Jun 102013
 

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The “existing Indian family doctrine” was first explained in Matter of Adoption Baby Boy L. (Kan., 1982) 643 P.2d 168, which involved an out-of-wedlock child of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother. (In re Alicia S. (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 79, 83.) The mother had voluntarily relinquished the child at birth for adoption by a specific non-Native American couple, whereupon the father and his tribe invoked the ICWA. In declining to apply ICWA to this situation, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the purposes of the ICWA would not be served by applying it to a situation in which the child had never been a part of an Indian home or culture: “A careful study of the legislative history behind the Act and the Act itself discloses that the overriding concern of Congress and the proponents of the Act was the maintenance of the family and tribal relationships existing in Indian homes and to set minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from, their existing Indian environment. It was not to dictate that an illegitimate infant who has never been a member of an Indian home or culture, and probably never would be, should be removed from its primary cultural heritage and placed in an Indian environment over the express objections of its non-Indian mother.” (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L., supra, at p. 175.)

A split of authority has developed between state courts adopting the doctrine, and those declining to do so. Following Kansas’s lead, numerous state courts adopted the “existing Indian family doctrine,” refusing to apply the Act where its purpose, the improper removal of Indian children from their Indian families, would not be served. Other states rejected the doctrine, primarily based on a plain language statutory construction of the Act. According to these courts, a narrow focus on the interests of a particular existing family failed to recognize the broader interests of the Indian tribe in preserving tribal culture.

The single United States Supreme Court case addressing the Act, Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield (1989) 490 U.S. (Holyfield), involved the question whether twin children, whose parents lived on a reservation and traveled to a distant town to give birth to them and relinquish them, were “domiciled” on the reservation within the meaning of the Act. Some courts have construed Holyfield as having raised questions about the continuing viability of the “existing Indian family doctrine” as defined by Baby Boy L. and its progeny, while other courts have construed Holyfield as being limited to its facts, and having no effect on the “existing Indian family doctrine.”

At present, 10 states have adopted the doctrine, six have rejected it, and the position of the remaining states is unclear. fn. 15

Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so. fn. 16 The United States Supreme Court has denied certiorari in two cases involving the “existing Indian family doctrine,” fn. 17 one from Division Three of this district of the California Court of Appeal, In re Bridget R. (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1483 (Bridget R.).

 

 

 

 

Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1507.) “It is almost too obvious to require articulation,” the Court commented, ‘”that the unique values of Indian culture’ [citation] will not be preserved in the homes of parents who have become fully assimilated into non-Indian culture.” (Ibid.) Thus, the Court concluded, absent a showing by the parents of significant social, cultural, or political ties with their Indian heritage, applying the ICWA to remove the children from a home in which they had formed familial bonds would violate the children’s substantive due process rights. Under the circumstances of assimilated parents and a child who has become part of a loving family, the ICWA “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s fundamental right to remain in the home where he or she is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more and more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow. (Id. at pp. 1507-1508.)

Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.) The Court rejected the contention that the ICWA does not create a race-based classification because application of the Act triggered by the child’s membership in the Tribe, holding that “any application of ICWA which is triggered by an Indian child’s genetic heritage, without substantial social, cultural or political affiliations between the child’s family and a tribal community, is an application based solely, or at least predominantly, upon race and is subject to strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause. So scrutinized, and for the same reasons set forth in our discussion of the due process issue, it is clear that ICWA’s purpose is not served by an application of the Act to children who are of Indian descent, but whose parents have no significant relationship with an Indian community. If ICWA is applied to such children, such application deprives them of equal protection of the law.” (Bridget R., supra, at pp. 1509-1510.)

A. Substantive Due Process

Family rights are afforded substantive protection under the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Santosky v. Kramer (1982) 455 U.S. 745, 753.) fn. 23 The United States Supreme Court ‘”has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.’ [Citation.]” (Moore v. East Cleveland (1977) 431 U.S. 494 499.) As this district of the Court of Appeal discussed in Bridget R., both the United States and California Supreme Courts have recognized that an individual’s rights respecting family relationships do not necessarily depend upon the existence of a biological connection, and that interests in familial ties which grow between members of a de facto family may outweigh biological relationships in some circumstances. (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1505.)

