Tell Congress How to Best Meet the Needs of Native Children

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Mar 132020
 
Little girl on trike

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children (also known as the congressional Commission on Native Children, or CNC) wants to hear your experience as a child with tribal heritage – OR – raising children who have tribal heritage. Too often, Commissions such as this have heard from only one segment of the population. However, this Commission – which is tasked by Congress to identify new strategies for lasting solutions and report back to them – wants to hear from ALL who have experience – no matter the relationship. Everyone matters.

– If you are an individual with tribal heritage – what were some of the most beneficial experiences you had growing up? What programs, entities, or individuals helped your growth most? Which experiences were most hurtful or destructive? Again, you can do this anonymously if you choose.

– If you are a parent, grandparent, other relative or foster/adoptive parent who is eligible for membership in a federal tribe but prefer to raise your child outside of the reservation system, please let the Commission know why. Your testimony can be anonymous and will help them to understand tribal members who choose not to be under tribal jurisdiction, as well as help them to assess whether living outside of government programs is beneficial to children.

– If you are a parent, grandparent, extended relative, or adoptive parent who is NOT eligible for membership, YOUR TESTIMONY IS JUST AS RELEVANT AND VITAL.

Has any government – federal, state, tribal or county – attempted to interfere with your

  • chosen worldview?
  • relationship with your extended family/parents/child/children, or
  • method of raising children

If so – how has this affected the well-being of child/children involved?

~

HOW TO SEND

Written testimony is to be given just as much weight as oral testimony and CAN be anonymous.

To send signed testimony identifying you and/or the child – Send your testimony directly to the Commission at: asbwsnc@gmail.com

See near the bottom of the page for how to submit testimony anonymously.

~

WHAT TO SEND

“The Commission will focus its recommendations on solutions to issues that would improve the health, safety, and well-being of Native children, including: child welfare; physical, mental, and behavioral health; educational and vocational opportunities; school district policies and practices; access to cultural and extracurricular activities; juvenile justice; early education and development; wraparound services for Native children.”

It is important to tell your child’s story. Your honest opinion about any of what is described above is important. The Commission needs to know your observations and experience – good or bad. They won’t know the full spectrum of experiences if they continually hear only from the same sources.

Also – if your child has struggles in certain areas, let the Commission know why you think that might be and what methods have been used to try to resolve it.

One federal program, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), has a budget of about 50 billion and “awards on the average $647 Million to Native Americans through programs like Head Start… TANF, LIHEAP,…and the Administration for Native Americans, to name a few.” Have any of ACF programs benefited your child? Why or why not? Which government programs have helped? Which have hurt?

If your child is doing well physically, emotionally, academically, and/or spiritually – let the Commission know and tell them which factors you believe helped your child attain that well-being. Was there a close relationship that inspired them? A particular tribal, federal, school or church program? – OR no program at all – just stable, loving home life? If so, the Commission NEEDS to know this.

If a Commission hears only from Social Service professionals who continually say ALL Native Children suffer from (fill in the blank) and All NEED a certain social service program to get better… than that is what they will decide needs to be done. If the Commission is not able to obtain alternate data, it will rely on the data social services, organizations and agencies give it.
If you have a different story – please tell it. If the best outcome for a child is in a stable and loving home setting, independent of government programs, the Commission needs to know this.

All the below suggested topics are OPTIONAL. We are putting them here merely to generate thought concerning current federal Indian policy.

You could choose to include any other issue related to your child that you feel needs addressing, including any words or phrases commonly used by governments or organizations when referring to children of heritage that you feel diminish your child.

These are some of the words, phrases and sentences found in the legislation enacting the Commission or providing data to the Commission. What are the thoughts and inferences behind those words? Do they paint a correct or incorrect perception of your child? Are they truthful or paternalistic and condescending? Do they promote children or protect victim-hood? Do you feel ‘triggered’ by any of the words and inferences made by government agents and policies, or do they seem correct to you?

  • “The Wrongs We Are Doing Native American Children,”
  • “The protective role of Native American culture and language”
  • “Complex program requirements and limited resources stymie efforts to reduce the disparities among Native children.”
  • “Acts of Self-Determination Foster Strong Native Families and Communities”
  • “Native Language Holds Culture, Culture Holds Language, and Both Hold Wellness”
  • “Stakeholders” (when referring to a selective group that you don’t believe includes you)
  • Data on all “Native children” is required “to see how well children are cared for” and that the “rights of children and families are adhered to.”
  • ICWA “protects the best interest of the Indian Child and promotes the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.”
  • “Part of ensuring the safety and security of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children is having basic data collected that provides information on their circumstances.”
  • Under the AFCARS Rule, agencies can collect and keep “information on children who are not enrolled.”
  • They will examine the “unique challenges Native children face”
  • They will build “on the strengths and leadership of Native communities, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wrap-around services to Native children.”
  • “Resources and supports for Native children are currently inappropriate, insufficient, or limited by bureaucracy so that they are ineffective.”
  • “The vision of Native children and youth who are resilient, safe, healthy, and secure requires many types of evidence, including a wide range of evaluation data, descriptive research studies, performance measures, innovative practice models, financial and cost data, survey statistics, and analyses of program administrative data; all contributing to shared strengths-focused narratives relevant and useful to tribal leadership and stakeholders.”

OPTIONAL Adoption/Foster care Questions: [Wording is pulled from the conclusions of a 1998 pilot study report]
1. Does placing American Indian children in foster/adoptive non-Indian homes puts them at great risk for experiencing psychological trauma leading to the development of long-term emotional and psychological problems in later life?
2. Are there unique factors of Indian children being placed in non-Indian homes that create damaging effects in the later lives of the children?
3. Do American Indians have a cognitive process different from non-Indians – a cognitive difference in the way Indian children receive, process, integrate and apply new information—in short, a difference in learning style”?
a. Is the difference in learning style a cognitive difference in race, a familial difference, an issue unique to your child, or a symptom of fetal alcohol effects?
4. Are the ties between Indian children and their birth families and culture extremely strong, and the ties between Indian children and non-Indian foster/adoptee families only “foster parent-tie-to-Indian child, not Indian child-ties-to-foster parent?”
5. Do American Indian adults who were adopted into non-Indian families as children have greater problems with self-identity, self-esteem, and inter-personal relationships than do their peers from non-Indian and Indian homes?
6. Do Indian adoptees, regardless of age at placement, list identity with their family and their tribe as their first priority, and the sorrow of not knowing their culture, language, heritage and family as a life-long, often emotionally debilitating anguish?

Encourage as many people as possible to send in their testimony. There has been a long history of misinformation concerning children who have heritage, and it will take the stories of quite a few people to begin to correct the mind-view of government agencies.

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TO PROVIDE ANONYMOUS TESTIMONY TO THE COMMISSION:

For the Commission to receive anonymous testimony, signed testimony must be given to a trusted CNC Commissioner who will then verify it, remove identifying data, and deliver as anonymous to the full Commission. Elizabeth Morris, chair of CAICW, is a CNC Commissioner.
Elizabeth will keep your signed copy in a protected file and deliver the anonymous copy to the Commission.

