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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

How Alaska OCS Stole Millions from Alaska Native Foster Kids

Marshall Project and NPR on How Alaska OCS Stole Millions from Alaska Native Foster Kids

If you, like me, enjoy starting your day with the clarifying anger of a thousand white hot fires, may I recommend this article on how various state agencies rerouted foster children’s SSI benefits to pay for their own foster care–especially impacting Alaska Native children. 

A few of those children are highlighted in this article:

The Marshall Project and NPR have found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.

At least 10 state foster care agencies hire for-profit companies to obtain millions of dollars in Social Security benefits intended for the most vulnerable children in their care each year, according to a review of hundreds of pages of contract documents. A private firm that Alaska used while Hunter was in state care referred to acquiring benefits from people with disabilities as “a major line of business” in company records.

Some states also take veterans’ benefits from children with a parent who died in the military, though this has become less common as casualties have declined since the Iraq War.

In Alaska, more than 250 current and former foster children — many of them Alaska Native — are part of the class-action lawsuit demanding that the state pay their Social Security money back. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Bone Rooms



In the 2016 book ‘Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums’, Samuel J Redman notes: “The campaign to preserve and collect was viewed as a race against time; bone empires benefited from this powerful sentiment by conceptualising indigenous and ancient bodies as a limited and scientifically valuable resource.”

READ: Native Americans and the dehumanising force of the photograph | Wellcome Collection


In the 2005 book Beyond the Reach of Time and Change: Native American Reflections on the Frank A Rinehart Photograph Collection’, Simon Ortiz writes:

“Whether he wanted to or not, the real and actual Indian vanished into the image contrived by non-Indian interests, since he became, in some sense, acceptable then ‘as an Indian’, albeit an Indian fashioned, styled and – even literally – costumed (for example, photographic studio props were used by photographers such as Rinehart and Edward Curtis) so that he could be identified as nothing but an Indian.”


Friday, April 23, 2021

What Does The #ICWA Ruling Mean For The Mountain West? For Now, Not Much

Apr 20, 2021| The Mountain West News Bureau | Tribal News

The Indian Child Welfare Act still stands, with some of its key provisions weakened by a sharply divided U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this month. The 325-page opinion has no immediate impact on child welfare cases in the Mountain West, but it's likely to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 1978, ICWA has required that tribal nations have a voice in adoption, foster care and custody proceedings involving their youngest citizens. The federal law was intended to reverse a long legacy of federal and state agencies forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families and communities.

Initially filed in 2017, the lawsuit - Brackeen v. Bernhardt then, Brackeen v. Haaland now - took aim at ICWA's constitutionality, arguing that its preference for placing Indigenous children in Indigenous adoptive and foster homes violated the equal protection clause. Thirty tribal governments in the Mountain West and the states of Colorado, Utah, Montana and Idaho urged the court to reject that argument. Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit's en banc ruling did just that.

"After this decision, and even if this decision stands, most of ICWA is constitutional," said Dan Lewerenz, an attorney with the Native American Rights fund.

Lewerenz said the court upheld what tribes have always asserted, that ICWA is based not on race, but on a child's political status as a tribal citizen. But the court narrowly ruled that certain provisions of the law, including its mandate that Indigenous children be placed with Indigenous foster parents when possible, intrude on the authority of states.

"[The Native American Rights Fund] disagrees with those holdings," Lewerenz said. But he added that the ruling does not impart any "precedential value" requiring other courts to follow suit.

"It really only applies to the Brackeen case," he said. "Any other court, state or federal, is open to reject those holdings. It is of little significance outside of this specific litigation."

Still, if any of the lawsuit's plaintiffs succeed in appealing the case, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision will be binding for courts across the United States. And a Supreme Court rejection of ICWA's constitutionality would have ripple effects for other parts of federal Indian law.

For that reason, Governor Phillip Perez of the Nambe Pueblo, a tribe in northern New Mexico, called the Fifth Circuit's ruling "deeply concerning."

"The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability of our tribes, our customs and traditions. This decision by the Fifth Circuit threatens who we are as tribal people and undermines our tribal sovereignty," Perez wrote in a statement.

New Mexico State Rep. Georgene Louis, who also serves as general counsel for the Pueblo of Tesuque, agrees.