The United States Supreme Court has issued several opinions establishing that children are constitutionally protected actors. “[N]either the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone.” (In re Gault (1967) 387 U.S. 1, 13.) ‘”Constitutional rights do not mature and come into being magically only when one attains the state-defined age of majority. Minors, as well as adults, are protected by the Constitution and possess constitutional rights.’ [Citation.]” (Troxel v. Granville (2000) 530 U.S. 57, 89, fn. 8 (dis. opn. of Stevens, J.).) fn. 24 While the United States Supreme court has reserved the issue of deciding the nature of a child’s liberty interests in preserving established familial or family-like bonds (Michael H. v. Gerald D. (1989) 491 U.S. 110, 130), our Supreme Court has declared that “[c]hildren . . . have fundamental rights–including the fundamental right . . . to ‘have a placement that is stable, [and] permanent.'” (In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 419, quoting from In re Marilyn H., (1993) 5 Cal.4th at p. 306.) California recognizes that “children are not simply chattels belonging to their parent, but have fundamental interests of their own . . . .” (In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 419), and that these interests are of constitutional dimension. (In re Bridget R., supra, at p. 1490.) Prior to Marilyn H., Jasmon O., and Bridget R., in In re Arturo A. (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 229, California case law “[a]dopt[ed] the proposition that a child has a constitutional right to a reasonably directed early life, unmarked by unnecessary and excessive shifts in custody . . . .” (Id. at p. 242, fn. 6.)

As noted in Bridget R., the right of a child to a familial relationship is “[i]f anything, . . . more compelling than adults’, because children’s interests in family relationships comprise more than the emotional and social interests which adults have in family life; children’s interests also include the elementary and wholly practical needs of the small and helpless to be protected from harm and to have stable and permanent homes in which each child’s mind and character can grow, unhampered by uncertainty and fear of what the next day or week or court appearance may bring. [Citation.]” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1504.)

Legislation which substantially interferes with the enjoyment of a fundamental right is subject to strict scrutiny (Sherbert v. Verner (1963) 374 U.S. 398), i.e., it must be set aside or limited unless it serves a compelling purpose and is necessary to the accomplishment of that purpose. Thus, application of the ICWA that fundamentally interferes with the Minor’s right to retain his existing stable familial relationships requires that the statute be subjected to strict scrutiny to determine whether, as applied, it serves a compelling government purpose and, if so, whether its application is actually necessary and effective to the accomplishment of that purpose. (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1507.)

The test we apply is: (1) whether the tribal interests which the ICWA protects are sufficiently compelling under substantive due process standards to justify the impact implementation of ICWA’s placement preferences would have on the Minor’s constitutionally protected familial rights in his de facto family and, if so, (2) whether the application of ICWA, under the facts of this case, is necessary to further that interest. 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.)

The Minor is a party (§ 317.5 (b)), represented by counsel charged with advocating his independent interests (§ 317, subds. (c), (e)). He has defined his best interests as remaining with his de facto family.

#1)   

In re Santos Y, involving the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Grand Portage, the court found that “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 analyses pay 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.”

 

 

#2)

In re Santos Y (2001), the court found that “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…”   Santos y paid particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.‘s due process and equal protection analysis at 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.)”

 


 

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

[ 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. -

[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,

“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.

(ftn1) – 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).

(Ftn 2) “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

(ftn3) 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.”

(ftn4) 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.”

(ftn5) 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.)

(ftn6)  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.)


Existing Indian Family Doctrine:

From OKLAHOMAIn the Matter of Child, B.R.W. September 19, 2003

…[59] The earliest case to articulate what later became known as the existing Indian family doctrine was Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L., supra, 643 P.2d 168. In that case, the Kansas Supreme Court observed that the purpose of ICWA was to maintain family and tribal relationships existing in Indian homes and to set standards for removal of Indian children from an existing Indian environment. (643 P.2d at p. 175.) The court found that the child whose custody was at issue in that case had been relinquished by his non-Indian mother at birth and had never been in the custody of his Indian father. The child thus had never been part of an Indian family relationship. Preservation of an Indian family was therefore not involved in the case; consequently, ICWA did not apply. (643 P.2d at p. 175; see also Matter of Adoption of T.R.M. (Ind., 1988) 525 N.E.2d 298, 303; Claymore v. Serr (S.D., 1987) 405 N.W.2d 650, 654; In the Interest of S.A.M. (Mo., 1986) 703 S.W.2d 603, 609; Adoption of Baby Boy D. (Ok., 1985) 742 P.2d 1059, 1064, cert. den. by Harjo v. Duello (1988) 484 U.S. 1072 [98 L.Ed.2d 1005, 108 S.Ct. 1042].)

