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Friday, July 25, 2014

WHY are these Native children removed from their homes?

By Stephen Pevar, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU at 10:19am

Imagine entering family court and knowing that what's at stake is the person you hold most dear – your child. Now imagine having a judge tell you that he's removing your child from your custody, from your home. When you ask him why, the judge's replies, "I honestly can't tell you." The judge then signs an order giving custody of your son to Social Services.
You might think that such a court proceeding could never happen in the United States – but you'd be wrong.
It happened not long ago to the father of an American Indian child in South Dakota. What's more, many similar hearings in which Indian children are removed from their homes for no reasons given to the parents occur at least 100 times a year in Rapid City, South Dakota, alone.
Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978 in an effort to stop American Indian families from having their children removed by state and local officials for invalid and sometimes even racist reasons. Yet 36 years later, Indian children in South Dakota are 11 times more likely to be removed from their families and placed in foster care than non-Indian children.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in March 2013 in federal court on behalf of the Oglala Sioux and the Rosebud Sioux tribes in South Dakota and on behalf of a class of all Indian families living in Rapid City, South Dakota, the state's second largest city. We sued state and local officials who, we contend, repeatedly violate ICWA.
We recently examined 120 transcripts of initial custody hearings – known as "48-hour" hearings – held during the past four years involving Indian children. Nearly 100 percent of the time, Indian children were removed from their homes in those hearings. The average length of time those hearings took was less than 4 minutes. Within that time, of the six different judges that oversaw the hearings, not one judge ever told one Indian parent that they have a right to contest the state's petition for temporary custody of their children in the hearing on the petition.
During those hearings, the parents were not told the reasons for the removal, not provided with an attorney, not allowed to submit any evidence, and not allowed to cross-examine the Social Services worker who had submitted an affidavit against them. In most cases, the parents were not even allowed to see the affidavit.
And what were the parents in these hearings "guilty" of? Here is a snapshot of some of the cases discussed in the transcripts:
  • A mother abused by her boyfriend lost custody of her child even though the abuser was not being allowed to return to the home. Before the judge's decision, the mother pleaded with the judge not to punish her for what the abuser had done.
  • A father going through divorce was denied custody of his children solely because his estranged wife got into trouble with the police, even though no evidence was introduced suggesting that the children would be at risk staying with the father.
  • A mother lost custody of her daughter merely because the daughter's babysitter had become intoxicated, without any showing that the mother knew that such a thing might occur.
  • A father who tried to discuss the merits of his case was interrupted by the judge and told that the details of child custody removals were not to be discussed in 48-hour hearings, and then the judge signed an order removing the child from the father's custody.
Our lawsuit seeks to stop state judges and social workers from continuing to remove Indian children from their homes unless the parents are provided with basic guarantees of due process of law and rights afforded 36 years ago in ICWA These include the right to a fair and prompt hearing, the right to notice of the charges against them, the right to an attorney, the right to present evidence, and the right to cross-examine the state's witnesses.
Based on the 120 transcripts, we recently filed motions asking the federal court to rule that South Dakota officials engage in a pattern and practice of denying Indian families and Indian tribes their basic rights to fairness under ICWA and the Constitution.  

And next month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will consider a report submitted by the ACLU on U.S. failure to meet its international treaty obligations to end pervasive and institutionalized discrimination, including the lack of due process in American Indian child custody proceedings in South Dakota.
Ultimately, we hope to restore justice to a group of people who our legal system has repeatedly failed.

Learn more about American Indian rights and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Broken: Choctaw Father in California Thwarted in Custody Battle With Foster Couple


