Apr 042014
 
Tom Sullivan - Regional Administrator ACF

> From: “Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)” [email protected]> > Date: April 4, 2014 at 10:45:46 AM CDT
> To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)” [email protected]>
> Cc: “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Chang, Joo Yeun (ACF)” <[email protected]>, “Sparks, Lillian (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Kennerson, Marilyn (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Murray, James (ACF)” <[email protected]>
> Subject: CB team to Spirit Lake
>
> Ms. Mcmullen:
>
> Thank you for your email response to my questions.
>
> You have assembled quite an impressive team to go to Spirit Lake. I am confident that team will be able to put together equally impressive “guidance to the tribe on what steps they need to take to establish a functional child welfare system.”
>
> Two aspects of this effort are of concern to me. First, it is unfortunate that this effort comes almost 22 months after my First Mandated Report was filed on June 14, 2012. Spirit Lake Social Services (TSS) was in disarray then and has not improved its capacity to respond to the child welfare needs of its youngest citizens in the interim despite claims to the contrary by the state, BIA, DOJ and the leadership of ACF.
>
> Second, there is no mention of any effort to evaluate the current condition of those 100+ children I wrote about in that First Report who had been placed in the full-time care and custody of abusers, addicts and rapists. That number has probably more than doubled in the intervening 22 months as more children were removed from their biological homes by TSS or BIA staff. How many of these 200+ children are being tortured in the same manner as the six children removed from their grandmother’s home in Grand Forks and reported in the online edition of the Grand Forks Herald on the evening of March 20, 2014? How many are being raped like that 13 year old little girl who I first brought to your attention more than 100 days ago? That young girl’s claims of rape have still not been investigated by the BIA more than 3 months after this situation was first reported to the Spirit Lake tribal chair and council, the BIA and you. It is my understanding this little girl remains in the same placement available to be raped daily by a Level Three Registered Sex Offender. Why is the statutory rape of this little girl, an enrolled tribal member, allowed to continue by the tribal chair and council?
>
> The delays in removing these children from those abusive homes have been caused by the libel and slander directed at my sources and me. These delays are unconscionable because they required and continue to require all of these Spirit Lake children to remain in the care and custody of abusers and rapists, available to be tortured and/or raped daily. Are there any people at Spirit Lake or in North Dakota with a conscience?
>
> One former senior tribal employee has recently reported to one of my sources that when she started working for the tribe she was told by her supervisor that everything we were reporting were lies. She told my source, “Now, I not only know you weren’t lying, but I also know that all of you have been understating the facts. It is far worse for kids at Spirit Lake than anything you have been saying.”
>
> I understand this former senior tribal employee briefed the tribal chair in these same terms several weeks ago. Since he knew our reports were being characterized as “understatements” and that, “It is far worse for the kids at Spirit Lake than anything (we) have been saying.”, why has he taken no action to help those Spirit Lake children escape the grip of those who abuse and rape them?
>
> The second paragraph of your March 31, 2014 email seems to seek to minimize ACF’s role at Spirit Lake.
>
> ACF’s 2014 Strategic Plan released almost a month ago states on page one, “….we seek to advance a set of key goals:” followed by five statements of goals, which read:
>
> * “Promote economic health and social well-being for individuals, families and communities;
> * Promote healthy development and school readiness for children, especially those in low income families;
> * Promote safety and well-being of children, youth and families;
> * Support underserved and underrepresented populations; and
> * Upgrade the capacity of ACF to make a difference for families and communities.”
>
>
> Minimizing ACF’s role at Spirit Lake within the context of this statement contradicts the entire purpose of ACF’s 2014 Strategic Plan and makes no sense unless you are attempting to avoid addressing the epidemic of child sexual abuse and child/youthful suicide at Spirit Lake. Why would any responsible government leader wish to avoid dealing with such widespread dysfunction that is well-known to have disastrous consequences for children, their families and communities? To do so would effectively negate every one of the “key goals” from ACF’s own 2014 Strategic Plan, at least at Spirit Lake. Is that what you intend?
>
> You ask for some information from me to assist you as you prepare for this visit.
>
> I find this especially ironic since when you were claiming I was misrepresenting the facts at Spirit Lake, that conditions there were not nearly as bad as I claimed and that the BIA and DOJ claims they had investigated every one of my allegations and most were unfounded or false, no one from ACF asked me for any information to corroborate my Reports or provided me with an opportunity to rebut those self-serving claims.
>
> First, you ask for a list of the steps I have taken to assist the tribe to improve their child welfare system.
>
> When I first learned that all tribes in North Dakota were operating their child welfare systems with caseload ratios of as few as 50 – 60 cases per worker to as many as 100 – 120 cases per worker, I met with the child welfare directors from four of the reservations in North Dakota and encouraged them to begin moving closer to a caseload ratio of 20 – 30 cases per worker. They claimed they had been trying to move in that direction but were refused funding every time the subject came up. They realized they were, in many cases, not compliant with state and federal regulations due to inadequate staffing and were quite fearful of the potential financial penalties that might follow if they did not become compliant.
>
> Because of the criminal corruption which continues to dominate the Spirit Lake Child Welfare program, attracting qualified social workers will be next to impossible. Until the leadership of Spirit Lake convinces the public that their CW program is operating and will continue to operate with integrity and transparency, social worker recruitment will be extremely difficult. Only by prosecuting all of those who are abusing, neglecting and raping Spirit Lake children will the public understand that Spirit Lake CW program is no longer controlled by the criminally corrupt. Until that image is implanted in the public perception of Spirit Lake, TSS and BIA will be forced to attempt to address these significant issues with few, if any, qualified social work staff.
>
> I regularly met with the leadership of the ND Department of Human Resources to encourage them to increase their support for their tribal child welfare programs. While these meetings were friendly, the Department was unwilling to increase the money made available to the tribes for any purpose. In late 2010 I met with the Spirit Lake Tribal council members, pointed out the problem with inadequate funding for their child welfare operations and encouraged them to lead an effort to increase tribal funding for their CW operations. They took no action that I am aware of and elections soon replaced the tribal Chair with Mr. Yankton.
>
> In 2008 Spirit Lake’s director of social services told me he had 46 cases of reported, investigated and confirmed child sexual abuse that had been referred to the US Attorney. He said “None are being investigated and none are being prosecuted.” I encouraged him that, as difficult as it was, he should keep referring confirmed cases to the US Attorney for prosecution. I understand he did but there was no action from that US Attorney or his successor to correct this failure to investigate and prosecute serious crimes..
>
> I have filed 13 Mandated Reports, many of which dealt with the inadequate response of law enforcement to crime on Spirit Lake. I would have filed many more if Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon had not illegally prohibited me from doing so and if Acting Assistant Secretary Greenberg had not, by his silence, apparently endorsed Mr. Sheldon’s actions.
>
> I have reached out to partner with non-governmental entities in the development and presentation of educational programs focused on the recognition of, prevention of and rehabilitation from child abuse in Indian Country. These programs have been targeted to child welfare staff working on reservations. The National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA) has been especially generous with their time and resources. They have already provided or will be providing, at no cost to either ACF or DHHS, multi-day training sessions on this subject matter in the following Indian Country locations all across this country: Casper, WY; Browning, MT; Aberdeen, SD; Nampa, ID; Albuquerque, NM; Tulalip, WA; Santa Fe, NM; Pojoague, NM; Yankton, SD; Houghton, MI; and Muscatine, IA. Of the 11 locations identified where presentations will be made, only four are in Region 8, less than 40% of these sessions. While concerned about conditions in Region 8, my efforts have also been focused on the larger community in need of training. Those who have participated in these sessions have been very complimentary about their skill development following their participation in these sessions.
>
> Before limitations were placed on my ability to address issues like the twin epidemics of child sexual abuse and child/youthful suicide in Indian Country by the leadership of ACF, I spoke frequently to groups in North Dakota, in the other states in this region and all around this country about these issues. In fact, until I first spoke about these issues in 2006, no one had ever dared mention the subject publicly. Convinced the silence protected the predators and harmed children, I decided to make this an issue whenever I could. American Indian audiences were initially put off by my frankness but as they understood my efforts were focused not on stigmatizing them but on finding ways to address these epidemics, bringing resources to begin correcting this situation and bringing healing to their children, I began to receive more invitations to speak on these topics.
>
> Since those limitations were placed on me requiring me to get clearance from ACF leadership for any speech I wished to give and since that clearance always involved censorship, removing all substance from my proposed speeches, I have refused to accept speaking engagements where I could not speak honestly about conditions in Indian Country.
>
> Second, you ask me to provide a summary of anything I have learned “from other tribes…. that faced similar challenges….List any best practices for establishing a strong child welfare system and any contacts I have that could be resources for……Spirit Lake”
>
> That is a mouthful and would take essentially a Doctoral dissertation to answer completely. Unfortunately, I do not have time to do that if I am to meet your deadline. I plan, however, at a later date and on my own time to write several books.
>
> Every reservation I have been on, and I have been on most in this region as well as several others outside of this region, are characterized by crushing poverty, many times higher than the rate for the general population. Unemployment levels for generations have been and continue to run at levels not seen in the majority community even during the Great Depression. Alcohol and drug use and abuse are rampant. This abuse is so prevalent that many reservation residents around the Bakken formation cannot qualify for oil field employment because they cannot pass pre-employment drug and alcohol screening. Law enforcement is, on most reservations, non-existent with few officers, little training and little or no professionalism. Domestic violence and rape are rampant. Because children are placed in foster homes of uncertain safety, many children removed from their biological parents when they were drunk, have been placed in homes where they are raped daily, not just at Spirit Lake but on every reservation in this country. What do rapists have to fear when there is no effective law enforcement? Many of these sexually abused children, seeing no hope to escape this horrific abuse realizing the adults who are supposed to protect them will not, choose to end their own lives. On every reservation service needs are high and resources available to respond to those needs are limited.
>
> I am not aware of any “best practices for establishing a strong child welfare system”. I am confident Ms. Kennerson and the leadership of the Children’s Bureau are fully aware of such “best practices” if any are in place. Child safety should be emphasized in every decision made in any child welfare system. Nearly three year old Laurynn Whiteshield died at the hands of an abusive, step grandmother whose history of abuse of her own children was well-known to the BIA caseworkers who placed Laurynn and her twin sister in that home. I understand that another young man died in that same home less than two weeks ago. The step grandmother is reported to be in prison serving a lengthy sentence. Who is responsible for this young man’s death?
>
> Third, you ask for “a list of national and local partners….who could provide financial, training or technical assistance to Spirit Lake moving forward”.
>
> May I suggest all of the members of your team read my 13 Mandated Reports. If you had, you would understand that on pages 5 and 6 of my First Mandated Report, filed on June 14, 2012, at items D – H there is a list of some of those organizations and my suggestions on how they might be used to begin addressing the issues at Spirit Lake.
>
> The former Executive Director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, Ms. Suzanna Tiapula, should also be involved in any effort to address the criminal corruption at Spirit Lake.
>
> Fourth, you ask for a “list of stakeholders or advocates who can be brought to the table to help Spirit Lake protect their children.”
>
> On January 20, 2014 I provided Ms. Kennerson, by email, with detailed contact information for my primary sources at Spirit Lake. I did so at her request and with the understanding she would be contacting some or all of them during her trip to Spirit Lake scheduled to take place before the end of January. In speaking with my sources, none have been contacted by her. I assume Ms. Kennerson still has that email and can make this information available to you.
>
> Whether my sources will be willing to speak with any of you remains to be seen after the disrespectful manner you treated one of them on a telephone call two weeks ago. That was bad enough but then, in a subsequent email, you lied not only about what you said and did but also about what my source said and did during that telephone call.
>
> It would be well for you to consider the words of Marvin Bower, Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company for almost twenty years who, in the ‘Will to Lead’ wrote, “Leadership scholars are virtually unanimous in putting trustworthiness at the top of the list of qualities required by any leader. Trustworthiness is integrity in action….Integrity is honesty carried…….into action so that the person is completely honest. That kind of integrity I put above all else as an essential of leadership.”
>
> I do not “…feel that (my) previous emails regarding Spirit Lake have not been answered”. I know it for a fact. In a later email I will provide chapter and verse on each of those unanswered emails.
>
> Thomas F. Sullivan
>
> Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver
>
> From: Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)
> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:52 AM
> To: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
> Cc: Murray, James (ACF)
> Subject: RE: CB team to Spirit Lake
>
> ACF is looking forward to a productive visit to Spirit Lake next week. Joo Chang will lead a team that includes Lillian Sparks, Marilyn Kennerson and me, and it is our goal to provide guidance to the tribe on what steps they need to take to establish a functional child welfare system.
>
> As you know, our jurisdiction here is limited. ACF, through the Children’s Bureau, provides funding and guidance to states, tribes and localities for child welfare agencies. States and Tribes have legal jurisdiction over their courts and agencies and we have no jurisdiction to intervene on individual cases.
>
> We do want to do everything we can within our defined role, however. To that end, we need your assistance to prepare for this visit.
>
> Specifically, please:

> – Provide a detailed list of the steps you have taken as Regional Administrator to assist the tribe to improve their child welfare system. Please include the status of each action and any outcomes of those actions.
>
> – Provide a summary of anything you have learned from other tribes you may have had contact with that faced similar challenges. List any best practices for establishing a strong tribal child welfare system, and any contacts you may have that could be resources for Spirit Lake.
>
> – A list of national and local partners (philanthropies, universities, etc.) who could provide financial, training or technical assistance to Spirit Lake moving forward.
>
> – A list of any other stakeholders or advocates who can be brought to the table to help Spirit Lake protect their children.
>
> Please send this report by noon Eastern time on Friday, April 4 so that it can be included with briefing materials for the team. Please also include your primary point of contact at Spirit Lake, or any other contacts there we should be aware of.
>
> I am sorry you feel that your previous emails regarding Spirit Lake have not been answered; that is not what my records reflect.
>
> After the ACF team visit to Spirit Lake, I will let you know of any need for follow-up on your part.
>
> From: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
> Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:35 PM
> To: Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)
> Subject: Re: CB team to Spirit Lake
>
> Ms. Mcmullen:
>
> Thank you for your email notification about the Childrens Bureau team visit to Spirit Lake on April 9 – 11, 2014.
>
> I have some questions concerning this visit: 1. What are the names of those who will be part of this team? 2. Who will be the team leader? 3. What will be the expected outcome of this team’s visit to Spirit Lake? 4. What written instructions will be provided to that team? 5. May I receive a copy of those instructions?
>
> I have raised many questions about Spirit Lake to you over the last 21 months, all documented in agency email. Few, if any, have been answered. I trust I will not have to add this email to the “unanswered” file.
>
> Thomas F. Sullivan
> Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver
>
>
> From: Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)
> Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 04:27 PM
> To: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
> Subject: CB team to Spirit Lake
>
>
> Hello Tom:
>
> I wanted to let you know that the Children’s Bureau is planning a team visit to Spirit Lake April 9-11. The ACF team will talk to various stakeholders, tribal child welfare staff, judges and others. They will use the information gathered to provide clear guidance to the Tribe on what steps need to be taken to establish a successful child welfare agency.
>
> Marrianne McMullen
> Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs
> Administration for Children and Families
> U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
> 901 D. St., SW, Washington, DC 20447
> (202) 401-9215
> [email protected]
> www.acf.hhs.gov

Apr 012014
 
Jose Rodrigues 2005 - a Victim of the Indian Child Welfare Act

While we appreciate most efforts do something to address the severe abuse and neglect occurring on many reservations, we do not believe NICWA is willing to address the core of the problems. “Raising awareness” by sending packets to ICWA offices isn’t going to change anything – and hasn’t to date.

Further, continually blaming non-Indians – from past, present and future – will never stop child abuse. It is more likely to increase the abuse, because it allows abusers to play the victim and point the blame at someone else. As long as an abuser never has to take personal responsibility, they have no reason or impetus to change.

Reading the information NICWA has put on the website concerning their minor efforts to combat child abuse – while at the same time spouting additional misinformation and blame – it appears to be nothing more than a “fluff” effort – a show of effort – rather than a real effort to help children.

http://www.nicwa.org/child_abuse_prevention/

.

Mar 152014
 
2014-02-15 10.41.28


CAICW hits the road to advocate for families in their struggle for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

This past October, after a loving friend kindly donated much needed maintenance for my hobbled vehicle, I loaded my car with a few essentials—laptop, camp stove and sleeping bag—and with just a few hundred dollars in pocket, headed south, not knowing exactly where God would lead or how long I’d be gone.

After more than a decade of desk advocacy, along with a few short trips to Washington, D.C., few dents in the system we’ve been fighting have been made. Worse, the stories of abuse have been increasing. If we’re going to fight this bear – it’s going to take more than we’ve been doing.

Three months earlier, I had read Corrie ten Boom’s book, “Tramp for the Lord.” Her faith following her horrific ordeal during the Holocaust was amazing. Her determination to do whatever it took to make a difference was inspiring.

I’d actually felt a need to plunge in fully for a long time. The work involved in this is overwhelming. As many know – I am usually running way behind, trying to catch up. It has been more than I’ve been able to handle while still raising kids and finding ways to pay bills. But the kids are raised now. So – I decided to step out and trust God.

While traveling, I planned to visit families CAICW’s been involved with. The first night out, I stopped to see one of Roland’s relatives in the hospital and spent the night with a niece. I was sadly reminded over the 24 hours just why Roland and I became concerned in the first place.

God is good. The needs for this work have been met in ways we never dreamed. In North Carolina – a dear old friend had a new transmission put in my car and went out of her way to help in other ways as well. I then spent six weeks in Virginia at the home of a wonderful host family and got to know the metro rail into DC pretty well.

While there, CNN broadcast a segment concerning child sexual abuse at Spirit Lake, and ACF Regional Admin Tom Sullivan released a letter admonishing his DC superiors. With these tools in hand, I visited every Senate office and several house members. We created new relationships with some staff members and learned which offices are open to help. We were able to teach various offices about issues in Indian Country – and various offices were able to teach us a few things.

One thing we learned is that having a steady presence is important. Showing up again and again with additional information helps. We also learned that while not all Congressmen are aware of what’s happening in Indian Country, it’s well known among noted agencies that Spirit Lake is a microcosm of what is happening all across Indian Country – ie: The agencies know what is happening at Spirit Lake is widespread in Indian Country. They know – but are playing political games anyway.

While there, I also continued to hear stories from one person or another of horrible things happening to children – right under the eyes of federal government officials. Feeling helpless, the thought coming to mind again and again was “This kind of thing comes out only through prayer and fasting.”

In mid-December, I returned to North Dakota for Christmas, where my kind friend again did an oil change on my car. Having been asked several times by a good friend to come out to California and spend some time praying, I decided to do it – as well as try to catch up on necessary office work before going back to DC.

I have been in California now since mid-January. I have had wonderful times of prayer, working on our database, writing, and putting together a business plan for the Roland J. Morris Sr. Ranch – a place for families to come as a unit for long term help away from drugs and alcohol. I’ve also been reading three books – “Blessing Your Spirit,” (Devotional) “Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow” (10 sermons by Pastors during the Holocaust, including Bonhoeffer) and “Fatal Link” (The epidemic of fetal alcohol in America, in particular within many reservation communities).

In California, two handsome men spent days and nights in their garage, donating tons more needed maintenance on my vehicle. I’ll be leaving California with practically a new car at the beginning of March. While traveling back to DC, I will stop to see families along the way as well as look at potential properties for the RJM Ranch. I plan to be back in DC in late April. There are many things I’ll write about along the way – posting to our blog page at caicw.org.

I urge you, family and friends, to share this information and encourage others to join in the ongoing struggle. The struggle and battle is so much larger than Roland and I even imagined when we embarked on this mission many years ago. But God is good and amazing things are happening. Please join us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013, in DC –

I had a discouraging meeting that morning. A senior staffer in Indian Affairs office was calling Tom Sullivan a liar. I think he thought maybe I didn’t know one way or the other – like I had just picked up Sullivan’s reports and decided to use them. He told me Tom no longer worked at that job. I told him, “Yes he does.”

The staffer then said it wasn’t true anyone forbade Tom write any more reports concerning the child abuse. I told him, “I heard it from Mr. Sullivan’s voice to my ear.” Then he said something about how a hearing would prove it isn’t true. I didn’t respond, but wanted to tell him, “Bring it on.”

They ended the meeting with the predictable, “Thank you for the information. We will keep it in consideration.”
After the meeting, I sat in the atrium of the Hart building, discouraged, and thought about what a huge monster this was. Those two people are high up in Indian Affairs and probably reflect exactly what the bulk of the committee really thinks.

If it weren’t for knowing how much God has been helping us – and how God made it amazingly possible for us to be in DC – I would have felt like giving up.

But I didn’t.

Two hours later, I received an email forwarded from Betty Jo. It was from Tom Sullivan to his superiors in DC – written within the hour. Interestingly, it addressed all points of contention in my morning meeting. With a lot of pleasure, I forwarded it to the cynical staffers at Indian Affairs. As far as I can help, our children will NOT be treated as collateral damage in DC’s ongoing political games.

Mar 132014
 
Spirit Lake Reservation, North Dakota

February 2013, CAICW attended a Spirit Lake town hall meeting where one member after another stood up to tell the panel of tribal and federal officials tragic stories of how they tried to get the tribal police, BIA and U.S Attorney to help. But criminals continue to roam unchallenged. As tribal members told of continuing abuse of children, officials claimed everything that can be done has been done. “Investigations take time” U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said over and over.

Tom Sullivan, Regional Administrator of the Administration of Children and Families in Denver, had written report after report to DC detailing the abuse and number of children who’d been removed from safe homes off reservation and placed into dangerous homes – even homes of sexual offenders – at Spirit Lake. At the town hall meeting, Purdon claimed Tom Sullivan “misrepresented the facts.

Yet, while Spirit Lake was under oversight of the BIA, FBI, and Purdon in 2012 and 2013:
• An elder witnessed two young boys doing something unspeakable on her lawn, but despite her many attempts to report it – it was ignored by tribal & federal authorities. The boys are related to a councilman.
• 3-year-old Laurynn Whiteshield was placed in a relative’s home where she was beaten to death in June, 2013.
• Roland Morris’s grandson was shot and left for dead at Spirit Lake in July 2013. No one has been charged, though it is common knowledge he was shot over drugs by relatives who are part of a Minneapolis gang.
In Tom Sullivan’s 12th Mandated Report to the ACF office in DC, February 2013, (http://caicw.org/wp-content/uploads/Twelth-Mandated-Report-Concerning-Suspected-Child-Abuse-on-the-Spirit-Lake-Reservation.htm). he stated:

“In these 8 months I have filed detailed reports concerning all of the following:
- The almost 40 children returned to on-reservation placements in abusive homes, many headed by known sex offenders… These children remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators available to be raped on a daily basis. Since I filed my first report noting this situation, nothing has been done by any of you to remove these children to safe placements.
- The 45 children who were placed, at the direction of Tribal Social Services (TSS), BIA social workers, BIA supervised TSS social workers and the BIA funded Tribal Court, in homes where parents were addicted to drugs and/or where they had been credibly accused of abuse or neglect…
“…Those adults remain protected by the law enforcement which by its inaction is encouraging the predators to keep on hunting for and raping children at Spirit Lake.

Feb 282014
 

Three little boys from South Dakota had been living with a wonderful family. The maternal relatives (tribal members) had a great relationship with the foster parents and ceremonially accepted them as part of the family. But the children were moved from that home a few months ago by tribal government. A paternal family member – who had previously shown no interest in the kids – requested custody of the children when it was announced federal government was paying each individual member – including children – a sum of money in a court settlement. Over the last few months since the transfer, several instances of abuse have been documented. The following are comments recently shared by family:

RS: “I am asking no I am begging for —- to undo the wrong he has created and make it right for these babies. I am begging the courts and tribal council to help get these kids to safety, you have the power you need to use it. You can undo the injustice that has been done. These kids are not only the victims of Cathy’s abuse now they are in the presence of their extremely abusive father, please, please, please help us to get these kids to safety before it is too late.”
February 15 at 10:59pm

RS: “Why is no one for our tribe helping these children…..”

BM: “Because the tribal courts, and counsel employees are heartless and don’t care what happens to these 3 lil’ ones. So much for protecting their people. That is a bunch of crap when they all allow the 3 lil’ angels to be taken away by their abuser.”

DB: “Was just informed that she took these children to …California with their abusive father and are being helped by another daughter … And was informed that individuals were rewarded greatly for doing this….wonder who that was ???? How does spilled children’s blood feel on your hands?”

Other children in need of prayer:

- – A Spirit Lake grandma sent a picture of her grandaughter and said the girl is living in the home of a sexual offender, but tribal social services won’t do anything about it.
An Oregon Tribe insists on jurisdiction over an unenrollable

- – 7-yr-old boy who was placed with his paternal grandmother by both birth father and mother and had been living with his paternal grandma for 2 years.
This child is NOT eligible for enrollment according to the tribe’s constitution – but tribal government desires to transfer child to maternal grandma, who has a record of abuse.
o The CAICW legal fund paid for a consultation between family members and ICWA attorney Mark Fiddler. The family was able to bring facts to the court room, refuting claims by the tribe.