[60] While the above cases found ICWA inapplicable because the Indian child himself (or herself) had never lived in an Indian environment, other cases have focused upon the question of whether the child’s natural family was part of an Indian tribe or community or maintained a significant relationship with one. In Matter of Adoption of Crews, supra, 825 P.2d 305, a case involving facts very similar to those before us, the Supreme Court of Washington found ICWA inapplicable to an adoption proceeding where the biological parents had no substantial ties to a specific tribe, and neither the parents nor their families had resided or planned to reside within a tribal reservation, although the birth mother was formally enrolled as a tribal member. In such a situation, the court found the application of ICWA would not further the Act’s policies and purposes and would consequently not be proper. (825 P.2d at pp. 308-310; see also, Hampton v. J.A.L. (La.App., 2 Cir., 1995) 658 So.2d 331, 336, aff’d. by Supreme Court of Louisiana at 662 So.2d 478.)

[61] In California, at least two courts have recognized the existing family doctrine. In In re Wanomi P. (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 156, the court found ICWA inapplicable by its express terms, because the tribe to which the child’s mother belonged was a Canadian tribe, not a federally recognized tribe, as required by section 1903, subdivision (8) of ICWA. (216 Cal.App.3d at p. 166.) However, the court also observed, in dictum, that regulating the unwarranted removal of children from Indian families by nontribal agencies was among the objectives of ICWA, and no evidence suggested the existence of an Indian family from which the minor was being removed. (Id. at p. 168.) Thus, the court noted that there would be no occasion for an application of ICWA. (Ibid.) In In re Baby Girl A. (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 1611, the majority found the baby’s tribe had a right to intervene in adoption proceedings. However, the right of intervention existed under state law, independently of ICWA. (230 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1618-1619.) The court found that, upon remand of the action, the preferences for the placement of Indian children in Indian families or settings, which are provided in section 1915 of ICWA, need not be followed if the trial court found the child had no actual Indian family ties. (230 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1620-1621.)

[62] Two other California courts, however, have refused to apply the existing Indian family doctrine, or at least that version of the doctrine which holds that ICWA applies only if the child himself (or herself) has lived in an Indian family or community. In Adoption of Lindsay C., supra, 229 Cal.App.3d 404, the court characterized the doctrine as follows: “Generally speaking, [the doctrine] hold[s] the Act inapplicable in adoption proceedings involving an illegitimate Indian child who has never been a member of an Indian home or Indian culture, and who is being given up by his or her non-Indian mother.” (229 Cal.App.3d at p. 410.) The Lindsay C. court rejected the doctrine as so characterized. (Id. at pp. 415-416.) The trial court had found the tribe of the child’s unwed father had no right to notice of a pending step-parent adoption affecting the child, because he was the illegitimate child of a non-Indian mother, had always resided with the non-Indian mother, and had never been in the care or custody of the natural father, nor had any connection with Indian culture. Thus, without ever considering whether the natural father had significant ties with an Indian community, which he might one day share with the child if their family ties were not severed, the trial court concluded that no issue of the preservation of an Indian family was involved, as the child had never been a part of an Indian family. (Id. at p. 415.) The Court of Appeal rejected this reasoning and reversed. (Id. at pp. 415-416.)

…[66] Holyfield establishes, by clear implication, that an application of ICWA will not be defeated by the mere fact that an Indian child has not himself (or herself) been part of an Indian family or community. However, it does not follow from Holyfield that ICWA should apply when neither the child nor either natural parent has ever resided or been domiciled on a reservation or maintained any significant social, cultural or political relationship with an Indian tribe. *fn11 To the contrary, in our view, there are significant constitutional impediments to applying ICWA, rather than state law, in proceedings affecting the family relationships of persons who are not residents or domiciliaries of an Indian reservation, are not socially or culturally connected with an Indian community, and, in all respects except genetic heritage, are indistinguishable from other residents of the state. These impediments arise from the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and from the Tenth Amendment’s reservation to the states of all powers not delegated to the federal government. We must, of course, construe the statute to uphold its constitutionality. (Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. v. Florida Gulf Coast Bldg. & Const. Trades Council (1983) 485 U.S. 568, 575 [99 L.Ed.2d 645, 108 S.Ct. 1392]; Adoption of Kelsey S. (1992) 1 Cal.4th 816, 826.) [67] 3.

