I speak not only as the Chair of a national non-profit advocating for the rights of families who have chosen their own political affiliations and disengaged from Indian Country, but as the birth mother and grandmother of enrollable citizens.
As many of you know, on Monday, March 21, 2016, a 6-year-old girl of 1/64 Choctaw ancestry was taken crying from her home by social services, placed in a car, and driven to another state.
To date, her removal has caused the biggest reaction from America as dozens from within her community gathered around her home in prayer – and then personally witnessed her removal in tears. Hundreds of thousands more watched video clips of the event online and cried with them, knowing this little girl – who is not Indian in the eyes of most Americans – was removed from her home solely because of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Many Americans already knew that our paternalistic federal Indian policy has been hurting tribal members. But in witnessing the pain of a child such as 6-yr-old Lexi, America awakened to the truth that federal Indian policy is hurting citizens of all heritages. What most Americans still don’t know is the extent of hurt. They don’t know there are dozens of children across the country right now facing the same situation Lexi faced – if not worse. In fact, the Cherokee Nation alone has admitted it has over 100 attorney’s targeting over a thousand children across the nation.
ICWA has been around long enough for a generation of children victimized by this law to have grown up. Some former ICWA children are speaking out – saying that due to the forced transfers, they unfortunately grew to hate the reservation. This is the opposite of the purported intent of the law – but should have been expected given the way so many children have been treated under it.
After all – our children are NOT chattel and children of tribal ancestry are NOT cookie-cutter replicas of each other. Nor are they any different from any other child in the United States when ripped from the ones they love.
This should be common sense, but for some reason, a large number of people are willing to believe racist rhetoric to the contrary. Unfortunately, many of those people are within federal government and have control over federal Indian policy.
America – as we all know – is angry with the lack of common sense in our federal government. We are angry over rouge and corrupt bureaucracies, mismanaged funds, lack of protection for U.S. citizens, and inaction by Congress – all of which are evident in the BIA, HHS and DOJ’s protection of tribal sovereignty over the rights and needs of children.
These federal agencies were at the NICWA conference in St. Paul, Minnesota this first weekend in April – celebrating a Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies to enforce the ICWA against our families as well as the formation of a national database on our children which would identify them as property of a tribal government should anything happen to us – their parents. We have tried to bring this process to your attention several times in 2015, but to this date, no one has stopped it.
How many more Lexi’s must be hurt before Congress moves to protect our children from the insanity?
- On December 3, 2014, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to give permanent jurisdiction of multi-racial children across the nation to Tribal Governments. In reference to the Indian Child Welfare Act, he stated,
“…We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.” And “… because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.”
- The BIA is on the verge of implementing new ICWA rules making it almost impossible for dissident enrollable parents to protect their children from tribal governments. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/20/2015-06371/regulations-for-state-courts-and-agencies-in-indian-child-custody-proceedings
- The ACF under the HHS has recently proposed a rule (https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/04/07/2016-07920/adoption-and-foster-care-analysis-and-reporting-system ) that would place our children on a national database. Our children are NOT chattel for tribal governments and DC officials – and should not be monitored on a database based on an aspect of their heritage. U.S. citizens have a right to choose or refuse political affiliation – as well as protect their children from forced political affiliation based on racist mandates.
- Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch spoke at the NICWA conference in St. Paul this last weekend and reiterated Attorney General Holder’s threat concerning permanent control over our children and grandchildren. He stated,
“… To this end, the three departments represented here today have been engaged in extensive interagency collaboration to promote compliance with ICWA. We’ve been talking at all levels – from staff on the ground and in the regions, to the folks on this stage, to our bosses – about how we can creatively use the authorities and resources that each of our agency has to assess and promote compliance with this important federal law. And we’ve taken steps to make sure that this effort lasts beyond our time, by formalizing the agreement to continue this interagency collaboration. Just this past week, our three agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding, in which we commit to work together on these issues, and in particular, to regularly meet as an interagency workgroup.”
- Director of Tribal Justice, Tracy Toulou has told us directly on several occasions over the last 15 years that the U.S. Department of Justice is to protect tribal governments, not individual citizens.
- The DOJ appears to have looked the other way when the Cherokee Nation refused to allow a father to voluntarily relinquish his membership and that of his daughter. (in Matter of M.K.T., C.D.T. and S.A.W., 2016 OK 4.) …This – while tribal governments continually claim their right to discriminate is due to political affiliation, not race.
Our Federal government has literally made the decision to protect tribal sovereignty at all cost – even at the cost of our children.
Many families of heritage, knowing the rate of child abuse, crime, and even murder on their reservations, have in the last few decades moved away from Indian Country. According to the last two U.S censuses, 75% of persons eligible for tribal membership do not live in “Indian Country.” As more families left, tribal leaders – panicked by declining membership – pushed Congress for increased control over children of heritage.
This includes children who are multi-heritage – with one of their parents being totally non-tribal, children who have never been near Indian Country, and even children whose only connection is one dissident great-grandparent who purposefully left the reservation system decades ago. All that matters to the federal government is whether the tribe itself believes the child is enrollable. Individual citizens are being robbed of choice – forced into affiliation based on heritage.
Some tribal governments, as evidenced by the proposed BIA rules and the NICWA conference in St. Paul, demand complete control over our children. Some have been extreme enough to refuse to allow the kids to live in foster homes off the reservation – even if there is no safe home available on the reservation.
Documentation of this abounds. There have been at least two federal studies/hearings held on abuse within Indian Country in the last three years. Regional Director for the Administration of Children and Families, Mr. Tom Sullivan has also documented the resultant placement of children into homes of known child abusers and sex offenders. There have also been known deaths of children after having been placed in dangerous homes.
Mr. Sullivan reported this multiple times to his DC superiors, who told him to cease reporting it, and when he refused, recently began the process of firing him.
Again, America is fed up with officials who don’t do what they were hired to do. Mr. Sullivan is one man who was honestly attempting to do what he was hired to do – protect the children in Indian Country – and he is on the verge of losing his job because of it.
Despite documented deaths of children and mass exodus from Indian Country, Federal government consistently looks the other way while tribal leaders claim to speak for everyone – asking Congress for additional funds and increased control over our children. We understand it is easier to look the other way. But that’s not what we want from our government.
America is angry with DC’s ‘business as usual” and the lack of common sense.
The bottom line is, tribal leaders, NICWA, NARF, the NAIC and Casey Foundation do NOT speak for every person of heritage, nor do they know what is best for every individual child of heritage – no matter whether that child is 100% or 1%. Despite claims of looking out for youth, the reality is tribal leaders have a vested financial interest in maintaining control over our children.
Our Congressmen need to put children before politics.
- Rescind the Indian Child Welfare Act – which will then do away with the need for draconian rules by federal agencies.
- Protect an honest and brave public servant – whistle-blower Tom Sullivan.
- Finally – end the practice of funding tribal governments based on enrollment. Stop putting a price on our children’s heads. – Recognize that treaties did NOT promise everlasting funding. In most cases, treaties promised funding for only twenty years. If the demand is that treaties be upheld – then uphold the twenty-year limit.
Crime and corruption didn’t end just because Jack Abramoff went to prison. Crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money and power.