- – 13-yr-old girl was taken from her non-native birth mother who had custody all her life and given her to enrolled birth father 3 months ago – for no reason other than tribal court decision. The tribe initially made it joint custody and gave him the school year. They’ve now served mom with papers giving the father sole custody.
o The CAICW legal fund paid for a consultation between the mother, her local attorney, and ICWA attorney Mark Fiddler. Unfortunately, she was not able to continue with the local attorney.

- – A 7-yr-old boy taken from his home in Wisconsin just before Christmas and his 7th birthday. His pre-adoptive parents begged he be allowed to attend his scheduled birthday party, but were refused. This was the 3rd time this little boy, who struggles with emotional issues, was removed from this same home due to whimsy of tribal government. The fact this pre-adoptive mom is a tribal member with the very same tribe made no difference. When the boys therapists testified to the emotional damage another move would bring, the tribe’s social services director stated, “Our kids are resilient.”

Many more…

Fact: According to the last two U.S. Census’ – 75% of Native Americans don’t live on the reservations. While some have moved for jobs, schooling, or other reasons and are still supportive of the reservation system, many, like the founder of CAICW, distanced themselves due to the high amount of tribal government corruption, chemical abuse, sexual abuse and other crime.

Fact: Tribal governments benefit financially from increased membership. It is no secret federal dollars for tribes are connected to the U.S. Census and tribal rolls. Abuse happens when you put a price on people’s heads. Abuse happens when humans are put in the position of chattel.

Feb 212014
 

By GOSIA WOZNIACKA Associated Press Feb 3, 2014, 3:49 PM

Four national Native American organizations on Monday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children in the private adoption and public child welfare systems, saying civil rights violations there are rampant.

The groups also called for the federal government to take a stronger role in enforcing compliance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. They said in a letter to Jocelyn Samuels, the Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, that there is “minimal federal oversight” over implementation of the law.Corruption at the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

The letter follows a recent high-profile custody battle over a Cherokee girl known as Baby Veronica who eventually was adopted by a white South Carolina couple. It also comes amid lawsuits alleging violations of federal law governing foster care and adoptions in some states.

The organizations, which include the Portland-based National Indian Child Welfare Association, alleged in their letter that some guardians appointed by the court mock Native American culture; some state workers put down traditional Native ways of parenting; and some children are placed in white homes when Indian relatives and Native foster care homes are available.

“These stories highlight patterns of behavior that are, at best, unethical and, at worst, unlawful,” the letter states. “Although these civil rights violations are well-known and commonplace, they continue to go unchecked and unexamined.”

The federal government had no an immediate response regarding the allegations.

“We have received the letter and are reviewing the request,” Justice Department spokeswoman Dena W. Iverson said in an email.

Native children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system nationwide, especially in foster care.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 after finding very high numbers of Indian children being removed from their homes by public and private agencies and placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.

Federal law now requires that additional services be provided to Native families to prevent unwarranted removal. And it requires that Indian children who are removed be placed whenever possible with relatives or with other Native Americans, in a way that preserves their connection with their tribe, community and relatives.

While Native groups agree that the Indian Child Welfare Act has been effective in slowing the removal of Indian children from their families, major challenges remain. And Baby Veronica’s plight has highlighted the matter.

Veronica was born to a non-Cherokee mother, who put her up for adoption. Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a white couple, gained custody of the child in 2009. The baby’s father, a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, pressed claims under the Indian Child Welfare Act and won custody when the girl was 27 months old.

But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the act didn’t apply because the father, Dusten Brown, had been absent from Veronica’s life before her birth and never had custody of her. In September, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court dissolved an order keeping the girl in the state, and Brown handed her over to the Capobiancos.

In addition to that case, the letter cites problems such as adoption agencies disregarding children’s tribal affiliation and failing to provide notice to a tribe when a child is taken into custody. The groups also contend Indian children are transported across state lines to sidestep the law; adoption attorneys encourage circumvention of the law; and judges deny tribes a presence during child custody proceedings.

Another problem, according to Craig Dorsay, an Oregon lawyer who works on many Native child welfare cases, is inconsistencies in identifying who is an Indian child and who is not — and whether the law applies to families who are deemed not Indian enough in the eyes of a court.

http://news.yahoo.com/native-american-groups-seek-child-welfare-probe-231739952.html

Feb 112014
 
Lauryn Whiteshield, July 19, 2010 - June 13, 2013

Tom Sullivan’s response to offensive, child-endangering letter by his Washington DC superior, Ms. Marrianne McMullen

February 11, 2014

Ms. McMullen:

Thank you for sending me a copy of your response to Spirit Lake Chairman McDonald’s letter to me dated January 26, 2014. Tom Sullivan - Regional Administrator ACF

Your email is heavy on conclusions but light on any rationale to support those conclusions.

1. You wrote, “ACF does not have the authority or expertise to conduct investigations of suspected child abuse, and thus Tom Sullivan will not undertake such an investigation at Spirit Lake.”

The latest version of the Administration for Children and Families 2014 Strategic Plan overcomes the “authority” issue you raise. Mr. Murray, in your presence, characterized this Plan version as just about final and did not think we would get far trying to revise it during the conference call with all the Regional Administrators earlier on the afternoon of February 5, 2014. The very same day you responded to the Chairman’s letter. The 2014 Plan states in its Introduction, “we seek to support national, state, tribal and local efforts to strengthen families and communities and promote opportunity and economic mobility.”

Later in that same section the 2014 Plan states, “we seek to advance a set of key goals” followed by a listing which includes, “Promote Safety and Well-being of Children, Youth and Families;” It is difficult for me to understand how we can do any of this if we are unwilling to address and seek to stop the mental, physical and sexual abuse of children, especially when we are being informed on a daily basis about such abuse.

You have from our first meeting sought to defame me, belittling my education, experience and skills. After more than 45 years of broad-based, senior work in the design, development, management and evaluation of health and human service programs at the highest levels in both the public and private sectors all across this country. I have an established reputation for both accomplishment and integrity that will be minimally influenced by your sniping.

I will let the testimony of those who have had an opportunity to observe my work all across this Region, especially in Indian Country, and who have taken the time to speak with me about my concerns for abused children and the lifetime burden they bear due to their abuse address the issue of my expertise in these matters. On March 12, 2013, Ms. Diane Garreau, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Tribe’s ICWA Director and Founding Board Member of the ICWA Directors of the Great Sioux Nation, representing the nine South Dakota federally recognized tribes, called me and said, “I need to get someone who can speak as an expert on child abuse and neglect of American Indian kids at our Summit in a couple of months. You are the most knowledgeable person about this stuff who I know. But I also know that you have a big gag stuck in your mouth by your Agency’s leadership when it comes to speaking about this stuff. So, who would you recommend, if I cannot get you?”

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Ms. Suzanna Tiapula is an attorney and long-time Executive Director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA) who said on November 6, 2013, “I am really disappointed you have been denied permission to participate as faculty in our upcoming train the trainer course in Santa Fe, NM. We will not be as effective as we hoped because our best, you, will not be there.” This program,
as you know, was specifically focused on the development of a cadre of trained individuals from Indian Country who could go back to their homes and begin to address more effectively the epidemic of child abuse raging in their communities. This epidemic of child abuse has grown to its current size because our bureaucratic predecessors chose to ignore it.

This Santa Fe training was one of 11 three-day sessions which NCPCA had agreed to provide in Indian Country for essentially the same purpose all across this country as a result of my work with them. These sessions were provided at no cost to program participants, ACF or DHHS.

It has been clear to me that you have never wanted to admit that I had any expertise. You hoped that view would go unchallenged if you never allowed me to venture into the real world where children are being abused daily, available to be raped daily. Is that why you prevented me from making six trips last year, all into Indian Country and all dealing with these issues? Your actions facilitated the libel and slander of my sources and I by the criminally corrupt.

2. You also wrote, “Currently, the BIA is managing the investigations of incidents of suspected abuse at Spirit Lake and has referred some incidents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation”

My sources began reporting their concerns about Spirit Lake children more than seven years ago to the state, the BIA, FBI and US Attorney. Their reports were ignored. The documentation they provided went unread and then was shredded.

Is there something new to suggest these organizations will be any more responsive now? It seems clear to me that all law enforcement at Spirit Lake is engaged in the same do-nothing approach to their work as evidenced by the following five examples.

When a non-custodial father reported the suspected (she told him she was being sexually molested by a Level 3 offender living in her home) molestation of his 13 year old daughter to Tribal Social Services, Tribal Council and the BIA, the best any of them could do was to promise that the BIA would attempt to begin an investigation in 30 days. That was 60 days ago. It is not clear, after 60 days, that any investigation has even begun.

There have been three rapes of young ladies on the Reservation during the last three months. BIA law enforcement was notified in each case. In each case the young woman said she wanted to press charges against her rapist. This will be difficult because no victim statement was taken in any of these three cases.
There was no rape kit prepared in any of these three cases. No pictures of the bruises on the bodies of each of these women were taken. The FBI has, I understand refused to intervene and take responsibility for these three felonies. Each of these women is an enrolled Tribal member as are their rapists, The rapes occurred within the geographic confines of the reservation.

In the last 8 months there has been one serious beating of a young nurse who lives on the Reservation, allegedly by two female relatives of the former Tribal Chair. This victim too wants this case prosecuted and her attackers sent to prison. She has given the FBI and BIA law enforcement a statement describing her attack and providing the names of her attackers, pictures of the bodily damages she suffered and the names of several eyewitnesses to this attack. Nothing is apparently being done by anyone in the BIA or FBI to bring indictments in this matter. Both the victim and her alleged assailants are enrolled Tribal

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members. The assault took place within the geographic confines of the reservation.

The BIA knew the placement of those almost three year old twins in the home of their grandfather and step-grandmother in early May, 2013, was placing them in grave danger. This was proven less than 30 days later, on June 13, 2013, when one of the twins turns up dead, murdered by her step-grandmother. Despite knowing their own biological children had been removed from their care and custody, that they both had been charged with and convicted of child abuse of their own children, the BIA authorized the placement of these children in their full-time, unsupervised care and custody.

The BIA has apparently done nothing to insure the safety of that suicidal little boy who I brought to your attention on September 23, 2013. You assured me at that time that “Marilyn Kennerson with the Children’s Bureau is working with the BIA and the tribe to make sure that all appropriate measures are taken to assure the child’s safety.” Subsequent events made clear your words were hollow, The BIA has
also apparently done nothing for the two sisters who are placed in a foster home where “discipline” is administered by stripping these girls to their panties, duct-taping their hands in front of them and forcing them to sit on a stool in an uninsulated attic for hours at a time. The same can be said for the 13 year old
girl who told her Dad that she was being sexually molested by a Level Three sex offender. I gave Ms. Kennerson the names of these children as well as other relevant information about their placement more than three weeks ago during a meeting with her. It is hard to see how anything could have been done for these children if those who were supposed to be providing that help did not even know their names.

A few weeks after that meeting with Ms. Kennerson I requested an update on the condition of these children from her and have received nothing. It seems that if you have done nothing to protect children in these circumstances, the best strategy is to remain mute.

Tolerating such ineptitude from the BIA, FBI and other law enforcement especially when it results in a multi-generational failure to prosecute is troubling in light of a joint statement published on February 6, 2014 in the White House Blog by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Jodi Gillette, Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council and Raina Thiele, Associate Director White House Office of Governmental Affairs where
they wrote, “Improving the safety of our tribal communities is a priority of President Obama and his Administration….These important provisions remind us all that a victim is a victim, and that everyone is entitled to protection against any perpetrator.”

Attorney General Eric Holder in an article by Sari Horowitz entitled “New Law Offers Protection to Abused Native American Women” in the February 9, 2014 issue of the Washington Post is quoted as saying, “The numbers are staggering…It’s deplorable. …this is an issue that we have to deal with. I am simply not going to accept the fact it is acceptable for women to be abused at the rates they are being abused on native lands.”

If there is so much high level support for the thesis that all crime victims in Indian Country should be protected by aggressive prosecution of their assailants, why is so little occurring in Indian Country communities like Ft. Totten and St. Michael?

3. You also wrote, “The role of the Immediate Office of the Regional Administrator (IORA) is to provide leadership for ACF’s cross-cutting initiatives, emergency preparedness and response and administrative and communications support for ACF.”

On a conference call on February 5, 2014, just a few hours before you sent the response to Chairman McDonald you effectively endorsed the following language as part of or as an adjunct to the 2014 ACF

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Strategic Plan. Your endorsement was understandable since you wrote out the listing of the five functions of every IORA. That page and one-half started with: “Regional Administrators represent the ACF Assistant Secretary in the region, providing leadership, cross-program strategy and coalition building on the regional, state and local levels across government and advocacy centers. As a team they and their staff fill five distinct functions;”

“Function 1: Regional ACF Leadership
Regional Administrators maintain high-level relationships with state, tribal, territory and local government partners as well as university, philanthropic and other community partners and alert the Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary if there are issues of concern in the states. They are the point of contact for State Commissioners/Secretaries, Governor offices; state Congressional and Legislative representatives. They represent ACF in regional, Federal Executive Boards, are ACF’s representative with the Regional Director’s office, other Federal Agency leadership, and they provide office based leadership through State Team coordination and coordination of other ACF-wide activities.”

“Function 2: Initiative Leadership
IORA lead high priority, cross-cutting program initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act, Hispanic outreach, efforts to combat human trafficking and homelessness and a number of other cross-program initiatives that do not belong to any single ACF program……..”

It is difficult to reconcile your description of the limited functions of a Regional Administrator in your letter to Chairman McDonald with your description of far more expansive functions discussed during that conference call and outlined in that page and one-half that you composed.

I recall when you stormed out of my conference room on the morning of Friday, June 14, 2013 abruptly breaking off a conversation about how best to address the issues I had been raising at Spirit Lake. You were clearly dis-satisfied with my response to the effect that such an effort would not be easy but was doable, would require the active participation of a broad coalition of Tribal, state, federal and local
organizations to begin to effectively address these issues and was consistent with the kind of efforts I had lead in the past. At a minimum I told you that every one of ACF program components had to be involved, not just Child Welfare, and that we had to partner with the Indian Health Service, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, Departments of Justice, Interior, Education, Labor, HUD and the Small Business Administration. These agencies and departments represented only the federal; side of the collaboration which would be necessary.

You had a far more negative perspective, apparently frustrated in your efforts to convince me that the problems were unsolvable and were quite displeased to hear my positive recommendations on how to proceed.

4. You also wrote, “We understand that reporting of alleged abuse through non-official channels has contributed to unnecessary confusion and delay. We will continue to encourage official reporting through appropriate channels in order to ensure timely and professional investigations to protect the children of Spirit Lake.”

Since I have been the only person, other than my sources, who has been reporting suspected child abuse at Spirit Lake, I can only assume this is a not so subtle swipe at me.

Before I filed a single Mandated Report I asked our Regional Counsel where I should file them. He responded that they should be filed with the US Attorney for the District where I suspected child abuse was occurring. I did.

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All of my Thirteen Mandated Reports and supporting documentation were filed directly with the US Attorney for the District of North Dakota and with the individual the US Attorney identified for me at BIA. When Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon prohibited me from filing those Mandated Reports, I had no choice but to file information I received from my sources with him or his designee. That is exactly what I have done. I have no control over what you do with them.

It is clear based on the case of the suicidal boy who I brought to your attention on September 23, 2013, that some, if not all, of those reports were never forwarded to anyone despite your assurances that the boy’s safety was assured due to the efforts of the BIA, the Tribe and the Children’s Bureau’s Ms. Kennerson. The fact that Ms. Kennerson had to ask me for the child’s identity three weeks ago, four months after my email from you on September 23, 2013, convinced me that your words were hollow, that you had done nothing to protect this child from self-injury or abuse at the hands of his abusive foster parents. You did not even know who this child was and neither you, nor BIA, nor the Children’s Bureau nor Ms. Kennerson did anything to determine his identity. What callous dis-regard for the safety of this suicidal little boy!

I will leave it for the citizens of Spirit Lake to inform you how ineffective it is to attempt to use the telephone numbers or resources you have identified in your letter. They can describe the number of hours, days, months, and years they have spent waiting for police to respond to a call, to answer a call so they may report a crime or for the return of indictments in especially vicious crimes.

I am attaching with this email a brief, three page write-up of a graduate of the Spirit Lake foster home system. It is entitled, “My Story”. Read it and understand the despair this now strong, resilient young woman felt as her reports of abuse, rape and neglect were ignored by those who were running the system then, when she was 5, 6 and 7 years of age. She went into the system between the ages of 4 and 5. She left it at 18. Now she is in her early 20s, an alcoholic with three children of her own and two step-sons. If she is able to achieve some level of normalcy in her life, it will be a remarkable achievement. If she can keep herself and her kids on the straight and narrow, avoiding having to put her kids into the care of
others, exposing them to the abuse she lived with as a child, she will be a great success. She recognizes the pitfalls she confronts on a daily basis and works harder than any of us to avoid them. The inter- generational abuse fostered by the corrupt criminals who must be removed cannot be allowed to continue. If it does, what this young lady has written will continue to be repeated many times over.

In one home where she was placed for several years, she was raped daily. No social worker looked in to check on her welfare during those years. What were those federal staff from BIA doing while this child was being raped daily? What kind of oversight did ACF’s Children’s Bureau provide? What kind of supervision did the state provide? Why did all of these adults allow this child to be raped daily?

If this or any other young woman slips up and has their children removed from their custody temporarily, why can’t they count on their kids being placed in a loving foster home where they will not be abused or neglected?

Thomas F. Sullivan

Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

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Letter to McMullen 021114.docx

Jan 232014
 

What is racism?
According to the ‘Merriam-Webster Dictionary’ – racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

According to the ‘Concise Encyclopedia,’ racism is “Any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races,” that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some “races” are innately superior to others. …The idea of race was invented to magnify the differences between people … Racism differs from ethnocentrism in that it is linked to physical and therefore immutable differences among people. Ethnic identity is 3 kidsacquired, and ethnic features are learned forms of behaviour. Race, on the other hand, is a form of identity that is perceived as innate and unalterable. In the last half of the 20th century several conflicts around the world were interpreted in racial terms even though their origins were in the ethnic hostilities that have long characterized many human societies (e.g., Arabs and Jews, English and Irish). Racism reflects an acceptance of the deepest forms and degrees of divisiveness and carries the implication that differences among groups are so great that they cannot be transcended. ”

The Genome project has proved that there are no – absolutely NO – genes denoting race in the human body. Genes only denote skin color, eye color, hair texture, cheek bones, etc, and these things vary from family to family, not large people group to large people group.

What varies from large people group to large people group is culture and ethnicity. But these things are NOT inherent to a persons genetics. They are learned.

In other words – differences between people are familial, not racial. “Race” doesn’t scientifically exist.

The idea that persons of Native American heritage – or persons of ANY heritage – are inherently one way or another is racism. Pure and simple.

I will not allow disparaging remarks or nonsense about any people group on this page.

It is fine to talk about factual matters and documentable evidence. Selfish people exist in this world and come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. The factual needs of children and families is top priority and we WILL call out corruption when we see it.

But when people make disparaging remarks about “Indians” as a group, or hateful remarks about “white people” – it WILL get deleted.

I will also delete nonsense about so-called “split feather” syndrome. Not only is there nothing inherently genetic that could cause such a thing – and it is racist to claim that there is – I have raised too many kids of tribal heritage to be conned into thinking such a thing exists. My kids are no different than kids of any other heritage in the United States.

Hello? There are innumerable reasons for depression, addictions and other mental health issues in this world. A genetic requirement to be in Indian Country isn’t one of them.

Further, it is time to stop blaming the past. Historical racism is only relevant if you want it to be. You can choose to be bigger and better than that. My children of heritage are just as strong, smart, and capable as any other citizen of the United States – and they are NOT perpetual victims, incapable of happiness due to what happened 150 years ago. Shame on anyone to thinks – or teaches – otherwise.

Being proud of roots means being proud of all of ones roots. Most tribal members are less than 50% anishinabe. My husband was of the few left in his generation that were 100% Leech Lake. Very few are today. We have taught our children to be proud of their entire heritage. ALL their ancestors – the ones of good character – are worth admiring and emulating – no matter the heritage.

But God is the only entity worthy of high honor.

This is a true rebuttal of racism – to recognize that heritage is only a data point, not a definition of who a person is. When we allow heritage to define us and our children, we are embracing and upholding racism.

Jan 222014
 

THANK YOU, BETTY JO KRENZ & TOM SULLIVAN –

The omnibus bill that was just recently passed and signed by Obama includes language mandating the BIA to “report to the House and Senate Committees of jurisdiction on the progress of its efforts and the adequacy of child placement and judicial review by the tribe and the Bureau. The Secretary [of Interior?] is expected to take all necessary steps to ensure that children at the Spirit Lake Reservation are placed in safe and secure homes.”

Thanks to Betty Jo Krenz, Tom Sullivan, and the others they’ve worked with for having gotten this ship launched. Without them, the atrocities at Spirit Lake would be still just as hidden and ignored as they are on most other reservations.

We are VERY grateful for this omnibus language – but also recognize that it is two sentences in a 286 page appropriations bill. It is our job now to press in and monitor the process, ensuring that these two sentences don’t just fall by the wayside or that mere fluff is offered up and called, “enough.”

We need to encourage our varied friends and relatives to call their respective Congressmen and remind them not only how important is it to protect these kids – but how these issues are much wider spread than just Spirit Lake.

I am working on the newsletter and the blog. I am slow – but we are going to do this. 2014 is going to be a GREAT year for human rights in Indian Country. Thank you for all of you who have been so steadfast in praying the work through!

Dec 212013
 
Lauryn Whiteshield, July 19, 2010 - June 13, 2013

Mr. Sullivan’s most recent letter to his superiors in Washington DC… please spread far and wide -

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF) [email protected]> Date: Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 2:53 PM
Subject: Spirit Lake
To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)” [email protected]>
Cc: “Chang, Joo Yeun (ACF)” <[email protected]>, “McCauley, Mike (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Murray, James (ACF)” <[email protected]>

December 19, 2013

In my First Mandated Report of suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, filed more than 18 months ago, I wrote, “The children of the Spirit Lake Reservation are being subjected to actual abuse or the threat of such abuse due to the actions and inactions of adults who have responsibility to protect them from such abuse. These adults include their parents, neighbors, community leaders, Tribal program staff and directors, Tribal Council members, federal and state program leaders who have been notified and allowed the following conditions to persist. Thus, due to their inaction and excuses in some cases they have played an active role in fostering the development of conditions here.”

Testifying about child abuse

Testifying about Child abuse before Senator Dorgan’s committee, December 9, 2013


My fervent hope was that such a Report would lead to the development of a broad-based collaborative effort of tribal, state and federal agencies working with Spirit Lake community members as well as the private sector for the purpose of addressing the specific issues I had identified as well as all others that would emerge as we moved these Spirit Lake children to safety.

A collaborative effort did emerge not for the purpose I had expected but in defense of the status quo. That collaboration has devoted its’ energies against those of us who have spoken up about the problems at Spirit Lake. My sources and I have been subjected to an unremitting campaign of lies and threats. We have been treated as pariahs, outcasts, unfit to be heard or seen in polite society, fair game for whatever outrageous lies our opponents wish to spin. Those responsible for this campaign have tried to remain anonymous, relying on the spoken word in most cases, but some few have had the courage to emerge from the shadows and reveal themselves

All of our allegations have been in writing submitted through formal channels. The lies and threats have been, in most cases, made verbally and have been dropped into conversations so as to poison the minds of those who know little about conditions in Indian Country or Spirit Lake and who are too busy/lazy to dig into the facts of this case. These lies and threats have been calculated in every case to minimize the impact of the detailed factual Reports we have placed on the record. In practically every case when a source of these false statements has been publicly identified, I have written to them requesting a copy of their documentation of my “errors” so that I might correct the public record. None have been provided even though up to 16 months have elapsed since those requests were first made. This is quite surprising since I have made these written requests to the former TSS Director, BIA spokeswoman Darling, former Tribal Chair Yankton, US Attorney Purdon, former ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon and ACF Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Mcmullen.

Why should I risk my well-known reputation for integrity and accomplishment built over more than 45 years of service in the public and private sectors by lying about conditions at Spirit Lake?

I am deeply committed to seeing the unspeakable child abuse at Spirit Lake stopped. That is my only motivation.

As a result of these efforts to minimize the impact of our reports more than 100 American Indian children at Spirit Lake remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators, available to be raped daily.

Who, among you, wants that crime to continue?

If you want it to stop, why are you establishing committees and study groups, delaying the movement of these children to safety for years?

If you want to stop it, just stop it!

There are an extraordinary number of contradictory statements made by those who oppose our efforts to assist the children of Spirit Lake to get into safe homes. There are essentially two types of contradiction in the following 9 examples. First, where two senior leaders of an agency or of different agencies take positions that are diametrically opposed to one another (Items # 1 and 4 fall into this category). Second, when agency leadership claims in broad general terms that everything has been solved and, by the way, many of those allegations were just exaggerations and an enrolled member or other informed citizen objects and factually challenges these claims (Items #2, 3 and 5-9 fall into this second category). The following brief examples outline these nine contradictions:

    1. On October 11, 2012 Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon was in Denver for a brief visit to the Region. He spent a great deal of time telling me that I was being too hard on all those involved with the Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services program and that he had been assured by the Washington, DC leaders of the BIA and the Children’s Bureau that great progress had been made since I filed my first report, four months earlier. During that conversation, I responded to Mr. Sheldon’s claims with half a dozen examples of egregious systemic failures at Spirit Lake in the two weeks prior to his visit where children were being endangered by placing them in the care and custody of abusive parents or foster parents. He was unmoved by my examples that came directly from my sources living and working on Spirit Lake.

