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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Navajo Leaders Boost ICWA with Utah

The Navajo Nation and Utah Governor signed an inter-governmental agreement Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, to strengthen and further protect the Indian Child Welfare Act for the benefit of Navajo children in the State of Utah. Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer met with Governor Gary Herbert to make it official at the Utah State Capitol during the annual American Indian Caucus Day.

Source: Navajo Leaders Boost ICWA with Utah | News for Page Lake Powell Arizona

Navajo Nation lauds Utah for pledge to keep native families intact

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Feb 4th, 2019 

SALT LAKE CITY — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised Utah leaders Monday for standing behind a federal law that urges keeping Native American children with their own tribal members should they need adoption or foster care placement.
"This is a model for not only the Navajo Nation but throughout Indian country," Nez said in reaction to the three-way endorsement of an interl-local agreement among the Navajo Nation, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
The signing event an interlocal agreement took place in the auditorium of the State Office Building during American Indian Caucus Day and comes even in the midst of legal challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act, asserting it is unconstitutional because it elevates a child's race over their best interest.
A federal judge last October struck down the decades-old law after the state of Texas argued racial bias in the case of a non-native couple who sued for the right to adopt a Native American toddler they had fostered for more than a year.
The Texas state court denied their adoption petition based on the federal law that gives preference to Native American families in such circumstances.
The Utah Attorney General's Office filed a friend of the court brief in support of the federal law.
Tough negotiations over the last couple years resulted in Utah's Department of Human Services pledging to continue to keep Navajo children with tribal members as much as possible when it comes to state custody cases.
The daylong caucus event was a chance for leaders and representatives of the eight sovereign tribes in Utah to discuss specific wish lists or complaints regarding their relationship with the state in general and Herbert's office in particular.
Among issues brought up by various tribes:
  • Shoshone Nation Chairman Darren Parry said the tribe is hoping Utah lawmakers give $1 million to help pay for an interpretive center at the Bear River Massacre site in southeast Idaho.
  • Rupert Steele of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Nation wants more state assistance to deal with "years and years and years" of persistent problems that include fixing a road that is dangerous to travel for Goshute students.
  • Navajo Nation representatives noted the state's financial efforts to boost teacher retention and training in San Juan County, but said more needs to happen. In addition, the state could do more to financially participate in issues related to economic development, improvement in roads and other infrastructure needs.
Tribal representatives did note the first phase of funding had been secured for the extension of broadband into Bluff and areas like Montezuma Creek.
Charlaine Tso, the newly elected council delegate for the Bears Ears region of the Navajo Nation, told Herbert the state should support preservation of sacred lands through the Bears Ears National Monument designation, which was reversed in December of 2017, and to help address the ongoing racial challenges playing out in San Juan County politics.
Two members of the Navajo nation were elected to positions on the San Juan County Commission, but there have been unsuccessful legal challenges raised over allegations related to one member's out-of-state residency.
On Tuesday night, the San Juan County Commission is scheduled to take a vote on a number of resolutions, including one urging restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument and rescission of any resolutions by the previous commission that supported its dismantlement.
The commission is also set to vote on the reversal and withdrawal of any position or legal documents that supported the monument reduction.

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

Indian Country is under attack. We need you. Please join the ranks of Modern Day Warriors. Please donate today to help Native people protect their rights.

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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.