John Stossel looked into the Indian industry – and this is what he found…
To: Various Legislative Staff – 1:33 PM
We are very distressed by this letter. What it says is beyond comprehension.
Some of whom I am writing to are genuinely concerned. Others don’t appear to be or don’t believe he is telling the truth. Yet – more than a few independent media reports have come out over the last couple years verifying and supporting exactly what Mr. Sullivan says is happening.
An April 28, 2014 report from the Associate Press notes new FBI statistics that show the “Navajo Nation [pop. 180,000] saw a sharp increase in the murder rate in 2013 and finished the year with 42 homicides, eclipsing major metropolitan areas like Seattle and Boston.” It said the 42 people killed “surpassed 40 in Boston and 32 in Seattle, both cities with populations of more than 600,000.”
No mention of how many of those in the report were below the age of 18. We won’t hazard a guess.
People – we are talking about children. We realize how difficult the problem is. But we are talking about children. Shame on all those who continue to cover up horrific crimes happening on reservations all over the U.S. simply because standing up to a tribal government complicates their jobs or reelection opportunities. We are talking about children.
Our org and many others will not go away until ALL children in the United States – no matter their heritage – are afforded safety, respect, love, and equal protection. Our government must quit treating children of tribal heritage as if they are worthless, expendable political pawns.
Our children are U.S. citizens first and foremost, and have constitutional rights. Begin to recognize that. We are not going away.
Regional Administrator Sullivan’s letter –
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF)
Subject: Criminal Corruption continues at Spirit Lake
To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)”
Cc: “Murray, James (ACF)” <[email protected]>, “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)”
The criminally corrupt remain in charge at Spirit Lake. By this I mean that whenever a decision is to be made where there is a choice between the welfare and safety of children and the welfare and safety of abusers, rapists and sodomizers, the latter always seem to prevail. This is evidenced by the following eleven facts:
1. In the first week of February, 2014 the Spirit Lake Tribal Council fired Spirit Lake Associate Judge Jennifer Cross. Former Judge Cross had apparently incurred the wrath of the Council by several decision she had rendered during the prior few weeks, decisions to remove children from the homes of convicted rapists and abusers. These rapists and abusers went to the Council and prevailed on them to fire Judge Cross. They did. The Tribal Chair and another council member opposed this action but they were outvoted. The Chair does not normally vote unless there is a tie vote. How does this action of the Tribal Council contribute to the welfare and safety of Spirit Lake children?
2. The reason given by the Tribal Council for the termination of Judge Cross’ employment was that she had not passed the Bar. Judge Cross is a graduate of an accredited Law School and had been preparing for the Bar exam when fired. I understand the current Chief Judge of the Spirit Lake Tribal Court has taken and failed the state bar exam on two different occasions. Judge Cross’ replacement on the Tribal Court has only a high school diploma, no education beyond high school. How will the replacement of Judge Cross with this man contribute to the safety and welfare of the children of Spirit Lake?
3. After Judge Cross was fired these same families asked the Chair and Council to return the children who had been removed from their homes. One of those former foster parents, a twice-convicted rapist, was overheard outside the Council chambers telling the BIA Spirit Lake Superintendent how to handle the paperwork returning the two pre-teen girls back into his full time care and custody by placing only his wife’s name on those documents and keeping his name off of them. How does the placement of these pre-teen girls back into the home of a twice-convicted rapist contribute to their safety and welfare?
4. When Judge Cross applied to the Tribal Chair and Council for reinstatement, she was told by Councilwoman Brownshield, in an open meeting of the Council, “I don’t agree with your decisions.” All the other Council members nodded their heads in agreement. The Tribal Chair spoke on behalf of Judge Cross being retained. Since the vote was 4 to 0 against Judge Cross the Chair did not even have an opportunity to vote. Has this Tribal Council adopted a policy that they will fire any tribal employee who takes actions inconsistent with their desires? How does such a policy contribute to the welfare and safety of the children of Spirit Lake? How will such a policy effect the willingness of competent, qualified staff to come to Spirit Lake to work under such uncertainty?