You can submit your testimony to Elizabeth Morris at:
administrator@caicw.org

or mail through USPO to:
PO Box 460, Hillsboro, ND 58045

Other Commissioners of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native
Children
who can receive signed testimony and provide an anonymous copy to the Commission are:

Gloria O’Neill (Chair)
President/CEO, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc.
Alaska

Tami DeCoteau, Ph.D. (Co-Chair)
DeCoteau Trauma-Informed Care & Practice, PLLC
North Dakota

Carlyle Begay
Former State Senator
Arizona

Dolores Subia BigFoot, Ph.D.
Director, Indian Country Child Trauma Center
Oklahoma

Jesse Delmar
Director, Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety
Arizona

Anita Fineday
Managing Director, Indian Child Welfare Program, Casey Family Programs
Minnesota

Don Atqaqsaq Gray
Board Member, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation
Alaska

Leander R. McDonald, Ph. D.
President, United Tribes Technical College
North Dakota

Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris
Administrator, Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare
North Dakota

Melody Staebner
Fargo/West Fargo Indian Education Coordinator
North Dakota

URGENT!! ICWA STRUCK DOWN IN DISTRICT COURT

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Oct 042018
 
Destination Heaven

FINALLY!
October 4, 2018
Northern District Court of Texas, Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-00868-0
BRAKEEN v.. ZINKE

ICWA DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Among several other requests that were granted –

F. Indian Commerce Clause Claim
Plaintiffs also claim Congress did not have the constitutional authority to pass sections 1901–23 and sections 1951–52 of the ICWA under the Indian Commerce Clause. Ind. Pls.’ Br. 66, ECF No. 80; State Pls.’ Br. 49–52, ECF No. 74. Defendants counter that the Indian Commerce Case 4:17-cv-00868-O Document 166 Filed 10/04/18 Page 46 of 47 PageID 4175
47
Clause grants Congress plenary authority over Indian Affairs. Fed. Def’s Resp. Ind. 35, ECF No. 123; Trib. Defs.’ Resp. 21–28, ECF No. 118. But as shown above, Murphy does not permit Congress to directly command the States in this regard, even when it relies on Commerce Clause power. Murphy, 138 S. Ct. at 1479. Therefore Plaintiffs’ request for a declaration that these sections are unconstitutional is GRANTED.

Final Judgment ICWA STRUCK DOWN
167_-_final_judgment ICWA STRUCK DOWN –

Brackeen v Zinke – ICWA UNCONSTITUTIONAL
166_-_order_on_msj

START WRITING YOUR AMICUS BRIEFS

(Video) The Implications of Native American Heritage on U.S. Constitutional Protections

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Apr 142017
 
child abuse

Three-yr-old Lauryn Whiteshield was murdered a little over a month after her arrival to her grandfather’s home in the spring of 2013.
This twenty minute video examines the effect of federal Indian policy on the lives, liberty, and property of U.S. citizens across America.
Although the last two U.S censuses show that 75% of tribal members do not live within Indian Country and many have never had any association with the reservation system, federal policies mandate tribal government jurisdiction over individuals of lineage in several areas.
1) Across America, children who have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs – including multi-racial children with extremely minimal blood quantum – have been removed from homes they love and placed with strangers. Some children have been severely hurt in the process.
2) Women victimized by violence can be denied the option of county court, regardless whether they believe justice cannot be obtained in tribal court.
3) Further, the Department of Interior holds title to the property of millions of individual tribal members. Adult citizens are not allowed to sell or use their property as collateral without permission.
This study looks at the practical impact and documented repercussions of policies that, based solely on a person’s lineage, set limitations on what they may do with their lives, children, and property.

Please share this with your friends.

PLEASE also share with YOUR Congressmen. MANY of them take a stand on all kinds of things – from orphans in Russia to immigrants and refugees from overseas. DEMAND that they take a strong stand for children in the United States – CITIZENS subject to abuse by a law they – Congress – created and MUST remove.

Most especially – share your thoughts on this video with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Senator John Hoeven.

Find your State’s Senator and Congressmen here:
https://www.senate.gov/
https://www.house.gov/

Thank you – and PLEASE Share….

Learn More.

https://DyingInIndianCountry.com

https://www.facebook.com/CAICW.org/

Declared “Sanctuary” for Children Running from ICWA –

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Feb 202017
 
sanctuary

Over the years, we have seen so many distraught families – panicked over what was happening to their children, unsure what to do to protect them, and unable to get help.

Many times, especially in light of the new ICWA rules and guidelines published by the Obama admin in 2016, …there has been little a family could do.

Watching several families struggle at this current time, we have come to a decision:

Whereas, up to half of Americans believe sanctuaries from federal law are a good and reasonable necessity – where people, fleeing oppression from their home nation, can hide from federal law that would send them back to that home nation;

And Whereas; most American citizens believe federal laws that target, isolate, and separate children and families on the basis of heritage are unconstitutional and should not be allowed;

And Whereas, for decades in America, many Christian church buildings have served as sanctuaries, and while there is no law defining a sanctuary or mandating it be respected, the federal government has often declined to enter and forcibly remove people from a declared Christian Sanctuary;

And Whereas, federal authorities have shown their willingness to ignore state and federal law for the last two years when they declined to enter the Cheyenne River Reservation to remove two little girls who were taken from North Dakota by their non-custodial mother when their non-tribal fathers were granted legal custody; and federal authorities have also shown their willingness to ignore federal law in several cases during the 1980’s when Guatemalan illegal-immigrants sought sanctuary in various church buildings around the country;

And Whereas; many children of tribal heritage, even in teen years, have expressed their desire to stay with their chosen families and not be uprooted by tribal governments, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many birth parents have objected to tribal jurisdiction over, or involvement in, their families, and have made it clear they do NOT want their children on the reservation or their custody case heard in tribal court, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many extended family, of varied heritages, have had children removed from them by tribal officials for no other reason than that the tribal officials did not like that branch of the family, or the family was non-Indian, or there were friends or family of tribal officials that wanted the child;

And Whereas; there are many documented instances of tribal courts practicing corruption and nepotism in their choice of homes for children, despite clear evidence of harm to children in those homes;

And Whereas; an untenable number of children have been sexually abused, seriously injured or murdered as a result of placement in homes under the Indian Child Welfare Act;

And Whereas; there is solid legal argument concerning the unconstitutionality of the ‘Indian Child Welfare Act,’ and Justice Clarence Thomas intimated as much in his concurrence in the case, “Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl;

And Whereas; once a child has been placed in the custody of a tribal government, particularly within reservation boundaries, it can be extremely difficult to remove the child;

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare does hereby from this day forward declare itself a ‘Sanctuary for Children and Families Threatened by the Indian Child Welfare Act.’

Families will need to show:

1) It is in the child’s clear best interest to remain with them; or that while best interest might yet be unclear, the child needs more time for all aspects to be studied and for true best interest to be made clear; and
2) They are in imminent danger of being forcibly removed by tribal authorities and/or local police under the direction of tribal authorities.
3) They intend to tirelessly work a plan of action to prove and win the best interest of the particular child or children;
4) Understand the CAICW sanctuary they would stay in is a Christian home – where Jesus Christ is Lord.

Lastly, we fully respect President Trump’s position concerning federal funds – and can proudly guarantee we will not be requesting or requiring any federal funds for this Sanctuary.

Families can contact us by messenger or email.

PLEASE – share this message freely.

__________________________________________________

– – Those who object to this and see things from a progressive perspective can explain why they feel it is okay for sanctuaries to shield people of some heritages from some federal laws, but not people of other heritages from other federal laws.

– – Those who see things from a conservative perspective and object to any instance where a person is shielded from federal law… We can only beg your understanding that these children are American citizens, and the federal law in question does not provide equal protection. Please ask your Senators and Congressman to act quickly on repealing this law, so that no child of tribal heritage will need a sanctuary.

Not Just Lexi: ICWA Hurting Untold Children Across U.S.

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Mar 302016
 

Bismarck, ND – On March 21, a 6-year-old girl of 1/64 Choctaw ancestry was taken crying from her home by social services, placed in a car, and driven to another state.

Many realize current federal Indian policies are hurting people. What many don’t know is the extent. Dozens of children across the nation currently face the same situation Lexi faced – if not worse.