"With all the challenges that have been made [to ICWA], it could be eroded. And some of the protections that ensure reunification with a child's tribe might not be there anymore," Louis said.

In New Mexico's recent state legislative session, Louis sponsored a state statute that would have ensured that many of ICWA's provisions were followed in state court proceedings regardless of the federal law's status. But that bill died in committee. In light of the Fifth Circuit ruling, Louis said codifying ICWA statutes at the state level should be a priority.



Thursday, April 22, 2021

Trump Judges Cast Deciding Votes to Strike Down Important Parts of Indian Child Welfare Law: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

 Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties. Cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.

Trump judges Duncan, Willett, Engelhardt, and Oldham cast deciding votes to invalidate important parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act and try to do even more damage to the important law.

MUST READ: Trump Judges Cast Deciding Votes to Strike Down Important Parts of Indian Child Welfare Law: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears


The Native American Rights Fund (NARF), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), and the Association on American Affairs (AAIA) have stated that they are “deeply concerned that aspects of this opinion misunderstand the unique relationship between the United States and tribal nations.”


Bad history is damaging to all tribes and our children. - Trace 

Recognizing Rape, Finding Bravery and Beginning Healing

*TRIGGER WARNING: This article includes graphic content that some readers may find distressing.

Names have been changed. 



GUEST POST By Cassie Roy 

College Trials and Tribulations

I was 22 years old and in college when I was raped by a mutual friend. I had sorority sisters and fraternity brothers. We all shared a common purpose — to get an education and to make memories to last a lifetime. Looking back, I see how toxic the environment truly was and that what happened to me wasn’t my fault.

I was in my second year in college and I had a lot going on in my life. My life was moving in the right direction and everything was going as planned. That is until both my best friend and my grandmother passed away. I was struggling to comprehend what my life would look like without them. I was devastated and sought therapy to help me deal with the unexpected loss of my closest friend and relative. My life was falling apart.

I don’t remember if it was a weekend or a weekday, our sorority always planned social events with the local fraternity. It was rare for me to miss a social function. On this particular night, I went to a well-known party house with my sisters. We knew to make sure we stayed together throughout the night. There were always fraternity brothers we would stay away from. To them, girls were nothing more than a challenge. I guess we thought boys chasing girls was just part of student life.


It Was No Big Deal

Bill was cute. In fact, I thought I might even like to date him because he was always so nice. As the night went on, I lost communication with my sorority sisters. Everyone was drunk. One of the fraternity brothers started to take some people home. I don't know why I stayed or why my sorority sisters left me behind. Maybe because we all just drank too much.

I remember the couches and chairs were all taken — people were passed out and I was ready to pass out. Bill offered me a place to sleep. I felt like I could trust him, besides there was nowhere else for me to go. He motioned for me to come over and lie next to him. “You might as well just sleep in my bed,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.” I did lie down because it was no big deal, just as he said.

From the moment I fell asleep to the moment I woke up everything was a blur. I knew that I had laid down with the intention to sleep but that’s not what happened. I remembered he was trying to kiss me and wondered if I was kissing him back. I couldn’t remember because I was in and out of consciousness.

The next morning I woke up next to Bill. He was still sleeping. I knew something was wrong. I could feel that something had happened to me. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. When I realized that I was only partially clothed all I wanted to do was cry. I was so confused. Did I want him to kiss me? Did I kiss him back? I must have given him the idea I wanted him to kiss me… Right?

All I wanted to do was get out of that house as soon as I could. I got up and rushed to get out. I was so confused that I started to cry. One of his friends saw me rushing to get out of the house and saw that I was in tears. He didn’t ask and I didn’t stop to explain. I just kept running.


The Aftermath

Bill and I had mutual friends. His friend must have asked him what had happened because he saw that I had been crying. So later that day, he texted me to apologize. “I’m sorry if that is not what you wanted.”

I didn’t respond. I was still so confused. Did I give him the idea that’s what I wanted? Did I kiss him? What really happened? I couldn’t tell anyone because I felt responsible for what happened. It was my fault... right? I shouldn’t have drunk so much. I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk. I shouldn’t have got into bed with him and I shouldn't have passed out.

