danger of experiencing physical or emotional harm. xvii This requirement, if followed, will ensure that removal of an Indian child from the home is based upon objective indicia of harm to the child, rather that subjectively applied cultural or social standards. Secondly, where Indian expert testimony does indicate that likelihood that continued custody in the home will result in harm to the child, the ICWA generally requires that the child be removed from the home, but placed, in order of preference, within the Indian extended family, within the family of the child's tribal affiliation, or within another Indian family. xviii Placement of Indian children in Indian homes was Congress' way of ensuring that when state court and child-protection agencies place Indian children outside of the home, they do not sever the children from their only means of receiving their cultural heritage - the Indian family. xix

Congress found as the purpose of the Act:
The congress hereby declares that it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture, and by providing for assistance to Indian tribes in the operation of child and family programs.
        Congress concluded as the legislative history shows that proper implementation of the Act itself would serve the "best interests" of Indian children.
i Parts of the following History were taken from the Indian Child Welfare Law Center Case for Support (6/28/93) prepared by Mark Fiddler.
ii 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq. (1978).
ii Indian Child Welfare Program, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 93 Cong., 2d Sess., at 3 (1974)(statement of William Byler)(herinafter 1974 Hearings).
iv American Indian Policy Review Commission, Report on Federal, State, and Tribal Jurisdiction, at 19 (1976) (hearinafter the 1976 Report).
v The House Report, H.R. Rep. No. 1386, 95th Cong., 2nd Sess. (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News 7530 (hereinafter House Report) at page 9.
vi See House Report at 9.
vii Id.
viii Id.
ix 1974 Hearings, at 46.
x Indian Child Welfare Act of 1977 Hearing on S.1214 before the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, 95 Cong., 1st Sess. (1977), at 114 (hereinafter the 1977 Hearings)(statement of Drs. Carl Mindell and Alan Gurwitt, American Academy of Psychiatry).
xi Id. at 164.
xii Hearings on S. 1214 before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs and Public Lands of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. (1978), at 193 (hereinafter 1978 Hearings).
xiii Id, at 191-192.
xiv House Report at 10.
xv House Report at 9.
xvi 25 U.S.C. § 1901.
xvii 25 U.S.C. § 1912(e),(f).
xviii 25 U.S.C. § 1915.
xix See House Report at 19 (where the House stated that compliance with ICWA is "in the best interest of an Indian child").
If you need help or more information:

Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center
Suite 104
1730 Clifton Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tribes line up support as Supreme Court takes up ICWA dispute

The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund are lining up some major support as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, an Indian Child Welfare Act case.
At least a dozen briefs will be filed in support of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation whose rights are at issue in the case. Briefs are coming from individual tribes, national tribal organizations, adult Indian adoptees, several states, national child welfare organizations, law professors, religious groups, psychologists' associations, current and former members of Congress, military and veterans organizations and even the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We have brought our A-team to this case," NARF attorney Richard Guest said at NCAI's 2013 executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Read it here:

Kind Hearted Woman: Documentary follows Sioux woman's struggle

Watch Kind Hearted Woman Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.
By Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun

GRAND FORKS - The Spirit Lake Nation's continuing efforts to deal with deficiencies in its child protection system is about to get another round of national exposure.

The PBS news program "Frontline" has produced a two-part documentary titled "Kind Hearted Woman" featuring Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother who lived on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.

The documentary follows her over three years, according to PBS, as she "struggles to raise her two children, further her education and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child."

The programs are to air April 1 and 2.

The tribe's problems, especially allegations of sexual abuse of children and failure of authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual predators, already have received considerable regional and national attention.

The exposure has been promoted, welcomed or at least tolerated by some at Spirit Lake who have been critical of responses so far by tribal government, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and FBI. Other tribal members have lamented the attention, however, arguing that it paints a false picture of conditions and efforts by the tribe to make improvements.

At a "town hall" meeting on the reservation Wednesday, organized by the BIA at the urging of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., several members of the tribe decried the "negative" focus of the attention. One man asked that news cameras be removed. Organizers declined to do that, saying the meeting had been set up and advertised as an open session.

Charboneau, who also uses the name Robin Poorbear, was among those who spoke at the Wednesday meeting. Along with several others, she challenged Mark Little Owl, hired by the tribe last summer as director of tribal social services.

Helping victims, raising awareness

The PBS documentary was done by filmmaker David Sutherland, who previously produced the documentary portraits "Country Boys" and "The Farmer's Wife."

"Kind Hearted Woman" opens with Charboneau walking home on the reservation after a 20-day stay at a rehabilitation center.

"Now I'm sober," she says, "and I'm really, really scared I'm going to start drinking again."

According to PBS, the two-part program will follow Charboneau through a custody battle with her ex-husband over her two children, her efforts to obtain a college degree and her hopes of becoming a social worker.

"When Robin's daughter reveals that her father has sexually abused her, echoing Robin's own childhood abuse, it ignites both emotional turmoil and a dramatic criminal trial in federal court," according to PBS.

(Anthony Charboneau was convicted in U.S. District Court in Fargo in 2009 of sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact of minors, according to court records. He was sentenced to almost four years in prison. He appealed the conviction, but his appeal was rejected in January by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Robin had lost custody of her children to the tribe, "a move Robin believes is the result of her ex-husband's connections to tribal leaders," according to PBS, but when her ex-husband is convicted she regains custody and moves to International Falls, Minn.

There, Robin works as a sexual-abuse educator, her daughter organizes a fundraiser for victims of domestic abuse, and the family participates in a walk to raise awareness.

"A march like this could never happen on the Spirit Lake Reservation," Robin says in the documentary, according to PBS, "because there, we just don't talk about abuse."

A spokesman for the tribe said Friday that tribal officials were not aware of the documentary.

A spokeswoman for PBS said the company has reported on the ongoing child protection issue at Spirit Lake, including a report on Wednesday's meeting, and that attempts have been made to speak with tribal officials but were unsuccessful.

The documentary is separate from that reporting, the spokeswoman said. "This doesn't fall under Frontline's typical investigative work," she said. It is rather a portrait, "one woman's journey."

For more on the documentary, visit

Please watch this one. It's vital we help parents who are struggling to keep and raise their own children.  More effort is needed to help all families, to keep them intact which is better than fostering and adopting children out to strangers...Trace

Watch" David Sutherland, Filmmaker
on PBS.

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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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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