To date, Lexi’s removal caused the biggest public ICWA reaction ever as the presence of dozens from within her community initially delayed her from being taken, then personally witnessed her removal in tears. Hundreds of thousands saw the video clips and reacted for a child 98% non-native, removed from her home solely due to the Indian Child Welfare Act. The resulting petition garnered signatures from 100 countries around the world.

According to the last two U.S censuses, 75% of persons eligible for tribal membership do not live in “Indian Country.” Over the last few decades, many families of heritage have left the reservations due to the level of corruption and crime. As families left, tribal leaders – panicked by declining membership – pushed Congress for increased control over children of heritage.

This includes children who are multi-heritage, who’ve never been near Indian Country, and whose only connection is a dissident great-grandparent who purposefully left the system decades ago.

Worse, some tribal governments refuse to allow kids to live in foster homes off reservation – even if there are no safe homes currently available on the reservation.

As reported by Tom Sullivan, Regional Director for ‘Administration of Children and Families,’ this has resulted in
Tom Sullivan - Regional Administrator ACF children being placed where ever available – including homes of known child abusers and sex offenders. Mr. Sullivan reported this multiple times to his DC superiors, who told him to cease reporting it, and after he refused, recently began the process of firing him.

Despite documented deaths of children and mass exodus from Indian Country, federal government consistently looks the other way while tribal leaders claim to speak for everyone and demand additional funds and increased control over children.

NICWA, NARF, the Casey Foundation and Tribal leaders do NOT speak for everyone, nor do they know what is best for every individual child of heritage – no matter whether that child is 100% or 1%. Rhetoric otherwise is the epitome of racism.

Unfortunately, federal government has literally made the decision to protect tribal sovereignty at all cost – even the cost of our children. In fact, the BIA is preparing additional rules to strengthen ICWA. Roland and his newborn, 1990

America is already angry with government over corrupt bureaucracies, lack of protection for citizens, and inaction by Congress.

CAICW is asking Americans to contact their Congressmen to oppose the new BIA rules, rescind the Indian Child Welfare Act, and protect a brave public servant – whistleblower Tom Sullivan.

###

Elizabeth Morris is Chair of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of “Dying in Indian Country.” is both a ministry and advocacy group. CAICW has also been advocating since February 2004 for families at risk of harm from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our advocacy has been both judicial and educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

Mar 202016
 

URGENT PRAYER: A little 6-yr-old girl was torn from her home Monday, 3/21/16 – taken from the only home she has known and loved to be placed with strangers.

This is due to the Indian Child Welfare Act – which pushes the false and racist notion that children of even a small amount of heritage are somehow different from other children – and do not bond, love or thrive in homes outside of Indian Country.

Tribal governments – which receive more federal money per head – claim it is in the genes.

This racist notion is pushed by media and even our Congress – although no such gene has been shown to exist – and despite testimony of myriad children, adults, and families of heritage across the nation that they are content, happy and thriving in their homes outside of Indian Country.

Many families have left Indian Country because they DO NOT want to be chattel for tribal governments.
– The family of the author of this post is one of them.


Sign petition here:
https://www.change.org/p/keep-lexi-home
Read More Here:
https://www.facebook.com/saveourlexi/

.

Defender of Abused Children about to be fired by DC Superiors for refusing to shut up about rampant sexual abuse –

 Comments Off on Defender of Abused Children about to be fired by DC Superiors for refusing to shut up about rampant sexual abuse –
Mar 162016
 
Sunset on the Rez

Whistle-blower Thomas Sullivan, the one HHS/ACF official who has stood up against the rampant sexual abuse on many reservations, is about to be fired by his DC Superiors.

They have come up with several accusations against him, but if you have followed his work and the threats they have made against him over the last three years – you know that all he has ever done is defy their orders to shut up about the overwhelming abuse of children, and release his reports to the public when his DC superiors ignored them.

Tom Sullivan - Regional Administrator ACF

Tom Sullivan is a hero – working to protect our children fromleaders who simply use and abuse them for purposes of power and money.

The following is the latest letter – a 6 page list of accusations from his superiors…

On the last page, you see a handwritten note from his superior that says;

Employee refused to sign document before having an opportunity to review it.
Mishaela Duran 3-10-16

(Why shouldn’t a man be allowed to review a document before he signs it?)

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

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-1

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-2

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-3

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-4

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-5

Proposed Removal 752CD - Thomas Sullivan - 03102016-6

May 182015
 

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks During the White House Tribal Nations Conference
Washington, DC
United States
~
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Good morning. I want to thank you all for such a warm welcome. And I would like to thank President Obama for hosting this important White House conference.

It is a pleasure to be here today, and a privilege to join so many distinguished public servants, passionate activists, dedicated leaders, and good friends as we celebrate vital achievements, discuss critical challenges, and renew our shared commitment. All of the leaders in this room – and so many others across the country – are indispensable partners in our efforts to fulfill the promise of the U.S. government’s relationships with sovereign tribes. You are critical allies in our ongoing work to move this country closer to its most treasured ideals: of equality, opportunity, and justice under law. And you continue a proud tradition of tribal leaders who have stepped to the forefront of efforts to preserve cultural values, to enforce treaty obligations too often ignored, and to secure the rights and benefits to which all American Indians and Alaska Natives are entitled.

I know this responsibility has rarely been easy. But it is a solemn obligation that you and your ancestors have carried for generations – through injustice, violence, and deprivation; through broken promises, deferred action, and denial of rights. Over the years, you’ve seen avenues into prosperity foreclosed by bigotry. You’ve seen opportunities curtailed by deplorable discrimination. And you’ve held firm even at times – in past decades – when the federal government insisted that the men and women of tribal nations forsake their culture and their heritage, and be slowly, painfully, grudgingly assimilated, while their tribal governments were neglected—or even terminated.

Together, you and your predecessors faced down tremendous adversity to safeguard your lands, protect your cultures, and strengthen your ability to choose your own future. And, particularly in the last half-century, your commitment has finally been met by a U.S government that’s prepared to acknowledge the failures and injustices of the past – and to work with and empower you to chart a new course.

That is why, during the earliest days of the Obama Administration – in 2009 – I traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, for a historic Tribal Nations Listening Session, to hear directly from tribal officials about the actions we could take together to build a relationship of coexistence and cooperation. I was joined at the time by roughly 100 Department of Justice officials representing more than 20 different components, as well as more than 400 tribal leaders and representatives from around the nation – some of whom are here in the audience today. We discussed the epidemic of violence that cut a vicious path through Indian Country, where violent crime rates reached two, four, and sometimes over ten times the national average. We spoke about the vital needs of women on tribal lands, who faced a shocking reality in which 1 out of every 3 American Indian or Alaska Native women would be raped in her lifetime. And we spoke about children who were brought up in poverty, in the midst of uncertainty and rampant abuse.

As I listened, during that visit, I heard the pain in the voices of the people I was meeting with – people whose parents and grandparents had made indelible contributions to this country, but who had been shut out of the process of self-determination, and denied access to opportunities for success. I felt, even then, a deep and powerful comprehension of the magnitude of discrimination that tribal communities have faced – discrimination that bore a distressing resemblance to the experience of millions of people of color throughout our history, including those brave pioneers I remember watching as a young child, on a black-and-white television in the basement of my family’s home in New York City, as they marched for equality and rallied for the opportunities that should have been their birthright.

I recognized, on a basic, human level, the desire for empowerment, and the need for mutual trust and understanding, that I encountered during my listening session in Indian Country. And I left St. Paul both inspired and invigorated by a firm commitment to the work we must do together.