Baby A has been adrift in foster care for years. Born in November 2009, the child’s non-Indian mother had disappeared soon after its birth. The father, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma who is from the Los Angeles area, took over raising the child and was described by friends and family as, says one, “a great father, who really tried his best to step up.”
Currently, an appellate court in Los Angeles is reviewing whether or not Baby A should be placed with relatives under the “preferred placement preferences” of both state and federal Indian Child Welfare statutes, or remain with a foster couple who are claiming “de facto parent” status, with the same rights as biological parents. The foster couple, Summer and Russell Page, are the child’s third foster home since it was placed into state custody.
According to friends, family and court watchers with knowledge of the case, all of whom declined to be identified because of the privacy rights of a minor child, although Baby A’s father was “rough around the edges,” he was a loving—even doting—parent. A mechanic for many years, he was arrested and sentenced to jail in 2010 for grand theft auto and selling stolen auto parts when the child was approximately a year old. Since he was a single father with no other family in the area (his Choctaw mother had recently passed away), Baby A was swept into the oceanic California foster care system.
“He was not fumbling or unsure of himself,” says a friend of the family who declined to be identified because of fear of retaliation  by the state. “It was clear that he was experienced with babies and children and knew how to change a diaper and even used a particular kind of diaper because he explained that his baby had sensitive skin and was prone to diaper rash. Some guy uninterested in being a father wouldn't even bother with that. He was a good parent in spite of his [jail sentence].”
After the father was released from jail on December 31, 2011, his child remained in foster care while he worked to complete a “case plan”—which is a series of checklists, forms and services mandated by the court, including parenting classes, drug testing and counseling. At one point, he even had unmonitored day visits over weekends.
And yet he never regained custody of Baby A. Eighteen months and three foster homes later, the process began to sputter as he kept getting his hopes up, only to get more additions to his case plan. Even though he had cleaned up his act, gotten a job, completed parenting classes and a multitude of other mandated programs, the father began to bristle at the seemingly endless demands placed on him by the Department of Social Services. Friends say he fell into despair, and said he considered the court keeping his child away from him as a punishment that did not fit his crime. As a non-violent offender he felt he had already paid his penance, including jail time and lengthy reunification efforts with his child.
But there were other obstacles. Some of the court-ordered classes, for example, were offered only during his work day, and he could not take off because he had just gotten hired. He did not like the court-ordered therapist he was sent to, but was not given the opportunity to find another one. He went for his regularly scheduled drug testing, but missed an appointment, which was marked as a “positive” test under California law. Nonetheless, Baby A’s father felt he was doing the best he could, according to friends.
Subsequently, sources close to the father say that he became “tired and fed up” with the endless checklists and requirements. In the meantime, bickering with the latest round of foster parents erupted after the couple had “fallen in love with Baby A” and set their sights on getting permanent custody of the child. According to people familiar with the case, the Pages began to dictate the terms and length of father's visits and began documenting a list of complaints, including that Baby A “smelled like cigarettes” when the child returned from visits with its father; that he “seemed intimidating,” among others.
Depressed and frustrated, he told friends and family in the summer of 2013 that he was “tired” of fighting with the Pages and what he called DSS’s “stalling.” So, in order to maintain some kind of relationship with his child, the father of Baby A requested that it be placed with his relatives in Utah under the “preferred placement” provision of the Indian Child Welfare Act. With the consultation and consent of the Choctaw Nation, which has 175,000 members and is the third largest tribe in the U.S., an ICWA-compliant home was found with extended relatives in Utah.
In December 2013, however, a Los Angeles judge issued a stay denying Baby A’s placement with its ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah pending further appeal, citing the foster parents’ contention that they were now the child’s “de facto” parents and that they had become “attached” to the child.
According to family friends, Baby A’s father and extended family were devastated by the decision. Legal experts contend the stay ignored five key facts in the case: 1) That he is the biological Indian parent of Baby A; 2) his parental rights have not been terminated; 3) that he still has standing in the case; 4) that he therefore has a say in determining where his child should be placed;  and 5) that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, who also has standing in this case, supports father’s placement wishes.
But the concrete wall for the non-Indian foster parents and their legal team, however, is the federal- and state-mandated placement preferences under Section 1915(A) of the Indian Child Welfare Act, whose specific requirements are as follows: “1. A member of the child’s extended family; 2. A member of the child’s Indian tribe; 3. Other Indian families; or 4. an institution for children approved by an Indian tribe or operated by an Indian organization which has a program suitable to meet the Indian child's needs.” Additionally, the act specifies that if an Indian child is to be placed into adoptive or foster care that “the Indian child's tribe shall establish a different order of preference by resolution, the agency or court effecting the placement shall follow such order so long as the placement is the least restrictive setting appropriate to the particular needs of the child.”
In January 2014, Lori Alvino McGill signed on as counsel for the Pages. Alvino McGill worked on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl last year as a spokesperson for Veronica's mother, Christy Maldonado, who had given Veronica up for adoption to Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina before the girl’s birth in 2009. As Maldonado’s pro bono counsel, Alvino McGill argued in the media and on social websites against Veronica’s father Dusten Brown, using foul language and, in one particularly heated late-night exchange on Facebook, referred to Veronica’s biological father as a “sperm donor.”