5. One senior tribal official told me that several years ago former Tribal Social Services (TSS) director Kevin Dauphinais left two children at his home. They were a 4 year old girl and a 2 year old boy who, according to Mr. Dauphinais, needed a place to stay for a few days. They are still in that home. It was immediately obvious that both required medical attention. Subsequent review at the Grand Forks Advocacy Center (GFAC) revealed that the little girl had been being raped by her biological father. When the mother learned this, she kicked the bio dad out of their home. Shortly thereafter the bio mom brought a live-in boyfriend into that home. The live in, soon after arriving in that home, sodomized the 2 year old boy and fled the home immediately. Both BIA law enforcement and FBI were on hand at the GFAC when the rapes and sodomy were confirmed. In the intervening several years there has been no investigation of these sexual assaults on these two little children. There has been no prosecution of these monsters who sexually assaulted these two children. These monsters remain free to walk the streets of their communities, raping and sodomizing little children with no apparent fear of prosecution or imprisonment. I understand no rehabilitative services have been provided to these children to help them overcome the trauma they suffered. How does acting as though nothing bad has been inflicted on these two children contribute to the welfare and safety of children at Spirit Lake?
6. Even though it has been almost four full weeks since the four of you returned from your brief “fact-finding” visit to Spirit Lake, I have yet to see a report of your findings. I am going to receive a copy, aren’t I? I was deeply disappointed to learn from my sources and others who you met with that you had an exceptionally “rosy view” of conditions at Spirit Lake and that you really did not wish to hear any details about the abusive conditions many children have been placed in there, where they are available to be raped and tortured on a daily basis, and the failure of all supposedly responsible adults whether in positions of responsibility in tribal, state or federal government agencies, advocacy groups, religious leaders or the media to stop the carnage. If that is “fact-finding” as you define it, that is most unfortunate. How your “rosy view” and how your refusal to listen to the factual details about the continuing abuse and rape of children contributes to the safety and welfare of those children of Spirit Lake escapes me. May I ask how all of you arrived at the conclusion that your “rosy view” of Spirit Lake was a more accurate descriptor of conditions there than the detailed facts provided to you by my sources and I? What information did you rely on to reach your “rosy view”? Who provided that information? If that information is in written form, may I see a copy of it? How were you able to substantiate the accuracy of that information? How does your “rosy view” of conditions the children of Spirit Lake have been placed in contribute to their welfare and safety? Doesn’t that “rosy view” just spread a little powder and perfume around to cover up the stench emanating from the homes where these Spirit Lake children are available to be tortured and raped daily?
7. In my Tenth Mandated Report I provided detail about the father who was found by the local police in a Devils Lake motel naked in bed with his then 10 year old daughter who was also naked. The Ramsey County Attorney investigated that allegation in my Report and brought an indictment against the father for a class two felony of Gross Sexual Imposition. I find it fascinating that a county attorney receiving a single report from me is able, with only limited resources as compared to those available to the FBI, US Attorney and the BIA, to investigate and indict on facts made available in one of my Reports. There are hundreds of comparable allegations made in my thirteen Mandated Reports which fall into the jurisdiction of the FBI, US Attorney and the BIA. How odd that not one of those resulted in an arrest, indictment or tribal warrant! How does one justify your “rosy view” under these circumstances? How does one explain such gross failures by federal law enforcement?