After that conference, I announced not only an intention to work closely with you to move in a positive direction, but a desire to take concrete steps forward – and to implement a fundamentally new approach that emphasized collaboration between sovereign tribes and the federal government. I announced the creation of a Tribal Nations Leadership Council to advise me on matters critical to Indian Country – a council made up of men and women not selected by the federal government, but elected by their own peers. I stated my determination to work with Congress to pass important legislation like the Tribal Law and Order Act in order to provide tribal governments with more of the authority, resources, and information they need to appropriately hold to account those who commit crimes in Indian Country. I directed the department to increase the engagement of United States Attorney’s Offices with tribes in their districts and work to expand Indian Country prosecutions. And I called for the swift reauthorization of a revised and strengthened Violence Against Women Act, including provisions recommended by the Justice Department that would, for the first time in decades, protect and empower Indian women against abuse by non-Native men.

I am proud to say that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many of the men and women in this room today, every single one of these goals has been met. And all of these commitments have been fulfilled.

In every instance, progress was made possible by our shared determination to overcome the effects of what my predecessor, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, once called the “tragic irony” of American Indian oppression, and to work together to forge an enduring, positive, collaborative relationship between the federal government and sovereign tribes. And I am pleased to note that, over the last six years – by committing to this new and necessary approach – together with President Obama and our colleagues throughout the Administration, we have expanded on our initial groundbreaking efforts and helped to launch a new era of empowerment and opportunity.

Through cooperation between tribal justice leaders and U.S. Attorney’s Offices – including new tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who prosecute Indian Country cases in federal and tribal courts alike – we have dramatically strengthened interactions between federal and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors, and transformed a dysfunctional process that too often allowed domestic violence cases in Indian Country to languish and disappear—the sad result of a system in which the federal government and tribal officials would too rarely communicate, let alone collaborate. Every U.S. Attorney’s Office with Indian Country jurisdiction is now required to engage with the tribes in its district to develop operational plans to improve public safety and prevent and reduce violence against women and girls. A review of FY 2013 cases filed against defendants in Indian Country showed a 34 percent increase from 2008 numbers—the year before the department’s Indian Country initiative began. And since the bipartisan passage of the landmark Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013, the Justice Department has announced three pilot projects to begin early implementation of special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction, which extends tribal prosecution authority over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence for the first time in more than 35 years. As a result, more than 20 non-Indians have been charged by tribal prosecutors – and more than 200 defendants have been charged under VAWA’s enhanced federal assault statutes. This total includes more than 40 cases involving charges of strangulation or suffocation, which are often precursor offenses to domestic homicide.

We’re building on this work through targeted programs like the American Indian/Alaska Native Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Sexual Assault Response Team Initiative – under the leadership of our Office for Victims of Crime – which is designed to strengthen the federal response to sexual violence in tribal communities. Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with the Initiative’s Coordination Committee. I received their formal report and concrete recommendations on improving federal agency response to sexual violence in tribal nations.

And I pledged then – and reiterate today – that these recommendations will serve as a solid basis for robust action as we seek to gain the trust of assault survivors; to break the culture of shame that prevents far too many victims from coming forward; and to build upon the exemplary work that tribal authorities, law enforcement leaders and victim advocates across the country are doing every day to help us turn the tide against sexual violence.

We are also expanding our work with tribal governments to protect children in Indian Country through the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. Since it was established last year, the Task Force has already made important progress, led in part by the outstanding work of its distinguished Advisory Committee co-chairs, former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Grammy-winning artist – and member of the Iroquois Nation – Joanne Shenandoah. As the Task Force moves ahead, they will continue to coordinate closely with federal leaders to support and strengthen the work all of you are leading throughout tribal lands.

Beyond these efforts, we have taken a collaborative approach to break the gridlock on issues that have been a source of contention between tribal nations and federal Administrations for decades.

In 2010, the Obama Administration reached a historic settlement – totaling $3.4 billion – that resolved Cobell v. Salazar, a class-action lawsuit on trust accounting and mismanagement that had been pending for fifteen years. Since October of that year, the United States has settled the trust-mismanagement claims of 81 federally recognized tribes, putting an end to decades of bitter litigation and providing over $2.6 billion to tribes across the country. These settlements – which place no conditions on the use of funds – have spurred tribal investments in long-term economic development initiatives, infrastructure, and expansion of tribal government services. And as part of the agreements, we established procedures for improving communication and avenues for alternative dispute resolution – so that, in the future, we can more effectively collaborate to resolve issues involving trust funds and assetswithout costly and long-running litigation.

More broadly, we’ve worked to protect water rights and natural resources on tribal lands. And we’ve vastly expanded our outreach to – and cooperation with – Indian tribes across the continent, institutionalizing ways to seek input on environmental concerns and gaining critical insights into the environmental needs of tribal nations from coast to coast. Today, I can announce that we are releasing a revised Environmental Justice Strategy and Guidance, outlining how we will work to use existing environmental and civil-rights laws to help ensure that all communities, regardless of their income or demographics, are protected from environmental harm. Across the board – from our collaboration with and funding of the Intertribal Technical-Assistance Working Group, or ITWG, which uses peer-to-peer education to enhance effective prosecution practices in Indian Country, to our formal conversations with sovereign tribes to discuss ways to expand and enforce the voting rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including a proposal to require state and local election administrators whose territory includes tribal lands to place at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribal government – this Administration is standing up for tribal sovereignty, tribal self-government, and tribal power. We are defending the rights of men and women in Indian Country to execute their own laws, to implement their own practices, and to perform their own civic services. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that, in the future, efforts like these will become standard practice.

To that end, last year, I announced that the Justice Department would take steps to draft and adopt a new Statement of Principles to guide all of the actions we take in working with federally recognized Indian tribes. Developed in consultation with the leaders of all 566 tribes, that Statement of Principles was meant to codify our intention to serve not as a patron, but as a partner, in Indian country – and to institutionalize our efforts to reinforce relationships, reform the criminal justice system, and aggressively protect civil rights and treaty rights. I am proud to say that our Statement of Principles is now complete. It has taken effect. And it will serve as a guide for this Administration – and every Administration – as we seek to build the more perfect Union, and the more just society, that every individual deserves.

All of these achievements are vital – and many of them are nothing short of groundbreaking. But, like all of you, I recognize that the longevity of our accomplishments depends not only on the strength of our convictions, but on the ability and the willingness of those who come after us to build upon the progress that we have set in motion.

After all, for everything that’s been achieved so far, a great deal of important, life-changing work remains to be done. That’s why the Department of Justice is committed to programs like the Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship—named for a beloved and extraordinary member of our DOJ family, and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Indians, who worked tirelessly to advance the federal government’s relationships with sovereign tribes and to defend the interests of Indian and Alaska Native communities from coast to coast. Although Gaye passed away this summer, the fellowship that bears her name is creating a new pipeline of legal talent with expertise and deep experience in federal Indian law, tribal law, and Indian Country issues. I’m proud to say the very first Indian country fellow has been selected, and Charisse Arce [sha-REESE AR-see], of Bristol Bay, Alaska, will be appointed to a three-year term position in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona, where she will be assigned to the district’s Indian Country Crime Section. She will also serve a portion of her appointment in a tribal prosecutor’s office or with another tribal legal entity within the district.

In addition to establishing this vital fellowship, the Department of Justice is reinforcing and increasing staff for the Office of Tribal Justice—including experts with a deep understanding of the laws impacting Indian Country—to make certain that Indian men, women, and children will always have a voice in the policies and priorities of the Justice Department. And we are redoubling our support of the Indian Child Welfare Act, to protect Indian children from being illegally removed from their families; to prevent the further destruction of Native traditions through forced and unnecessary assimilation; and to preserve a vital link between Native children and their community that has too frequently been severed – sometimes by those acting in bad faith.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is launching a new initiative to promote compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Under this important effort, we are working to actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities. We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law. And we will join with those departments, and with tribes and Indian child-welfare organizations across the country, to explore training for state judges and agencies; to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children; to gather information about where the Indian Child Welfare Act is being systematically violated; and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.