    On November 5, 2012, less than 4 weeks after that discussion with Mr. Sheldon, then Spirit Lake Tribal Chair Roger Yankton was asked, during a General Assembly, by an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Nation, “Are there any lies in Mr. Sullivan’s Reports?” Mr. Yankton’s response was, “No, there are none.” He was then asked, “Do you have any proof that the conditions those children are living in and which are cited by Mr. Sullivan have improved?” Mr. Yankton’s response to this question was, “No, there has been no change.” Chairman Yankton’s statements were made almost five full months after I started filing my Mandated Reports, after seven of my Reports had been submitted. These seven Reports contained 90 – 95% of an unduplicated count of the factual allegations I have made.

    I reported this exchange at the General Assembly to Mr. Sheldon but never received any word from him indicating he had changed his mind from what he had expressed on October 11, 2012. To most readers, however, the contradiction should be obvious.

    2. In the November 4, 2012 issue, the Fargo Forum quoted BIA spokeswoman, Nedra Darling as saying, “The BIA is working hard to ….protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of Indian Country.”

    How does that statement square with Spirit Lake Tribal Chairman Yankton’s statement one day later that he knew of no change in the conditions about which I had been complaining in my Reports during the prior five months?

    A recent article from the October 28, 2013 issue of the Grand Forks Herald is even more damning of the BIA’s failures at Spirit Lake, “Lolly Diaz, a former member of the Spirit Lake social services board said there is little evidence of improvement since the BIA took the lead on child protection and foster placement. ‘Nothing has changed from putting it over to the BIA’, Diaz said. ‘There really isn’t any difference in my opinion. They’re on a revolving door basis’, she added, referring to BIA staff brought in to help. ‘We don’t have anybody permanent here.’

    In the last few days the following situation has been brought to my attention by a former TSS staff member who lives in close proximity to the Spirit Lake Reservation: a 13 year old little girl is staying with her grandmother approximately 80% of the time. Another relative an adult male also lives with the grandmother. This male is a registered, violent sex offender. The conduct of the 13 year old has been regressing and she has apparently told her non-custodial father that she is being sexually abused by this registered sex offender. The father has gone to BIA, TSS, Tribal Court and the Tribal Chair to complain about his daughter’s placement. He has been told by the BIA that it will be at least 30 days before they can even initiate an investigation.

    How many of us would be satisfied with Ms. Darling’s “working hard” when we understood it really meant at least a 30 day delay before any action would be taken to protect our 13 year old little girl from a vicious sexual predator?

    3. Ms. Darling in her November 4, 2012 comments to the press is quoted as saying, “The BIA maintains standards of professionalism and public safety…..” and “the highest levels of integrity and accountability of its employees.”

    Despite these claims the BIA ignored the domestic violence of their senior criminal investigator at Spirit Lake for more than a year even though during this time he mercilessly beat his wife on several occasions. Each of these occasions was public, known all across the Reservation and known to the former BIA Superintendent as well as to his Deputy (the current BIA superintendent). None of these people did anything to protect this defenseless woman from these beatings. When a friend of mine placed the victim’s affidavit into the hands of the number 2 person in BIA Law Enforcement in Washington, DC, BIA still did nothing.

    How do these actions up and down the chain of command in BIA contribute to the “highest levels of integrity and accountability of its employees”?

    4. Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon in his April 15, 2013 letters praised both the BIA and DOJ for their efforts to address the situation at Spirit Lake and essentially condemned me for incorporating my “… own personal views” and that “those views might be misinterpreted or misreported as those of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) or the Department of Health and Human Services.” Mr. Sheldon went on, “after evaluating your reports, the Department does not share your view that the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the United States Attorney’s Office have (sic) been derelict in their duties….. We know that improvements have been made.”

    In mid-August, 2013, you, Ms. Mcmullen, in a telephone conversation with one of my sources, Ms. Betty Jo Krenz, who was complaining about ACF’s refusal to allow me to attend a meeting in Bismarck, ND later that week said, “I don’t understand what could be gained by another meeting. We’ve been in meetings at Spirit Lake for two years and have seen little or no progress.” When I asked for a clarification four months ago, in late August, 2013, of the contradiction between these two positions, I was greeted with total silence.

    When I asked both the Acting Assistant Secretary and you, Ms. McMullen for the factual basis for those April 15 letters, I have been stonewalled. Nothing has been provided. Perhaps that is because there is no factual basis for those conclusions. Given the facts on the record, however, most readers will agree there is a basic contradiction between what you said in August to Ms. Krenz and the letters, Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon sent to me, Ms. Settles and Mr. Purdon on April 15, 2013, a contradiction that ACF leadership seems unwilling or unable to explain, despite my continuing requests for an explanation.

    5. On June 19, 2012 in response to my First Mandated Report, Mr. Purdon, the US Attorney for North Dakota wrote, “the United States Attorney’s Office in North Dakota shares your concern for the safety of Native children as can be seen in our strong track record of prosecuting and convicting the hands-on perpetrators of abuse and neglect on the reservations in North Dakota.” When I read those words I was impressed and hopeful

    Hopeful, that is, until I reviewed the record of charges filed, indictments sought, plea deals made, trials and convictions for child sexual abuse originating from the Spirit Lake Reservation and could find only 2 cases in the last 25 months. I have been told that in most recent years there have been on average 50 cases of child sexual abuse per year reported, investigated and confirmed by child protection workers on Spirit Lake and referred to the FBI or US Attorney’s office for criminal investigation and prosecution.

    That dismal record of only two cases of child sexual abuse from Spirit Lake in a 25 month period can be explained best, I believe, by the alleged rape of a 12 year old little girl who had just turned 13 on September 29, 2012, who was home alone when a 38 year old male friend of her mother’s stopped by and raped her. (This account of what happened to this little girl was provided by an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Nation.) She called the police who, when they responded were given the alleged rapist’s name, address and physical description. BIA police did not take a rape kit. BIA police did not question the suspect for three weeks at which time he told them that, “She wanted to have sex with me. What was I supposed to do?” It was bad enough that the BIA police swallowed this line but so did the FBI and US Attorney Purdon. When statutory rape occurs in this manner with such an age discrepancy and these are the standards applied to determine whether to prosecute or not, it is remarkable that any child sexual abuse cases made it into Court during the last 25 months.

    On February 27, 2013 US Attorney Purdon made the following statement, as told to me by an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Nation who attended that Hearing, in a public meeting on the Spirit Lake Reservation, “Many of Sullivan’s allegations are just false.” Since he had never communicated such a view to me or to my sources, I immediately, that day, requested by email that he give me the courtesy of identifying which of my allegations were, in his words, “just false”. Now almost ten months later I await the documentation of his otherwise slanderous, self-serving characterization of my Reports.

    6. Both the BIA and US Attorney claim in many public statements that every allegation I have surfaced has been investigated. When I use the term “investigated” here, I assume this means that interviews with complainants and witnesses have been conducted, evidence has been gathered, reports filed with an appropriate supervisor and a determination made, based on that record, whether to recommend further legal action. I also assume that records of each investigation would be available for review by an appropriate independent, properly qualified reviewer.

    I have listed below ten possible crimes reported to the BIA and US Attorney which, if they have been investigated, that has been done privately without the benefit of interviewing those who were responsible for filing those complaints.

    Why has there been no investigation of my 14 month old complaint filed against FBI Special Agent Cima?

    Why has there been no investigation of the 15 month old charges of Domestic Violence against BIA’s Senior Criminal Investigator at Spirit Lake by his wife?

    Why has there been no investigation into the destruction of the Incident Report completed by the CI’s wife in the Devils Lake Mercy Hospital Emergency Room after a particularly vicious beating at the CI’s hands in mid-August, 2012 by the former Director of the Spirit Lake Victim Assistance Program?

    Why has there been no investigation of the complete and total failure of the state, FBI and BIA to investigate charges that were credibly brought several years ago against each of these entities?

    Why has there been no investigation into the withholding of critically needed intensive rehabilitative services from several Spirit Lake children who have been sexually abused and severely beaten? If the purpose of preventing these children from gaining access to this therapy is to prevent the names of their predators who damaged these children from being revealed to professionals who have a legal obligation to make this information known to law enforcement, is this obstruction of justice? If it is, the entire leadership of the BIA Strike team should be indicted.

    Why has there been no investigation into the Spirit Lake school system’s retaliatory actions against two mandated reporters – firing one and giving the other a letter of reprimand, simply because they were attempting to help a young child having difficulties in his foster home placement?

    The Tribal Elder who observed two little boys engaging in anal sex in her yard called police immediately when she observed this behavior. No one in law enforcement took her statement. She tried to tell her story at the February 27, 2013 Hearing but she was shushed by US Attorney Purdon, the BIA leadership and all those on the platform. The US Attorney did say publicly he would speak to her privately after the Hearing concluded. He did not. Nor did anyone from his office take her statement. Why has there been no investigation into this complete failure of law enforcement in this particular case at Spirit Lake?

    One day later, on February 28, 2013, these same two boys were observed by two little girls engaging in oral sex on a Spirit Lake School Bus. The little girls reported this to the bus driver, their teachers and the school principal. All of these supposedly responsible people said and did nothing about this incident. None of them filed a Form 960 as required. Why has there been no investigation into the failures of these adults to fulfill their responsibilities? What else are they failing to do?

    Why has there been no investigation of the decision to place a four month old, previously meth-addicted infant in the unsupervised full time care and custody of her meth-addicted mother. The mother had been required to complete a lengthy drug treatment program with periodic, unannounced testing to make sure she was still not using. She never completed that treatment program and refused to take any tests during it. Despite these facts this infant was returned to her full time care and custody by the Tribal Court.

    Why has there been no investigation of the unexplained removal of a child from her mother’s home without cause in December, 2012, the perjured, sworn testimony of the BIA Social Worker self-identified as Gabrielle who swore that she had sought kinship care but could not find any kin willing to take this child. This child’s aunt is Ms. Molly McDonald, former Tribal Judge and one of my sources, and her grandfather is Leander McDonald, current Tribal Chair. Neither was contacted by this or any other BIA social worker. When this child was finally returned in April, 2013 her mother was told that she was prohibited from speaking to her aunt, my source, Ms. Molly McDonald. Why is the BIA resorting to such tactics? Is there some fear that the truth might emerge?

    All of the information in these accounts of possible criminal activity which has not been investigated at Spirit Lake have been provided by sources who are enrolled members or former employees with close ties to a large number of enrolled residents of Spirit Lake.

    The bias reflected in all of these non-investigations at Spirit Lake may well rise to the standard set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in their decision in the Oravec case.

    7. On June 27, 2013, a meeting was convened in Bismarck, ND in the offices of Scott Davis, Indian Affairs Commissioner for the state of North Dakota. The meeting was attended by Mr. Davis, congressional staff from the offices of the two senators and one representative and a delegation of enrolled members from the Spirit Lake Nation, including several Elders, former Tribal Judges, a former Tribal Chair and several former Council members.During the meeting Mr. Davis made several derogatory remarks about me and the Reports I had been filing. Mr. Davis has never made any attempt to me to speak with me or to discuss my Reports with me.

    Ms. Molly McDonald, a former Spirit Lake Tribal Judge challenged Mr. Davis on his derogatory remarks about me. She said, “I have never met Tom Sullivan but he is the only fed we trust. After more than five years of complaining about conditions at Spirit Lake to tribal, state and federal government officials who did nothing in response to our complaints, he is the only one who returned our calls. What is in his reports are our stories told to him by us, faithfully recorded and reported by him. Tom Sullivan is the only one we trust in government at any level.” I am not aware of any response from Mr. Davis to Ms. McDonald.

    Mr. Davis is a good example of those who have libeled and slandered me. They have never met me and apparently have not read my on-line bio available at the ACF Region 8 web site. Clearly most have done little more than skim thru my 13 Reports about Spirit Lake, if they have done even that. None have sought me out to discuss the basis for my strongly held opinions about the unacceptable treatment of so many Native American children at Spirit Lake. For many, like Mr. Davis, those children seem to be an after-thought.

    8. I believe the highest obligation for every adult, whether working for government or not, who is aware of this situation is to insure the safety of those children who were abruptly removed from safe, off-reservation placements and returned to on-reservation placements in many cases to the full-time care and custody of known sex offenders where they were available to be raped daily as well as those children placed in unsafe homes in the care of addicts and abusers as a result of decisions made by BIA, TSS and Tribal Court.

    The leadership of my agency has instructed me that my belief that the safety of those children is paramount in this matter does not reflect the policy position of either my agency or my department. Despite my request for the Agency’s and Department’s policy in these circumstances, no one in that leadership has provided any information on what that is.

    From what my sources and I have experienced during the last 18 months the highest priority of the state, the FBI, BIA as well as other federal agencies has been to silence us, to label us as liars, as incompetents not qualified to identify the abuse of a child, to minimize the seriousness of this situation with their fabricated, self-serving claims. Among those claims are, “It’s a new problem.”; “This problem arose because the Tribe lost the person responsible for filing their forms.”; “If those whistleblowers would shut up everything would be fine.”; “Everything is fine.”; “They are making great progress.”; “You are expecting too much progress too quickly.”; “They are working hard.”; “it’s all fixed.”; “We’re doing a great job for kids.”; “You are not a subject matter expert.”

    None of these claims were true when spoken. None are true now.

    If that self-serving approach were held by those who served on the Grand Jury that indicted Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, there would have been no indictments. It would have been decided that none of the witnesses against Sandusky were credible because Jerry would have told the Grand Jury all of those witnesses were lying and they would have believed him.

    Are the children of State College, PA more deserving of protection from child rape than the American Indian children of Spirit Lake, ND? If not, why the lengthy delay in rescuing the children of Spirit Lake from their rapists?

    It appears that every agency involved with Spirit Lake has elected to follow a path that leaves young, defenseless children in the full-time care and custody of addicts and sexual predators rather than getting these children into safe homes as quickly as possible. In doing this, these agencies and their actions track the same path followed by the leadership of both Penn State and the Catholic Church when these organizations sought to protect their institution’s reputation by covering up the rape of children. I believe such an approach is wrong, disastrous for those children and with the capacity to do significant long term damage to the reputation of the agencies involved.

    If your son or daughter were in the full time care and custody of known addicts and rapists and had been for more than a year, would you agree with those public agencies which wished to study the issue to determine what course of action to follow, knowing the study would take another year? Or would you demand that your children be removed immediately from the care and custody of addicts and rapists and that those same addicts and rapists be indicted for their crimes?

    9. Almost a month ago a good friend and supporter of mine sent me an email recounting a conversation she had just had with a congressional staff member by the name of Kenneth Martin who works for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Apparently, Mr. Martin had a quite strong reaction when my name came up during their meeting. I understand Mr. Martin to have said, “He no longer has that job.” “It would be illegal to prohibit him from filing Mandated Reports.” “Mr. Sullivan is a liar and that would be proven in a hearing.”

    Mr. Martin has never attempted to speak with me. He has never sent me any written inquiries about my Reports. If he has copies of them, I doubt that he has spent much time in reviewing them. I can only assume his comments were driven by prior conversations with Washington, DC staff from BIA, DOJ or my own agency. Wherever they come from, he has made slanderous statements about me.

    I still work for ACF as Regional Administrator in Denver.

    I also believe prohibiting me from filing Mandated Reports is an illegal act. I trust he has initiated a congressional oversight investigation into this matter to determine whether there is a factual basis to proceed to indictments.

I would be pleased to appear before the US Senate Indian Affairs Committee if I were subpoenaed, placed under oath and asked to answer any questions about conditions at Spirit Lake. Then we would know who the real liars are.

Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

###

Dec 042013
 

 

George Sheldon, Former Director of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), made it clear in April, 2013, that the ACF does not want to hear about atrocities occurring at Spirit Lake. He further stated the ACF stands firmly behind the behavior of the BIA, FBI and US Attorney at Spirit Lake – despite numerous reports from Spirit Lake residents as well as ACF’s own Regional Director, Tom Sullivan, that horrific child abuse has been ignored by the federal agencies.

The horrific child abuse that Mr. Sullivan reported to Mr. Sheldon in 2012 and 2013 was supported by a recent CNN segment (Oct, 1013) entitled “Sexual Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation.”

Further, had Mr. Sheldon listened to Mr. Sullivan, toddler Lauryn Whiteshield might be alive today.

Capitol Hill

Dec 032013
 
Corruption at the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

In October, CNN did a segment called “Sexual abuse rampant on Indian Reservation.” Questions were raised as to how and why our federal government could be turning its back on children on reservations across the country. Tom Sullivan, Regional Administrator for the federal ACF, had been telling his superiors about the horrific handling of children for over a year. We now have documents between Tom Sullivan and his superiors.

Had the ACF listened to him and done its job, toddler Lauryn Whiteshield would be alive right now.

Our children have been viewed as collateral damage in DC’s ongoing political games for far too long.

An email from Tom Sullivan to his superiors is below. More documents to follow.

—————————————————-

Congressman Issa,

Thursday morning, Mr. Kenneth Martin, senior aide to Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, made several disparaging remarks concerning ACF Regional Administrator, Thomas Sullivan and suggested a hearing would reveal lies.

What Mr. Sullivan had been pointing out in a series of mandated reports is that the ACF, BIA, FBI and US attorney have not been doing their jobs on the Spirit Lake Reservation. In fact, what many Spirit Lake tribal members have been saying is that our federal government is allowing tragedy to occur despite the pleas of people living there.

We want that hearing Mr. Martin suggested. We need our government to investigate Mr. Sullivan’s claims – and we need our government to investigate similar situations on other reservations.

Read the emails:

———- Forwarded message ———-

Lauryn Whiteshield, July 19, 2010 - June 13, 2013

Lauryn Whiteshield, July 19, 2010 – June 13, 2013

From: “Elizabeth Morris” [email protected]>
Date: Nov 22, 2013 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: Mr. Tom Sullivan’s email concerning Spirit Lake
To: “Martin, Kenneth (Indian Affairs)” [email protected]>
Cc: “Thompson, Mariah (Indian Affairs)” [email protected]>

Thank you for your note, Mr. Martin. I appreciate it.I hope you will also concede at some point that we are not “cherry picking.” It is time to admit the depth of what is happening on many reservations. No more playing politics with the lives of a vulnerable community – let alone vulnerable children.

My sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews – at the very least – are worth much more than that, (if I can speak personally. It is after all, for personal reasons that my husband and I began this work in the first place.)

But I will not stop with just our extended family. Too many people have come asking for help.

We insist that the facts Mr. Sullivan and others have presented be acted upon.

Thank you again for your response.

—————

On Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 8:31 AM, Martin, Kenneth (Indian Affairs) [email protected]> wrote:

Ms. Morris,

Thank you for the email. I apologize as I must have misspoke, as I have no information on the issues surrounding Mr. Sullivan and did not intend to insinuate otherwise. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

Kenneth Martin

—————-

From: Elizabeth Morris [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, November 21, 2013 8:15 PM
To: Thompson, Mariah (Indian Affairs); Martin, Kenneth (Indian Affairs)
Subject: Mr. Tom Sullivan’s email concerning Spirit Lake

Ms. Thompson and Mr. Martin

Shortly after our conversation concerning Mr. Tom Sullivan of the ACF, I received this email. It appears to address some of the very issues we had discussed.

Mr. Martin, you had suggested that a hearing would prove Mr. Sullivan had lied. I wonder if it might come to that.

I would appreciate your comments concerning the below. Thanks -

—————————————-

Begin forwarded message:
From: “Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)”
Date: November 21, 2013 1:45:05 PM EST
To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)” [email protected]>
Cc: “Chang, Joo Yeun (ACF)” <[email protected]>, “McCauley, Mike (ACF)” [email protected]>, “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)” [email protected]>

Subject: Spirit Lake

Marrianne:

In the early evening of October 21, 2013, CNN broadcast a detailed and substantive report entitled “Sex Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation” about the epidemic of child sexual abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. That broadcast ran a little more than 6 months after former Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon’s April 15, 2013 letter to me prohibiting me, in my official capacity as Denver Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), from filing any more Mandated Reports about child sexual abuse at Spirit Lake. Since that policy applied only to me, I believed it was retaliatory and discriminatory.

Your refusal to announce this new policy with any of the other 1500 ACF employees across this country is a clear signal to me that I have been singled out for this retaliatory and discriminatory action which, because of your silence, continues to this very day.

Your continuing exclusion of me from any participation in efforts to address the problems at Spirit Lake is further evidence of retaliation and discrimination.

Mr. Sheldon’s letter to me was accompanied by letters to the BIA’s Ms. Settles and US Attorney Purdon. Unlike his letter to me, his letters to them were full of high praise for their efforts in addressing the epidemic of child sexual abuse at Spirit Lake..

Since I had no contact with Mr. Sheldon after October 11, 2012 and since at that time he had made clear his displeasure with my Mandated Reports, and since I had responded to that displeasure with extensive factual documentation of conditions at Spirit Lake, I was surprised by his letter to me. His unqualified endorsement of the efforts of Ms. Settles and Mr. Purdon was and still is shocking, lacking, as it did, any factual basis for the high praise heaped on them. This contrasted sharply with the factual detail provided in my Mandated Reports.

Believing that Mr. Sheldon must have had some factual basis for the position detailed in his letters to Ms. Settles and Mr. Purdon, I have asked twice for those facts. None have been provided. My emails have been ignored by both you and Mr. Sheldon. I can only presume there are no facts available to justify your position.

My sources have been complaining to Tribal, state and federal agency leadership for more than five years about conditions at Spirit Lake and the maltreatment of children there. Their complaints have been ignored and continue to be ignored. Their documentation unread and then shredded.

I have filed 13 Mandated Reports. All have been ignored or characterized as rumors or exaggerations by Tribal, state, BIA, DOJ as well as other federal agencies. Facts and truth mean little to those charged with defending both the status quo at Spirit Lake and themselves. More importantly the safety of abused American Indian children at Spirit Lake appears to have meant even less. As a result of their misleading puffery more than 100 children remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators available to be raped daily.

On September 23, 2013, I sent an email to Mr. Sheldon concerning the situation with a young suicidal boy who had fled his foster home. You responded that “Marilyn Kennerson is working with the BIA and tribe to make sure all appropriate measures are being taken to assure this child’s safety.” My sources inform me that nothing has changed for this young boy.

Claims have been made that every allegation in my Mandated Reports have been investigated. Many of my sources say otherwise because they have not been interviewed by anyone in law enforcement. This claim becomes even harder to believe when the US Attorney for North Dakota has indicted, sought a plea deal or prosecuted only one case of child sexual abuse originating on the Spirit Lake Reservation in the last 25 months. I have been told by experienced child protection workers from Spirit Lake that in a typical year there are, on average, 50 cases of child sexual abuse reported, investigated, confirmed and referred for prosecution. Why has the US Attorney prosecuted only one case of child sexual abuse from Spirit Lake in the last 25 months, a case where the actual sexual abuse occurred between 2007 – 2009. Just learned the US Attorney for North Dakota has filed one more charge of child sexual abuse in the last few days, doubling his numbers for the prior 24 months.

Law enforcement at every level at Spirit Lake, including the FBI, BIA, Tribal police and the US Attorney have allowed the Tribal Council to determine which criminal activities will be investigated and prosecuted. For confirmation of this fact please review the last page of the Spirit Lake Tribal Council Meeting Minutes for September 27, 2013, attached for your convenience.

The apparent unwillingness of government at any level to protect the children at Spirit Lake from abuse creates the impression there is a large, unannounced experiment being conducted at Spirit Lake to determine what harm, if any, would be done to abused children who are returned to the care of either their abusive biological parents or abusive foster parents before these parents have completed their court-ordered rehabilitation therapy. But in order for such an experiment to be conducted there would have to be a rigorous research design, with control groups, opportunities for informed consent and extensive data collection. No such safeguards are apparent but children continue to be placed with abusive adults. How strange, all we have is abused children being returned to abusive parents with none of the other elements required for a legitimate research project. Why is such experimentation on these children being tolerated?

Certainly, no one can claim the hypothesis that abused children can be returned to their abusive homes without harm to those children has been proven. Who is responsible for attempting to prove it at Spirit Lake?

A perfect example of this experimentation and the Tribal Council’s control of criminal investigation and prosecution at Spirit Lake is the Tribal Court order from 5 – 6 months ago returning to a biological mother her children even though she has been charged with and convicted in Tribal Court of sexual abuse of her children – she was discovered by police in bed having sex with a male friend while all her children, one of them totally naked, were in the same bed.

The biological mom lives with her children’s grandfather. The children were recently evaluated at the Red River Advocacy Center (RRAC) and it was determined that two of the girls, ages 6 and 7, were being sexually abused by that very same grandfather. The recommendation of the RRAC was that these children were “not to be left alone with the grandfather”. There is a young teenage son in this family who attempted suicide three times before his 14th birthday. The grandfather who has never been charged or prosecuted for his criminal sexual assaults on his granddaughters is the uncle of a Tribal Council member. There is no indication that anyone from law enforcement has launched an investigation of the grandfather’s alleged sexual abuse. It is likely that Council Member would oppose any Council Motion to refer this situation for criminal investigation of his uncle.