8. I understand from my sources that you clearly stated that you are drawing a line in the sand in order to restrict the issues you will deal with to those occurring after your brief “fact-finding” visit to Spirit Lake. That means that the hundreds of those children who were placed on the orders of the prior tribal chair in homes with those who neglect, abuse and rape will be ignored in any future efforts at Spirit Lake. This also means that nothing will be done to find those dozens of children who have simply disappeared from the reservation, perhaps trafficked into the Bakken oil field man camps or into other forms of sexual slavery. This also means you will do nothing to help those parents who have been caring for undocumented children without any pay for at least two years and who now will be left to fight the county, state and tribal governments to get the papers allowing them to register these children in school, qualify for Medicaid, etc.. This also means that those young children who have been professionally evaluated, identified as being subjected to unspeakable physical and sexual abuse and who have been prevented from receiving necessary rehabilitative services by the tribal Council will continue to be ignored. Nothing will be done for them to help them to heal! How does leaving all of these Spirit Lake children behind, ineligible in your universe to receive any services, contribute to their welfare and safety? It is clear that your line in the sand will cast a broad, protective net over all those abusers and rapists who have had their way with the children of Spirit Lake for years and, in your universe, will continue without any fear of exposure, prosecution or imprisonment for their prior abuse, rape and torture of these children. Sounds like amnesty to me. By whose authority have you declared that amnesty?
9. It is my understanding that all of you have passed the word to your staff, grantees and contractors that nothing negative about conditions at Spirit Lake will be tolerated in any reports, etc. submitted to you. How sad. Children are in the full-time care and custody of predators available to be raped daily and you are whitewashing any report you get that factually describes conditions at Spirit Lake so no one’s sensibilities will be offended by any word contrary to your “rosy view”. How does such a cover-up contribute to the safety and welfare of the children at Spirit Lake?
10. The Spirit Lake Tribal Chair at a General Assembly meeting on April 29, 2014 in Fort Totten rebuked a local TV reporter for reporting on the death on Thursday, April 24, 2014 of an 8 month old who, reportedly, choked to death on a baby bottle. The reporter was excluded from the meeting as well by the Chair. Unpleasant news is never easy to handle but attempts to cover up such unpleasantness have, in my experience, lead to even more unpleasant publicity. At the same meeting one Tribal Council member tried to ban one of my sources from the reservation. No vote was taken on this matter that evening. It is intriguing that within the space of a few weeks’ time, we have conditions at Spirit Lake described in terms of a “rosy view”, I hear of an organized federal effort to stop any negative publicity about Spirit Lake and the Tribal Chair and Council openly speak of silencing the media and my sources. What a coincidence! Or as a poster I saw recently proclaimed: “Sometimes a coincidence is a plan in disguise.” Whether all of this is a plan or just a coincidence, please tell me how does any of it contribute to the safety and welfare of the children at Spirit Lake?
11. Facts do have a way of interfering with stories that are false. Within the last week, I understand there have been two infant deaths at Spirit Lake. The first was on April 24, 2014 when an infant boy, eight months old, choked to death on a baby bottle. On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, I understand, an infant less than a week old was found dead in his home in Fort Totten. This child had been born in Minot and had been brought home to Fort Totten by his 17 year old mother over the weekend. Dead bodies of infants are difficult to sweep under the rug, especially when there are two of them in five days. It is difficult to maintain that “rosy view” under these circumstances. Reports can be manipulated, if that is your intent. The press can be intimidated and people barred, if that is your intent. If you are able to do all of that, you are still left with two dead babies, hundreds of children in the care and custody of abusive and predatory biological and foster parents, available to be raped or tortured daily and dozens of children who have simply disappeared from the Reservation. What will your “rosy view” and all the rest of your efforts to minimize any discussion of the harsh conditions these children are living in contribute to the safety and welfare of these children?
How many more Spirit Lake children will never grow up because of this continuing criminal corruption? How many more Spirit Lake children will grow into adult lives of severe dysfunction as a result of the abuse, rape and torture imposed on them by the criminally corrupt?
Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver
Elizabeth Sharon (Lisa) Morris
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 460
Hillsboro, ND 58045
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW ( @CAICW )
On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 CAICW wrote the following letter to BIA officials:
Ms. Cave and the committees involved with transforming ICWA guidelines;
Thank you for allowing input concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines.