Ultimately, these children – and all those of future generations – represent the single greatest promise of our partnership, because they will reap the benefits of our ongoing work for change. In the last six years, we have worked together in a shared effort to end misunderstanding and mistreatment, and to bring about a triumph of vision over the status quo; of ingenuity over incapacity; and of progress over stagnation. We have laid an enduring foundation as we strive to empower vulnerable individuals, and give them the tools they need not to leave their communities, but to bolster them; not to abandon their ways of life, but to strengthen them.

Of course, there are many more challenges still before us. And we’ve seen all too clearly that the barriers erected over centuries of discrimination will not be surmounted overnight. But we face a brighter future today because we have placed our faith not in conflict or division, but in cooperation and respect; in the understanding that, though we live in different cultures, with different traditions, we share the same values. We believe that sovereign nations have the right to protect their citizens from harm, and that no perpetrator of domestic violence should be granted immunity because of the color of his skin. We understand that promises of autonomy have meaning, and should not be overturned through the changing desires of different federal Administrations. And we recognize that any child in Indian Country – in Oklahoma, or Montana, or New Mexico – is not fundamentally different from an African-American kid growing up in New York City. And neither child should be forced to choose between their cultural heritage and their well-being.

From the assurance of equal rights and equal justice, to the power of democratic participation and mutual aid, we are joined together by principles as old as time immemorial – principles embodied both by men and women whose ancestors lived on this continent centuries ago, and by those who have newly arrived on our shores. This is my pledge to you – here, today: that, because of our partnership – because of the record we’ve established; because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.

That is the legacy of our work together – not only the groundbreaking accomplishments I have described today, but the historic dedication to partnership that has made them possible. Although my time in this Administration will soon come to an end, we have embedded a commitment to tribal justice in the fabric of the Justice Department that I know will continue long after my departure. I will always be proud of the enduring, positive, and collaborative relationship we have built; of the life-changing work we have completed; and of the new era of progress that we have begun. It is my sincere hope that as the history of this Department of Justice is written, great attention will be paid to our accomplishments in interacting with our Native brothers and sisters. This has been a personal priority for me.

I want to thank you all, once again, for your passion, your perseverance, and your steadfast devotion to the work of our time. I am humbled to stand with you, today and every day. I am grateful for your friendship. And I look forward to all that we will achieve – together – in the months and years ahead.
Thank you.
Topic:
Tribal Justice
Component:
Office of the Attorney General

The United States Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, Justice News –
http://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-eric-holder-delivers-remarks-during-white-house-tribal-nations
Accessed Dec 4, 2014, 5 pm

Dec 052014
 

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder Vowed to give Permanent Jurisdiction of Multi-racial Children Across the Nation to Tribal Governments on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

In reference to the Indian Child Welfare Act, he stated,

…“We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.”
And “… because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.”

(READ his remarks in full here – https://caicw.org/2015/05/18/attorney-general-eric-holders-dec-3-2014-remarks-in-full/#)

He made this vow in remarks during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. Below is a response from a Parent – the Chair of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.

Attorney General Eric Holder;

Re: Your statement during the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Dec. 3, 2014, in regards to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

What is consistently left out of the ICWA discussion is the civil rights of United States citizens of every heritage – those enrolled in tribal communities and those who are not – who do not want tribal government interference in their families. Shortsighted placation of tribal leaders ignores these facts:

1. 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country
2. Most families falling under tribal jurisdiction are multi-racial, and
3. Many families have purposefully chosen to raise their children with values other than those currently popular in Indian Country.

Federal government does not have the right to assign our children to political entities.

Further, federal government does not have the right to choose which religion, customs or traditions a child should be raised in. This holds true for children who are 100% a certain heritage, let alone children who are multi-heritage. It holds true because we are a nation that respects the rights and freedoms of every individual citizen – no matter their heritage.

Please recognize that while we agree with you that “any child in Indian Country – in Oklahoma, or Montana, or New Mexico – is not fundamentally different from an African-American kid growing up in New York City” – neither is any child fundamentally different from a Hispanic Catholic, German Jewish, or Irish Protestant child growing up in any U.S. city or rural town. In fact, most enrollable children in America have Caucasian relatives – and many live with their Caucasian relatives. My own enrolled children are no different from their fully Caucasian cousins or their cousins with Filipino heritage. Children are children – with fundamentally the same emotional and physical needs. We agree 100% with you.

We also agree no child “should be forced to choose between their cultural heritage and their well-being.” Tragically, that is the very thing federal and tribal governments are doing to many of these children.

Enrollable children – and at times even children who are not enrollable but are targeted by a tribal government anyway – are currently forced to accept what is purported to be their cultural heritage – at the expense of their safety and well-being. This has even been done under the watchful eye of the Justice Department, as in the case of 3-year-old Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered in 2013.

Concerning your directive regarding cultural heritage, the federal government does not have the right to mandate that my children and grandchildren – or any of the children whose families we represent – be raised in a home “suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” As parents, my husband and I had a right to decide that our children’s Irish Catholic, German Jewish, and “American” Evangelical heritage is all equally important. It is the parent’s choice, not the government’s, as to how our children are raised (Meyer vs. Nebraska, 1923; Pierce vs. Society of Sisters. 1925)

My name is Elizabeth Sharon Morris. I am the widow of Roland John Morris, a U.S. citizen of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage who was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation, speaking only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten. I am the birth mother, grandmother, foster and adoptive mother to several enrolled or eligible members, and an aunt and sister-in-law to dozens. Our home was an accepted ICWA home for 17 years and we raised over a dozen enrolled children in it.

I am also the Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, a national non-profit founded by my husband and myself in 2004. CAICW represents children and families across the nation who’ve been hurt by federal Indian policy – most notably ICWA – and who, as U.S. citizens, do not want tribal government control or interference in their families.

The facts are:

1) According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of tribal members DO NOT live in Indian Country. Many, like our family, have deliberately taken their children and left in order to protect their families from the rampant crime and corruption of the reservation system. These families do NOT want their children turned over to tribal authorities under any circumstances – and having made a decision to disassociate, should not have to live in fear of their children being placed on the reservation if the parents should die.
2) The abuses at Spirit Lake in North Dakota are well known, but it is also known that Spirit Lake is just a microcosm of what’s happening on many reservations across the country.
3) Gang activity involving drugs is heavy and rampant on many reservations. My husband’s grandson was shot and left for dead at Spirit Lake in July, 2013. To date, your Justice Department, which you’ve highly praised for its work in Indian Country, has not charged anyone for the shooting despite family knowledge of who was involved in the altercation. Many children have been dying within Indian Country whose names don’t make it to the media – and for whom justice is never given.
4) These abuses are rampant on many reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.
5) Many, many times more children leave the reservation system in company of their parents, who have been mass exiting – than do children who have been taken into foster care or found a home in adoption. But tribal leaders won’t admit many parents consciously take their kids out of Indian Country in attempt to get them away from the reservation system and corrupt leaders. It makes a better sound bite to blame evil social services
6) There are many documented cases of children who have been happy in homes outside of Indian Country and who have fought being moved to the reservation, and who have been severely traumatized after being forced to do so. Many in federal government are aware of these children but, as done with the reports of ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan, have chosen to ignore them.

It is claimed the cause of crime and corruption in Indian Country is poverty and “Historical Trauma,” and that additional funding will solve the problems. Yet, crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money.

It’s time to stop listening to those with vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power, and admit the physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of tribal members by other tribal members and even many tribal leaders.