The father of these children has petitioned Tribal Court to assume custody. I understand his petitions have been routinely dismissed even though he is ready, able and willing to assume responsibility for his children, caring for them in a safe home. The mother of these children is an enrolled Tribal member. Their father is not.

Conducting an assessment at this point after more than five years of complaints from my sources and after my 13 Mandated Reports seems to simply delay the desperately needed corrective action to get those 100 children to safety. As one of my sources recently wrote, “…when will the government realize we are serious about this….kids are being raped and nobody in law enforcement gives a damn”.

Natalie Stites, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and former Project Coordinator in the Attorney General’s office on the Rosebud Reservation writing in LastRealIndians.com in December, 2011 speaks words that need to be considered here, “There are thousands of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children experiencing abuse and neglect….. Over a third of women raped today were sexually assaulted as children. Sadly all too often abused and neglected children become perpetrators themselves as adolescents and as adults……..There are many complex reasons for the conditions facing the children today: lack of compassion, colonization, epigenetics, grief, violence, the feminization of poverty, the school-to-prison pipeline, organized sexual abuse, unemployment, mental illness, addiction, racism, cultural oppression. These are the roots of our current situation…………….

However, try explaining this to the 5 year old boy who hasn’t eaten a meal in two days, or a beaten 8 year old girl caring for an infant and a toddler like she’s the parent, or a 15 year old youth who faces and eventually joins his addicted parents and the drunken strangers they bring home to party every night. Try explaining to these children why family members, social workers, policy makers, police, courts, schools, health care providers cannot protect them, even after their own parents fail them, or abandon them, or hurt them. Who takes responsibility for this? We must.”

When will we take responsibility?

After your assessment? How long will that take?

How many more months will the Tribe allow this experimentation with their children to continue?

Have a great Thanksgiving.
Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

———————————————-

From: Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)
Sent: Friday, November 01, 2013 6:22 AM
To: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
Cc: Chang, Joo Yeun (ACF/ACYF) (ACF); McCauley, Mike (ACF)
Subject: Spirit Lake

Good morning Tom: Attached and below is a memo about ACF’s work on Spirit Lake moving forward.

Tom, as a courtesy based on your expressed interest in matters at Spirit Lake, I wanted to let you know that Children’s Bureau has been actively working with the Spirit Lake tribe on improving their child protection services.

Currently, the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services, funded by CB, is conducting an assessment of Spirit Lake social services. As you may know, numerous assessments have been started over the past 18 months, but leadership changes have stalled and ultimately stopped these processes. Now, however, the new Tribal chair and the new social services director are moving forward with the assessment. Once this assessment is complete, it will provide a roadmap for the policies, practices, procedures and staffing levels that the Tribe needs to establish a successful agency. The Children’s Bureau will work hand-in-hand with the Tribe to follow that map and to ensure that all available resources are brought to bear for the Tribe to be successful in better protecting its children.

I want to be clear with you that the Children’s Bureau is leading this effort for ACF and will manage work with both the Tribal leadership and the Tribal social services staff moving forward. The Children’s Bureau will also be the principal liaison with the state of North Dakota, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Dept. of Justice to address child protective issues at Spirit Lake.

As the Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary, the Children’s Bureau, and the Administration for Native Americans have worked to address concerns at Spirit Lake over the past year, it has become clear that Region 8 IORA involvement has damaged some of the most critical relationships needed for achieving progress for the children and families of Spirit Lake. It is our full intention to rebuild these relationships and move forward in a collegial and productive direction.

Tom, I know you share ACF’s goal of establishing a strong social service system at Spirit Lake that can act quickly and effectively to protect children who may be in danger. It is my expectation that you will refer all future inquiries to the Department concerning Spirit Lake to the Children’s Bureau and respect the Bureau’s role in leading and coordinating the Department’s efforts to achieve the goal of protecting Spirit Lake’s children.

————————————————————

### END FORWARDED MESSAGE

Oct 222013
 
Suffer the Children. Sexual Abuse of kids on the Spirit Lake Reservation

BIA response re: Sullivan’s citations of abuse – “They have been investigated.” Right. Sure. Someone moved a file from one drawer to another. Investigation over.

Not one honest person at Spirit Lake believes real investigations have ever been done. But notice as well that they say things have been “Investigated” and then leave it at that. So if things have been investigated, – when do the prosecutions begin? Everyone at Spirit Lake KNOWS the abuse is really happening – they have seen it with their own eyes. If the FBI has investigated and found nothing – then everyone knows that the FBI didn’t even try. Because nothing is hard to investigate. So much of it is right out there where everyone knows about it.

- Yet the BIA is trying to pretend it isn’t happening. WHY? What’s WRONG with the jerks at the BIA? Do they think tribal members are nobodies, so don’t have to be listened to? Do they think the rest of America doesn’t care about what is happening, and will tire of the story and forget about it? Do they think they can continue to sweep it under the rug?

WATCH THE VIDEO:

Sex Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation

WE ARE HERE TO ENSURE THEY CAN’T CONTINUE TO SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG. This WON’T be ignored.

Oct 182013
 
Empty Swing

Traveling Thursday, I stopped to visit a couple that first contacted CAICW several years ago.

Parts of their story are common, parts unusual. Fighting for their child for years, they have rarely had foster care status. This means the care they have given their child has been out-of-pocket most of the time.

This – while the tribal government has refused to allow them any legal status, let alone permission to adopt.

The tribal government has retained control without any obligation to provide financially. Instead, they have treated this couple as glorified babysitters – knowing that the love this couple has will not allow them to turn the child away. Emotional blackmail?

Further – the couple’s attorney had not been allowed to practice in tribal court. This is something that happens in many tribal courts but goes completely ignored by our Congress. Tribal leadership has a right to decide which attorneys can practice in their courts and are inclined to only allow attorneys who agree with tribal sovereignty and will not confront blatant civil rights violations.

The fact that an attorney’s ability to practice can be pulled at the whim of the court is strong incentive for an attorney to play by tribal government rules.

That said – a party with an argument against tribal government, who wants to argue their case on the basis of civil rights, will have to appeal out of tribal court into federal court before their attorney can stand and represent them.

Either that, or choose from among the tribal court’s accepted attorneys who could have an interest in protecting the assumed rights of tribal government first and the rights of their client second.

Congress – you continually claim to be protecting tribal members while at the same time laying law upon law forcing tribal members into a box, with no options other than forced submission to a corrupt tribal government.

(Again – the current version of the Violence Against Women Act forces women

    of every heritage

into tribal court where they can be victimized a second time. I will keep saying this until someone wakes up and does something about it.)

All United States citizens are guaranteed Due Process, Equal Protection and Right to Counsel – Unless our Congress has handed jurisdiction of them over to a tribal court.

BTW – just as a reminder: about 60 tribal governments are currently in the process of changing their constitutions to lower the blood quantum necessary for membership. NO one but current tribal members have any say in this decision.

This is likely to happen – and without the personal consent of those who will find themselves caught up in the net.

I don’t know how many individuals these new memberships will affect, but you can imagine the number of children, like Veronica, with less than 5% heritage, who will now fall under ICWA. They will change overnight from being average American citizens with full rights under the United States Constitution, to being defined as “Indian Children” without full protection of U.S. constitutional rights.

I am in Indiana now. I might stop to see my editor today. We’ve worked together for about a year, but haven’t yet met face to face.

Grace be with you –

Lisa

Sep 202013
 
Sweet Girl Don't Die

Scriptural Basis for Social ActionDear, dear friends:  Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and spiritual and emotional support over the years.  When I think back to the state Roland and I were in when we first came to Jesus Christ, I am so extremely grateful for all the kind, patient people who came alongside and walked us through very troubled, difficult times.

I don’t know what we would have done – had we not come into the loving, compassionate community that the Lord led us to.

What is happening today is difficult, but not like it was back then. Having gotten through those years, I know we can get through anything.

Thank you so much for standing strong despite the recent harsh attacks.    When under this kind of attack – being told that we are not only NOT Christian, but we are stumbling blocks for tribal members to come to Christ – it can leave a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach.  It is vital that all of our supporters search their souls and pray.  I know the amount Roland and I prayed about all this and the number of people who have prayed with us through the years.  We’ve already been back and forth and sideways about it all.  I stand comfortably in what we have been doing – knowing that I am, indeed, doing what God has asked of me.

I pray that all our supporters feel secure in their conviction as well.  If not – be certain to talk and pray about it with your pastors and others close to you. It is important for everyone to feel comfortable in where they stand.

What gives assurance is the many people who have written or called over the years to say, “Thank You. Your ministry was a blessing for our family.”   They don’t even know how much it means to hear this from them, especially during difficult times.   May God continue to bless each and every one of them.

Although no brick and mortar church or Christian organization has come along side to help this ministry, we are not alone in this walk in the least.Dying In Indian Country

To have Reed Elley, former Minister of Parliament from Canada and a Baptist minister who had raised children of Native heritage, call Roland and I out of the blue in 2001 – and tell us he had read my manuscript (which I had sent to one of his colleagues, never having heard of Reed Elley before) and tell us that he was 100% behind what we are doing and saying – and to continue to be a friend and prayer support from that point forward, has been amazing.

Dr. William B. AllenTo have Dr. William B. Allen, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, not only make the effort to meet with us in Washington DC on three separate occasions, but to be the keynote speaker at our ICWA forum on October 29, 2011, in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room, and to write a forward to my book, has been amazing.Rob Natelson

And it hasn’t been just Christian friends, alone, walking with us.

Rob Natelson, the same Rob Natelson cited by Justice Clarence Thomas in his June, 2013, concurrence in the case “Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl,” who had been a supportive friend since around 1995 or so, called in 2002 to tell me he had finally read a copy of my manuscript and was amazed.  He wanted me to continue writing like that. At the time, he knew I was considering law school as he had written a recommendation for me.  So I asked him, “Rob, should I write or go to law school?” He couldn’t answer right away. He had to think about it.  In the end, he told me to write.

I am so, so grateful for the long term strength and support of people like this – as well as so many other amazing friends and supporters.   Their encouragement helps ward off fiery darts of the enemy.

Thank you, Jesus, for all the wonderful people who have come alongside us through the years.  I would continue doing what I am doing even if totally alone… but the fact that I am not alone makes me tear up with thankfulness.   Thank you, Jesus, for the blessed gift of friends.

  •  Gal. 2:10   “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
  • Prov. 31:8-9   “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
  • Acts 5:29   “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men.”

The phone call with Roland’s sister the other night helped keep perspective as well.  My sister-in-law, “Annie,”committing slow suicide as we have seen so many in our extended family do, wants me to come be with her and give her courage to have triple bypass surgery.  But… we went over this same potential surgery last September when she was here with me for ten days or so and ended up in the hospital.  She and I both know… she refused it then – and isn’t going to do it, now, either.  She does not want to quit drinking long enough to stay in the hospital and get healthy.  That is the reality.  Because I am four hours away, my not being there is a convenient reason not to do the surgery.

Sierra Campbell, celebrating her high school graduation with her adoptive family

Sierra Campbell, celebrating her high school graduation with her adoptive family

We talked about the possibility of her not waking up in the morning.  I told her to go to her doctor and tell them she changed her mind. As soon as she is in the hospital, I will go sit with her every minute and not leave. We talked about her drinking herself to death as her sister had done.  I asked her if she is ready to go to heaven.

This is what it is all about.  This is what it is all about.

“When I call on Jesus, all things are possible….”   Dear Jesus, I am calling on you.

 

Is ICWA a distraction from helping people to know Jesus?

Our org is both a family Advocacy AND a Christian ministry.  Family advocacy IS a Christian Ministry, but they are also two different things.  Both necessary.

As much as our detractors want to make this all about Veronica being taken from her birth father…we have been at this for years before Veronica was taken from her home by an unconstitutional federal law.  Despite the complicated matter this case has become, we can’t give up on a 7-year old boy who is threatened with removal from his non-tribal grandmother in order to be given to a tribal grandmother who has neglected him in the past.  He is currently under threat simply because a tribal social worker says this is what is happening and there isn’t anything that the other family can do about it.

Is ICWA a distraction from helping people to know Jesus?   The emotional and physical needs of this little boy is a current hands-on reality and has been placed before us.   The supposition, on the other hand, that we could cause someone to reject Jesus Christ is merely a supposition.  It may or may not have validity.  However, the purpose the supposition was said had nothing to do with sincere concern for Salvation. It was said to hurt and quiet us.

We can’t give up on that little boy, nor can we give up on a 3-year-old girl in a north-eastern state with strong and very real emotional and attachment issues, nor can we give up on any of the other families we are working with.  We can’t drop these children and families out of fear that someone in another state will reject Jesus and blame it on us.

Isn’t that like… Annie saying she won’t go to surgery if I am not there?

It’s a threat – and a manipulative, but potentially effective one, at that.   Effective in that it is potentially strong enough to change the actions of the accused.  (I am not blaming Annie. I understand why she is doing it)

I love Annie.  I love Annie.  I do not want her to die.  But I can’t change her any more than I could change Roland.

Who was it just the other day that said that Roland was able to change because he had me?  Oh yes – LOL – it was Annie herself on the phone!  I told her, “No. Roland lived with me for ten years prior to coming to Jesus Christ – and I had absolutely no ability to stop his drinking.  It was Jesus Christ who changed Roland.”   She said, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s right…”

Lord Jesus, what do I do with Annie?  What do I do???

Baptism at Leech Lake, 2005, following CAICW Music Ministry

Baptism at Leech Lake, 2005, following CAICW Music Ministry

Our evangelical ministry MUST become more of a reality.  The RJM home MUST become more than just a dream.   How many times during my talk with Annie did I wish it was already a reality?  How I wish for a place that can help my family and others with huge, insurmountable addictions.

But our ministry to children and families fighting federal Indian policy is just as much a true ministry and need.  Both aspects of the ministry have potential to bring people to the Saving Knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

It is about reaching out to help where the need is.  Do you sit back and do nothing while watching someone put a noose around their neck?  Do you say it is none of your business?  Do you chase a drunk off of a 10-year-old girl, or do you cower in fear and vow to notify the authorities as soon as you get around to it?

KNOWING that abuse and neglect are occurring at the high levels we know it is occurring, it would be despicable to look the other way and obediently do what tribal and federal government tells us to do – just so as not to make anyone mad.  Forget it.

 

 - BTW – to those who are good enough to be concerned about how our money is spent: It is always good to be on one’s toes and monitor non-profits about that kind of thing.  Corruption can occur at many levels and is especially hateful if children are being exploited.   But to save you time and energy, you can note that I have already written openly about our expenses – and documents have been filed to the appropriate agencies.    Read here -  How I Make Money off of Kids and Unsuspecting Donors: Transparency is a virtue

False accusations for the sole purpose of hurting and shutting people up is not a virtue.  Sign petitions with garbage written on them, demand an investigation. Whatever.  Your efforts are in vain.  I won’t stop speaking and writing.   You are just giving me more to write about.

 

TRAMP FOR THE LORD.

An email sent to friends a couple weeks ago….

Prayer friends,

I am going to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done… This is a new season of life.  I am packing up and hitting the road this fall. I am going to DC to stay there for a little while, “educating” legislators, as well as traveling wherever needed to encourage, speak, and teach.

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, February , 2013

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, February , 2013

No more playing games.  I have been sickened by what I have seen in Oklahoma and Spirit Lake – not to mention Leech Lake.  Did I tell you that it was Roland’s 16-year old grandson who was shot at ***********   in July?   I hadn’t seen him since Roland passed, and before that, since he was a baby.  He did survive this drug related shooting (possibly drugs or drug money stolen from his own father).

But… I know my husband’s angst.  I know the fear he had for that boy.  If it isn’t as bad as Roland and I have said it is – how come he was able to look at this child and foretell what could become of him?   This is exactly the thing Roland was afraid would happen.  Dear Lord Jesus, this has to stop.

….I am looking to the Lord to direct my time, work, and even where I rest my head at any point in time – whether it be in DC, Florida, Kansas, or any of the 50 states.

I am truly looking forward to God guiding and directing everything.

I realize that our detractors won’t be satisfied unless we are in agreement with them.  Those who claim we are “pushing Indians away from the Lord” appear to be people who despise Jesus anyway, and are just tossing that out in an attempt to somehow hurt.  Clearly, they don’t fully understand who Jesus is and what He actually stood for.

After all, he wasn’t nailed to the cross because everyone loved what he had to say.  And Stephen wasn’t stoned to death out of love, either.  I could continue on with the apostles, Polycarp, John Hus, etc., but I will stop there.   Taking an actual stand for Christ isn’t always a warm, fuzzy thing.

What is being done to children in the name of tribal sovereignty is horrific – and I won’t shut up about it.

For others who say they are Christians but question our heart and commitment to the Lord… They have forgotten the key responsibility of those truly concerned about the actions of Christan brethren:

Matt 18:15 – “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (NIV)

In other words – “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” (NLT)

IN other words – “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (KJV)

None of the accusers have come to me first, privately, to ask questions and find out truth.  On the contrary they have immediately believed the worst and lashed out.
I look forward to our Christian brethren coming to me personally to talk over issues with our ministry.  It will be much easier in a one-on-one situation for me to point out the Scripture our ministry has stood on for these last fifteen years or so and perhaps share with them some of the feedback we have gotten from various families concerning the blessing this ministry has been for them.  I can even show them letters.

 

Thank you to all our friends who have stood by us through thick and thin.

Thank you, Jesus, for continually guiding, directing, and even carrying us at times.  Thank, thank you, dear Lord.  Please put a hedge of protection around all of us and our families as we continue this work.

 

Destination Heaven

Sep 142013
 
FAMILY, 2000

I was interviewed this week by an AP reporter.  Wishing to avoid a repeat of the disingenuous interview I had two weeks earlier with the reporter from “Religion” News Service, who did NOT report who did NOT report things as they were actually said, I asked the AP reporter if she wouldn’t mind writing questions down for me.  I told her that I could then either simply write out my answers (ensuring accuracy for both of us) or talk on the phone.

This are my responses to her six questions:

 

1.       Can you talk about the founding of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare. Why did you and your husband want to start the organization?

This was all explained to the reporter, Angela Aleiss of Religion News Service, as well. None of it was important enough to include in her article.  As you have spent time reporting on things in the Dakotas, I am praying you will be able to see his heart a little easier than this reporter from Los Angeles was able to.

My husband was a man of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in the 1950′s. He didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old and began kindergarten. His fondest memories were of “ricing season” – the time in the early fall when the wild rice was ripe on the lake and the community would pitch tents down there and spend a couple weeks “ricing” the traditional way. He said it was like the Christmas Holiday is for us.

Roland and his newborn, 1990We had five children together and raised four of his relatives’ children as well. They were placed with us through ICWA – their parents were addicted to crack. So that was nine kids total. (not a total of 13 as stated by the other reporter)  When the four came to stay with us, they were all very young. The youngest was only a year old. I had 8 kids under the age of 8 at the time (and one 12-year-old)

It was, as you can imagine, very difficult. I raised all of the kids to the age of 18 (although one was in therapeutic care for a couple years). I kept the four even through my husband’s terminal illness. You see, he was very afraid of turning them back to the tribe – even though we were struggling very hard to raise them all. He had seen too many very bad things happen to children in his family. He knew what his extended family was capable of doing to children. We knew of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. I was at the funeral of a 2-yr-old who was beaten to death. I chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl. He didn’t know I was on the bed when he pushed her onto my legs, trying to take her pants off. And there is so much more.

The other reporter, despite being told this, chose to make the story about me and MY motivation for getting involved.

As a man of 100% heritage – my husband had made the decision to raise his kids elsewhere, off the reservation, because of the danger and corruption going on at Leech Lake.

The fact is – he isn’t alone. 75% of tribal members, (according to the last two U.S. censuses) do NOT live on the reservation. Many have left for the same reason he did (not all have left for the same reasons – but many)

Because of his fear of his children ever being raised on the reservation, he feared what would happen if we both died. He had also become a Christian and had led me to the Lord. This can be confirmed by his cousins as well as many others who were around at the time.  He was determined to raise his children Christian and so wanted me to be a Christian as well. He did not want t

Roland and Senator Conrad Burns, 1997

Roland and Senator Conrad Burns, 1997; Click for link to his 1998 Senate Testimony

he tribe to move the kids to the reservation or place them with relatives. If he died, he wanted one of our Christian friends to finish raising our kids.

So – it is for all these reasons that he disliked the Indian Child Welfare Act and began to speak out against it. This was in the 1990′s. We made a website – and as we wrote about the law, people across the country began to contact him.

You see, at the time, when you would google ICWA – all you would get is all the sites that supported ICWA. Ours was the only one that didn’t. So people began to contact us and ask for help. Tribal members and non-members. Birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

Their stories broke our hearts. Lots of abuse of children – by tribal

governments. But we were just two parents, no different than them. Roland continued to speak up though, and had opportunity to give testimony to the Senate Committee, among other opportunities.

In February 2004, we founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare so we could help other families better. It has been a blessing every time we have been able to help someone – because we are small and simply do the best we can. We give all credit to God for whatever we are able to do.

When Melanie Capobianco first contacted us in July of 2011, we did our best to help her as well. I have found her to be a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, woman. She has been able to back up everything she has said with documentation.  As the Supreme Court of the United States noted, the ICWA should NOT have been used to prevent this adoption. According to Oklahoma law, there is only 90 days after birth in which a father can show his interest in paternity. If he does not do this, he loses his right to object to an adoption. He is not considered a legal parent.

Mr. Brown exceeded that. He also exceeded the limits under South Carolina law. He admitted in the first family court – documented on the court record for all to see – that he did not, in truth, make any attempt to contact, inquire about, or provide for this baby in any way, shape or form. By the laws of both states, he had lost his right to object to an adoption. In the meantime, Matt Capobianco was there at the birth and cut the cord. THAT is the fact that the states (and SCOTUS) have been ruling on.

2.       What, in your opinion, are the problems with ICWA? Why is it harmful?

We are told time and again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) isn’t about race or percentages, but about preserving a dying culture.

There is much benefit in enjoying ones heritage and culture.

Everyone of us has a historical heritage. Some hold great value to it and want to live the traditional culture (to a certain extent. Few try to REALLY live traditional), others only want to dabble for fun – but others aren’t interested at all.

My children have the option of enjoying Ojibwe traditional, German Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Scottish Protestant heritage. We told them as they were growing up that each one of their heritages are interesting and valuable. (While at the same time making it clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.)

Most of us whose families have been in America for more than a couple generations are multi-heritage. Even most tribal members are multi-heritage. All individuals have a right to choose which heritage they want to identify with. If one of my children were to choose to identify with his or her Irish heritage, it would be racist for anyone – even a Congressman – to say that their tribal heritage was more important.

Beth, September 1987There are times to speak softly, and other times when people and situations need to be firmly set right.  This is a time for firmness. For those who think I don’t have a right to speak because I am not “native,” think again.  As long as they are claiming multi-heritage children, I have a right to and WILL speak. They are claiming jurisdiction over MY children and grandchildren.

Reality Check: It is up to families and their ethnic communities to preserve traditional culture amongst themselves if they value it. That is the same no matter what heritage is the question.  Many groups do this by living or working in close proximity – such as in Chinatown, or Dearborn, Michigan – or any of the ethnic neighborhoods within large cities. It is a very normal thing for humans to do.

But no other community has asked the federal government to enforce cultural compliance to that community.  The federal government has NO right to be forcing a heritage or culture onto an individual or family.  Contrary to what Congress assumed, my children are NOT the tribal government’s children – nor are they “commerce” under the “Commerce Clause” the ICWA was based on.

To those who constantly parrot that “white people” are “stealing” THEIR children, Wrong:  TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS are currently stealing OUR birth children.

I am NOT comfortable phrasing it that way IN THE LEAST. I try to avoid talking about race in ways that give it any kind of validity.  Tribal governments and the BIA, although claiming to the contrary, are the ones making “race” an issue.

  • There is no gene in our DNA for “race” according to the Genome Project. All there is are genes from familial traits such as color of hair and shape of cheekbones, etc.  In fact, the Genome Project has traced all DNA back to one singular family.
  • Those ‘DNA tests’ for ‘race’ don’t actually test for race. They test for the genes that show up primarily within a people group – in actuality a “family” gene – and the location of that people group is mapped.  The assumption is then made that this is a “racial marker.”
  • There is NO inherent gene in persons of Native American descent that will cause them to have “Split Feather” if not raised within Indian Country. “Specialists” in “Split Feather” simply blame any mental health issue that comes up on this fictitious malady.  The “studies” on “Split Feather” have serious flaws – i.e: taking a small sample of children, some of whom have alcohol related birth defects, who had been abused and neglected by birth parents and then placed in Caucasian foster homes – and blaming ALL later emotional difficulties on the fact that they were in Caucasian homes without any real regard for the precipitating issues.
  • My husband and I did not make race an issue in our multi-heritage home. Although we recognized the treasure in all heritages, we chose to make Jesus the bigger and better focus.

Those who accuse us of genocide for demanding that tribal government keep their hands off our kids need to get something straight.  They are free to raise their children in the manner they see best. They are NOT free to raise MY children in the manner they see best – nor are they free to do so with the thousands of families across the United States who feel the same way that we do.

Targeting other people’s kids to bolster membership rolls might be easier than doing the work necessary to keep one’s own children within the reservation community – but that isn’t something we are standing for anymore.