I didn’t tell my sorority sisters. I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t talk about it because I wasn’t sure what happened. I continued to see Bill because he and I were attending the same mixers and events. I tried to ignore him when he started to date one of the girls in my sorority. I was seeing him more than I wanted to and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

At that time, I thought it was best for me to just leave college. My best friend had died. My grandmother passed away and then that happened. So, I literally just left and I didn’t tell anyone about my experience with Bill.

I didn’t know how significant that night would be in my life until three or four years later. It was life-changing. I was young and single. I used to want to have closer relationships with men, but now things are different. I tried to have relationships. I tried to trust again, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

There was a part of me that felt responsible. My body and brain were not in sync. I didn’t fight. I wasn’t pinned down. I wasn’t injured. I rationalized that if sex doesn’t leave bruising and it didn’t happen in the back alley it wasn’t rape. I didn’t accept that what had happened was an assault because he didn’t hurt me — or so I thought. 


Life Gets Better

I was already on a path in therapy and I don’t know if it was fate or I just got lucky. A domestic violence helpline for Native Americans was moving into the Minneapolis area. I applied for and secured a job with the helpline. My new job afforded me training in domestic and sexual violence. That’s when I started to unravel the confusion and pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.

Later, after about two years of working and living in the city, I had a conversation with a friend. She and I had similar experiences, and I was able to open up and talk about it. Even though I knew what happened that night wasn’t my fault, I still felt responsible. I was still blaming myself. That’s when my friend helped me to see what my heart already knew — that I had been raped. 


Faces of Rape

Rape has many faces and it doesn’t always look big and scary or violent. Bill wasn’t a scary man coming out of the darkness. He didn’t attack me. He wasn’t a stranger. He wasn't even one of the brothers we all knew to stay away from. He was a friend of my friends. We were friends. In any other situation, I might have had sex with him willingly. But I didn’t consent because I wasn’t given the option.

When I think back to that night, I was so naive to think it wasn’t a big deal. He wasn’t an upstanding guy. He is a non-Native man who thinks he deserves to take whatever he wants whenever he wants. I’m not looking for and won’t ever look for justice. The rape happened to me but it does not define me. I take solace in the idea that education on the topic of sex is changing. Gender identity and sexual orient-ation are on the cusp of being old news and no longer considered abnormal. The world is changing. Education is changing. I’m changing. 


StrongHearts and Common Ties

Native American women are preyed upon by non-Native men in large part because of what history has set into motion. The trajectory of Native women and children being captured, bought and sold by colonizers had ramifications and consequences that Native women still experience in the present day. She was a beautiful young Native woman and he was a young non-Native man. The common thread is undeniably sexual assault and/or rape.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual violence, StrongHearts Native Helpline can help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For one-on-one chat advocacy visit StrongHearts Native Helpline online or call/text 1-844-762-8483.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Caseworker’s path lined with desire for investigation, love of #ICWA families


Caseworker’s path lined with desire for investigation, love of families

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when programs across the country like Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s FireLodge Children & Family Services bring awareness to child abuse and neglect and advocate for happy and healthy childhoods for all. CPN Indian Child Welfare Department caseworker Whitney Coots helps children of neglect and abuse improve their situation every day.

She sought a different career path while in college, but life events and interests opened doors for her to utilize her skills in an unexpected way. Coots graduated in 2015 from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond with a double major in forensic science and criminal justice and joined FireLodge’s workforce in 2019.

“I originally wanted to do crime scene investigation. I love it. I still do. My major was a blast, but it is really hard to find jobs in forensic science,” Coots said.

She perused work in criminal justice and spent four years as a probation supervisor before accepting her current role as an ICW caseworker in September 2019. The change reset her career goals, unveiling a desire to help Native children and families.

“I didn’t understand the depth of the (the Indian Child Welfare Act) whenever I started. I knew what it was, and I knew the basis of ICWA, but not truly what it stood for. And so now that I understand that … protecting ICWA and Native American children is what I feel I was called to do,” Coots said.

GOOD READ: Caseworker’s path lined with desire for investigation, love of families


For more information about FireLodge Children & Family Services, visit or find them on Facebook, @CPNFireLodge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Up and Down, Back and Forth: Still Fighting over ICWA

The demand from white people (non-Indian PAPS - prospective adoptive parents) who want to freely adopt Native kids will NEVER stop apparently... and we know it's always about what THEY want... not what is best for us adoptees.

We have posted about Goldwater before and what their intent truly is...