Every time power to tribal leaders is increased, tribal members – U.S. citizens – are robbed of civil freedoms under the constitution of the United States. Equal Protection is a constitutional right.

To better protect children, we need to:

A. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
B. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
C. Recognize the “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
D. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.

    • When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians need to be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b)“…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…”
    • Further, parents involved in any child custody proceeding should have a right to object to tribal jurisdiction. Many tribal members don’t take things to tribal court because they don’t expect to get justice there. For the Justice Department to deny this reveals the Justice Departments willingness to ignore how many tribal courts factually work.
    • 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.

E. Include well-defined protections for Adoptive Parents equal to protections afforded families of every heritage.
F. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost – not tribal government.
G. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, parents, as U.S. citizens, should have the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them. Only parents and/or legal custodians should have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe.

    • Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
    • Remove the words “eligible for membership in” from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words “an enrolled member of”

Thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns and take action to protect our children and grandchildren from further exploitation.

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

Cc: Tracy Toulou, Director, Tribal Justice
Members of Congress

Aug 132014
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEogtESN5Wo

Sage was 4-years-old and one of the first children to be hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. She was 6-years when she and the family she loved went on the run to protect her from the law that intended to force to live with an abusive birth parent. She was 13 when she was finally forcibly taken from her family to be placed on the reservation with the birth mother who had almost killed her.

She tells her story of going on the run with her chosen parents, her trauma of being taken from them, and ultimate relief when she was finally released from the reservation and allowed to return home. To this day, thirty-some years later, she is upset by what the government and ICWA put her through.

– http://youtu.be/TEogtESN5Wo

Jun 102014
 

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF) Date: Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Subject: Criminal Corruption Reaches New Heights at Spirit Lake
To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)”
Cc: “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)” , “Murray, James (ACF)”

Ms. McMullen:

One month ago I wrote a four page email documenting the level of control exercised by the criminally corrupt at Spirit Lake.

This was not the first time I had raised their control over events at Spirit Lake. Almost two years ago, in my First Mandated Report, dated June 14, 2012, I quoted favorably from a letter composed by former Tribal Judge Molly McDonald who had written, “I grew up on this reservation and witnessed many acts of violence and abuse. This is normal to us. Our tribe has adopted this as a way of life, violence and hopelessness. When does the cycle end?…The abuse is reported but nothing is done by Social Services or Law Enforcement. Where do we go from there?…. Please consider that if an investigation had been done, many children could have been saved from further abuse, and possibly, they would have been alive today…..our tribe is attempting to cover up these issues that plagued our reservation for many years……Whatever picture our tribal council or chairman want to paint, it simply is not the case. There is a dire need for professionals …that know their boundaries and will not overlook issues at the request of Tribal Council.”

When former Tribal Judge McDonald wrote that letter in the Spring of 2012, the criminally corrupt controlled the levers of power at Spirit Lake. They still do. Now, however, after going unchallenged by anyone in authority for so many years, they may have gone too far for most responsible people.

In item # 2 in my December 19, 2013 email to you I referenced the allegation that a 13 year old little girl was being raped by a known sex offender, that this had been reported to the Tribal Chair and Council, BIA and Tribal law enforcement. The child’s non-custodial father was told by the BIA that they would not be able to investigate this allegation for another thirty days at the earliest. I have periodically referenced this child’s situation in my subsequent emails to you. To my knowledge, more than 6 months after this allegation was first reported to the BIA, no investigation has yet been conducted. This is how innocent victims are treated at Spirit Lake! Would such a failure to investigate these allegations, to stop the abuse and to protect the innocent victim be tolerated in Devils Lake, ND, the nearest off reservation majority community?

Clearly the criminally corrupt do not control Devils Lake. Even though the alleged rapist, referenced above, resides on the Spirit Lake reservation, the State’s Attorney for Ramsey County (Devils Lake is the county seat for Ramsey County) has obtained four felony indictments against this man for child abuse, endangerment for actions he engaged in off the reservation in Ramsey County. My sources and I suspect these indictments are for child sexual abuse but have not thus far been able to obtain confirmation of our suspicions. Nevertheless, these are felony level charges involving the abuse of a child. I believe most thinking adults, knowing this, would consider those to be serious charges. This is not an opinion held by the Spirit Lake leadership because they are refusing to allow this alleged rapist of a 13 year old little girl, the subject of four felony indictments involving child abuse, to be extradited to Ramsey County.

Apparently this is how it works at Spirit Lake: the allegations of little girls who report they are being raped are ignored while their alleged rapists the subject of four felony indictments for child abuse is shielded from the law. If this isn’t a new extreme in criminal corruption what is?

Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

Mark Fiddler Explains Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl

 Comments Off on Mark Fiddler Explains Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl
Jun 032014
 
https://caicw.org

Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl, State ICWA Laws, and Constitutional Avoidance

By: Mark D. Fiddler (fn 1)~
Minnesota State Bar Association Family Law Forum | Vol. 22 No. 2 | Spring 2014
http://www.mnbar.org/msba-home/msba-news/2014/05/13/family-law-forum-vol.-22-no.-2-spring-2014#.WMkEURsrKyI

One of the thorniest questions facing attorneys who practice adoption law is determining whether and how the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to voluntary adoption proceedings, especially cases where the birth mother, whether Indian or not, wishes to consent to adoption and the father does not otherwise have standing or any rights under state law. A raft of questions arise. Does ICWA apply? Does the unwed father have standing? Does the tribe have the right to notice? Does the father have the right to demand a termination trial and remedial efforts before an adoption may proceed? Does a fit birth mother have the right to place her child with non-Indians? Most of these issues were addressed in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552 (2013), a landmark case decided by the United States Supreme Court on June 25, 2013, which dramatically reshapes adoption practice, and casts new doubt on the constitutionality of states’ laws which attempt to expand ICWA beyond its original reach.

The Facts (fn 2)~

While Birth Mother was pregnant with Biological Father’s child, their relationship ended and Biological Father (a member of the Cherokee Nation) agreed to relinquish his parental rights. Birth Mother put Baby Girl up for adoption through a private adoption agency and selected Adoptive Couple, non-Indians living in South Carolina. For the duration of the pregnancy and the first four months after Baby Girl’s birth, Biological Father provided no financial assistance to Birth Mother or Baby Girl. About four months after Baby Girl’s birth, Adoptive Couple served Biological Father with notice of the pending adoption. In the adoption proceedings, Biological Father sought custody and stated that he did not consent to the adoption.

Following a trial, which took place when Baby Girl was two years old, the South Carolina Family Court denied Adoptive Couple’s adoption petition and awarded custody to Biological Father. At the age of 27 months, Baby Girl was handed over to Biological Father, whom she had never met. The State Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the ICWA applied because the child custody proceeding related to an Indian child; that Biological Father was a “parent” under the ICWA; that §§ 1912(d) and (f) barred the termination of his parental rights; and that had his rights been terminated, § 1915(a)’s adoption-placement preferences would have applied. In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court reversed, holding:

(1) the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) section conditioning involuntary termination of parental rights for Indian child on a showing regarding merits of continued custody of child by parent does not apply where Indian parent never had custody;
(2) ICWA section providing that party seeking to terminate parental rights to Indian child under state law shall satisfy court that active efforts have been made to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent breakup of Indian family and that these efforts have proved unsuccessful does not apply where Indian parent abandoned Indian child prior to birth and child had never been in Indian parent’s legal or physical custody; and
(3) ICWA section providing placement preferences for adoption of Indian children does not bar a non-Indian family from adopting an Indian child when no other eligible candidates have sought to adopt the child.

Unpacking Adoptive Couple: when does a “parent” have standing under ICWA?