 

Mark D. Fiddler, Esq., Executive Director, Indian Child Welfare Law Center, Minneapolis, Minn.:

“The ICWA gives her an absolute right to revoke her consent and have the baby returned to her, yet the adoption agency and the adopting couple (a well to do white couple) are saying that the ICWA does not apply because the family is not “reservation connected,” i.e., real Indians live on reservations and the ICWA does not apply unless you’re a real Indian family. The mother is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and the child is eligible for membership making the ICWA clearly applicable. This legal doctrine, called the “existing Indian family” doctrine, will be tested in Georgia in this case. This doctrine is the most effective means of attacking Indian families and tribes ever dreamed up by adoption attorneys. There is a national campaign of adoption attorneys to push this phony doctrine. It has been adopted in at least four states so far. It must be stopped.”

 


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We ENCOURAGE you to go to the original sources to check for accuracy, as well as in some instances the complete document.

Apr 142013
 

Baby VeronicaChristinna Maldonado chose Matt and Melanie Capobianco to love, nurture, and raise her soon-to-be-born child. The Capobiancos had long wanted to be parents and after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts, made the decision to enter into an “open adoption” of Baby Veronica. On all accounts. Veronica was a happy, thriving, child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. To this day, Maldonado remains committed to her choice.

On or around Jan. 4, 2010, Dusten Brown, the biological father, signed away custody of his daughter in exchange for not having financial responsibility. Brown later changed his mind and sought custody of Veronica. Initially, due to South Carolina law, he was denied standing because he was considered an absentee father.

However, because he was 3/128th Cherokee heritage, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to Brown under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.  Baby Veronica, only 1.12% Cherokee heritage, was ordered removed from the Capobianco’s care and placed in Dusten Brown’s custody. On Dec. 31, 2011, despite abundant evidence from child psychologists and attachment experts that removing toddlers from care-givers they’ve bonded to could cause long-lasting psychological damage, Veronica was handed over to her biological father.

Though supporters of ICWA say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it – many of whom have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs. Some opponents of ICWA question the motivation for seeking after children whose families have chosen to be disconnected from Indian Country. The Cherokee Nation alone had over 100 attorneys targeting some 1,500 children across the country in 2012. 

Now Veronica’s case has reached the highest level.  On February 26, 2013, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Matt, Melanie and Veronica. SCOTUS will hear testimony of the case on April 16th and will make a ruling by the end of the term in June 2013.

CAICW is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision made by the high court of South Carolina and return Baby Girl Veronica to the Capobiancos, family chosen for her by her birth-mother. The statutory and constitutional issues addressed in this case impact the equal protection, due process, liberty, and state rights provisions of children in need of care. A child’s best interests should be considered in every child custody determination.  There is no presumption that residing with members of a child’s tribe is in the child’s best interests, particularly when the child is lives off the tribe’s reservation. Further, tribal governments lack inherent jurisdiction over nonmembers. Application of the federal ICWA to cases involving the parents who are not tribal members violates the equal protection provision of the U.S. constitution, even if a non-member parent lives within reservation boundaries.

If you have any doubts to the how justice should rule in this case – consider Christinna, who is 50% Hispanic (if her heritage isn’t important, but another persons supposed minute heritage is, isn’t that….racism?

SHE was the one in the position of being an unwed mother – told by the biological father that he was not going to help support the baby she was carrying. No one else in this case was in that position. (But if what she went through isn’t important, but the father’s belated “pain” is, isn’t that….sexism?)

Then imagine if this had been your daughter, sister, or niece who had made the mistake of sleeping with a man who later refused to help with a child.  Now pay attention.  This man appeared to be Caucasian.  So at some point he mentioned that he has Cherokee ancestry. However, in the time your daughter was with him, he never made an issue about being Indian, practiced anything traditional, or gave any cause to assume he was anything other than the myriad other Caucasians across the United States who claim to have Cherokee blood. Yes, those people of minute heritage who many tribal members of significant heritage mock  as “wannabe” Indians.