The hosts of the listening session on Thursday, April 24 stated that only tribal leaders have a stake in the ICWA and are thus the sole “stakeholders” in what happens with ICWA. I realize this is what the BIA as well as many in Congress believe.
However, tribal members who have rejected tribal jurisdiction, non-member persons of heritage who rejected the reservation system and/or have never lived under it, and hundreds of thousands of non-Indians across the nation are in fact “stakeholders” in this law – whether government wants to admit it or not.
Non-Indian stakeholders would include the non-Indian birth moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of children adversely affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are hundreds of thousands of them. You can not say that these families are not “stakeholders” if they are having to fight a tribal government over rights to their own children.
And yes – we have current cases of birth family having to fight tribal governments for their own children. We had a grandmother in Colorado last month who won her case to keep her 7-year-old grandson – but would not have won without help from good attorneys. Sadly, we have a birth mother in Michigan right now who is losing against tribal court because she had no money to hire an attorney who could stand up and say the tribal court isn’t following ICWA, let alone regular family law.
When government passes a law that mandatorily gives jurisdiction of ones family to a political entity – and that law affects not just persons who have chosen to be part of that political entity, but everyone of 100% certain blood heritage – Government has approved a law based on race and has way overstepped its bounds. It gets even worse. Bad enough that many persons and families of 100% heritage are forced unwillingly into this political situation due to their race, but our federal government went further – forcing everyone down to 51% heritage to be included in the law – as well as hundreds of thousands of people with even less than 5% heritage. This means families who are predominately non-native – many of whom are unconnected to the reservation system.
Government has lost sight of the reality that 75% of those who are considered Native American do not live within the reservation system and appears to be blind to the reality that the vast majority of people affected by ICWA are predominately of non-Indian heritage. These affected children have OTHER extended family, roots, traditions, and worldviews – all equally important and acceptable.
I am speaking as a birth mother, grandmother and aunt. I am also speaking as representative of our national membership. I and the people I represent are undeniably stakeholders.
Below are some of the issues brought up by tribal officials in the listening session last Thursday. Tribal leaders are talking about ways to strengthen their jurisdiction over our children. We were very dismayed at the suggested ICWA changes.
Some of the upsetting points of change requested by tribal leaders and their attorneys are listed here. I have summarized reasons for our objections in italics.
1. ‘Make it easier to transfer children to tribal court’ – (Thus harder for families such as ours to protect themselves)
2. ‘Tribal decisions concerning eligiblity should be conclusive’ – (Dominating the feelings and decisions of the birth family, who might have purposefully left the reservation system due to prevalent crime and corruption. Parents and primary caregivers should have the final say as to whether their children are enrolled.)
3. ‘A tribal committee should make revisions to the guidelines and those guidelines should become binding law.’ – (Despite the legislative record, which shows that the guidelines were never meant to be binding. Further – ALL stakeholders should be invited to the table, not just those who have a financial and power stake in having possession of our children.)
3. ‘Make it easier for kids to be eligible. Allow for combining the heritage from two different tribes to help a child reach eligibility.’ – (We are obviously talking about children here who are primarily of non-native heritage. Are tribal governments grasping at straws to keep control over other people’s children?)
4. ‘Require complete ancestry charts for BOTH parents’ – (No tribal government has any right to see my ancestry chart. I am not a tribal member – they have no right to demand any of my personal documents or a right to inspect my lineage.)
5. ‘Eliminate all language referring to “delay” being a problem, the advanced stage of proceedings, or the undue hardship of transferring to tribal court.’ – (OUR children have a right to be respected and protected. There are laws in every state limiting how long a child must wait for permanency BECAUSE it is well documented that children have an emotional need stable and permanent homes as soon as possible. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, our children are no different from any other child in America. It is extremely racist to claim that OUR children are somehow different than other kids and do NOT need permanence as early. What this is essentially saying is that it is okay if children of heritage have their lives disrupted and pulled apart – it doesn’t matter how long they cry or pine for the people they knew and loved best – because they are not as important or valued by our government as other children are. Our government is willing to deeply hurt our children simply because they have Native American heritage. Does the government consider them not as worth protecting as other children?)
