Honorable Senator Hoeven,
A charge has been made in the death of a 3-year-old girl named “Lauryn’ who died last week after she and her twin sister were sent to live on the Spirit Lake Reservation, a community known for widespread violence, crime, tribal government corruption and sexual abuse against children. A member of the family has been arrested and accused of physically abusing the twins as well encouraging her children to beat and kick them.
This child’s death is not isolated. Three other young children have died and countess others have been abused while under the care of Spirit Lake Tribal Services. Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration of Children and Families, has documented 40 children living with sex offenders at Spirit Lake after they were removed from safe homes off of the reservation. His mandated report was given to federal officials overseeing Spirit Lake tribal social services as well as DC officials and U.S. Senators. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) started overseeing tribal services last year to stop the crime and abuse. Yet, little has been done. Today most of these young children are still living with sex offenders.
One month ago, the twins were healthy and happily living with a foster family in Bismarck, ND, but were moved solely due to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Until this Act is significantly altered, many more children will needlessly suffer and even die. Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is calling for immediate action by Congress to ensure that the lives of children be elevated to higher importance than the demands of tribal government leaders. The Spirit Lake Tribe is not an anomaly. CAICW is frequently contacted by families being hurt by ICWA across the nation.
Our current reservation system rewards dependence on federal government rather than on an individual’s strength and God. It encourages strong people to embrace anger and hide under the mantle of victimhood. A large number of citizens living within Indian Country are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violence. The prevalence of alcoholism results in a percentage of Fetal Alcohol adults now raising Fetal Alcohol children. While many healthy tribal members move off the reservation to get away from crime, many of the neediest remain. Those who remain submit to a life amid a criminal element that retreats to the reservations to stay out of reach of state law enforcement. Sometimes the criminal element influences, or even becomes, the tribal government. Shockingly, this displays a similar sociological pattern to third world countries or small dictatorships around the globe.
Six months ago, in January 2013, our entire Senate unanimously voted on a resolution calling on Russia to put the best interest of children ahead of politics. The House followed suit with their own resolution. Why can’t we do the same thing for children who are citizens of the United States?
Further, we are asking you to no longer be taken in by the claims of tribal government that they are only demanding the right to their “own” children. Tribal overreach has been affecting multi-racial children and families across the nation. The current case, awaiting ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, involves a child of 1.12% Cherokee heritage. Her Hispanic mother had made a decision as to the best interest of her daughter, and our government turned around and robbed her of that decision.
But even parents of 100% tribal heritage have a right to decide to raise their children apart from Indian Country and tribal government. The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.
We, as an organization, are asking you to be proactive and put an end to this continuing violence against both children and adults. We are asking you what steps you will be taking to ensure the best interest of children over politics here in America.