Now, imagine you and the rest of your family had supported her decision to move ahead with adoption and helped her find a good home for this child.  Then imagine a tribal government coming in weeks, months or years later, and telling the courts that this man has 3/128th heritage, and based on this tiny bit of blood quantum, this man many tribal members would have mocked if it weren’t for Veronica –  is now “Indian” and they are there to invalidate the decision your family had made.

What the Cherokee Nation is pushing for and the South Carolina Supreme Court erroneously overlooked – is that any woman, of any heritage, who sleeps with any man of any apparent heritage – even a one night stand – CANNOT go ahead with an adoption without somehow ensuring that this man does not have a smidgen of tribal heritage.

WHAT does this kind of ruling do for the rights of women – of unwed mothers?  What kinds of hoops will teenage girls now have to go through if the Supreme Court rules for the tribal governments? Where is the outrage from women’s groups over this case?

And yet – no one would say a thing of she opted to abort her baby instead.  The tribal government wouldn’t – couldn’t stop her from doing that.   Just consider the ramifications of a tribal government victory in this case.

Our Families are NOT Chattel for tribal governments – no matter how many claim them to be.  As parents, we will continue to fight for full rights and freedom for our families – every one of whom is a United States Citizen – even if this Supreme Court makes the wrong decision.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, former Chair, US Commission on Civil Rights (1989) & Emeritus Professor, Political Science MSU, “… 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…”

 

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY NOW THROUGH TUESDAY – for Veronica, her parents, and all involved with this important decision.

 

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country: A Family Journey From Self-Destruction To Opposing Tribal Sovereignty.”

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

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

 

Dec 312012
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

“They just took my baby after 3 years…her sobbing is forever etched in my soul. She wanted us to save her and we couldn’t. Devastated.”

An adoptive mother contacted CAICW on Facebook with this message at 1 am on Saturday, November 20, 2010, just hours after losing her little girl.  CAICW cried with her.  Why was this little girl, who screamed for her adoptive father to help her, taken – while he collapsed on the lawn, sobbing in grief?

Because she had tribal heritage.

While many argue that it is right and good that children of Native heritage be removed from non-Indian homes and turned over to tribal governments, many others question the policy. In this case, just five months after the little girl was taken, social services called the adoptive parents and asked if they would come and get her—immediately.  Apparently the home she had been taken to “didn’t work out,” so now it was OK for her to return to the home they had torn her from just a few months prior. Of course, her parents immediately dropped everything to drive the two hours to get their little girl. When she saw them, the little girl threw herself into their arms and asked if she could finally “go home.”

On Friday, October 19, 2012, Indian Country Today (ICT) reported on the “Veronica” episode of a Dr. Phil Show that had aired the day before. ICT claimed that the show “attacked the ICWA, and undermined the significance of Native children remaining in their tribe and being immersed in their culture.”  It also announced a grassroots Facebook campaign to boycott the “Anti-Native American” Dr. Phil Show. The mission of the campaign ICT says, “is to hold Dr. Phil McGraw accountable by boycotting until he agrees to have a show where QUALIFIED experts discuss ICWA’s importance.”

This is an interesting demand, considering the fact that there were two qualified “experts” on the set that day: Cherokee Nation Attorney Chrissi Nimmo and Judge Les Marston. Furthermore, Terry Cross of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) had been invited too, but declined to appear.

As a birth mother to children who are 50 percent tribal, I flatly refute claims by the tribal establishment that every single child of heritage “needs them.”  No “tribal expert” knows our family or can speak for us. It is a myth that all tribal members want or need to be a part of Indian Country. Tribal members are individuals with their own minds and hearts.

The U.S. census shows that 75 percent of tribal members live off reservation.  Some remain connected to Indian Country, but many extended families mainstreamed a long time ago. Many reject reservation life for the same reason our family does: it isn’t a safe place. Even though we love our extended family that live on the reservation, we choose not to live under a corrupt tribal government in a tract house surrounded by drugs, alcohol and violence. Not every Native person wants to live in or have their children exposed to these conditions.