RELATED: The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 5
Some Disturbing Facts About Baby Veronica's Birth Mother

Alvino McGill is collaborating on this case with  Stephanie Grace, a Harvard-educated attorney with Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins, who, as a third-year law student, came under fire in 2010 for an email in which she asserted the following: “Everyone wants to take 100 white infants and 100 African American infants and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100 percent convinced that this is the case.” The email was subsequently forwarded to the Harvard Black Law Student Association.
Alvino McGill and Grace, along with four other attorneys, are seeking to overturn ICWA in federal court on the basis that it is “unconstitutional” for its race-based placement preferences. The team is also seeking to terminate Baby A’s father’s parental rights, arguing that the Pages should retain custody of the child.

RELATED: Veronica's Birth Mother Drops Bid to Overturn ICWA in South Carolina

Baby A, however, is not the first child this foster couple has tried to adopt out of foster care. The first child was eventually reunited with its parents—but only after they fought in court with the Pages to regain custody.
“These folks are attempting to use foster care as an ad hoc adoption agency, [but it] is not a rubber-stamp to adopt the kids in their care.” says J. Eric Reed, member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney who specializes in federal Indian law. “They knew when they signed up for duty that foster care is only temporary custody. They are meant only to care for the child until the child is reunified with the biological parent. But now they're trying to switch horses in the middle of the race again and gain permanent custody with the help of Baby Veronica's legal team. But let's be clear: Dad's parental rights have not been terminated. Therefore, under the law, his rights are still in play. They cannot go into court and pretend otherwise. To do so is not only a direct violation of ICWA, but California State ICWA statutes, as well.”
Reed, who is now a Dallas-based criminal defense attorney in private practice, says that states across the country “consistently mandate complicated, near impossible goals” in their so-called reunification plans for Indian parents that create a more favorable climate for the adoption of these children by foster parents.

Jumping Through Hoops, Hoops and More Hoops
Across the United States, Native parents have complained that they face seemingly never-ending rounds of requirements and checklists that thwart their attempts to regain custody of their children after they disappear into state custody.
The problem has become so widespread that the Bureau of Indian Affairs commenced hearings at an ICWA Summit in Rapid City, South Dakota, last year in which dozens of Indian parents testified before a panel of approximately two dozen government officials, including Assistant Interior Secretary Kevin Washburn, that their parental and human rights were routinely violated by the South Dakota Department of Social Services, which forced them to “jump through hoop after hoop” which did not result in being reunified with their children.
Since those hearings in Rapid City last year, Secretary Washburn, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, has never publicly commented on the case, which is under current review by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Additionally, he has declined numerous requests from Indian Country Today Media Network to speak on the record regarding the nationwide issues with the Indian Child Welfare Act and the friction it creates between the tribes and the states under his purview.
At the Rapid City summit, Indian parents complained that each completed checklist was met only with yet another checklist and more court-ordered programs and classes, while non-Indian foster parents and facilities across the state were being paid to care for over 750 Indian children who were swept into foster care every year. Additionally, many Indian grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, et al, testified that even though they had become certified as foster homes, they were denied the opportunity by the Department of Social Services to care for their own relatives, in direct violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
In response, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes and three Indian parents in South Dakota filed a class action suit in March 2013 against the state in federal court [Oglala v. Van Hunnik]. For the first time in U.S. History, the two tribes have sued the state under the doctrine of parens patriae—which means on behalf of all current and future tribal members. Currently, the legal team for the plaintiffs are awaiting a judge’s opinion in their suit, which asks for immediate declaratory and injunctive relief from the daily practices, procedures and routines in family courts that ignore ICWA.
The plaintiffs charge that for years, Native children have been taken on virtually a daily basis by social services and placed into state custody by judges and social workers who completely ignored the provisions of both the Indian Child Welfare Act and even South Dakota state law, according to the suit.