In adoption proceedings, where paternity timelines in most states are so short to promote early permanence for children, is a “late” custody claimant a “parent” with the full panoply of ICWA rights? Adoptive Couple had argued in the South Carolina Supreme Court that the birth father was not a “parent” with any rights under ICWA. The definition of parent matters, for nearly all of ICWA’s protections hinge on who is and is not a “parent” with standing to assert ICWA rights. Critical in Adoptive Couple was the issue of whether ICWA’s termination of parental rights provision, 25 U.S.C. § 1912 (f), with its stringent requirements of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, “qualified expert witness” testimony, and proof of “serious emotional or physical harm”, applies to a putative father who has not timely established paternity under state law.

Under ICWA, “ ’parent’ means any biological parent or parents of an Indian child or any Indian person who has lawfully adopted an Indian child, including adoptions under tribal law or custom. It does not include the unwed father where paternity has not been acknowledged or established.” 25 U.S.C. § 1903(9). Adoptive Couple argued that by using the terms “acknowledged or established,” Congress intended to defer to state law on paternity establishment since there was no body of federal law on paternity, citing the unanimous view of state courts that such matters are the subject of state law. One state supreme court concluded that Congress intended to exclude from ICWA “unwed fathers who have not taken affirmative steps to ensure that their relationship with their child would be recognized.” In the Matter of the Adoption of a Child of Indian Heritage, 543 A.2d 925, 935 (N.J. 1988).

The definition of “parent” in Adoptive Couple was pivotal, because under South Carolina law, the birth father had not taken the required “affirmative steps” to acquire rights to consent (or to withhold consent and block the adoption). This is because birth father had failed to provide support, which under South Carolina law was defined as a “fair and reasonable sum, based on the father’s financial ability, for the support of the child or for expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy or with the birth of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, hospital, and nursing expenses.” S.C. Code § 63-9-310(A)(5)(b). South Carolina’s law may at first blush seem strict, but it is not at all uncommon. Indeed, under Minnesota law, a putative father has no right to notice or consent for failure to provide “substantial support” to the child. Minn. Stat. § 259.49, subd. 1(2). (fn 3) In short, Adoptive Couple argued that if a birth father has no rights under state law, what specifically is it in ICWA that accords him greater federal rights? The South Carolina Supreme Court brushed this argument aside, holding the birth father had “established” paternity through a DNA test — without examining what it means to “establish or acknowledge” paternity.

The United States Supreme Court declined to rule on the issue of whether the birth father had standing as a “parent”, holding, [w]e need not — and therefore do not — decide whether Biological Father is a “parent.” fn 4. Rather, assuming for the sake of argument that he is a “parent,” we hold that neither § 1912(f) nor § 1912(d) bars the termination of his parental rights.” Adoptive Couple, 133 S. Ct. at 2560 (emphasis added). In footnote 4, the Court explained, “if Biological Father is not a “parent” under the ICWA, then § 1912(f) and § 1912(d) — which relate to proceedings involving possible termination of “parental” rights — are inapplicable. Because we conclude that these provisions are inapplicable for other reasons, however, we need not decide whether Biological Father is a “parent.”” Id. at fn. 4. (These “other reasons” are discussed below).

The Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple to pass on determining what makes a father a “parent” under § 1903(9) disappointed many adoption attorneys, as it leaves some critical issues in ICWA practice unresolved — chief among them is whether the birth father has the right to notice in ICWA proceedings. A “parent” is entitled to notice of “involuntary” foster care or termination proceedings under ICWA. 25 U.S.C. § 1912. Does a noncustodial father — who, under Adoptive Couple has no right to a termination trial under 1912(f) — still have the right to notice? Under the Minnesota Fathers Adoption Registry, a putative father must register within 30 days of birth in order to have the right to notice. Minn. Stat. § 259.52. What if the Indian father files late? Does a non-custodial putative “parent” under ICWA have to provide his consent to adoption in court under 25 U.S.C. § 1913? Future litigation may tell.

Adoptive Couple: existing Indian family doctrine left unresolved

Also unresolved in Adoptive Couple is the viability of the “existing Indian family doctrine.” In the South Carolina Supreme Court, Adoptive Couple waived invoking the existing Indian family doctrine, a judicial construction of ICWA which conditions ICWA’s application on the sufficiency of a custodial Indian parent’s ties to his or her tribal heritage. See, e.g., Hampton v. J.A.L., 658 So. 2d 331, 336-37 (La. Ct. App. 1995); In re Adoption of Crews, 825 P.2d 305, 310 (Wash. 1992). Courts that have rejected the existing Indian family doctrine have criticized the propriety of examining whether a preexisting Indian family is “Indian” enough to merit protection under ICWA. In re A.J.S., 204 P.3d 543, 551 (Kan. 2009); In re D.A.C., 933 P.2d 993, 999 (Utah Ct. App. 1997); see also Minn. Stat. § 260.771, subd. 2 (rejecting EIF by statute). Rather than invoking this doctrine, Adoptive Couple simply argued there was no preexisting family, period — consisting of Father and Baby Girl. Thus whether an Indian child would be raised in an “Indian-enough” environment was not relevant. Adoptive Couple did not question the birth father’s cultural ties. Despite not even briefing the Court or arguing the existing Indian family doctrine, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected it. Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 731 S.E.2d 550, 558 fn 17 (S.C. 2012) reversed on other grounds, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552 (2013).

While the United States Supreme Court failed to rule on the validity of the EIF, which it did not even discuss, the Court did clearly hold that ICWA applied: “Baby Girl is an “Indian child” as defined by the ICWA because she is an unmarried minor who “is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe,” § 1903(4)(b). … It is also undisputed that the present case concerns a “child custody proceeding,” which the ICWA defines to include proceedings that involve “termination of parental rights” and “adoptive placement,” § 1903(1).” Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552, 2557, fn 1 (2013).

Adoptive Couple: when are § 1912(d) active efforts required?

The South Carolina Supreme Court held that Adoptive Couple had failed to provide “active efforts” to the father by “attempting to stimulate Father’s desire to be a parent or to provide necessary education regarding the role of a parent.” Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 398 S.C. at 640, 731 S.E.2d at 563. 25 U.S.C. § 1912(d) provides in part that any party who seeks “a foster care placement” or the “termination of parental rights” to an Indian child must prove that “active efforts have been made to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and that these efforts have proved unsuccessful.” Adoptive Couple had argued that since birth father had never had legal or physical custody of the child, he had never parented the child, and there was simply no Indian family to “break up.” They also argued that § 1912(d) by its own terms does not apply in adoptive placement proceedings.

The United States Supreme Court agreed, holding that that the “active efforts” requirement in § 1912(d) applies only in cases where an Indian family’s “breakup” would be precipitated by the termination of the parent’s rights under 1912(f). As Justice Samuel Alito, explained, Justice Alito: “Section 1912(d) is a sensible requirement when applied to state social workers who might otherwise be too quick to remove Indian children from their Indian families. It would, however, be unusual to apply § 1912(d) in the context of an Indian parent who abandoned a child prior to birth and who never had custody of the child.” He added, “[o]ur interpretation of § 1912(d) is also confirmed by the provision’s placement next to § 1912(e) and § 1912(f), both of which condition the outcome of proceedings on the merits of an Indian child’s “continued custody” with his parent. That these three provisions appear adjacent to each other strongly suggests that the phrase “breakup of the Indian family” [within 1912(d)] should be read in harmony with the “continued custody” requirement.” Id. at 2563.

Adoptive Couple: when is a § 1912(f) termination trial required?

Adoptive Couple had also argued that where the father had no established rights under state law, there was no parent-child relationship to be terminated under 25 U.S.C. §1912(f). While birth father had a biological parent-child relationship, that relationship is incapable of severance — and that is not the kind of parent-child relationship ICWA was designed to protect. Rather, Adoptive Couple argued § 1912(f) protects a pre-existing custodial relationship — whether legal or physical — between a parent and child.