Reality Check: 75% of tribal members, according to the last two U.S. Census’, do NOT live in Indian Country. Some continue to value the reservation system and culture, but by the admission of tribal leaders who bemoan the loss of tradition – MOST do not.  Individual tribal members are making private and personal choices. To continue blaming it on “white” people is disingenuous.

Our boysPersonal experience: While taking Ojibwe language classes for a year to learn more about my husband’s culture – I attempted to encourage our household to speak it more.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  My husband who spoke it fluently from birth, wasn’t interested in having the kids learn it. His teenage nephews, who I was raising at the time, weren’t the least bit interested in learning it. And you know what? THAT was their choice! My husband was a man – my nephews were free individuals. No one has a right to force them to conform to what tribal government thinks is best.

If people are leaving Indian Country and turning their backs on culture and the reservation system – that is something Tribal governments are going to have to look inward to resolve.

Reality Check: Tribal members are individuals with their own hearts and minds – not robots ready to be programmed by the dogma spewed in “Indian Country Today.”  Further, they are U.S. Citizens – and many, despite the rhetoric of a few – value being U.S. citizens.

If people are turning their back on traditional Indian culture and embracing American culture — that’s no different than what happens with any heritage in close proximity to other heritages. It’s been a reality to civilizations forever. China tried to prevent it for centuries.  North Korea is trying it today.  But to keep things forever the same – a government has to suppress the rights of the populace – many times with cruelty.  However, no dictatorship has been able to keep it up forever.

Those yelling and screaming about it being the fault of “white” people who adopted babies and the fault of boarding schools from 50 years ago and the fault of everyone else – need to wake up. Free-thinking individuals have been taking their kids and leaving the reservation system in droves for decades. It is no one’s fault. It is life.  It’s probably even the REAL reason ICWA was enacted. (Blaming the exodus on “White” adoptive homes just sounded better – there was more of a hook in it than “our people are simply taking their kids and leaving.”)

Reality Check: Stealing babies won’t solve the problem because many of them will grow up and leave as well.

Extending membership criteria to match that of the Cherokee Nation – as 60 tribal governments are currently considering doing  – won’t solve the problem either. It is only going to further open the eyes of the rest of America, and further anger those of us who do not want oppressive and predatory tribal govt touching our children, grandchildren, or great-great grandchildren.

Tribal leaders can NOT force other families to submit to their value system. That is why ICWA is totally unconstitutional. They are attempting to force many people of heritage to preserve something they have personally decided isn’t of value to them.

Now – I realize that tribal governments will turn that statement around and make it about ME – claiming I am out destroy tribal culture and commit Genocide and again totally ignore the fact that tribal members themselves are fleeing Indian Country.

Nope.  I said you can’t force tribal members who are not interested in preserving the culture to submit to the demands of the few who DO want to preserve it. You are forcing your values down the throats of people who have decided to live differently and have chosen to raise their children differently.

Example. I have a niece that is 50% Native American, 50% African American, who has decided to be Muslim and raise her children Muslim.

That isn’t me doing it.  She knows her Uncle wanted her to know Jesus.  That is an individual making her own decision – no matter how her uncle would feel about it – or how tribal Government feels about it.

 

3.       Some people are surprised that your husband, who was Native American, spoke out about his displeasure with the Act. Why was that?

Just why would a family decide that reservation life is not what they choose for their family? The reasons are many.

Sweet Girl Don't DieWhat cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result – and the Indian Child Welfare Act is trapping more and more children into this unacceptable system.

While many tribal governments continue to fund congressional candidates who promise to increase tribal sovereignty, the voices of the children who are at the mercy of corrupt government continue to go unheard.  The truth is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.”  Instead, they are gathering children where they can because federal funding allocations are based on the U.S. census and tribal rolls.

Our book, Dying in Indian Country, tells exactly why Roland felt the way he did about ICWA and about tribal sovereignty in general.  It provides a real glimpse into some of the unacceptable conditions his family has lived in – and I am not referring to poverty.  We have been very comfortable with poverty.  Living low income isn’t a bad thing.  But violence, child abuse and child neglect is.  ‘Dying in Indian Country’ tells the story of our family – which after years of alcoholism and pain, comes to realize that corrupt tribal government, dishonest Federal Indian Policy, welfare policy, and the controlling reservation system has more to do with the current despair than the tragedies that occurred 150 years ago.

 “Dying in Indian Country is a compassionate and honest portrayal… I highly recommend it to you.” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000, Baptist Pastor, Father of four Native and Métis children

“He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…I can think of no one at this time, in this dark period of Indian history, who is able to speak as Roland has.”  Arlene,Tribal Member

“…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, -Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

 

4.       Can you give some examples of how ICWA has, in your opinion, caused problems for individuals or families?

 - This 3-year-old was beaten to death in June, three months ago, after having been taken screaming from the safe, loving home she had been in Bismarck –

http://caicw.org/2013/06/21/a-child-dies-and-dozens-more-remain-in-abusive-homes-ignored-by-the-bia/

Washiington DC, February 2013

Washiington DC, February 2013

 

- Sierra came with us to DC in February, 2013 and told her story to Congressional offices – how she was taken from the only home she loved (albeit Caucasian) and placed with an uncle who she was forced to sleep with at the age of 10.  She begged to be allowed to go “home” to the people who wanted to adopt her.  They would not let her go – until she was 16 and they cut her down from a rope when she tried to hang herself.

http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y

 - A birth mom stands up for herself:

http://www.xojane.com/issues/my-uterus-will-not-be-used-to-fill-your-tribal-rolls-i-fought-the-icwa-and-won?utm_medium=facebook

 - An official report from Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the ACF, Denver office, concerning the abuse at Spirit Lake.  There is a link to his 12th report as well.

http://caicw.org/2013/04/05/13th-mandated-report-re-spirit-lake-child-abuse/

Jose Rodrigues 2005

Removed from Hispanic grandparents home due to ICWA, he was beaten at maternal grandmothers home for speaking Spanish.

 - This family wrote to us recently and asked me to post their story  -

http://caicw.org/2013/09/08/like-veronica-this-child-is-hurt-by-icwa/

 - Rebuttal to the NPR series:

http://caicw.org/2011/11/21/rebuttal-to-nprs-icwa-series-from-the-mother-of-enrolled-children/

 - Other evidence of harm:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/us/focus-on-heritage-hinders-foster-care-for-indians.html?_r=2&

 - Two years ago – I had the letters from various families arranged much better on our website. Some people decided to help me with it and it’s not quite as I like it anymore… I still have to find time to arrange it my way again…  But this is a link to many stories…    http://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/

There are many, many more.  I think its’ been a good two years since I have been able to put newer letters up.

 

5.        How has the Baby Veronica case shed light on ICWA?

Some wonder why Capobianco supporters don’t side with a father whose child is being taken from him. Some have even questioned the authenticity of Christians who would support the Capobiancos. (Forgetting that even Jesus was raised by an adoptive father.)

One must understand that many Capobianco supporters have been there since the day they first saw, either in person or on video, the horror of not only having one’s child taken, but -

1) taken without the benefit of a caring transition, and -

2) taken solely due to 1% heritage, (as the father’s admitted abandonment of the child would have prevailed otherwise.)

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Just 1.12% heritage. 

Since then, the Cherokee Nation has put on a show, shaking signs that claim “genocide” and claiming that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.

1.12% heritage.

If a C supporter brings up the 1% heritage, their statement is twisted and they are accused of racism – despite that it was the Cherokee Nation that brought the 1% into issue.

1.12% heritage.

As much as the Cherokee Nation, ‘Indian Country Today’, NICWA, NARF, and others want to spin it as a “citizen” issue – it is not spinning. Very few people – including many tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere – are falling for the “citizen” claim – especially when “citizenship” is being forced on children.

At 1.12% heritage.

Ardent supporters of the Cherokee Nation, either purposefully spinning for PR or snowed by their own rhetoric, fail to see how disgusted many others are by the claim that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.. Many Americans can see that claim for the dishonesty it is – but few have wanted to speak it. While it is okay for a tribal entity to speak in terms of race and percentages, it is deemed “racist” for anyone else to. But I will say what is on the hearts of many. This was no Indian Child being stolen by “White” people.

It was a Caucasian/Hispanic child, stolen by a tribe.

That is the bottom line.

As the Cherokee Nation continues to encourage and assist Mr. Brown in defying state and federal law, it is an overtly obvious fact. And that is why the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments in general aren’t getting the traction on their genocide spin (outside of  ‘Indian Country Today’) that they somehow thought they would.

When you are talking about OUR children – which this child was – NOT an Indian child – you should expect hostility when trying to claim that child as the Tribe’s.

BIA - DCAND if 60 more tribal governments attempt to lower their membership criteria – as 60 are talking about doing – to CN levels and begin to target children of minute heritage – as the Cherokee Tribe has – they should not expect to get sympathy. They should expect a strong push back.

They should expect push back because now, due to the Veronica horror – a whole lot of Americans who would have otherwise remained oblivious to the issue, have woken up to what is happening and are outraged by the ICWA stories they are hearing. Many now want ICWA to be repealed.

Americans’ are not buying the rhetoric that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over children of 1% heritage. It is hard enough to justify ICWA jurisdiction over a child who is 25% tribal heritage – as the child is still 75% another heritage. Even children of a parent who is 100% – such as my own – have a right to be free from tribal government jurisdiction. Even individuals of 100% heritage have a right to be free of tribal government interference in their lives and families – if that is what they choose.

So do we feel angry? Yup.

Is there a Christian purpose and righteousness in that anger? Absolutely.

- “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

Having raised nine tribal members, five of whom are my birth children, and seen much tragedy, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and other horrors on more than a few reservations – and having an advisory board and membership of parents who have raised, adopted and witnessed the same – we know far too much about tribal governments seeking children for the federal dollars, then showing little or no interest in what happens to them once they have been “retrieved” for the tribe and placed with a member. We won’t be bullied or intimidated.

We have known of far too many kids abused in ICWA homes, and some even murdered.

(Don’t even try to argue that point with me; I had been an ICWA approved home myself for 17 years. I know how little the tribal social services paid attention.)

So, concerning this particular case, in summary – for those who are flabbergasted that we would not be supporting the father – understand this: from the get-go,

1) Mr. Brown has been seen as an extremely selfish man.

2) The Cherokee Nation has been seen as an extremely selfish organization – using this child as a political pawn.

What appalls us is that not only were Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation willing to hurt this child deeply the first time a transfer took place – by taking her without any concern for her need of a transition – but even worse, Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation are now willing to do it to her a 2nd time.

How in the world are we expected to sympathize with people who do that?

- http://caicw.org/2013/09/01/taking-veronica-from-a-loving-father/

 

6.      Anything else you’d like to add?

Mr. James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,urges “relevant authorities” to maintain Veronica’s “cultural identity” and “maintain relations with her indigenous family and people.” The fact is that Veronica’s family is primarily of European descent and that is therefore much more of her “cultural identity” then her 1% Cherokee ancestry.

Veronica Capobianco's RightsIf Mr. Anaya  really cared about Veronica’s rights – he would advocate for her right to be an individual with freedom to choose her own identity. But he doesn’t honestly care about Veronica’s rights. He cares only for tribal sovereignty and the “right” of government to subjugate people.

In a press release, Mr Anaya stated,

“Veronica’s human rights as a child and as member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Mr. Anaya stressed. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.”

Never mind the “individual and collective rights of all United States citizens.” Never mind the children’s families and equally important heritage.

This is racism at its worst – regardless of the spin about it being about citizenship and political affiliation. Those are just fluff terms to gloss over the racial discrimination evident every time a supporter of tribal sovereignty states that “White people” are stealing tribal children, or that “White people” are guilty of genocide every time they adopt.

The claim that “White people” can’t possibly raise a “Native American Child” is especially offensive – in that most enrollable children are multi-heritage, primarily Caucasian.

Wake up people – hundreds of thousands of “Native American Children” have been and are currently being raised successfully by their own “White” birth parents.

If I can successfully raise my own birth children – so can my sister and my best friend.

You are absolutely right that this is about politics, not “race,” Mr. Arayo. If I had to choose between a friend (no matter the heritage) and someone with your political bias to adopt and raise my children – you lose.

We are not interested in honoring the racial prejudice of the Indian Industry supporters. A stranger from my conservative Church community (no matter the heritage) is preferable to a stranger beholden to Tribal government.

Keep politically biased, predatory, self-serving and profiting hands off of our kids. Period.

 

 

LASTLY – re: All the belly-aching about how “Un-Christian” we are being:

If certain groups want to believe it is “Un- Christian” to side with individuals, families, and human rights over horrific Government oppression – than so be it. I am tired of hearing the accusation that we aren’t being “real” Christians.

  1. Are they suggesting that Jesus threw money-changers out of the temple and called Pharisees “Dogs” because he was timid and didn’t want to offend anyone?
  2. Or that he was hung from the cross because everyone loved hearing what he had to say?

No, actually, this is what being Christian is about:

Ps. 82:3-4 (Psalmist to the kings) ”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Prov. 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Isa. 1:17 “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow.”

Isa. 10:1-3 (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites) ”Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ Declares the Lord, ‘but your eyes are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”

Jn. 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world., That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Matt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Col. 3:24 “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

My husband and I prayed for years about what we were saying and doing and long ago came to the solid conclusion that it was the right thing to do before God. This org can’t be bullied about it now.  We are past it.

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico, June 2003

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

 

Sep 142013
 
Washington DC, January 2011

Yes, Veronica, there may be no Santa Claus, but there is a God and there is work being done to amend ICWA.

Washington DC, February 2013

Washington DC, February 2013

Some very kind, concerned supporters of justice have begun a petition to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act. We appreciate the effort very, very much.   But after having been urged several times to act on the petition, I need to explain why we an’t work on the petition.

Many of our newer friends are unaware that draft legislation to amend the ICWA has already been written and presented to various Congressmen.   I am a little afraid of possibly a conflict in wording or goals.

This legislation was written by one of the best ICWA attorneys in the nation and introduced by the Coalition for the ‘Protection of Indian Children and Families’ to legislative offices last summer, 2012.  The ICWA attorney based his wording on the primary reasons families are coming to him for help – the most noted issues with how ICWA was hurting children and families.

It has been on somewhat of a hold during the Veronica proceedings.  Well… actually, the hold was only meant to be until the United States Supreme Court had ruled.  Congressmen needed to know what the Justices had to say about the case before they could move forward further with the bill.

The court has ruled – but these last two months have been nuts, taking everyone’s time and energy.  Further, Congress recesses in August.

BUT – it is now September.  Thank you all for the reminder concerning the legislation.  According to attorney’s I have consulted – because no real resources of our organization are being spent or used on the legislation – and because I don’t get paid by CAICW but am entirely volunteer, there isn’t much concern about my discussing it a little bit.

So it is time to get back into the saddle with the legislation. I will be rolling up my sleeves and leaving for DC as soon as I put various things in order here at home – hopefully within the next couple weeks.

For your information, here is the amendment wording as it stood last summer.  There MIGHT be changes made following the Veronica events. I can’t say for certain as I am not an attorney.  But this is what we stood on last summer.

 ICWA Amendments 11-11-12

 

PLEASE join us in urging your Congress members – as well as the President – to change ICWA.

 

Washington DC, January 2011

Washington DC, January 2011

 

 

 

Sep 092013
 
Sweet Girl Don't Die
Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

We are told time and again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)  isn’t about race or percentages, but about preserving a dying culture.

There is much benefit in enjoying ones heritage and culture.

Everyone of us has a historical heritage. Some hold great value to it and want to live the traditional culture (to a certain extent. Few try to REALLY live traditional), others only want to dabble for fun – but others aren’t interested at all.

My children have the option of enjoying Ojibwe traditional, German Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Scottish Protestant heritage. We told them as they were growing up that each one of their heritages are interesting and valuable. (While at the same time making it clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.)

Most of us whose families have been in America for more than a couple generations are multi-heritage. Even most tribal members are multi-heritage. All individuals have a right to choose which heritage they want to identify with. If one of my children were to choose to identify with his or her Irish heritage, it would be racist for anyone – even a Congressman – to say that their tribal heritage was more important.

There are times to speak softly, and other times when people and situations need to be firmly set right.  This is a time for firmness. For those who think I don’t have a right to speak because I am not “native,” think again.  As long as you are claiming multi-heritage children, I have a right to and WILL speak.

Reality Check: It is up to families and their ethnic communities to preserve traditional culture amongst themselves if they value it. That is the same no matter what heritage is the question.  Many groups do this by living or working in close proximity – such as in Chinatown, or Dearborn, Michigan – or even ethnic neighborhoods within a large town. It is a very normal thing for humans to do.

But no other community has asked the federal government to enforce cultural compliance to that community.  The federal government has NO right to be forcing a heritage or culture onto an individual or family.  Contrary to what Congress assumed, my children are NOT the tribal government’s children – nor are they “commerce” under the “Commerce Clause” the ICWA was based on.

To those who constantly parrot that “white people” are “stealing” THEIR children, Wrong:  TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS are currently stealing OUR birth children.

To those who are accusing us of genocide for demanding that tribal government keep their hands off our kids – get something straight, you are free to raise your children in the manner you see best. You are NOT free to raise MY children in the manner you see best.

Targeting other people’s kids to bolster membership rolls might be easier than doing the work necessary to keep your own children within the reservation community – but that isn’t something we are standing for anymore.

Reality Check: 75% of tribal members, according to the last two U.S. Census’, do NOT live in Indian Country. Some continue to value the reservation system and culture, but by your own admission – with your own statistics, such as losing 4 Indian languages a year – that is individual tribal members choosing NOT to speak the language. To continue blaming it on “white” people is disingenuous.

How can that I say that?  While taking Ojibwe language classes for a year to learn more about my husband’s culture – I attempted to encourage our household to speak it more.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  My husband who spoke it fluently from birth, wasn’t interested in sharing it. His teenage nephews, who I was raising at the time, weren’t the least bit interested in learning it. And you know what? THAT was their choice! My husband was a man – my nephews were free individuals. No one has a right to force them to conform to what tribal government thinks is best.

If people are leaving Indian Country and turning their backs on culture and the reservation system – that is something YOU are going to have to look inward to resolve.

Reality Check: Tribal members are individuals with their own hearts and minds – not robots ready to be programmed by the dogma spewed in “Indian Country Today.”  Further, they are U.S. Citizens – and many, despite the rhetoric of a few – value being U.S. citizens.

If people are turning their back on traditional Indian culture and embracing American culture — that’s life.  (Go ahead and screen shot that and share it with your friends. They need to wake up to reality as well.)

Those yelling and screaming about it being the fault of “white” people who adopted babies and the fault of boarding schools from 50 years ago and the fault of everyone else – need to wake up. Free-thinking individuals have been taking their kids and leaving the reservation system in droves for decades. It is no one’s fault. It is life.  It’s probably even the REAL reason ICWA was enacted. (blaming the exodus on White adoptive homes just sounded better – there was more of a hook in it than “our people are simply taking their kids and leaving.”)

Reality Check: Stealing babies won’t solve the problem because many of them will grow up and leave as well.

Extending membership criteria to match that of the Cherokee Nation – as 60 tribal governments are currently considering doing  – won’t solve the problem either. It is only going to further open the eyes of the rest of America, and further anger those of us who do not want oppressive and predatory tribal govt touching our children, grandchildren, or great-great grandchildren.

You can NOT force other families to submit to your value system. That is why ICWA is totally unconstitutional. You are attempting to force many people of heritage to preserve something they have personally decided isn’t of value to them.

Now – I realize that you are going to turn that statement around and make it about ME – claiming I am out destroy tribal culture and commit Genocide and again totally ignore the fact that tribal members themselves are fleeing Indian Country.

Please note what I factually said. I said you can’t force tribal members who are not interested in preserving the culture to submit to the demands of the few who DO want to preserve it. You are forcing your values down the throats of people who have decided to live differently and have chosen to raise their children differently.

Example. I have a niece that is 50% Native American, 50% African American, who has decided to be Muslim and raise her children Muslim.

That isn’t me doing it.  She knows her Uncle wanted her to know Jesus.  That is an individual making her own decision – no matter how her uncle would feel about it – or how tribal Government feels about it.

 

If you want to believe it is “Un- Christian” to side with individuals, families, and human rights over horrific Government oppression – than so be it. I am tired of hearing the accusation that we aren’t being “real” Christians.

Are you suggesting that Jesus threw money-changers out of the temple and called Pharisees “Dogs” because he was timid and didn’t want to offend anyone?

Or that he was hung from the cross because everyone loved hearing what he had to say?

 

No, actually, this is what being Christian is about:

Ps. 82:3-4 (Psalmist to the kings) ”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Prov. 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Isa. 1:17 “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow.”

Isa. 10:1-3 (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites) ”Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ Declares the Lord, ‘but your eyes are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”

Jn. 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world., That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Matt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Col. 3:24 “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

 

My husband and I prayed for years about what we were saying and doing and long ago came to the solid conclusion that it was the right thing to do before God. This org can’t be bullied about it now.  We are past it.

 

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

 

 

Sep 082013
 
Sunset on the Rez

 In response to Lisa’s Open Letter

by Anonymous – received Sat 9/7/2013 10:44 PM

Jeremiah 1In the Woods by the Lake

New International Version (NIV)

The Call of Jeremiah

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.

As I read the passage above it occurs to me that like Jeremiah, God had chosen Veronica for this difficult struggle long before he formed her in her mother’s womb. For that matter, Ms. Maldonado, the Cs, the Browns, the attorneys and judges have all been chosen to execute his plan and in the end it will be God’s word and will that will prevail. As Christians this is all we have to understand in order to find comfort and peace as this struggle plays out.

A little over one year ago I too unwittingly joined the crusade to speak out for the injustices and the hurt that ICWA is increasingly causing to good families and helpless children of Native American descent. I feel this story has to be told, because unlike Veronica, it takes place on a reservation and similar stories happen with regularity, but no one ever hears about them. Like Veronica, these children also deserve to live with a permanent, loving family and be afforded all the privileges, rights and opportunities that other children of the United States enjoy as a result of being citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

My intimate struggle with ICWA began years ago when I befriended a Native family living on a reservation. The family was poor, the father having been raised in the bush by people living a very old, sacred traditional life. He came to be raised this way only after being abandoned by his birth parents and spending his earliest years on a work farm where he was physically, emotionally and sexually abused by the church people that ran the farm. As a result, this father never learned to read and write and only learned to speak English in adulthood. The mother of this family grew up on the reservation and experienced the same type of abuse as a child. As a result of their pasts, both of these parents had made a conscious choice not to have children. This was a rare decision indeed. When the wife’s niece and nephew were found to be severely abused in all unthinkable manners by their own parents, grandparents and extended family members, as well as members of the gang their family belonged to, social workers placed the children in this couple’s care. There were no background checks or formal transfer of the children. A year later a drug and alcohol addicted infant came to be in their care through a respite program. Again no background checks. Soon afterwards, the great grandmother of this infant, who was said to have custody of the child, came to them and said for them to raise this child as their own. And they did. In Indian Country, they call this a “traditional adoption.” The only catch was that the grandmother kept the child’s government subsidy. Another common occurrence with Indian foster families. The infant was nurtured and loved as it withdrew from the drugs and the other two children began to make positive progress as a result of the couple’s devotion.

Seven years later, after a long illness, the wife, who was a member of the tribe, passed away. By then, the two older children had been returned to the custody of their father even though he continued to live a bad life. The children were passed to many different caregivers and juvenile programs and most of the good work and progress they had made in the care of my friends soon was lost. The youngest child remained in the custody of the father, while the grandmother continued to receive the child’s check. She did not provide for the child in any way. The man was not a member of the tribe himself so the tribe did nothing to help him support the child. In fact, no tribal members came forward to help him when his wife passed. The father was very worried about how he and the child would make it, so I lent a hand. They both struggled at the loss of the wife/mother.

One year ago, as I was working to set the family up so that they could reside in a safer area of the reservation, the grandmother who had approved the plan, abruptly reclaimed the child who was by now 8 years old. Neither the father or the child wanted to be separated, but the grandmother told the father that he would never get the child back because she would loose her check. Apparently, my involvement and the death of the wife caused a panic.

In the entire 8 years there had never been any social workers involved or background checks or follow up on the well being of the child. That being said, virtually every doctor, teachers, mayors, judges, tribal lawyers, tribal council members and every so called “mandated reporter” knew this child was being raised by the couple and was considered their “legal” child by virtue of the traditional adoption. All of these same people turned a blind eye and refused to help the man and his child. They told him that he had opened a can of worms and to this day father and child are not permitted to see or talk to one another.

Imagine losing the only mother you have ever known and then just a year later being torn from the man you know as your father. What type of cultural was preserved by these actions? Without a question, the child’s best interests were not served. Tribal members burned the man’s property in an attempt to silence him. The man is now homeless and his life and his child’s life will never have the chance to see a happy ending as hopefully Veronica’s will.

When an ICWA injustice is served to you on a reservation, there is little recourse. ICWA children mean a check for the tribe and a check for the caregiver. The tribal government and tribal courts will do ANYTHING to strengthen the ICWA. They do not want stories such as this one (and there are many) to see the light of day because it will expose the uncomfortable truth that even within Indian Country, the ICWA isn’t about preserving culture or serving the best interests of children. The ICWA is the philosophical and financial cornerstone of tribal sovereignty and the fact that children are being sacrificed to further this agenda does not bother those in power.