Furthermore, most “enrollable” children have more than one heritage. This means that they have more than one family, more than one traditional culture, multiple people who love them, and no heritage is more or less important than another.

Tribal governments are now using the ICWA as a weapon to steal the rights and best interests of children, women and families across this country. Make no mistake—the Cherokee Nation alone has more than 100 attorneys targeting 1500 children across the United States who are in the process of being adopted. Many of these children, like Veronica, have less than 5 percent Cherokee heritage. Even that small heritage in many cases comes from families who at some point made deliberate CHOICES to leave Indian Country.

Has God used CAICW to impact you or a loved one in 2012?

Consider impacting someone else by giving a gift

Jul 262012
 

Veronica RoseCharleston, SC [7/26/12]

by Jessica Munday, Trio Solutions:

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled today that the 2-year-old adoptive daughter of Matt and Melanie Capobianco will remain with her biological father Dusten Brown. After seven months of living without her, the Capobiancos of Charleston, SC received word that South Carolina’s high court ruled in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law that allowed Brown and the Cherokee Nation to retain custody of the child on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Despite public outcry that the child should be returned to her adoptive parents, the federal law granted the Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a registered member, the ability to argue that the child is best served with her father’s tribe.

The law was originally intended to preserve Native American culture by keeping Indian children with native families as opposed to non-Native American families. Even though Brown would not be considered a parent by state law because of his lack of support to the birth mother during and after the pregnancy, Christina Maldonado of Oklahoma, the federal law trumps her wishes to select a non-Native family to raise her child.

Brown filed for paternity and custody four months after the child was born in September 2009. He filed for custody with Oklahoma family court. The case was dismissed and jurisdiction was granted to South Carolina. Brown eventually utilized the Indian Child Welfare Act to remove Veronica from her adoptive family on New Year’s Eve. The Capobiancos immediately appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

After learning about the Capobianco’s case, the author of the law, former U.S. Senator Jim Aborzek of South Dakota, was quoted in Charleston’s daily newspaper The Post and Courier as saying this situation is “something totally different than what we intended at the time.” Additionally, he said, “That’s a tragedy. They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume the child was attached to them.”

The adoption case caught national attention on New Year’s Eve when the Capobiancos were forced to hand over the toddler to Brown. The way the family court handled Veronica’s transfer sparked outrage from child advocacy and mental health communities around the country. Prior to the transfer, the 2-year-old had never met Brown. He refused offers for a transition period, placed the toddler in a pick-up truck and drove more than 1,100 miles from the only family the child had ever known.

Oral arguments were heard on April 17. The court hearing was closed to the public. All parties involved in the case remain under a gag order until clearance from their legal team.

Contact: Jessica Munday

[email protected]

843-708-8746

Jul 262012
 

Dr. William B. Allen and Sage I apologize that it took over a week for me to get this letter out to you. The meetings we had in DC this month were the best ever . I want to tell you that so much prayer went into this – and the answers to prayer were amazing. Not only did God give Grace for the compelling and intelligent discussions we were able to have, but He provided for so many to be able to come. Even when I felt discouraged and reluctant to go, God wouldn’t allow me to stand in the way of what he has put together. He is truly worthy of praise in this.

Further, I give credit and am so grateful for the many people who have come on board in the last six months, concerned about what happened to little Veronica and not wanting it to happen again to any other child. We mourn the horrific abduction that our government allowed to happen to a defenseless two-year-old – and are amazed by the attention it has brought to this insanity called the Indian Child Welfare Act. Veronica is not alone. As you and others have talked about her – other parents have come forward and told how the same thing has happened to them. Further, the Cherokee Nation has admitted that they have over 100 attorneys targeting 1500 children this year.

Further, – the New York Times published a horrific story about the Spirit Lake Reservation just two weeks ago. A few days later, another story, this time involving the death of an infant

While not every reservation handles their children in the way that Spirit Lake has, way too many do. Nothing in that story surprised me – it echoed the many things I myself have seen on my husband’s home reservation.

ABOUT DC:

 

Attorney Mark Fiddler gave a powerful presentation on the ICWA law and how and why it must be changed. He went through the notable problems with the law and gave clear instruction on what must be done to protect the children. Several family stories were told – including the Belfords, the Helmholz, and the Anderson’s.