RELATED: Swept Away: South Dakota's Native Children Denied Due Process in Custody Cases
Swept Away, Part 2: Suing South Dakota to Protect Native Children

“[The social worker] said I couldn't see my kids because I didn’t fill out a form properly,” according to one parent in South Dakota who declined to be identified because of her fear of retaliation by the social service workers in that state. “I said I had filled it out three times already, how many more did she need? So she wrote down in her report that, ‘Mother appears hostile.' Well, what did she expect? A cupcake? I want to see my kids. I'm done with the forms. Let me see my kids!”
“It's a classic legal strategy,” says Alicia Nevaquaya, an Eagletown, Oklahoma-based lawyer and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “It's known as 'Drown them in paperwork to the point where you break them.' And it's understandable that these parents are frustrated, because it is, in fact, a 'hostile takeover' of your kids. They're actively taking them away. But the facts in [Baby A] are clear that this Native father was broken. They broke him into giving up.”
“I can't do it anymore,” he tearfully told a friend in the summer of 2013, around the same time that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. For 18 long months since his release from jail, dad had fought to regain custody and was only given more to do, which only gave the Pages more time to establish their “de facto” parent status. After losing his mother, being left with an infant to raise on his own, the arrest, the jail time, the separation from his child and his quest to regain custody had taken its toll. He reluctantly ceased reunification efforts, which were officially terminated in June 2013. But—his parental rights and standing in this case, however, remain in tact.
His only request was that his child be at least be placed with ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah so that they could maintain some kind of relationship. In early December 2013, Superior Court Judge Amy Pellman ordered a change of custody ruling that under the law, the child should be placed with the father’s ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah.
On December 12, 2013, the Pages filed a motion with the court to stay the child’s removal to relatives to Utah, which was immediately granted. From that point forward, attorneys for the foster couple began referring to them as the “de facto” parents of Baby A and that they therefore had the same rights as the child’s biological parents.
In spite of the legal wranglings by the foster couple and their new legal team, two obstinate facts remain: Father’s rights in this case have not been terminated; he still has standing under state and federal law.
Says Reed, “So what if Dad was in jail? Does that entitle the state to take his child away forever? No it does not. Prison inmates have more parental rights than Indian parents. Unless there was clear and present danger to this child or evidence of abuse—and I do not see that there was—then they should have returned the kid to him by now. But they've stacked the deck against him, just like they did with Dusten Brown.
“Even in prison, inmates still get access to their children and they still get visitation, because maintaining the relationship with the children is a central part of the rehabilitation process of the criminal justice system in the United States. They have parenting classes for both men and women in prison. So, whether the legal team wants to confront reality or not, Dad [still has rights] under state and federal law and I think they're putting the cart ahead of the horse. They have yet to initiate a termination of parental rights hearing, so that has to happen first. That's the law. Now the question arises: What active efforts has the state made to help him in this unique situation to reunify with this child? What could [DSS] have done to promote and protect his parental rights with this Indian child? Very little, it would appear.”

The Ugly Legacy of Termination and Relocation
How Baby A's dad wound up in California is also significant in the history of Indian people in the United States. His Choctaw mother's family was “relocated” to the Los Angeles area after the Indian Relocation Act (Public Law 959, 1956), in which Indian families were “invited” to move from their homelands and reservations to urban areas in a program designed to “integrate and assimilate” Indian people into mainstream culture. It was part of the termination policies of that era, in which tribal rolls were closed and their assets liquidated. Relocation is considered a failure by many Native historians and tribal members, not only because of its further destruction of tribes, but also its creation of the disconnect and widespread diaspora of Indian people across the U.S. that exists to this day.
As a direct result of these policies, Los Angeles has the second largest urban Indian population in the United States after New York City. According to the U.S. Census, most of the tribal members in the greater Los Angeles area are from out-of-state tribal communities.
Baby A's father fell into the familiar traps that have plagued urban Indians since Relocation began. Isolated and depressed, he was already under stress with the departure of the child's mother, caring for a newborn and dealing with the grief of his mother's passing. Then came his arrest, his time in jail,  the removal of his child and the subsequent Kafkaesque process of trying to regain custody. “He tried his very best, he did,” says a friend of dad’s family. “But it wasn’t good enough. He was broken and it seems like that's what the intention was. To break him into giving up.”
All parties in the case have declined comment because CFS v. J.E. involves a child. Nonetheless, last Tuesday, a number of courtwatchers, lawyers (who do not represent any of the parties) and ICWA experts attended the appellate hearing with the encouragement of the California Indian Legal Services, who had posted a notice of the hearing on their website.
In her argument before the three-judge appellate panel, Alvino McGill argued yet again that ICWA's preferred placement preferences are “unconstitutional,” citing an old case involving Hawaiian Crown lands, which baffled many onlookers in the courtroom. Additionally, Alvino McGill argued that the lower court's ruling that “no good cause” existed to allow the child to remain with the foster couple was “erroneous,” in spite of the fact that the child has ICWA-compliant relatives who are willing to take the child into their home.
“The case she brought before the panel actually works in ICWA's favor, because the Supreme Court ultimately ruled [in the Hawaiian Crown lands case] that tribes have a unique, political relationship with the U.S. Government that the Native Hawaiians do not have,” says a lawyer who attended the hearing. “[Baby A’s father] is a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which has a long-established political relationship with the U.S. Government and the courts have consistently upheld that relationship in numerous decisions, which is what the Indian Child Welfare Act was intended to support: The continued existence of the tribes. So she is therefore incorrect in her interpretation of both [the Native Hawaiian] case and in her interpretation of the constitutionality of ICWA.”
In the meantime, as the case of Children and Family Services v. J.E. et al., unfolds, Summer and Russell Page are seeking to exchange their status as foster parents to adopting a Choctaw child who has living relatives available and which would allow dad to maintain contact.
The California Second District Court of Appeals, under presiding Justice Paul Turner, is expected to render its decision within the next several months.