I witnessed this child being torn from its father, crying “daddy” and trying to cling to him for dear life. The transition time was 3 minutes, not even the hour that the Cs and Veronica were allowed. Shortly after this happened, I found CAICW, and unquestionably, Lisa has been a huge support in a vast sea of people who actively advocate for the ICWA, but many who do so have no idea of what a life confined to a reservation means to a child. There are few if any adults willing or able to speak out against the ICWA. Knowing that regardless of gender, it isn’t a matter of whether a child living on a reservation will be raped, trafficked or abused, but rather when, is a source of constant fear and anxiety for me now because I can do nothing but turn the situation over to our all loving God and trust that He and his angels will see fit to watch over and protect a young child I had come to love and would have gladly offered my life, time, love and financial resources to so that the child could fulfill its full potential.

As the ongoing struggle to return Veronica to her parents continues to unfold, I continue to pray for the right words and the opportunity to speak out for ALL the special children who God has set apart to be his voice in this struggle. I ask all involved, those who support and those who do not support the ICWA, to take time to ask the children how the ICWA is working for them. Why haven’t we asked the children? If this law is meant for them, shouldn’t they have a voice too?

Before my story took place, I knew the ICWA existed and as a self-imposed student of Native American history, I was acutely aware of the historical precedent and destruction of the Native family that was the impetus for the passage of this law. In the past year, as I have struggled and mourned the loss of knowing and communicating with a motherless child, I have followed Veronica’s story, the plight of the children on the Spirit Lake Reservation (which mirrors the stories on the reservation I am intimate with) and I now understand how this law has been corrupted and abused to serve those in power. I have so many beautiful, yet tragic faces of children etched into my memory. I have reached out to some who say they are working to amend the ICWA and asked, “but what about all the kids on the Rez.” One such person told me I was crazy, that it would take a crusade. Well, I’ve been called much worse. I’m happy to be called crazy and to be part of a crusade if it means that just one child will be afforded the same opportunities and love that I have been blessed with in my life.

I thank Lisa and Roland Morris for their EXTREME bravery and courage to do what they felt was right for their family, and for Lisa to speak out about what both she and I know to be true about what it is like to live in Indian Country today. I am so grateful that Lisa is there for so many families struggling with the unintended consequences of this law. I urge people on both sides of this struggle to consider the needs and best interests of the children involved. I pray that we can start an open truthful dialog and that compromises can be reached and political agendas put aside so that THE CHILDREN have some hope for a better future.

In closing, I invite you to join Lisa and CAICW supporters in weekly prayer each Sunday (9 EST, 8 CT, 7 MT, 6 PST) as we pray for ALL children in Indian Country and those to whom their best interest is entrusted. As we pray Ephesians 6, we ask that God’s will be done, in his time and according to his plan. We pray for peace and love to fill the hearts and minds of all those involved in bringing truth, light, justice and permanent families to ALL of God’s children. Amen.

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

 

A CAICW logo from Veronica

Aug 222013
 
Suffer the Children. Sexual Abuse of kids on the Spirit Lake Reservation

In June, 3-year old Laurynn and her twin sister were thrown down an embankment, then kicked in the head while their care-giver stood aside, smoked a cigarette and watched.  Laurynn isn’t the first child to be murdered at Spirit Lake in the last two years. Several have been killed. Other children are being physically and sexually abused as you read this.

Yet federal and state bureaucrats continue to act as it this is a non-issue. Despite numerous pleas for help, the BIA, FBI and U.S. Attorney feign assistance while the abuse continues. When an official actually WANTS to do something to help, like the man below, permission is refused…

IMMEDIATE ACTION: NORTH DAKOTA BUREAUCRAT AND DC SHUT DOWN EFFORT TO HELP SPIRIT LAKE KIDS -“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

A gov’t official who has CARED about the deaths at Spirit Lake and sent documented report to DC calling for change has been DENIED permission to participate in a fact-finding meeting this week in ND. Please read the bureaucratic garbage he was sent in the letter below.

Further – while Rep. Kevin Cramer was willing to participate in the meeting and Senator Hoeven’s office was sending a rep, Senator Heitlkamp was not sending anyone – and Scott J. Davis, Commissioner, ND Indian Affairs, said he wasn’t going to show unless Senator Hoeven and Heitkamp were there as well! WHY are our state & federal gov’ts NOT addressing the severe abuse occurring on many reservations? Why does DC continue to set up roadblocks. We will NOT stand by and allow this to continue. Below is the letter in full.

It bloviates that a meeting is possible – but whether or not anyone makes any real effort to gather “leaders from multiple ACF offices – when it has been so clear that the DC office has ignored every single report that Mr. Sullivan has sent – is another question. Mr. Sullivan holds a non-refundable plane ticket to Bismarck this next week.

PLEASE CALL ASAP: Please ask these people to allow Tom Sullivan to travel to Bismarck next week to get documentation about the child abuse at Spirit Lake!

George Sheldon: Acting Director of ACF ~ 202-401-5383
MaryAnn: Travel Clerk – 202-401-9216

PLEASE insist that he be allowed to listen to the average people who want to speak to him, that Heitkamp’s office do their job and listen – and that the ND official get off his lazy butt and participate…

A couple more officials below as well….

From: Murray, James (ACF)
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:11 AM
To: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF); Delgado, Carol (ACF); Rogers, Thomas (ACF); Ross, Sharon (ACF)
Subject: RE: Itinerary for THOMAS FRANCIS SULLIVAN on 8/27/13 to Bismarck (IGTOZC)

Tom,

Thanks for your patience. ACF’s response to the concerns at the Spirit Lake Nation will have to be generated through a collaborative effort by leaders from multiple ACF offices. Representatives from those offices will have to be included along with you in meetings like the one proposed below, to maximize ACF’s response. Your leadership will be critical in the work of the larger ACF group to address the issues. That being said, I have to deny the travel request at this time. We can revisit the topic once ACF has a chance to mobilize the larger leadership group to begin moving things forward. Let me know if you’d like to discuss it further and I can set up a conference call for tomorrow or early next week.

Sincerely,

James Murray || Acting Director || HHS/ACF/ORO || Desk: (202) 401-4881 || BlackBerry: (202) 253-0217 || Fax: (202) 401-3449 || Email: [email protected]

LETTER RE: Scott Davis:

> From: “Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
> Date: August 22, 2013, 7:57:01 AM CDT
> To: “Davis, Scott J.” <[email protected]>
> Subject: RE: meeting
>
> Scott:
>
> Thank you for your email.
>
> It seems that both your tone and attitude have changed dramatically in the last 24 hours. It is almost like you have been told to cancel our meeting and are searching for a way to make me pull that trigger so you don’t have to. That is troubling.
>
> I see nothing in my emails to you suggesting anyone interested in helping improve conditions at Spirit Lake should be excluded from this scheduled meeting. Who they are invited by is irrelevant as long as they are at the table.
>
> In my long career I have come to despise those who seek to create a straw man in order to achieve something they are unwilling to place their own hands on. Such folks, I have found, lack both courage and integrity.
>
> I have no idea why someone would wish to cancel this meeting which is being convened, as I understand, solely to discuss how we all might work cooperatively to improve conditions at Spirit Lake. It is hard for me to believe that any responsible person wishes to stop our meeting from occurring, effectively maintaining the status quo.
>
> All the best
>
> Tom
>
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Davis, Scott J. [mailto:[email protected]]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:20 PM
> To: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
> Subject: Re: meeting
>
> Tom,
>
> No that is not acceptable.
>
> As I said I am happy to meet with all of the stakeholders at the table.
>
> It is important to me to have everyone (federal agencies) who has a role in the solutions to these problems at such a meeting.
>
> Please let me know when you can confirm you have everyone lined up to attend.
>
> Thank you.
>
> Scott J. Davis
> Commissioner
> ND Indian Affairs

Jul 152013
 
http://dyinginindiancountry.com/

Sitting in an airport on my last leg home after a two week break, I’ve been doing http://elizabethsharonmorris.com/some work while waiting.  While away these two weeks, I finished five books – one of which was a book by Corrie ten Boom. It gave me lots to think about – the least of which is how she managed funding for her post-Holocaust ministry.  (I say the “least,” because, obviously, she had many vital things to say.)

But, equally obviously, these comments got my attention.  She determined early on never to ask for money again.  She would leave it to God. Her thoughts and prayers aren’t unlike those of George Muller or the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary.  They all supported their ministry through prayer and faith.

It interested me because we have survived these last …almost ten years now… with extremely limited funding.  I have asked the Lord many times through those years why, if He seriously wants us to do this ministry, we don’t have more funding.  It was confusing because, you would think that money would be a confirmation of blessing on the work.  Why have we never been able to build a good legal fund?

Yet confirmations were coming in other ways; primarily from families telling us how grateful they were that we were there for prayer, friendship and referrals to attorneys.  They thanked us for being here and understanding their problems and emotions.  This seemed to matter more to some than whether or not we had funds for their legal battle.

Now I am thinking about how some of the recent attacks from our opponents have included accusations that we have “just been in this for the money.”

I had to laugh when I first heard that.  I’ve never had a salary for doing this.  But… although salary would have been nice and many times I thought I would burst trying to do this work while working a “real” job at the same time -  a salary apparently wasn’t necessary.  We survived without it.  We have also been blessed in that an office and major office expenses were also unnecessary.  My functional desk cost $25 at a rummage sale.  I found two boxes of paper (20 reams of paper per box) that someone was throwing away three years ago or so, and still have about 8 reams of it left. (So if you wondered why your newsletter paper looked a little…well, not bright white…).

Our biggest overhead expense is simply the cost of getting the word out / teaching those who haven’t gotten the message - i.e.: our job as an advocacy and ministry.

Yet…when the rubber hit the road and money was needed for Veronica – people in South Carolina and across the country raised it and almost $40,000 went through our system and out to the attorney’s.

So when it was vitally needed – the money was there.

Further, when we have gone to DC to speak to Congressmen about ICWA – the money has been there.  People want us to go to DC, so they help with that.

And maybe that’s all that was ever necessary.  Maybe, despite my earlier concerns about funds, we have always has exactly what we needed.

Now – we want to grow in areas of our ministry.  We want to have a home to help parents and families with substance abuse – Patterned after Teen Challenge, but a long term facility where parents can stay WITH their kids and learn and grow together, as a family, so that they don’t have to be separated while one or both parents get treatment.

But I don’t want to worry about the funding.  When the time is right, I want to trust the Lord to help it come to be.

I asked one of our pastors who I was with these last two weeks (I was at the Bible College campus where I got my B.A. in Christian Ministries)  if I should take the donation button off of our website, but he said, “No. You have to provide an avenue for those who decide they want to give.”

I need to talk to our board about it more and see how they feel.

I like looking back and seeing how the Lord has always provided what’s been needed.

I also like that money has rarely been wasted – because there hasn’t been any money to waste.  (Waste would be things like the brand new stapler that broke the first time I tried to use it – and then never had time to bring back to the store.)

And…I like that opponents can’t say we are in this for “money.”

Amen, amen. I have had a great two weeks and am ready to get back into the saddle.

 

 

Jun 212013
 

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.

 

Jun 082013
 
Roland and his newborn, 1990

On June 9, 2013, as our family honors the June 9, 2004 anniversary of Roland J. Roland and Heidi, 1990 Morris, Sr.’s passing, I feel called to bring his memory and his brave actions to the attention of our newest members and supporters, many who may be unfamiliar with Roland’s legacy.

Roland and I founded CAICW in February 2004 to fill a critical need for all families affected by the ICWA and the destructive forces of reservation life. In my book, ‘Dying in Indian Country,’ I chronicle our family’s own struggles and losses as a result of Indian policy, our decision to leave and our ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ. Roland and I both believed then, as I still do now, that the solutions to the problems we seek to expose and resolve rest in the hands of God. Even on the hardest days, we must trust Him to provide the direction and the answers to our prayers. In the meantime, CAICW remains committed to our original Christian ministry to share His Word while advocating for families at risk of harm due to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our efforts are judicial and educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

Roland, of 100% heritage, spoke Ojibwe as his first language. He was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota and spent his entire life watching friends and family die—physically, spiritually and emotionally—from the effects of alcoholism, drugs, violence and suicide. He himself was a survivor of these destructive behaviors and the more he came to know God, the more convinced he became that monumental change was needed to help his people.

He was especially concerned for the children and distressed by the lack of concern he witnessed by many adults within Indian country. He longed for the self-destruction to stop. God led Roland to step out and speak up for change in Indian country. It took great courage to do so then and it still does. Today, nine years after Roland’s passing, instead of hearing about positive change in Indian country, we continue to witness more of the same abuse and neglect, but on a much larger, more evil scale. And yet, tribal and federal government officials continue to turn a blind eye to the situation.

Roland was particularly concerned about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), whose dictates perpetuate the abuse of children with Indian heritage by entrapping them in corrupt tribal systems. Instead of providing for the best concerns and welfare of children, this law has served to financially prop up corrupt tribal governments, more often serving the best interest of the tribe, social workers and federal officials than the children it is suppose to serve. The most high profile example of the complications and abuse of this law today are exemplified by the “Baby Veronica” case heard in April 2013, by the United States Supreme Court. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, two-year-old Veronica had been given for adoption as a newborn by her non-Indian mother, only to be later removed from the only home she ever knew on the basis of 1.12% Cherokee heritage.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down their ruling this month.

Not long before Roland’s passing, in April 2004, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a series by Larry Oakes entitled, ‘The Lost Youth of Leech Lake,’ which chronicled many horrific accounts of destruction and despair happening to the children of Leech Lake. While the series initially caused a great stir, in the end it was not enough to bring about any significant change.

One of the victims highlighted in the series became an integral part of CAICW’s continued mission to expose the abuses in Indian country and urge action to bring positive change. Sierra Goodman, who was first given to a man to be used for sex at the age of ten, attempted to run away more than a dozen times to return to the only family she felt loved and safe with—a non-Indian foster family she had initially been placed with then taken away from because of the ICWA. After attempting to hang herself at the age of 16, Sarah was finally allowed to return to the family who loved her. This past February, Sierra joined CAICW in Washington, D.C. to personally tell her story to lawmakers and urge them to make changes to the ICWA by sighting the physical and emotional damage she has suffered as a result of the law.

As Roland spoke out against Indian policy, he appeared in numerous newspaper articles across the country. On May 14, 2004, Washington Times reporter Jennifer Lehner wrote:

“Mr. Morris said that once children are relocated to the reservations, they are subject to the corrupt law of the tribal government. Instead of preserving culture…the tribal leadership uses the ICWA to acquire funds provided through the legislation…ICWA is supposed to help children, but instead it helps tribal governments.”

Nine years later, tribal governments are no less corrupt, and the ICWA has become an integral funding source for all tribal issues. Lawyers, social service programs, social service workers, care providers, grant writers, foundations and tribal leadership are all getting rich as a result of this law. In the meantime, the children continue to suffer. In the past year, people we have seen new voices speaking to these concerns. The New York Times and Frontline’s Kind Hearted Woman documentary revealed these same issues and the abuses taking place on the Spirit Lake Reservation of North Dakota. Thomas Sowell penned the article, “Whose Welfare? The Injustice of the Indian Child Welfare Act,” in a January 2013 National Review Online article, while former Oglala Sioux Tribal Judge Patrick Lee recently wrote about the problems in his article “Why I filed a complaint against the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.”

After attending a South Dakota conference in May that was aimed at hearing the grievances of reservation tribal members affected by the ICWA, native author David Rooks penned an article in the Rapid City Journal titled, “Rooks: Questions unasked, unanswered.” Rook is brave enough to write,

“Have there been problems with the implementation of ICWA? You bet. But while we’re gathered, let’s ask some additional questions. Questions, perhaps, no one wants to ask, like: Why are so many Native children winding up in foster care?”

He goes on to state,

“If we’re to be honest, we’ll look at each other and ask: What is going on with our families? What really is the problem? How do we restore our own cultural imperatives? How do we—not someone else—mend our own Sacred Hoop? Yes, children are sacred. Why is it so many of ours need to flee our people to be safe?”

Yes, like Roland did, people are finding their voices to bravely speak out and expose the truth, but after 13 Mandated Reports about the abuse of children on the Spirit Lake, ND reservation and NOT ONE SINGLE action being taken is it possible that change will never come to Indian country? Are the problems in Indian country just another long-running scandal the federal government is working 24-7 to keep in the dark? In honor of Roland, and most importantly for the sake of the children, I urge you to continue to vigilantly monitor and speak up about these atrocities. The U.S. Constitution defends the rights of all U.S. citizens and CAICW is calling on our government to equally protect children of all heritages.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In memory of Minnesota Chippewa tribal member Roland J. Morris, Sr., the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is sponsoring an essay contest on June 9-15, 2013, to draw attention to the widespread and ongoing physical and sexual abuse of children living within Indian Country. The topic of the contest is ‘Why Children Are More Important Than Politics’ with a subtopic of ‘Why Is Our Federal Government Ignoring Ongoing Child Abuse?

The 800-1500 word submissions can be sent to [email protected].

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Other Stories:

Native Daughter: The Baby Ashlyn Story

A Tribe’s Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years

The Daily Republic: OUR VIEW: State wrongly demonized in ICWA debate

Native Mob takedown: a closer look at the charges [PHOTOS]

PLEASE pray with us Sunday evening at 9pm ET, 8pm CT, 7pm MT, and 6pm PT – This Sunday on our minds: remembering Roland’s passing and the children he left behind, a little girl struggling on his reservation, another little girl fighting to stay with the only family she feels safe with, and a little girl caught in the middle of a Supreme Court fight, ….and hope for God’s redemption in Indian Country.

If you feel led, please join us every Sunday evening, each of in our own space, praying for help, healing, and Ephesians 6: 10-20.

Please share this with others who may be interested in helping.

http://caicw.org/2013/05/05/please-pray-with-us-every-sunday-9pm-et-8pm-ct-7pm-mt-6pm-pt/

Apr 052013
 

Senator Hoeven,   

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, Feb 27 2013

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, Feb 27 2013

Thank you again for your concern for the vulnerable in our state. I have received a copy of the 13th mandated report from Mr. Thomas Sullivan of the Denver office of Administration for Children and Families. I have attached a copy.

According to Mr. Sullivan, the situation remains the same on the Spirit Lake Reservation and children continue to be abused while perpetrators go free. Further, he reports that we were lied to by the U.S. attorney on February 27 when those gathered at the Spirit Lake town hall meeting were assured that he was going to speak to the elderly woman who stood up last to tell her story. Mr. Larson will remember her, I am sure. She tried very hard to speak at that meeting but wasn’t allowed to. Tragically, because of the neglect of her story, the two children she tried to talk about – who obviously, desperately, need to be taken from that home immediately and given intense counseling, have been observed continuing the same behavior and another child was hurt. May God be with us – how is it that we as a state and nation allow this to continue?

It has also been inferred that Mr. Sullivan could lose his job if he continues to stand up for the families and children.

Lastly, this report supports and affirms Representative Cramer’s assertion that justice in the Spirit Lake tribal court is far from assured. I applaud Rep. Cramer for his courage.

Please insist on hearings as to how Spirit Lake is being handled. Please also protect Mr. Sullivan to the extent that you can, and continue to stand up for all of us.

If our opponents believe we will sooner or later get tired and go away, they are wrong. We will not. I have been trying to bring attention to these types of things since 1996 and it has only gotten worse. I am not going away.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Sharon (Lisa) Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

http://caicw.org

———————– Page 1———————–

     March 29, 2013

This is my Thirteenth Mandated Report concerning Suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. It is being filed consistent with the Attorney General’s Revised Guidelines.

The two weeks following the submission of my Twelfth Mandated Report on February 22, 2013 were marked by a remarkably intense Public Relations campaign by both the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They sought to convince all that the children of Spirit Lake were safe, that all of the problems at Spirit Lake were well on the way to being fixed, that all allegations had been or were being investigated, witnesses had been interviewed and statements taken. The facts, however, do not support their misleading PR puffery.

Their puffery campaign took several different approaches, all calculated to raise questions about the credibility of my Reports:

1. Public statements were made that many of the allegations contained in my Reports were false. There are two problems with those self-serving statements. Even though innocent citizens of Spirit Lake have been beaten, raped and required hospitalization to recover from their wounds you folks claim there has been no crime because the investigation was done so unprofessionally, there was no investigation or the paperwork has been “lost”. When this occurs once or twice, it is an unfortunate error. When it occurs routinely as it does at Spirit Lake, it is nothing short of a corrupt abuse of power which DOJ and BIA apparently endorse since there appear to be no limits to their praise for Spirit Lake law enforcement..

Second, all of you ignored the statement of Tribal Chair Roger Yankton made on November 5, 2012 in a Tribal General Assembly, “I know of no lies in Sullivan’s Reports.” When Mr. Yankton made that statement I had filed Seven Mandated Reports containing 90 – 95% of the specific, unduplicated allegations I have made. The Tribal Chair was honest. The best that can be said of the DOJ and BIA leadership is that they were self-serving.

2. Another attempt to diminish the credibility of the allegations contained in my Reports was to refer to them as “second or third hand”. While I have not personally witnessed any of the incidents I have been reporting, they ———————– Page 2———————–

have been witnessed by Tribal Elders, a Nun, a former Tribal Judge, foster parents, parents, all enrolled members of the Spirit Lake Nation. None of these people have any reason to lie about what they were reporting on their Reservation. Some allegations come from individuals who are not enrolled members but who are former long term employees of the Tribe who have been reporting Tribal wrongdoing for years to the state, DOJ and BIA .

All of these sources, both enrolled Tribal members and non-enrolled, are furious their allegations have been ignored for years exposing the children of Spirit Lake to continued abuse and neglect. They believe even now they are still being ignored for the benefit of the addict, the predator and the corrupt.

All of my sources have been threatened by the supporters of the Tribal Council with loss of employment, jail, as well as physical harm to themselves or their families. While I have not been directly threatened, I have been told my persistence in this matter places me at the same risk as my sources. I am deeply offended that all of you refuse to defend the innocent of Spirit Lake when my sources and I are placing our physical safety on the line. Your cavalier dismissal of my reports which accurately reflect the stories of my sources is especially troubling.

3. Within this context it is hypocritical for the leaders of DOJ and BIA to now tell tribal members that “the most important thing they can do to protect children is to immediately report any criminal activity to law enforcement.”

The twelve year old who had just turned thirteen and was raped on September 29, 2012 by a 37 year old man reported the rape to police immediately. The name address and a description of the rapist were provided to the responding officers. No rape kit was collected. No charges were filed because the BIA/FBI decided the sex was consensual, in the 37 year old rapist’s words, “She wanted to have sex with me. What was I supposed to do?”  How naïve do you think we are that you believe we will swallow such patent nonsense? How does this decision protect children?

The Tribal Elder who observed two little boys engaging in anal sex in her yard did call police immediately. No one in law enforcement took her statement. She tried to tell her story at the February 27, 2013 Hearing but she was shushed by the US Attorney, the BIA leadership and all of those

———————– Page 3———————–

on the platform. The US Attorney did say publicly that he would speak to her privately after the Hearing concluded. He did not. Nor did anyone from his office take her statement. How did these actions protect children?

One day later, on February 28, 2013, these same two boys were observed by two little girls engaging in oral sex on a Spirit Lake school bus. The little girls reported this to the bus driver, their teachers and the school principal.

All of these responsible people kept quiet about this incident. None filed a Form 960 as required. How do these actions protect children?

On March 14, 2013 law enforcement went to the home of these two boys because one of them tried to sexually assault a three year old female neighbor who is developmentally delayed.

Police were called last summer when adults and very young children observed a 15 year old boy having intercourse with a 10 year old girl on the steps of the church in St. Michaels at mid-day. No one responded to the call. How did this non-response protect children?

How long must this horror continue? How many more children will be raped before one of you decides to do your job and protect these children? To carry out your sworn responsibility to enforce the law and to get these children the intensive therapeutic services they so desperately need?

4.  The US Attorney spoke in glowing terms about the high quality of law enforcement working on the Spirit Lake Reservation even though they routinely fail to conduct investigations, do lousy investigations and “lose” reports of investigations.  Is there anyone working for BIA on that Reservation who does not have a record of Domestic Violence?

Why has there been no  investigation of  my six month old complaint against  FBI Special Agent Cima?

Why has there been  no investigation of the seven month old charges of Domestic Violence against BIA’s Senior Criminal Investigator (CI) at Spirit Lake by his wife?

———————– Page 4———————–

Why has there been no investigation into the destruction of the Incident Report completed by the CI’s wife in the Devils Lake Mercy Hospital Emergency Room after a particularly vicious beating at the CI’s hands in mid-August 2012 by the current Director of Spirit Lake Victim Assistance?

Why has there been no investigation of the complete and total failure of the state, FBI and BIA to investigate charges that were credibly brought several years ago against each of these entities?

Why has there been no investigation into the withholding of critically needed intensive rehabilitative services from several Spirit Lake children who have been sexually abused and severely beaten? If the purpose of preventing these children from gaining access to this therapy is to prevent the names of those predators who damaged these children from being revealed to professionals who have a legal obligation to make this information known to law enforcement, is this obstruction of justice? If it is, the entire leadership of BIA’s Strike Team should be indicted.

Why has there been no investigation into the Spirit Lake school system’s retaliatory actions against two mandated reporters – firing one and giving the other a letter of reprimand, simply because they were attempting to help a young child having some difficulties in his foster home placement?