6. ‘No more talk about a child not being connected to the tribe – as if the child isn’t “Indian” enough. Eliminate use of the Indian Child Doctrine nationally.’ – ( It is extremely racist for tribal governments to claim that they know my child, who they have never met, better than I do – and that it is more important for my child to be connected to the tribe than it is for my child to have a permanent, safe, and stable home. It is extremely offensive for Tribal leaders to make racist statements like this – completely denying the rights and feelings of non-Indian families as well as Indian families who have purposefully distanced themselves from the reservation system.)
7. ‘Acknowledge that a parent who has not had custody is still a parent with continuing custody.’ – (Would this acknowledgment apply to non-Indian parents as well? Will the government consider the non-Indian mother in Michigan as one with ‘continuing custody,’ even though the tribal court has ripped her 13-yr-old daughter away from her – against the daughter’s wishes? Or is the suggestion that only non-custodial parents of tribal heritage will always be considered a custodial parent? Why? Does the U.S. government continue to view U.S. citizens of native heritage as somehow incapable? Is there an underlying racist notion that parents of heritage are somehow different than their non-native counterparts – despite the vast majority of citizens of tribal heritage living average, mainstream lives off the reservation? To many parents of heritage who choose to live outside of Indian Country, it is offensive that our government continues to pigeon hole people. Further, to non-native parents of eligible children, it is appalling anyone would suggest the other parent be considered to have had custody simply due to a percentage of heritage. Parents without custody are non-custodial parents, period.)
8. ’24-months isn’t long enough for some parents. ex – One dad wasn’t the one with custody because most young children are raised by the mothers and so it is not his fault. He wasn’t responsible for the current situation and needs more time.’ – (The best interest of the child – the need for permanence, safety and stability – needs to be of utmost importance. The needs of Dads who haven’t been in the picture – many times by choice, although they might regret it later – must be secondary. Our society needs all parents, no matter the heritage, to be responsible and accountable, not blaming. We need to make the emotional needs of individual children priority and quit making excuses for adults who should know better.)
9. ‘What one culture deems normal, another culture might not.’ – (This is true. But many ICWA workers seem to ignore the cultural norm an individual child has been raised in – as well as ignore any other heritage of the child – for the sake of the culture tribal leaders and ICWA workers deem necessary and solely important. This appears to happen even when a child has been completely raised and feels comfortable in an alternate culture. Among many ICWA workers, there appears to be a complete disregard and even antagonism for the equally good and acceptable cultures many children living outside of the reservation system have been comfortable with.)
10. ‘States should be required to give the tribal gov’ts a list of all their licensed foster homes so they tribal gov’t can identify preferred families.’ – (Foster families have a right to privacy. This expectation and demand is frightening.)
The following are a list of proposed ICWA changes we would like to see:
1. Children of tribal heritage should be guaranteed protection equal to that of any other child in the United States.
a) Children should never be moved suddenly from a home that is safe, loved, and where they are emotionally, socially and physically comfortable simply because their care-givers are not of a certain heritage. The best interest of the child should be considered first, above the needs of the tribal community.
b) State health and welfare requirements for foster and adoptive children should apply equally to all. If there is proven evidence of emotional and/or physical neglect, the state has an obligation to that child’s welfare and should be held accountable if the child is knowingly or by Social Service neglect left in unsafe conditions. ( – Title 42 U.S.C 1983)
2. Fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage and superseding wishes of tribal government. US Supreme Court decisions upholding family autonomy under 5th and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection include Meyer vs. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Brown v. Board of Education.