Please visit Indian Country Today Media Network for continuing coverage of this and other ICWA cases.


Called Home/Two Worlds contributor Leland Morrill

Honoring Natives in Entertainment Media event this past spring: 



Leland Morrill Kirk, Navajo, is a contributor to both history books on Native American adoptees, and he is an actor/jewelry-maker/adoption activist in Los Angeles. At the event he explains his moving personal story, ICWA activism on our behalf and search. Watch the videos!

We thank Leland for all he does for us!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Adoptee Rights Coalition: 2014 Event

Adoptee Rights Coalition: 2014 Event: The next ARC event will be held during the 2014 Legislative Summit, August 19 - 22 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Stay tuned for more information...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grief is subversive – Unexplored Trauma

READ HERE: Grief is subversive – Beyond Meds

Much of what is labeled psychiatric disease is grief that has never
been expressed or properly felt, or validated. If we have unexplored
trauma, then it’s likely we have unexplored grief too. Some of us need
to begin a grieving process that never started in order to heal. Some of
us have a life-time of grief that needs to be allowed and experienced.
We can choose to challenge our culture’s fear of grief and the dark
emotions and begin to heal and turn it around.

Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to
behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that
declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral
about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned
behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the
vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with
life-force. It is riddled with energy, an acknowledgment of the erotic
coupling with another soul, whether human, animal, plant or ecosystem.
It is not a state of deadness or emotional flatness. Grief is alive,
wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated. It resists the demands to
remain passive and still. We move in jangled, unsettled and riotous ways
when grief takes hold of us. It is truly an emotion that rises from
soul. – by Francis Weller, from Entering the Healing Ground: Grief, Ritual and the Soul of the World

[More than ever before, I am certain that adoptees have not been allowed to grieve their loss and that creates the fog and numbness I experienced...It's time we heal...Trace]

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adoption laws, protecting dead parents and letters to your birthchild

By Trace L Hentz (formerly DeMeyer)

I think adoption has left many of us adoptees frozen in time as missing children.  Details of our first days and births are sealed in files – leaving us without essential details of our birthparent’s lives when they made the decision to let us go or were forced to give us up.

Our adoption records are sealed so the majority of adoptees are still unable to have a copy of our original birth certificate in all but a few states in America. Why?

If we’re adults, why are we still being treated as children?

Most of us were adopted by strangers. In my case Sev and Edie didn’t choose me. I was available. I was not “chosen” or “saved” or “an orphan.”  Those myths are repeated in blogs, ads and newspapers everywhere, as part of the propaganda by the billion dollar adoption industry. This industry is not about the chosen or saved or orphaned child. That’s the selling part. Those are sappy slogans used to convince people to continue to adopt and pay their money. It’s just a mind drug that you’ve saved someone, or rescued an orphan.

I was not saved from my birthparents Helen and Earl. They were real people, alive. My mother was 22 and my father was 27.  If my mother Helen had support from her parents, instead of condemnation for committing a sin and getting pregnant, she might have kept me. At the very least my father should have had the right to raise me, right?  He would have, I was told when we met when I was 38, but it was too late to change what happened.

Right now, Minnesota has my original birth certificate. They won’t release it to me.

All my parents are gone, all passed. It’s not that I do not know who they were. I opened my adoption at age 22 with a judge in Wisconsin. I know my names, their names and met my father. Why would Minnesota not release my birth certificate to me now?