The bias reflected in all of these non-investigations and highly unprofessional investigations conducted by law enforcement at Spirit Lake may well rise to the standard set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in their decision in the Oravec case.

5.  The US Attorney in a televised interview on Grand Forks television station, WDAZ, spoke about the fine job he and his office were doing protecting all North Dakota children especially those at Spirit Lake and said that the press releases on his website contained all of the information on every case he had brought to trial or conclusion during his tenure in office.

I could only access the last 15 months of these releases. They were quite informative. There were only two cases in which sexual assault was charged. Both of the victims were adult women. None were children.

On the Spirit Lake Reservation it has been credibly claimed there have been, on average 50 reported, investigated and confirmed cases of child

———————– Page 5———————–

sexual abuse or statutory rape annually in each of the last several years. These confirmed cases are routinely referred to the US Attorney for investigation and prosecution. Within this context it is troubling that the US Attorney has apparently not brought a  single case of child sexual abuse/statutory rape in the last 15 months.

If the residents of Spirit Lake report criminal activity when they see it, what good does it do if the US Attorney will not bring a case to court for prosecution?

6.  Most Registered Sex Offenders when they are released from prison are required by law to keep a specified distance from children. The Tribal Chair said on November 5, 2012 there were no lies in my reports and the placement of children  in the full time care and custody of known sex offenders was a major point in my First Report, filed more than nine months ago, well before that November 5, 2012 statement.

Why has the US Attorney failed to direct his crack FBI and BIA agents to investigate and charge those sex offenders and have them returned to prison for violating this provision of their release and have the children placed in safe foster homes?

7.  There are credible allegations that the Tribal Court decisions favor the addict and the sexual predator in practically every case brought before it. I have multiple examples of the Tribal Court’s bias in favor of the addict and predator. I will use only two here.

The placement of a four month old infant who was born addicted to meth and who had to remain in the hospital for one month after birth in order to shed all traces of that drug is a good example of this Tribal Court’s bias in favor of the addict and the predator. This infant was returned to the full time care and custody of his mother even though she had not completed the required, Tribal Court ordered drug treatment program.

The decision of the Court to return three children to the full time care and custody of their biological father who just a few months previously had beaten them with electric cords, choked them, raped them and made his children available to his friends for their sexual pleasure even though there was an outstanding criminal charge against him is another example of the Tribal Court’s bias in favor of predators. Their father is a close relation of the Tribal Chair.

———————– Page 6———————–

Why has none of this been investigated by either the BIA or FBI?

Why have no federal charges been filed against the father for his extraordinary abuse of his children? They have spoken about their abuse to therapists. Have these therapists failed to notify law enforcement about what they have  learned? Or is law enforcement ignoring these reports again?

Why is that infant still in the unsupervised care of his meth addict mother? How much damage has her neglect done to this child in the few months she has had full time care and custody of him?

Why has Tribal Court been allowed to endanger the children of Spirit Lake with impunity? What has law enforcement done to protect these children from the Tribal Court’s malfeasance?

The good people of Spirit Lake have every reason to believe that society has abandoned them when government leaders spend their time attempting to shore up their own reputations while refusing to protect those who are being raped and abused. Your persistent efforts at PR puffery, essentially denying the plain facts at Spirit Lake, betray your unwillingness to fulfill your sworn obligation to protect and defend. Your record of non-investigation and non-prosecution is now in the spotlight. What will you do?

Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

Apr 042013
 
U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer

When an elected official shows not only class and dignity, but a sincere desire to uphold Constitutional rights, some of us tend to feel a little shocked.

Below is the apology delivered by Representative Kevin Cramer following a disagreement at a meeting of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women in late March.

First – from what I understand of what happened, he did not need to apologize. He was standing up for me, my daughters, my granddaughter.  He was standing up for Due Process and our Constitutional rights.  This is exactly what I want him to do.  But he did apologize, even though he didn’t need to, and for that, I think he has class.

———————————————————————-

“I recently met with members of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women Services regarding the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization, and my passion concerning some of the problems I fear may exist with this legislation. Critics of this Act have expressed due process concerns in regard to some of its provisions.  I therefore voted in favor of an amendment designed to address this potential harm.

Unfortunately, my efforts were not supported by my Congressional colleagues.

Because VAWA protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by streamlining grants, improving investigation, prosecution and victim services, as well as enhancing penalties against offenders, I voted in favor of this legislation. I am quite open about my passion regarding helping those within our society that are exposed to violence. I believe my Congressional floor speech concerning VAWA, in particular, demonstrates my personal connection to this issue, as well as my apprehension in regard to the legislation I helped pass.

Certain statements I recently made regarding my frustrations with VAWA are under scrutiny.  This is deserved as, in hindsight, my tone and rhetoric was better suited for active debate in Congress (or a floor speech) rather than my true intention; requesting guidance from the peers of this important issue. I apologize.

My intent was not to disparage anyone. I want to end violence. I truly appreciate Ms. Merrick’s statements, specifically relating to this issue, because it is a pointed reminder of what I love most about my country; equal protection, balance of power, due process. And, most importantly, unfettered free speech, which is ot only unopposed in its ability to humble its leaders, but its capacity towards inspiring debate.

But, I want to make clear that successful court challenges to all, or parts, of this legislation are always adjudged by our Constitution, notwithstanding the best intentions of its proponents. Overturned convictions will revictimise the very people we are trying to protect. I am encouraged by the considerable energy available to fix the serious, societal problem of violence (against all victims).

It is my hope that improving lives is always our upmost focus.

Since VAWA 2013 is only the beginning, I look forward to working with all stakeholders to improve it“.

______________________________________________

What was most uplifting for me was that Rep. Cramer understands the harm caused by the recently passed version of the Violence Against Women Act, forcing women into tribal court whether they want to be there or not.   Well… actually, the law forces women to choose between asking for justice in front of potentially corrupt tribal courts – or keeping ones mouth closed and not seeking justice at all.

Representative Cramer not only gets it, but it matters to him.  He wants to improve it.

Thank you, Representative Cramer.  We are here to help you do that, anyway that we can.  You are my hero.

 

 

Feb 282013
 

.

On February 12, 2013, a horrid violence against women was committed when Mother holding babythe ‘Violence against Women Act’ was passed by the U.S. Senate by a 78-22 vote with all amendments intact.  Women across the nation were thrown under a bus.

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. House repeated the violence with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats to pass the bill 286-138. God only knows if this callous assault on women can be stopped. The measure now heads to Obama’s desk.

Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”

Does no one actually read these things? We are discussing women and young girls who have been vulnerable and already victimized – being forced into further victimization.  Where is the language in the VAWA that tribal government can only have jurisdiction under informed consent and absent objection of the victim?

If there is none, is this Act protecting the rights of women, or the rights of tribal government?

I asked this question to both Ms. Tracee Sutton and Ms. Gail Hand from Senator Hetkamp’s office. Both were silent in response.

I understand that most of our Congressmen on the Hill have never been in the situation of being a victim within Indian Country. I understand that they might not be aware the ramifications these amendments will have on tribal and non-tribal women.  Reading the recent report by Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan, Administration of Children and Families in Denver of the severe corruption and abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation might shed some light on the problem. If even a portion of what he is saying is true, our Congress has no right for mandating tribal jurisdiction over U.S. citizens.

Never assume that simply because a woman is of tribal heritage, she wants her case to be heard in tribal court. A person does not know the meaning of “Good ol’ Boy’s Club” until one has dealt with some of the tribal courts.  On top of this, our government has given all tribal courts full faith and credit, meaning once the case is ruled on in tribal court, the victim can’t go to the county or state for justice.

And while many enrolled women will be upset when told their options have been limited, please realize that multi-racial marriages and relationships are very, very common in Indian Country and non-member women are no small number in domestic violence cases within reservation boundaries.

Further, it is interesting that in the language in section 4(A) below, describing under what conditions in which there would be an exception to tribal jurisdiction, the defendant is addressed more than the victim. It doesn’t matter what heritage the woman is – that isn’t the deciding factor for tribal jurisdiction. The language below addresses the perp’s relationship to Indian Country as the deciding factor.

In fact, under this section, ‘victim’ is defined and limited to only women who have obtained a protective order.  In other words, women who DON’T have a protective order would NOT be considered victims under the exception section, and thus, no matter what, are subject to tribal jurisdiction.

FURTHER – the words, “in the Indian country of the participating tribe” are used over and over. Do you know what this means? I will tell you what it doesn’t mean. It DOESN’T mean inside reservation boundaries.  But I can’t tell you what it DOES mean as far as how many miles outside the boundaries it extends – because, apparently, that is up the tribal government and BIA.

Yes, friends.  A woman, off the reservation, who is assaulted by a person whom she might not even be aware is a tribal member (we talked about multi-heritage relationships, right?) might find herself fighting for justice in a tribal court.

… But trying to read the legalese in section 4, I have to ask, if both the victim and perp are non-Indians, but the victim doesn’t have a protective order…? (Who writes this stuff?)

It appears that the language has been written to protect the defendants, specifically enrolled men, from state and federal jurisdiction.  They might come down hard on a non-member, but given the track history of many tribal courts – do not doubt that this bill will end up protecting certain men and further victimizing many women.

This type of language throws women of all heritages under the bus.  Not only could enrolled women be forced into a court predominantly run by her ex’s relatives, but non-tribal women, viewed as outsiders no matter how long they have lived in ‘Indian Country’, could be forced to share their horrific story and plea for justice in a room full of potentially hostile relatives and friends of the defendant.

How many women will simply suffer in silence rather than attempt to be heard in tribal court?  How do laws like this seriously protect an already victimized woman?  What can be done to ensure that victims know they have the option to refuse tribal jurisdiction and seek justice elsewhere?

Further – could you please tell me in what manner women who would be affected by these amendments were consulted?  During the discussion of these amendments, what non-tribal entity or organization represented and advocated for needs of women who live within Indian Country?

 

PLEASE URGE PRESIDENT OBAMA NOT TO SIGN THIS HORRIBLE VERSION OF THE VAWA!

 

`SEC. 204. TRIBAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

`(4) EXCEPTIONS-

`(A) VICTIM AND DEFENDANT ARE BOTH NON-INDIANS-

`(i) IN GENERAL- A participating tribe may not exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over an alleged offense if neither the defendant nor the alleged victim is an Indian.

`(ii) DEFINITION OF VICTIM- In this subparagraph and with respect to a criminal proceeding in which a participating tribe exercises special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction based on a violation of a protection order, the term `victim’ means a person specifically protected by a protection order that the defendant allegedly violated.

`(B) DEFENDANT LACKS TIES TO THE INDIAN TRIBE- A participating tribe may exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant only if the defendant–

`(i) resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe;

`(ii) is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or

`(iii) is a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of–

`(I) a member of the participating tribe; or

`(II) an Indian who resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe.
Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Author

Dying in Indian Country
PO Box 253
Hillsboro, ND 58045
[email protected]
http://caicw.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW   ( @CAICW )
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org

 

Feb 062013
 
Washington DC, February 2013

Where to begin? We met with staff members from seven DC Senate offices on Monday. We had come to talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it infringes on the right of children and parents.

But sitting next to this young woman, who comes from the same reservation as my husband… I realized there is so, so much more we all need to talk about.

She told how she was abused and used sexually as a child. She said she was first given to a man at the age of ten. Her sisters were also given to men. She told how she begged to be allowed to return to the only family she had ever felt safe with – the foster family that the tribe, through ICWA, had taken her from. She told how she tried to run away over a dozen times – to get back to the foster home where she knew she was loved. She told how the home where the tribal govt placed her made her destroy pictures of the family she loved, and how they had cut a rope to save her when she had tried to hang herself. It was only then that they finally allowed her to return to her true home.

The feeling in Congress and across much of America is that the tribal leaders can’t be messed with. Don’t you dare step on their toes.

Holy cow. I mean, literally, ‘holy cow.’

Enough with the trepidation about messing with tribal sovereignty. I told our family’s story in the book “Dying in Indian Country” – and apparently, I didn’t even tell the half of it. I knew that things had gotten worse to an extent – but I had no idea how really, really bad it was now. The prostitution of young girls has become common place. You want to talk about sex-trafficking? Don’t forget to look at many of the reservations as well. I should say – don’t be AFRAID to look at many of the reservations as well.

- Have you heard yet that the BIA had to go in and take over children’s services on the Spirit Lake Reservation?

- Have you heard about the “Native Mob” now active on reservations in three states?

One of the Senate staff members said her Senator would like to do hearings concerning Spirit Lake. I would love to see that happen – as well as inquiries into the gang activity and harm to children occurring on many reservations. Spirit Lake is not isolated. Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth, Pine Ridge – and more.

PLEASE CONTACT your Senators and encourage/support them in taking action. Many Senators are very afraid of stepping on the toes of tribal government – but while they cringe, girls as young as ten are being prostituted.

What this girl said today matches what I was told by another Leech Lake family last week. What they shared with us is horrific.

We NEED to let our Senators know that this is not OK in America. They MUST make is stop!

Children need to be protected. For our family, that also means getting rid of ICWA. You might not want to take that drastic a stand on the ICWA – but our family must. But at the very least – please press your Senator for hearings on the issue of child welfare and protection in Indian Country.

Please – especially press your Senator to do this if he/she is on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

1) ASK YOUR SENATOR to contact Senator Cantwell’s office – to tell Senator Cantwell that ICWA needs to be on her agenda for this session. They are preparing and setting this sessions agenda RIGHT NOW. If ICWA is NOT put on her agenda for the session – it will not be discussed for changes this year nor probably next. WE NEED AS MANY SENATORS AS POSSIBLE – ALL OF THEM – TO CALL SENATOR CANTWELL and ask that ICWA be on Senator Cantwell’s Indian Affairs Committee agenda!

2) ASK YOUR SENATOR to contact Senator Cantwell’s office and press for hearings on Spirit Lake and other reservations were abuse of children is rampant!

3) PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE CHILDREN, FOR US – AND FOR THE WORK IN FRONT OF US!

 

Dec 312012
 

From Tragedies – to Transformation…

Just why would a family decide that reservation life is not what they choose for their family? The reasons are many, but some of the reasons are shocking.

Dying in Indian Country is one family’s story of  hope.

What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result – and the Indian Child Welfare Act is trapping more and more children into this unacceptable system.

While many tribal governments continue to fund congressional candidates who promise to increase tribal sovereignty, the voices of the children who are at the mercy of corrupt government continue to go unheard.  The truth is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.”  Instead, they are gathering children where they can because federal funding allocations are based on the U.S. census and tribal rolls.

An amazing transformational story, Dying in Indian Country, by Elizabeth Sharon Morris, provides a real glimpse into some of these unacceptable conditions. Dying in Indian Country tells a compelling true story of one family who after years of alcoholism and pain, comes to realize that corrupt tribal government, dishonest Federal Indian Policy, welfare policy, and the controlling reservation system has more to do with the current despair than the tragedies that occurred 150 years ago  -  then tells how, by the Grace of God, they came out of it.

 

A true story of pain, hope, and transformation -

“Dying in Indian Country is a compassionate and honest portrayal… I highly recommend it to you.” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000, Baptist Pastor, Father of four Native and Métis children

“He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…I can think of no one at this time, in this dark period of Indian history, who is able to speak as Roland has.”  Arlene,Tribal Member

“…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, -Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

Dying in Indian Country is available at:   http://dyinginindiancountry.com

 

 

Dec 242012
 

.
First of all, I want to thank you for your faithful support. Over the years, CAICW has helped many people, but that doesn’t mean we ever forget anyone who has helped make that possible. You are one of those people. It doesn’t matter whether you have given $5 or $5,000 in the past—it takes all kinds of thread to make a quilt.

A quilt—a patchwork of material sewn together into a blanket—what an apt comparison to what we do here at CAICW. Families whose lives have been ripped apart, made whole again through the generosity of people like you.  Families like those of Matt & Melanie Capobianco, the parents of baby Veronica.

CAICW first heard about Veronica’s situation in late summer of 2011. At the time, we were organizing a Washington DC ‘Teach-in’ for October 2011. Through cash and in-kind donations, we were able to raise the money needed for the event and Melanie was invited to join us and speak to Congressmen about the impending tragedy.  Later, in January 2012, “Save Veronica” became an official  fundraising campaign of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.  Together, with your help, well over $40,000 was raised for their legal fees.

Which brings me to the main point of this letter.  Please consider a Tax-Deductible End-of-Year Donation

  • The “Save Veronica”Campaign – currently appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
  • Legal Fund for additional families in need
  • The Roland J. Morris Sr. Home, and regular operating expenses to maintain communications.
  • Washington DC trip: Educating new and old Congressmen in DC, February 4-8, 2013 – 6 weeks away.

If your heart leads you to do so, please consider an additional gift to any of the projects outlined here. The children and families affected thank you

If you’re online, go to our website http://caicw.org/donate-now/ and click on the “Donate Now” button to make sure your donation counts toward the double impact.

You can also send a donation by mail to:

CAICW
PO Box 253
Hillsboro, ND 5804

Once again, thank you for your continued support, and know that the Capobianco’s and many families like theirs would not have the legal funds they need were it not for you.

The Roland J. Morris Sr. Home
In response to the needs, experiences and tragedies we have witnessed in our own families, the CAICW seeks to open a Christian, long-term care home (One year to 18 months) that will reach out to parents and grandparents in pain from addictions. The goal is to offer the love of Jesus Christ and assistance for families to grow to health. We will also offer tools and knowledge for them to gain employment and perfect their parenting skills. Our vision is to pattern the home after Teen Challenge, but also allow families to bring their children along so that everyone stays connected and learns together a new and better way to live in a family setting. We have been discussing and praying about this vision for a long time. We welcome your ideas and donations as we feel the time is coming to bring this dream to fruition.

Ebay Auction Benefits CAICW
An adoptive mother who has been affected by the ICWA has adopted CAICW on ebay. To date, sales from her boutique have garnered us about $400. Her auction is on ebay, but you can also visit her on Facebook at: http://stores.ebay.com/safford-hall

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Administrator

Dec 192012
 

As demonstrated by the “Save Veronica” case, this REAL War on Women comes in the form of the Cherokee Nation’s affirmation that single mothers of all heritages must fear tribal interference if they give a child up for adoption without knowing for certain whether the birth father has even a single drop of Cherokee blood.

During the Thursday, October 18, 2012 segment of the Dr. Phil show, Cherokee Nation attorney Chrissi Nimmo refused to admit Veronica had only a drop of Cherokee blood, but she also didn’t deny it. She did not answer this question because she is well aware of the implications…she knows people will be stunned at the realization. Instead, Ms. Nimmo tried to make the argument that the issue is not about blood quantum or how a child looks, but that they have a right to be part of the Cherokee tribe. The real issue is the fact that with the help of the ICWAthis “right” is being forced on not only this child, but also many children and families all across the U.S.

This argument, and the law, ignores many basic Constitutional rights. Not all enrollable individuals WANT their children to be forced into political affiliation with tribal government, and not all enrollable or enrolled parents want their children to be raised on or near a reservation. In fact, manyenrolled fami-
lies have purposefully made a choice to raise their children outside the reservation. Is it the tribe’s right, or the individual parent’s right to choose where to live and raise their children?

The following example illustrates how the ICWA is negatively affecting the
decisions and rights of enrolled tribal members. At a home for unwed mothers in Bismarck, South Dakota, several enrolled women told State Representative Lee Kaldor that even though they wanted to give their babies up for adoption, they were afraid that tribal government would interfere. Although they honestly didn’t feel they were able to properly raise and nurture their babies, they decided against adoption because they wouldn’t have the right to make decisions on behalf of their unborn babies. With adoption not an option, some of them contemplated abortion.

Interestingly enough, tribal governments don’t interfere in a mother’s decision to have an abortion, but they are increasingly interfering in the rights of a mother tochoose adoption, and placement of their children.

Ms. Nimmo’s argument also ignores the rights of the Latino birth mother in question, and ANYmother of any race who chooses adoption for their child. While it’s bad enough that enrolled Indian mothers don’t feel a freedom of choice in deciding what is best for their children, the Veronica case illustrates how a Hispanic mother, who was carrying a child with only a tiny percentage of
tribal heritage, had her rights and wishes superseded by a tribal government.

What a nightmare for any pregnant single mother contemplating adoption—a minute amount of known, or potentially unknown, Indian heritage gives a tribal government the legal right to interfere.

A further example of how the ICWA is negatively affecting women’s rights is the increasing trend of tribal governments moving to exercise their right to adjudicate in custody hearings.  Because of the ICWA, a tribe has the right to have representation at all custody hearings involving offspring of children of enrolled members, even if the child is not enrolled, or only has a small
percentage of Native blood. In many cases, the custody hearings are required to be held in tribal court, even at some distance from where the child is currently residing. The non-Indian parent is stripped of their rights to an unbiased hearing because they are not permitted access to council of
their choice. In at least one case, a non-Indian mother was threatened with bodily harm by the tribal judge and police, and by order of the judge, her young daughter taken from her and placed with an abusive father.

Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under the ICWA was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a
member of, or eligible for membership in, a federally recognized tribe.
The real question now is whether the ICWA is really working to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families,” or whether the law is being abused to protect ONLY the best interest of tribes, and in doing so is denying both children and adults equal protection and representation as provided under the U.S. Constitution.
Dec 262010
 

Stock Photo - Kids successfully adopted, now siblings

Stock Photo - Kids successfully adopted, now siblings

All identifying information has been  removed

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2010 12:56:10 -0500 (EST)

To: [email protected]

Dearest Lisa,

I wanted to drop you a note the let you know we won our court case against the tribe …. We went to court in Aug. 2009 and in Sept. the judge ruled that the kids should stay with us. But, of course the tribe appealed his decision the day before the deadline… The State Court of Appeals heard the case… this year and ..they affirmed the judges decision. … It cost us $10,000.00 and a lot of worry but we are finally proceeding with the adoption. Our family would like to thank you so very much for your organization and all the help it provides families like ours, without the information on your web site I don’t know if our lawyer could have made such a good case using other state case law. You provide an invaluable service to children hurt by ICWA and God will lead you to do even better things. I received your newsletter yesterday and vow to get as many signatures as I can to sent back to you. I wish I could do more but I will pray for you everyday. If you want to know more or if there is anything I can do from here… please contact me. Our family is forever in your debt. Again, thank you for all you do, and have a Happy Holiday, WE WILL.
Sincerely,
- a very happy MOM

Dec 162010
 

A friend wrote:

“Lisa you can and are free. Free to go on, free to thank God for your life with Roland…free to learn from the craziness and free to take what you can and to leave the rest in God’s hands.”

How beautiful, wonderful, comforting those words are.

But it was worse than just craziness. It had been horrific. Over twenty years earlier, I stepped into the closet where Michelle, who was taller then I, had hanged herself that morning. The wooden rod from which clothing hung just touched the top of my head. She could have saved herself simply by standing up. How could she have hated herself that much? How could anyone hate themselves that much? How deep her despair must have been! Oh, why didn’t any of us realize the extent of her suffering? That beautiful girl! Why didn’t we visit her? Why didn’t I just come and talk to her, be her friend, take her to get her driver’s license as I had promised her? Something?

That very same evening, we got a call from a detective in the emergency room at the medical center. Owen had been stabbed in the chest.

“Oh, No,” I said to the detective. “His sister Michelle just died!”

“Michelle died?” The detective asked, “Do we know how Michelle died?”

“Oh, yes. She was upset about their sister Brenda’s accident and she hanged herself”.

“Brenda?” He asked hesitantly, “And do we know what happened to Brenda?”

“Yes, she fell down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair and reinjured her back”.

The detective paused.

“Do we know how Brenda fell down the stairs?”

“Yes. She was upset that Michelle hadn’t wanted to help her down the stairs. So she threw herself down.”

At this point the detective must have been wondering if there were some kind of conspiracy against the family. I think, in some backward way, many of us hoped there was. It was too much to imagine that all this could happen to one family in one week’s time. Worse – that they had all done it to themselves. It would have been a morbid comfort to have some other explanation.

And this was just one of many “Days of out lives.”

But after some thought, I respond to my friend: “You are right – the memories pain me, but even so, I do thank God for my life with Roland. He actually asked me before he died how I felt about our life together. And I actually had an answer ready—because I’d been thinking about it for awhile.

I told him that we had traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We’ve lived in Canada and helped out at a Children’s home in Mexico. We’ve owned businesses and we’ve been on welfare. At times we had little or no food – and other times we ate at some of the finest restaurants. We have slept on dirty floors with dirty blankets in tribal housing, and we have stayed in upscale hotels on Capitol Hill in Washington DC and in Windsor, BC. I told him our life had been full. He seemed to relax into his pillow upon hearing me say it.

We felt just as comfortable talking to a drunk on Franklin Ave. as we did talking to a US Senator. I’ve called a US Senator looking for my husband, who was in his office at the time. The Senator made a real joke of it, as he handed Roland the phone, about how I can track him down anywhere. And…I’ve had an impossible time finding my husband on the reservation just after our son was born. No one would hand the phone to him then, as they were drinking with him.

A law professor and a state legislator both helped carry Roland’s casket. A retired US Navy Submarine officer carried Roland’s body back to the reservation in the back of his pickup.

Who would I have been without all those experiences?

It’s the truth, isn’t it? Who would I have been if I had married an average man and lived with two cars and 2.5 kids in the suburbs? Really – would I even be a Christian right now? Because it was Roland that essentially led me to Christ.