3. The “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” must be available to families and children that choose not to live within the reservation system.
a) In re Santos Y, the court found “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 quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at length. Santos also states, Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”
b) In Bridget R., the court stated, “if the Act applies to children whose families have no significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, such application runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways:
— it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states,
— it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights respecting family relationships; and
— on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children and exposes them…to having an existing non-Indian family torn apart through an after the fact assertion of tribal and Indian-parent rights under ICWA”.
c) In re Alexandria Y., the court held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply ICWA “because neither [child] nor [mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” Question: If current ICWA case law includes many situations where existing Family Doctrine has already been ignored, then have serious constitutional flaws already occurred?
4. United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.
a) When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians, whether enrolled or not, have to be told their rights, including 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1911. (b) “Transfer of proceedings [to tribal jurisdiction] …in the absence of good cause to the contrary, [and] objection by either parent…”
b) The rights of non-member parents must be upheld: for example; 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions “Permanent Placement” (1) (iv) “shall not include a placement based … upon an award, in a divorce proceeding, of custody to one of the parents.
c) Non-members have to be able to serve county and state summons to tribal members within reservation boundaries and must have access to appeal.
d) Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.
5. Adoptive Parents need well defined protections. These are the citizens among us that have been willing to set aside personal comforts and take in society’s neediest children. Adoptive parents take many risks in doing this, the least of which is finances. People build their lives around family. Adoptive parents risk not only their own hearts, but the hearts of any birth children they have as well as the hearts of their extended family. These parents have an investment in the families they are building and have a right to know that they can put their names on the adoption paper with confidence. If we, as a society, continue to abuse these parents, we will find fewer people willing to take the risk of adoption and more and more children will languish in foster homes.
6. A “Qualified expert witness” should be someone who is able to advocate for the well being of the child, first and foremost: a professional person who has substantial education and experience in the area of the professional person’s specialty and significant knowledge of and experience with the child, his family, and the culture, family structure, and child-rearing practices the child has been raised in.
7. Finally, if tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, (as argued) than is it constitutional for the definition of an Indian child to include “eligible” children, rather than “enrolled” children?
a) 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions: (4) ”Indian child” means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either
b) member of an Indian tribe or
c) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe;
1. Tribal governments have been given the right as sovereign entities to determine their own membership at the expense of the rights of any other heritage or culture as well as at the expense of individual rights.
2. ICWA does not give Indian children or their legal guardians the choice whether to accept political membership in the tribe. Legal guardians have the right to make that choice for their children, not governments.
3. Non-member relatives are being told that these children are now members of an entity that the family has had no past political, social or cultural relationship with.
4. So IS it then the blood relationship that determines membership? Bridget R., stated, “If tribal determinations are indeed conclusive for purposes of applying ICWA, and if, … a particular tribe recognizes as members all persons who are biologically descended from historic tribal members, then children who are related by blood to such a tribe may be claimed by the tribe, and thus made subject to the provisions of ICWA, solely on the basis of their biological heritage. Only children who are racially Indians face this possibility.” Isn’t that then an unconstitutional race-based classification?
5. Keeping children, no matter their blood quantum, in what the State would normally determine to be an unfit home on the basis of tribal government claims that European values don’t apply to and are not needed by children of tribal heritage is racist in nature and a denial of the child’s personal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
6. Even with significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, forced application of ICWA runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways: (1) it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states, (2) it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights; and (3) on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children.
Thank you for listening to all the stakeholders – including us.
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.
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.
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:
WE ARE HERE TO ENSURE THEY CAN’T CONTINUE TO SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG. This WON’T be ignored.
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 –
“I am sharing some more personal stuff because it is easy for people to focus on Veronica but the reality is, she is one of hundreds needing our help. The toll on the children and families trying to help them is huge! It is sometimes seen as a grand, wonderful thing to support a cause but the reality is – it is hard and dirty for those on the front lines. I know people are shouting hurray for some of the leaders of Save Veronica -but truly M and M are the heroes and the attorneys who helped them
– The work is hard.
– The financial price is high.
– The emotional stress is devastating.
– Saving the children is priceless.
Helping case by case is important but an organized effort to take down the ICWA is essential. If we can get rid of the ICWA the individual cases will decline. We need some heavy hitters to get involved.