Federal appeals court strikes key provision of Indian Child Welfare Act
Divided ruling seen as defeat for tribal leaders concerned about act

WASHINGTON — Legal experts are deeply concerned about an “incredibly divisive” ruling from a federal appeals court that struck down parts of a law giving Native American families preference in the adoption of Native American children.

The ruling by a sharply divided U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is seen as a defeat for tribal leaders who said the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act was important to protecting their families and culture.

Mary Kathryn Nagle, Cherokee, is a partner with the law firm Pipestem and Nagle, and specializes in federal Indian law.  She called the 5th Circuit ruling “incredibly divisive” and said “certain parts of this decision are incorrect.”

PLEASE READ: Federal appeals court strikes key provision of Indian Child Welfare Act | Navajo-Hopi Observer | Navajo & Hopi Nations, AZ


And those same adoptive parents might not want to hear from adoptees or accept how WE feel being adopted.

These words are, according to (adoptee) Eric Schweig, his "mission statement."

"We can never go home because the concept of home is lost on us."

Adoption of aboriginal children by Caucasian couples is to me, for lack of a better term 'State Sanctioned Kidnapping.'  Too often Euro-American couples are preoccupied with the romantic notion of having a "real live Indian baby" or a "real live Inuit baby" which instantly transforms the child into an object rather than a person.  For decades our communities' babies have been unceremoniously wrenched from the hands of their biological parents and subjected to a plethora of abuses.  Physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse and a host of others.   I have first-hand knowledge of this because I was one of those children.  For years my adoptive parents beat me bloody on a regular basis.  I've been trapped in rooms naked and beaten with belt buckles, hockey sticks, extension cords, and once with a horsewhip. His speech


GOLDWATER is behind the attacks on ICWA:

WHAT DO THEY WANT? What is Goldwater doing?



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Promoting Indian Child Welfare Through Inquiry and Data


Data collection on Native American involvement in adoption and foster care is needed to remedy courts’ failures.

More than four decades after the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), state courts still do not reliably fulfill their obligations under the statute. As a result, Native American children, families, and communities are too often denied the very protections the ICWA sought to establish.

Congress enacted the ICWA in 1978 to address the disproportionate rates at which Native American children were—and continue to be—removed from their homes and placed with overwhelmingly non-Native adoptive and foster families. These removals, Congress recognized, were frequently unwarranted, harmful to Native families and communities, and infringed upon Tribes’ inherent rights of sovereignty and self-governance.

The Interior Department sought to address this problem through a second ICWA rule also issued in 2016.

GOOD READ: Promoting Indian Child Welfare Through Inquiry and Data | The Regulatory Review

Sunday, April 4, 2021

First Environmental-Themed Program in April | “commUNITY: Environment is Sacred”

In April, VMM’s first environmental-themed program will acknowledge International Earth Day with a month-long community-themed online film streaming event, titled “commUNITY: Environment is Sacred,” and a panel discussion. The April programs are free and open to the public but registration is required.


“commUNITY: Environment is Sacred” is a program of six films, featuring themes of water, energy, Indigenous food and health. The themes highlight important environmental issues that have a direct effect on Native lands and an Indigenous philosophy for the world to better understand. The films will be available April 1-30 for worldwide online streaming 24/7 at


The six films include: “
Crying Earth Rise Up” (2015, USA, 57 min.); “Red Power Energy” (2016, USA, 56 min.); “Growing Native Northwest: Coast Salish” (2018, USA, 57 min.); “RETURN: Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health & Spirit” (2019, USA, 28 min.); “Rematriation Series: Joanne Shenandoah” (TBD, USA, 10 min.); and “The Seven Generation River” (2019, USA, 27 min.). 

For more information about the films and to register, visit

Lack of federal recognition to slow-motion ‘genocide’


For over 120 years, the Chinook Indian Nation of the Pacific Northwest has been trying to prove its sovereignty to the United States government by seeking formal federal recognition -- yet the tribe is still unrecognized. And the pandemic has only exacerbated the Chinook’s lack of a social safety net.

“We don’t need the government to tell us we’re Indian. We just need them to honor the treaty our ancestors signed.”

READ: Members of Chinook Indian Nation liken lack of federal recognition to slow-motion ‘genocide’

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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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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


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.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

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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