And …as I correspond with the various families that write to CAICW…how would I even begin to understand them and their fears if I hadn’t been there myself? I am able to write two simple words that mean the world to them… “I understand.”

And it is with that background: the birth mother to five members, the adoptive mother of one, the legal custodian of three, the step mother to four, and aunt to innumerable members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – and as a former licensed Day care provider, foster care provider, as well as registered nurse – I am able to ‘withstand the barbs of the enemy’ and stand tall whenever anyone tries to call me a racist for speaking up on this issue.

I can unashamedly stand up and say what many others can’t bring themselves to say – because I don’t care what names they call me. And I can speak loudly. And I can help that no more children be treated as chattel for the benefit of a corrupt tribal government.

The idea some have that children “belong” on the reservation is racism at its core. It ignores who the child might factually be, who the child is connected to, what the child really wants and, importantly, what the child’s best interests are. It’s well known to everyone that the high school drop out rate, drug abuse, crime, fetal alcohol rate, child abuse, corruption, child neglect, sexual abuse, violence and suicide, etc. is so high on many reservations that no Congressman would ever willingly send their own child to live there…yet everyone is supposed to just go along with the lie that children of heritage must live with it because tribal and federal government say so. It’s not only insane but criminal.

I’m not going to diplomatically dance around so as not to step on toes. Kids are dying. Beautiful Michelle hanged herself in a simple closet, where all she had to do was stand up to save herself.

Others have died of overdose, accident, and violence.

So you are right. I have a job to do, and it is because of my life with Roland that I am able to do it.

- to be the loud-mouthed, angry witch that I am.

Bless you My Friends, you’ve been so good to hang in there with us through all these tough years.

Read “Dying in Indian Country”

Letters from Families, asking for Help – Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare

Dec 142010
 


Mickey came home an hour early from classes one day.

“What are you doing home?” I asked him.

“My advocate let me out.”

“What do you mean, ‘let you out’?”

“Well, I didn’t like my art teacher, so a month or so ago my Indian advocate let me drop the class and go to study hall in his office instead. He’d ask me a couple questions and stuff, but I wasn’t really doing anything there so now he just lets me come home instead.”

I called the advocate. “In the first place,” I told him, “I don’t agree with letting him drop art. He has to work out his problems with his teacher. But in the second place, Mickey got two ‘F’s’ last quarter! How come you’re letting him cut out of school?”

“What are you worried about?” the advocate, also a tribal member, responded, “He’s got three years of school left. He’s got time to catch up.”

About ready to blow up and getting nowhere with this man, I called the principal, who agreed Mickey shouldn’t be leaving school early. It was too late to get Mickey back into the art class, so placed him into the real study hall. Unfortunately, the principal didn’t have the cojones to fire the advocate for being the idiot he was.

Later, Mickey confided that the Indian advocate had told him the following day, “Don’t listen to Beth, all white people talk like that.”

‘What a jerk,’ I thought angrily, ‘why isn’t that so-called advocate helping Mickey apply himself? Don’t they think an Indian kid can be expected to work hard? Do they lookl down on Indian kids that much? If anybody dares treat Andrew that way when he gets to school, expecting less of him just because he’s Indian, I’ll knock em to the moon!

Many places do still treat kids of tribal heritage with lower expectations. Worse, the attitude is encouraged and propagandized by tribal government itself.

One tribal attorney in an Arkansas court just 3 yrs ago – while fighting to take 2 children from a safe, loving home where they were well-cared for and place them in an overcrowded, troubled (documented issues) home that had connection to the tribe – said that Indian children shouldn’t be expected to live by “European standards.” He said Indian children are used to sleeping on floors – and that was okay.

Who is he kidding? Why is tribal government allowed to make racist statements like that? I can tell you with absolute certainty that given the choice, every single child I raised, as well as every relative child that I know, would choose a good bed over a floor. What a bunch of garbage.

The propaganda that children of heritage are somehow different than other kids is in effort, we believe, to keep jurisdiction (and power) over them. The idea put forward is that kids of heritage have an intrinsic attachment to the reservation and will be spiritually destroyed if detached from it.

An article ten years ago said something about looking into the eyes of an Indian child and seeing ‘past generations.’ Was that writer able to look into the eyes of children of other heritages and see the same thing? Why not?

It’s so easy to put one’s own expectations and romanticisms onto a child. People do it all the time. And in doing so – they neglect who the child really is – his/her individuality.

I’m very tired of what boils down to racist rhetoric.

Personally, I looked into the eyes of the nine I raised and saw THEM. I want the ‘powers that be’ to quit pretending these kids are somehow different than others. It’s an excuse to control them as if they are chattel.

This brings us to the Indian Child Welfare Act. It’s a terrible law. Current laws governing placement of children of other heritages already cover the need to keep families connected if possible. At the same time, they protect children from being subjected to abusive and neglectful family, which is something the ICWA does NOT do well because it gives tribal governments the right to decide placement, and they have a conflict of interest. I have seen children placed in inadequate, if not downright terrible situations for the sake of keeping the kids within the system,

The real purpose of ICWA as far as we can tell has nothing to do with the ‘welfare’ of children. It has everything to do with the ‘welfare’ of tribal government. The last census showed that a majority of enrollable people now live off the reservation. Some are still connected, but many no longer choose to be part of the system. But as people move away and don’t enroll their kids in the tribe, tribal governments lose federal money. They also lose people over whom they can rule. That’s the bottom line for ICWA.

This is why the ICWA includes language that claims jurisdiction over “enrollable” children, not just “enrolled” children. They are also free to decide their own membership criteria. For the Cherokee tribe, all that is required is a direct line to the Dawes rolls.

Put those two facts together, and federal government has created a terrible situation for children. Example: Six years ago, a firefighter in Texas, with his wife, took in a newborn baby boy to adopt. After a few weeks, during the process of adoption, it was discovered the child had less than 2% heritage in the Cherokee tribe. The tribe then decided it wants the child, who is more than 98% non-tribal. The child is still unadopted as of today, and the family has spent years and tens of thousands of dollars fighting for him. We have many stories like that.

It’s a genuine crime against these kids.

For more info:

CAICW Facebook ‘Cause’ page: (Advocacy, Petition, support for families) http://www.causes.com/causes/537834

The “Fund Attorney Retainers for 10 Families” Drive began on National Adoption Day, November 20, 2010 ~ and ends on December 31, 2010.~ The Fund website can be found through FirstGiving.com at ~ http://www.firstgiving.com/caicw/Event/AdoptionRetainerFund

Follow CAICW on TWITTER:   http://twitter.com/CAICW

EMAIL: [email protected]

CAICW – Christian Evangelism and Ministry – Gal. 2:10, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”

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Read Letters from Families: http://www.caicw.org/familystories.html

May 112010
 

.Holyfield – the first case in which the federal high court has construed ICWA,

Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield, 490 US 30 (1989) Docket No. 87-980, Argued January 11, 1989, Decided April 3, 1989, CITATION: 490 U.S. 30, 109 S.Ct. 1597, 104 L.Ed.2d 29 (1989),

DISCUSSION: I A The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 92 Stat. 3069, 25 U.S.C. 1901-1963, was the product of rising concern in the mid-1970′s over the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement, usually in non-Indian homes.

Dissenting footnotes: STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and KENNEDY, J., joined.

[ Footnote 8 ] The explanation of this subsection in the House Report reads as follows: “Subsection (b) directs a State court, having jurisdiction over an Indian child custody proceeding to transfer such proceeding, absent good cause to the contrary, to the appropriate tribal court upon the petition of the parents or the Indian tribe. Either parent is given the right to veto such transfer. The subsection is intended to permit a State court to apply a modified doctrine of forum non conveniens, in appropriate cases, to insure [490 U.S. 30, 61] that the rights of the child as an Indian, the Indian parents or custodian, and the tribe are fully protected.” Id., at 21. In commenting on the provision, the Department of Justice suggested that the section should be clarified to make it perfectly clear that a state court need not surrender jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding if the Indian parent objected. The Department of Justice letter stated:

“Section 101(b) should be amended to prohibit clearly the transfer of a child
placement proceeding to a tribal court when any parent or child over the age of
12 objects to the transfer
.” Id., at 32.

Although the specific suggestion made by the Department of Justice was not in fact implemented, it is noteworthy that there is nothing in the legislative history to suggest that the recommended change was in any way inconsistent with any of the purposes of the statute.

[ Footnote 9 ] Chief Isaac elsewhere expressed a similar concern for the rights of parents with reference to another provision. See Hearing, supra n. 1, at 158 (statement on behalf of National Tribal Chairmen’s Association)

(“We believe the tribe should receive notice in all such cases but where the
child is neither a resident nor domiciliary of the reservation intervention
should require the consent of the natural parents or the blood relative in whose
custody the child has been left by the natural parents. It seems there is a
great potential in the provisions of section 101(c) for infringing parental
wishes and rights”).

But when an Indian child is deliberately abandoned by both parents to a person off the reservation, no purpose of the ICWA is served by closing the state courthouse door to them. The interests of the parents, the Indian child, and the tribe in preventing the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and from the reservation are protected by the Act’s substantive and procedural provisions. In addition, if both parents have intentionally invoked the jurisdiction of the state court in an action involving a non-Indian, no interest in tribal self-governance is implicated. See McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm’n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973); Williams v. [490 U.S. 30, 64] Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 219 -220 (1959); Felix v. Patrick, 145 U.S. 317, 332 (1892).


In Bridget R. -In re Bridget R. (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1483 (Bridget R.). January 19, 1996 , LLR No. 9601041.CA, Cite as: LLR 1996.CA.41 – The Pomo Twins

[33] As we explain, recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine is necessary in a case such as this in order to preserve ICWA’s constitutionality. We hold that under the Fifth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, ICWA does not and cannot apply to invalidate a voluntary termination of parental rights respecting an Indian child who is not domiciled on a reservation, unless the child’s biological parent, or parents, are not only of American Indian descent, but also maintain a significant social, cultural or political relationship with their tribe.

[145] *fn11 We note in passing that Congress in 1987 failed to approve amendments to ICWA which were described in materials considered by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs as having the effect of precluding application of the existing Indian family doctrine. (See Hearings before the Senate Select Com. on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. on Oversight Hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Act, Nov. 10, 1987, Appendix B, pp. 167-171.)

In re Alexandria Y.
(1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1483, -

which applied the “existing Indian family doctrine” to a proceeding to terminate parental rights and implement a pre-adoptive placement.

…., the Fourth District held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” (In re Alexandria Y., supra, 25 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493), and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply the ICWA “because neither [the child] nor [the mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” (Id. at p. 1485.)

The court observed that not only did neither the mother nor the child have any relationship with the tribe, but also that the father was Hispanic, and that the child was placed in a preadoptive home where Spanish was spoken. “Under these circumstances,” the court commented, “it would be anomalous to allow the ICWA to govern the termination proceedings. It was clearly not the intent of the Congress to do so.” (Id. at p. 1494.)


From Santos y,
In re SANTOS Y., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law, In re Santos Y. (2001) , Cal.App.4th [No. B144822. Second Dist., Div. Two. July 20, 2001.]

“Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted, “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902).”

The court paid “particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at relative length.”

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

Finally, Santos states, “Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

RE: Santos Footnotes, – Existing Family Doctrine:

¬FN 15. Accepting the doctrine: Alabama (S.A. v. E.J.P. (Ala.Civ.App. 1990) 571 So.2d 1187); Indiana (Matter of Adoption of T.R.M. (Ind. 1988) 525 N.E.2d 298); Kansas (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L. (Kan. 1982) 643 P.2d 168); Kentucky (Rye v. Weasel (Ky. 1996) 934 S.W. 2d 257); Missouri (In Interest of S.A.M. (Mo.App. 1986) 703 S.W.2d 603); New York (In re Adoption of Baby Girl S. (Sur. 1999) 690 N.Y.S. 2d 907); Oklahoma (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy D. (Ok. 1985) 742 P.2d 1059); Tennessee (In re Morgan (Tenn.Ct.App. 1997) WL 716880); Washington (Matter of Adoption of Crews (Wash. 1992) 825 P.2d 305).

Rejecting the doctrine: Alaska (Matter of Adoption of T.N.F. (Alaska 1989) 781 P.2d 973); Idaho (Matter of Baby Boy Doe (Idaho 1993) 849 P.2d 925); Illinois (In re Adoption of S.S. (Ill. 1995) 657 N.E.2d 935); New Jersey (Matter of Adoption of a Child of Indian Heritage (N.J. 1988) 111 N.J. 155, 543 A.2d 925); South Dakota (Matter of Adoption of Baade (S.D. 1990) 462 N.W.2d 485); Utah (State, in Interest of D.A.C. (Utah App. 1997) 933 P.2d 993.)
United States Code Title 25 – Indians Chapter 21 – Indian Child Welfare

§ 1911. Indian tribe jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings(b) Transfer of proceedings; declination by tribal Court: In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent, upon the petition of either parent or the Indian custodian or the Indian child’s tribe: Provided, That such transfer shall be subject to declination by the tribal court of such tribe.

(Ftn 1) “The 2000 Census indicated that as much at 66 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population live in urban areas,” the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote in a views and estimates letter on March 2 2007. http://www.indianz.com/News/2007/001803.asp
(ftn2) 14th Amendment, Section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and therefore have all the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

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Apr 292010
 

.
Contrary to the belief of those that want control over our children, the Indian Commerce Clause did not give Congress the right to enact a law giving those entities that control.

Professor Rob Natelson, Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Montana, Missoula, researched the issue in 2007. The results of his study were documented in a lead article published in vol 85 page 201 of Denver University Law Review (85 Denv. U. L. Rev. 201 (2007)

According to Professor Natelson, “the U.S. Constitution gives Congress only limited powers, and it says nothing about legislating for “Indian child welfare.”

So what gives Congress the power to pass a law like the ICWA?

Some say the Founding Fathers intended to give Congress that power by a section in the Constitution allowing Congress to “regulate Commerce with the Indian Tribes.” But is that true? Are laws like ICWA really constitutional as regulating “Commerce with the Indian Tribes?”

His answer: Absolutely not.

Professor Rob Natelson is one of the country’s top experts on the original meaning of the Constitution. He concluded that the purpose of the section giving power to Congress to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes was to allow Congress to regulate trade between Indians and whites – no more. Foster care, adoption, parental rights, etc. were be governed by state law, not federal law.

Professor Natelson documented his findings in a lead article published in Denver University Law Review. He also examined other claimed bases for laws like the ICWA, including the “Indian trust doctrine” – and he found they didn’t have any merit, either.

“There is not much doubt on the question,” he said. “At least according the Founding Fathers, Congress had absolutely no authority to adopt the ICWA. Eventually, the courts may see their error and strike it down as unconstitutional.”

This article – and some of Professor Natelson’s other research – can be found at www.umt.edu/law/faculty/natelson.htm

The Original Meaning of the Indian Commerce Clause - 85 Denv. U. L. Rev. 201 (2007)

The Legal Meaning of “Commerce” In the Commerce Clause - 80 St. John’s L. Rev. 789 (2006)
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Mar 212014
 
Empty Swing

Senator Heitkamp,

I was just informed that the family in the Grand Forks story below is one of the families ACF Administrator Tom Sullivan included in his first Mandated Report, 21 months ago. That report, along with 13 subsequent reports, was ignored by his DC superiors and well as other officials.

These children in the story below were among the 40 children he had reported removed from safe off reservation care and placed with dangerous relatives on the reservation.

This appears to be one of the cases which US attorney Tim Purdon, ACF Director George Sheldon, Indian Affairs staffer Kenneth Martin and others said Mr. Sullivan was misconstruing at best – lying about at worst.

According to the person who informed me – These women will be prosecuted because they moved off the reservation and continued to abuse these children. If they were still living on the Spirit Lake Reservation, all of this would have been ignored by BIA law enforcement.

http://www.grandforksherald.com/content/grand-forks-woman-charged-felony-abuse-grandchildren

Again – we don’t need another 3-year task force to tell us again what we all know beyond a doubt to be true – particularly one that will be purposefully stacked with the same type of thinkers who put children into this position in the first place.

A study was concluded a few months ago by the DOJ and Senator Dorgan is currently doing a tour. Reports on the hearings Senator Dorgan has been holding include story after story of abuse.

Let me remind you again that my extended family is among the abused – and no one has yet been prosecuted for the shooting of my husband’s grandson at Spirit Lake in July 2013.

Our fear is that Senator Dorgan’s concluding report will simply call for MORE money to be given to corrupt tribal entities who are using our children as chattel.

What is needed is for laws to be enforced and children protected. Stop the waste of money and time and protect the kids.

– Further: Please hold actual oversight hearings concerning allegations that the BIA, FBI, ACF and US Attorney’s offices are ignoring the abuse of children. Either prove Mr. Sullivan is wrong that federal officials have been throwing children under the bus – or apologize to him for the way he has been treated by DC superiors.
I have been away from DC for a few months visiting families across the United States, but will be returning to DC shortly to continue our push for relevant and immediate action.


Elizabeth Sharon (Lisa) Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 460
Hillsboro, ND 58045
[email protected]

http://caicw.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW ( @CAICW )
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org

Mar 202014
 
Minnesota Tribe _logoLR

A couple 8th grade students wrote to us, asking for information concerning the ICWA. This was my response…

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Elizabeth Morris [email protected]>
Date: Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 1:12 AM
Subject: The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
To:

Hello, Cecilia.

I am happy to help two students from northern Minnesota. I was raised in the Twin Cities and my husband, Roland John Morris, Sr., was a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – Leech Lake. He passed away in 2004.

Although he was born and raised near Cass Lake, spoke only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten, and was raised practicing many traditions, he was very opposed to tribal government control over him and his family. He believed that many tribal governments are deeply corrupt and are harming people more than they are helping them. He believed the Indian Child Welfare Act was particularly harmful to children and families – and was opposed to tribal government having any jurisdiction over his children or grandchildren.

He went to Washington DC many times to talk to Congressmen about how tribal governments were hurting people. The last time he went was just three weeks before he passed away. His doctor told him not to go, but it is what he wanted to do.

I will tell you what we know of the ICWA.

Almost twenty years ago, a six-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister searched for breakfast while the adults in the house slept off the previous night’s party. He was used to having to care for his four younger siblings. Many times it had been his job to keep them all in the bedroom while adults were enjoying themselves in other areas. During those frequent parties, according to the boy, they weren’t allowed out of the room except to go to the bathroom. Although He was enrolled in the first grade and his sister was enrolled in kindergarten, they rarely made it to school, their hair was infested with lice, and their parents sold the baby’s formula to support their drug habit.

On this morning, instead of finding cereal, the two small children found “long guns” in the cupboard. No, despite the behavior of the adults in his life, he didn’t shoot his sister. However, a social worker commented later that had these children been of white or black heritage, they would have been removed from that home a long time earlier. But because they were of Indian heritage, they were not allowed the same protection that other children would have received.

Thirteen years ago, a teenage girl from Leech Lake, angry at the world because she had been taken from a safe, happy home and placed with dangerous relatives because of the ICWA, went along with her boyfriend to do violence against the very people she loved most and felt safest with. http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y

On June 11, 1999, a non-tribal mother was given 30 minutes notice to show up in Red Lake Tribal Court to defend her legal custody of her children. Not having any time to obtain counsel, she stood by helplessly as the court transferred physical custody of all three children to the man that had fathered the youngest two. The man, who was a tribal member, then turned around and obtained an order to forcibly remove her from the reservation. On June 13, she was served the order to get off the reservation and wasn’t given any time to return home to get clothes and possessions.

In November of 1999, an 8-year-old Brenda Swearington was beaten to death by her great uncle, whom she, along with her siblings, was placed with under the Indian Child Welfare Act. According to a court transcript, the uncle was quoted as saying, “I just lost my temper. Hit her, kicked her too hard when she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to be doing.” A witness stated having seen him pick the little girl up by her throat, “put her against the wall, let go of her, kicked her.”

According to the Native American Press, after the child’s death, other relatives begged the Leech Lake Reservation to pull out of the ICWA program, blaming the program’s priorities and staff for the little girl’s murder. One relative stated that if the ICWA staff had actually looked at the record of the great Uncle and Aunt, they should never have been chosen as caregivers.

Kayla, a fifth grader raised by her non-tribal aunt since she was 8 months old, wanted to stay in the only home she ever knew. She wanted to stay in Kentucky and continue with her basketball and cheerleading. But in 1994, the North Dakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued. A reporter wrote for the Associated Press that the tribe was needed her because they were struggling to keep their cultural heritage and identity intact. In that same article, a representative of a group called NARF estimated that 1.96 million people of Indian ancestry live off the reservations. He said that puts the tribal courts at a disadvantage in custody cases. This is the true purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act: to return children to the reservation for the tribal government’s benefit. All Kayla wanted was for life to go back to normal.

Around 1996, A young South Dakota mother was diagnosed with cancer. Wanting her three children raised in a better way than she had, she moved off the reservation and began going to a Christian church. Feeling so strongly about how destructive her life on the reservation had been, she refused to enroll her children or have them involved in tribal programs including “Head Start.” She also asked a friend to care for her children once she passed on. But before a legal will could be written, she died suddenly from a heart attack.

The State Court turned the children over to the tribe as mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act, pulling them out of school and away from non-tribal relatives and friends and placing them into foster care on the reservation. Although an Indian/white couple that lived off the reservation was interested in adopting the children, the tribal court chose instead to leave them in a reservation foster home. During the process, a lawyer for the tribe confided that in this tribe of about five thousand members, they had about one thousand children in foster care.

On Jan 6, 2000 — more than 2 years from their first notice that “Carl” was living with non-Indians off the reservation — a tribal council voted to gain custody of the child, seeking to “protect his Native American heritage.” The tribal resolution indicated a transfer is more in the interest of the tribe than “Carl” when it stated; “Whereas, the Tribal Council has determined that there is no resource more vital to the continued existence and integrity of this Tribe than its children.”

However, the birth mother, an enrolled tribal member, voluntarily placed her baby in foster care with the county when he was 18 months old and told caseworkers she was opposed to her tribe’s intervention and that she had no ties to the tribe. The tribe subsequently declined jurisdiction, and continued to waive involvement over the next two years. The baby was placed in a white home. According to Carl’s custodial mother, “One problem we’re encountering is that when some of these people hear “ICWA” they just want to lay down and give up.”

This same scenario continues to be played out across America on a daily basis. Children who had never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs – including multi-racial children with extremely minimal blood quantum – have been removed from homes they know and love and placed with strangers chosen by tribal social services.

We hear story after story of children being used and abused by the system under the Indian Child Welfare Act, while tribal and federal authorities look the other way and pretend it isn’t happening. Everyone is too afraid to step on the toes of tribal government.

It is claimed that the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 in effort to help prevent Native-American tribes and families from losing children to non-Native homes through foster care and adoption. We believe that was the story given to sell the bill to the American people, but evidence in the legislative record indicates that the real reason might have always been more about power and money than about helping kids.

The Act is now harming children all across the country as courts and tribes place culture and tribal sovereignty above children’s basic needs for permanency and stability.

1) Some Children have been removed from safe, loving homes and placed into dangerous situations.
2) Some families, Indian and non-Indian, have felt threatened by tribal government. Some have had to mortgage homes and endure lengthy legal processes to protect their children.
3) Equal opportunities for adoption, safety and stability are not always available to children of all heritages.
4) The constitutional right of parents to make life choices for their children including political associations has been interfered with.
5) The constitutional right for children of Indian heritage to enjoy Equal Protection has in some cases been denied.

Letters from tribal and non-tribal birth parents, extended family, foster parents and pre-adoptive families can be read at http://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 hurts children, parents, and caregivers. In addition to preventing children from getting the protection they need when they need it:

– Some Tribal governments have claimed jurisdiction over children that have little tribal heritage and are not enrollable according to their constitutions.
– Some Tribal governments have interfered in custody battles between parents, overturned county decisions in favor of the tribally enrolled parent and ignored child abuse, neglect and drug abuse in those decisions.
– Many county courts and social services back away when ICWA is involved because they can not afford to fight back.
– Several State Governments have given “Full Faith and Credit” to tribal courts and will not review or overturn tribal court custody decisions – no matter clear evidence of child abuse.
– This law requires Federal, State, and Tribal authorities to favor a child’s tribal heritage over their Irish, Afro-American, Scottish, Latino, or Jewish heritage, or any other heritage the child has, no matter the percentages.

We believe the Indian Child Welfare Act is blatantly unconstitutional – a violation of the 10th and 14th amendment. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, intimated in a concurrence he wrote in June, 2013, that he believed it is unconstitutional as well. In agreement with the ruling in the case, “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,” he wrote:

‘The ICWA recognizes States’ inherent “jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings,” §1901(5), but asserts that federal regulation is necessary because States “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families,” ibid.

However, Congress may regulate areas of traditional state concern only if the Constitution grants it such power. Admt. 10 (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”).

The threshold question, then, is whether the Constitution grants Congress power to override state custody law whenever an Indian is involved.

(Side note: Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion cited the work of Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute. Rob Natelson was a friend to my husband, Roland.)

Dr. William B. Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989) also stated about the Indian Child Welfare Act:

“… we are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…”

Thank you so much for writing to us to ask about the Indian Child Welfare Act. I hope what I have shared here is helpful. If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask.