– The first assumption is that values within the Indian culture are unique, and the culture of non-Indian relatives and society is of less value. The Truth is – there are no unique value systems within Indian Country. There is nothing new under the sun. In addition, the value systems of all cultures, and every facet of a child’s heritage, are valuable.
– The second assumption, that tribal governments can retain “their” children, supposes that tribal governments have sovereign ownership of individuals, and that these individuals need to be under the jurisdiction of tribal government in order for traditional culture to carry on. The Truth is – Tribal governments do not own our children. Tribal members are American citizens, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whether we are 100% Native American or 100% not, we parents should not be forced to make important life decisions based on what is best for tribal government. Additionally, tribal culture, or any culture, will exist as long as the people who love it carry it in their hearts and pass that love to their children. Government force does not preserve tradition; families do.
– The third assumption is that all families and individuals of Native American heritage think, feel and desire the same things, and any person with a small amount of heritage is automatically better off within the Indian community. ICWA requires that “the prevailing social and cultural standards of the Indian community in which … extended family resides…”be applied in placement preferences.” But not only where a third cousin might reside, the act states, “or with which …extended family members maintain social ties…,” further degrading the parents right to choose where and how they want their children raised.
The Truth is – Humans desire choice and have time and again fought for the freedom to make those choices. That is just as true today as it has been any other time in the history. In America, we are proud of our democracy, equality, and the right all citizens have to make individual choices and live life to their fullest.
We try to help other countries achieve the same. Are Native American citizens allowed less?