I know you know most of this but so many have no idea:
1) Attorneys won’t work for free….we lost 2 attorneys because we couldn’t pay them. They showed up for court and before they left said it would be the last time they would be representing us. We then had to come up with $5000 to retain a new attorney.
2) ICWA are specialty cases. You can’t just get any old Joe…we learned this the hard way. Our original attorney said he could do an ICWA case and told us he knew what he was doing and had a friend who could help him if he had questions. This attorney in reality had no idea what he was doing. Before it was over we had 4 different attorneys. Oh, and had 2 judges.
3) Emotional stress is very high…A person tends to run pretty efficiently when you are fighting but it takes a toll. My husband would head off to work and I would do as much as I could all day while watching the kids, making phone calls and such. When he got home, he watched the kids and I got busy working on the computer and reading and researching. I would stay up until 2 or 3 every night. There was so much to do and we didn’t have an army to help us.
4) One has to work hard to guard their children from all of the chaos. We work so hard to keep the kids from the reality of the situation. They did not know they were on TV or that someone was trying to get their brother. This was a daily effort on our part.
5) Addressing all the struggles he was having because of visitations was huge. We spoke with a physiologist friend, a few attachment therapists, and did lots of research. We started homeschooling mostly because we knew he couldn’t handle public school at the time. We tried diets, discipline techniques, and medicines.
6) Our marriage… LOL – Our dates were a meal after court. We couldn’t afford a sitter and we didn’t want to ask my mom to babysit for something that seemed frivolous. She watched the kids for us for every court date, visitation, attorney meeting, therapist meeting, GAL meeting, etc… every time the media would come to interview she would take the kids so they didn’t know what was happening. She helped soooo much.
7) We had support from our community, family and church but it was still very, very hard.
8) When the adoption was finally done we went into a mode of relief and relaxation. I remember enjoying lots of bubble baths… LOL – We would stay up and watch TV instead of reading court documents. We made a lot of popcorn at night and both gained about 10 lbs – LOL. We hardly knew what to do…I think we needed the rest but maybe let the pendulum swing to long. There was still much we had to do. Our family needed some repairing and our little boy needed some help but the constant necessity to be driven was over.
9) Fundraising is so important – It seems there are so many places to give and times are tight right now but this fight takes money. Our case cost over $150,000 and we didn’t even end up going to trial [because the birth mom changed her mind and ended up wanting us to have him.] The bills from our attorneys every month were often bigger than our monthly income. Yes, we would have months when our bill might be $5000. It could be more or less…but just to get an idea.
Some adoptive parents, like us, are required to sign contracts with bio-parents and tribal government. It is unknown whether this was part of the negotiations Matt & Melanie went through. However, these can be hard to deal with as well.
– We had to sign an agreement with the tribe and bio-mom. The adoption agency contacts me every year to make certain we comply with terms. The tribe has NEVER contacted us. Only one time when I asked for some information did we hear from them and the effort to fulfill our request was pathetic.
– The tribe had us sign that we would take trips to the reservation and visit family there and bring the bio-mother with us (she does not live on the reservation.) Also we are to do things with her and her extended family yearly, like pow-wows, and pick up the bio-mom and transport her there. (BTW – bio-mom told us she doesn’t believe in pow-wows and such because she is a Christian)
– We have not heard from our son’s bio mom since Valentine’s Day. She will do that…then will call a few times a week for awhile, making promises she won’t keep, and then…off the radar for who knows how long.
– Bio-mom is not required to make any effort. We do all the work. The tribe who fought so hard for him has had nothing to do with him since.
Anyway, people need to know this is not a $20,000 regular adoption cost, it is not an easy, happy road. Like my husband said, when it comes to ICWA cases, logic is gone. You are dealing with illogical thinking from that point on. We found that to be one of the hardest things.
We couldn’t believe how it seemed there was absolutely no common sense involved with the case and decisions.
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.