Archaic laws. Old laws. Privacy? for whom? They are all dead. Why are adoption laws protecting dead parents?

This is my reality. I can’t change the laws myself but if you are reading this, you might pick up the phone and contact your state representative and ask them, who is adoption secrecy protecting? Is it protecting adoptive parents? Is it protecting dead birthparents? Why? Or is it protecting the adoption industry so they can continue their money making and human trafficking?

I know children will still be adopted, no question. The industry can’t be stopped overnight but if adoption is the only way for a child to be safe, find their kin and family (grandparents, cousins) to raise them.

If strangers must do it, give the child their name, ancestry, medical backgrounds for both parents, and a signed letter from each birthparent.

If only birthparents had to write that letter!  Then they’d have to sit down and think far ahead when their own flesh and blood reaches adulthood. What reasons would you give your child as to why you chose adoption and handed them to strangers? What are good reasons? Religion, money, marital status, mental or physical illness?

This letter to your birthchild should be the law of the land.
(That letter would a reality check and could be a real deal-breaker.)

(This was originally posted at which I shut down - my name change is ahead.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tribal, National, and State Leaders Convene to Develop Strategy for Improving Spirit Lake Child Protection

Director of Bureau of Indian Affairs, representatives from North Dakota's elected leaders, and others join Spirit Lake Chairman in new initiative to improve child welfare services.

FORT TOTTEN, N.D., July 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 

This week 26 key decision-makers from the Spirit Lake Tribe, federal and state governments, as well as local and national private organizations met to kick off a comprehensive strategy called the "Spirit Lake Child Welfare Improvement Project." The purpose of this gathering was to convene decision-makers to craft a vision and an initial plan for the improvement of the child welfare system at Spirit Lake.
"No matter what culture, race, or background we come from, children are sacred," said Spirit Lake Chairman Leander "Russ" McDonald as he opened the convening. "This meeting is critical to bringing together assessment information and available resources to build a strong foundation for addressing child safety."
Attendees included leadership from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (US Department of Interior), Administration for Children and Families (US Department of Health and Human Services), the state of North Dakota, representatives from elected officials in North Dakota, Casey Family Programs, and the Center for Native American Youth. All are committed to working collaboratively to improve the lives of Native children.
"I am very excited about this group coming together to develop an action plan to address needs within the Spirit Lake Tribe's child protection services, tribal social services, law enforcement, and judicial services," said Spirit Lake Chairman Leander "Russ" McDonald.
As a result of the leadership meeting, a plan and timeline was created and implementation teams with representatives from across the participating agencies and organizations. The efforts will include: technical assistance, community engagement, leadership engagement, coordination of emergency services, strategic mapping and planning, and assessments of child welfare, law enforcement, and social services.
"The fact that we had all of these stakeholders here together with the same mission and focused on moving forward for the benefit of the children of Spirit Lake is a positive move toward building a more collaborative, meaningful partnership," said Michael Black, leader of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who attended the meeting. "As the director of the BIA, I am proud to be a part of it."
"One meeting will not solve all the issues, so additional sessions over the next several months will refine the vision, add detail," remarked Anita Fineday, managing director of Casey Family Programs' Indian Child Welfare Program. Casey Family Programs provided the support to hold the leadership meeting as well as two-days of training with those involved in the hands-on child welfare work at Spirit Lake.
"We are proud to be a part of this collaboration and effort drive new resources to address the needs of the children at Spirit Lake," said Erin Bailey, executive director of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. "Former US Senator Byron Dorgan who created our organization has long worked with the Spirit Lake Tribe."

Spirit Lake Dakota Nation is a federally recognized Indian tribe in North Dakota. The tribe's reservation was established by Treaty between the United States Government and the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Bands in 1867. The Reservation is located in East Central North Dakota. According to the Spirit Lake Tribe Enrollment office there are approximately 7,200 tribal members.

