Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 in an attempt to reverse the ravages that forced separation of Native children from their families wrought on Indian people. In Native cultures, families are the center of our communities, and children are sacred gifts from the Creator. Judge O’Connor’s ruling not only threatens our future – it outright discounts generations of historical anguish. The ruling also ignores the rights of tribes as sovereign governments. The ICWA only applies to children from federally recognized tribes, and tribes – as sovereign governments – are the only legal authority to determine the membership of a tribe. Destroying a tribe’s ability to speak out for its future – our children – undermines the modern efforts of tribal government to overcome hundreds of years oppression because of the U.S. government’s aggressive control over every aspect of tribal citizens’ lives, including our relationships with our own children.
Sherry Treppa is chair of the Habematolel Pomo tribe of Upper Lake, Calif.