Johnston Moore also gave a wonderful presentation on the problems ICWA has caused families, and Melanie Duncan did a very well researched presentation on attachment issues – and how, surprise, surprise, children of tribal heritage are no different than any other child in the world.

Dr. William Allen introduced Sage DesRochers, who as a thirteen-year-old was forcibly removed from the only home she knew & loved, and placed with her birth mother on the reservation. She spoke about the trauma she went through and the relief she had when she was finally “released” (her words) from the reservation a couple years later and allowed to return to her chosen family. To this day, twenty some years later, she is upset by what the gov’t and ICWA put her through. She asked her adoptive mother (her ONLY mother, says Sage) to join her on this trip to DC.

I told how my husband and I, as parents and granparents of enrolled children, have been affected and hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Jessican Munday did an awesome job MC’ing and organizing the event

Again – this is about the right of individuals to determine their lives – not governments. Most tribal members have left the reservation system. Some move away but choose to continue close relationship with tribal gov’t. Many other persons – with both large and small amounts of tribal heritage – choose NOT to raise their own children within the limited cultural perspective that some tribal gov’ts and other entities define.

Many of us, knowing that our children are multi-heritage, choose to raise and teach our children within other world views, with knowledge of and appreciation for the wide diversity of culture here in the U.S. Many of our children, as American citizens, feel most comfortable within mainstream American culture, working and learning along side all other diverse American citizens. They appreciate ALL of their varied heritages. Neither tribal nor federal government have a right to dictate what culture should be most important to our children and grandchildren.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,

“… 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 ALL FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT! We could not be do this without you!!

Please continue to press in on our Congressmen – they need to hear your voice!!

CONTACTS:

Senator Akaka: Chairman of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Hawaii

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Inouye: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Hawaii

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Barrasso: Minority Leader; Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Very interested in ICWA), Wyoming

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Crapo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Idaho

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Johanns: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Nebraska

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Cantwell: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Washington State

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Johnson: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, South Dakota

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Conrad: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, North Dakota

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Hoeven: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, North Dakota (helped with Teach-In)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Murkowski: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Alaska

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Tom Udall Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, New Mexico

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator McCain: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Arizona

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Franken: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Minnesota

CONTACT: http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=email_al

Senator Tester: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Montana

CONTACT: [email protected]

_________________________________________

Senator Landrieu: Co-Chair of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Louisianna

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Inhofe: Co-Chair of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Oklahoma

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Coburn: Former Member of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Very interested), Oklahoma

CONTACT: [email protected]

Senator Demint: Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, South Carolina

CONTACT: [email protected]

House Committee for Indian Affairs

[email protected] – 202-225-2761

Honorable Representative Don Young – Chair, Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-5765, F 202-225-0425, (From the State of Alaska)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Tom McClintock – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2511, F 202-225-5444, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Jeff Denham – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-4540, F 202-225-3402, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Dan Benishek – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-4735, F 202-225-4744, (From the State of Michigan)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Kristi Noem – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2801, F 202-225-5823, (From the State of South Dakota)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Paul Gosar – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2315, F 202-225-9739, (From the State of Arizona)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Raul Labrador – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-6611, F 202-225-3029, (From the State of Idaho)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Dan Boren – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2701, F 202-225-3038, (From the State of Oklahoma, 2nd Dist.)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Dale Kildee – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2611, F 202-225-6393, (From the State of Michigan)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Eni F. H. Faleomavaega – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-8577, F 202- 225-8757, (From the Territory of American Samoa)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Ben Lujan – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-6190, F 202-226-1528, (From the State of New Mexico)

CONTACT: @mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Colleen Hanabusa – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2726, F 202-225-0688, (From the State of Hawaii)

CONTACT: [email protected]

Honorable Representative Ed Markey – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2836, (From the State of Massachusetts )

CONTACT: [email protected]

_______________________________________________

Congressional Coalition on Adoption

Honorable Representative Michele Bachmann – Co-Chair, Congressional Coalition on Adoption

P 202-225-2331, F 202-225-6475, (From the State of Minnesota)

CONTACT: Katie Poedtke

Honorable Representative Karen Bass – Co-Chair, Congressional Coalition on Adoption

P 202-225-7084, F 202-225-2422, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: [email protected]