Casey Family Programs is the nation's largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building Communities of Hope for children and families across America. Founded in 1966, Casey Family Programs works in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and the communities where they live, including in Indian Country.. For additional information, please call (206) 282-7300 or visit

Center for Native American Youth is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. Founded by former US Senator Byron Dorgan in February 2011, the Center is a policy program within the Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC. The Center works to strengthen and create new connections as well as exchange resources and best practices that address the challenges facing Native youth. Visit the Center's website for a comprehensive list of resources available to young Native Americans, tribes and the general public. For more information, visit
SOURCE Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Catholic groups lose residential school argument

Catholic groups lose residential school argument  By Kathleen Martens
 APTN Investigates

WINNIPEG – Priests, nuns and oblates have lost a small court battle related to residential school documents.
More than 30 Catholic organizations across Canada tried to stop the new National Research Centre (NRC) from participating in a hearing on the future of survivor testimony.
But Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court decided otherwise. On June 14th, he granted intervenor status to the centre which will be located at the University of Manitoba.
Groups including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat are at odds over whether to archive or destroy documents collected through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). So Perell will hear arguments from the centre and other groups seeking his direction on what to do with the documents. The hearing will happen July 14-16 in Toronto.
The IAP is a confidential, legal process where former students disclose the abuse they suffered to be eligible for financial compensation. It was created to help resolve claims of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and other wrongful acts perpetrated by school staff and students.
The agency in charge of the IAP argues these highly personal and sensitive accounts should be destroyed. But the TRC wants to preserve them as part of the historical record.
As APTN Investigates reported last week, some survivors favour saving their stories, so their suffering is not forgotten.
The NRC will be directly affected by the decision because it is mandated to archive information collected by the TRC.
The 33 Catholic groups argued the NRC didn’t meet intervenor status due to self-interest. But argued it could be a “friend” of the court and only offer information, without the legal standing that intervenor status would give. They also said Perell’s court did not have the authorization to add the NRC to the case.
But the judge, who is one of nine national supervising judges of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), disagreed.
“In my opinion, the NRC satisfies the criteria for being added as a party to the [Request for Directions] RFDs and that it would assist the court in having its evidence and argument. In this regard, it is worth noting that the court in providing directions pursuant to an RFD is not just exercising its adjudicative function, but it is also exercising its administrative authority to supervise a class action settlement,” the judge said in the nine-page decision.
“While not a party to the IRSSA, the NRC is already a participant in the administration of the RFDs, and it has an interest that may be affected positively or negatively by the outcome of the RFDs. Depending on the outcome of the RFDs, which remains to be seen, responsibilities, and obligations may be imposed on the NRC.”
Perell also said the administration of the IRSSA is an ongoing responsibility of the courts across Canada.
“The court has an ongoing obligation to oversee the implementation of the settlement and to ensure that the interests of the class members are protected. Where there are vulnerable claimants, the court’s supervisory jurisdiction will permit the court to fashion such terms as are necessary to protect the interests of that group,” Perell added.
The Catholic groups, who are a “party” to IRSSA and oppose NRC involvement, are:
Les Oeuvres Oblates de l’Ontario, Les Residences Oblates du Quebec, Soeurs Grises de Montreal/Grey Nuns of Montreal, Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Alberta, Les Soeurs de LaCharite des T.N.O., HotelDieu de Nicolet, The Grey Nuns of Manitoba Inc.- Les Soeurs Grises du Manitoba Inc., The Sisters of Saint Ann, Sisters of Instruction of the Child Jesus, The Sisters of Charity of Providence of Western Canada, Immaculate Heart Community of Los Angeles CA, Missionary Oblates-Grandin Province, Les Oblates de Marie Immaculee du Manitoba, Oblates of Mary Immaculate-St. Peter’s Province, Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Province of British Columbia, La Corporation Episcopale Catholique Romaine de Grouard, Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Keewatin, The Catholic Episcopale Corporation of Mackenzie, Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Prince Rupert, Sisters of Charity Halifax, The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kamloops Corporation Sole, Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax, Sisters of Presentation, and Roman Catholic Archiepiscopal Corporation of Winnipeg, Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice, Les Soeurs de Saint-François d’Assise, L’institut des Soeurs du Bon-Conseil/Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil de Chicoutimi, Les Soeurs de Saint-Joseph de Saint-Hyacinthe, Les Soeurs de Jésus-Marie, Les Soeurs de l’Assomption de la Sainte-Vierge, Les Soeurs de l’Assomption de la Saint-Vierge de l’Alberta, Les Soeurs Missionnaires du Christ-Roi, and Les Soeurs de la Charité de Saint-Hyacinthe, andThe Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Adjudication Secretariat says it has received 37,716 IAP applications and resolved 20,413, so far, with 17,303 in progress. Approximately $2 billion has been paid in compensation and legal fees.

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You are not alone

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.

Diane Tells His Name

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Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
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As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


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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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