The ICWA provides at 25 U.S.C. §1912(f) that no “termination of parental rights may be ordered” unless supported by “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, including testimony of qualified expert witnesses, that the continued custody of the child by the parent or Indian custodian is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child.” The rationale of 1912 (f) is that serious emotional, physical damage to the child will occur if the child is separated unnecessarily from the custodial parent. That § 1912(f) does not create rights out of whole cloth, but instead protects existing custodial rights, is not new or novel under Minnesota case law. The Minnesota Court of Appeals held nearly 20 years ago that § 1912 (f) does not apply to terminate the rights of an Indian father who fails to establish paternity under state law:
“[father’s] paternity action is not an action that can result in the termination of the parent-child relationship. If [father’s] action is unsuccessful, the parent-child relationship between [father] and [child] will not be terminated, it will simply never be established.” J.A.V. v. Velasco, 536 N.W.2d 896 (Minn. App. 1995)(emphasis added), aff’d, Matter of Paternity of J.A.V., 547 N.W 2d 374 (Minn. 1996).

The Supreme Court agreed. Justice Alito wrote, “[u]nder our reading of § 1912(f), Biological Father should not have been able to invoke § 1912(f) in this case, because he had never had legal or physical custody of Baby Girl as of the time of the adoption proceedings. As an initial matter, it is undisputed that Biological Father never had physical custody of Baby Girl. And as a matter of both South Carolina and Oklahoma law, Biological Father never had legal custody either.” Id. As a result, § 1912(f) does not apply in cases where the Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child.” Id. at 2562.

Thus while the Court did not directly address the validity of the existing Indian family doctrine, as discussed above, it did adopt a version of it, albeit “EIF lite” (fn 4), by applying ICWA’s most stringent procedural protections to a father, based not upon the child’s genetic connection to him or the tribe alone, but based upon the father’s actual physical or legal custody of the child.

In this sense, what Adoptive Couple did not get through its first argument — denial of “parent” standing to a father who had stepped forward to establish or acknowledge paternity under state law— it got in its second argument: that regardless of whether the father timely stepped forward and was a “parent”, if the father had never established physical or legal custody, nothing in ICWA would allow him to block an otherwise lawful adoption under state law. This means that a noncustodial putative father is not entitled to a termination trial under ICWA. Thus an adoption proceeding based upon the birth mother’s consent may now be considered a purely voluntary proceeding for which tribal notice is not required under ICWA. See 25 U.S.C. § 1912(a). But see Minn. Stat. § 260.671, subd. 6 (requiring tribal notice in voluntary adoption proceedings). Other provisions of ICWA will apply, however, such as the in-court consent requirements found in 25 U.S.C. § 1913.

Adoptive Couple: but what about those placement preferences?

Adoptive Couple had argued in the South Carolina Supreme Court that once the birth father’s rights were at their end under state law for his failure to provide support, the child was free for adoption. They argued that ICWA’s placement preferences allowed for adoption of an Indian child by non-Indians with the birth mother’s consent. 25 U.S.C. § 1915(a) provides: “[i]n any adoptive placement of an Indian child under State law, a preference shall be given, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, to a placement with (1) a member of the child’s extended family; (2) other members of the Indian child’s tribe; or (3) other Indian families.” Adoptive Couple relied on numerous decisions in other states, which hold that a birth parent’s preference is sufficient to establish good cause. See, e.g., In re N.N.E., 752 N.W.2d 1, 7-8 (Iowa 2008) (citing cases). The South Carolina Supreme Court ignored the argument that mother’s preferences may constitute good cause, and instead held that “bonding, standing alone, should [not] form the basis for deviation from the statutory placement preferences.” Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 731 S.E.2d at 657.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court on this score as well, holding “§ 1915(a)’s preferences are inapplicable in cases where no alternative party has formally sought to adopt the child. This is because there simply is no “preference” to apply if no alternative party that is eligible to be preferred under § 1915(a) has come forward.” Adoptive Couple, 133 S. Ct. at 2564. The Court noted that neither the birth father, nor any other family members, nor any other Cherokee families had sought to adopt Baby Girl. Id. On remand to the South Carolina Supreme Court, birth father argued he had the right to petition to adopt. The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected this petition and ordered the family court to finalize the adoption by Adoption Couple, holding “[o]ur original and erroneous decision was premised on the applicability of ICWA to the Birth Father. As a result, the Birth Father’s rights, if any, are determined by the law of the state of South Carolina. While this Court was in error concerning the applicability of ICWA, we have consistently held that under state law, the Birth Father’s parental rights (because of his irrefutable lack of support, interest and involvement in the life of Baby Girl) would be terminated. Therefore, under state law, the Birth Father is precluded from challenging the adoption.” Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 404 S.C. 490, 492, 746 S.E.2d 346, 347 (S.C. 2013).

While birth father then sought to bar enforcement of the South Carolina adoption judgment ordered on remand, this legal gambit ultimately failed when the Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved its stay of enforcement, thus freeing Baby Girl to be returned to Adoptive Couple on September 24, 2014 — this, roughly four years after the child’s birth. See Brown v. DeLapp, 312 P.3d 918 (Okla. 2013).

While the Court’s holding that the preferences are inapplicable might appear a dramatic setback to tribes, the Court’s holding is far more limited — for the fact remains that in voluntary adoption proceedings based upon the consent of a fit parent, under no circumstances may an adoption be granted without the consent of the parent. See, e.g., Minn. Stat. § 259.24, subd.1(a) Therefore, there cannot be a competing adoption petition filed for the simple reason that the birth parent’s consent to specific adoptive petitioners precludes other persons from invoking the preferences. The Court’s holding finally clarifies that a birth parent’s selection of specific adoptive petitioners, whether Indian or not, may no longer be denied by courts under § 1915 as that section is inapplicable.

Some critics of Adoptive Couple note the decision did not address the provision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ ICWA Guidelines that requires a diligent national search of potential adoptive families within the preference placement order, or how that requirement would apply in any other case. Guidelines for State Courts; Indian Child Custody Proceedings, 44 Fed. Reg. 67,584, 67,594, F.3 (a)(iii) (November 26, 1979). Yet the specter of requiring a fit birth parent, or an adoption agency acting on her behalf, to conduct a national search for an Indian adoptive family, when the mother has already selected a couple to her liking, raises troubling due process concerns and ignores the holding of the case. It has long been established that parenthood and child-rearing fall within the most basic and fundamental liberties protected by substantive due process. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65-66 (2000). The Court endorsed this argument, holding “[a]s the State Supreme Court read §§ 1912(d) and (f), a biological Indian father could abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother — perhaps contributing to the mother’s decision to put the child up for adoption — and then could play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother’s decision and the child’s best interests… Such an interpretation would raise equal protection concerns.” Adoptive Couple, 133 S. Ct. at 2565 (emphasis added). In the voluntary adoption context, this paternalistic search requirement cannot be applied without trampling on Indian birth parents’ freedom to choose who will raise their children.

Adoptive Couple: straight statutory construction or constitutional avoidance?

Attorneys, judges, and legislators seeking to apply Adoptive Couple — and to know what it permits — first have to know how the Supreme Court got to its result. Thankfully, the Court left a clear trail. Delivering the opinion for the 5-4 majority, Justice Alito wrote,
“[t]he Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted to help preserve the cultural identity and heritage of Indian tribes, but under the State Supreme Court’s reading, the Act would put certain vulnerable children at a great disadvantage solely because an ancestor — even a remote one — was an Indian. As the State Supreme Court read §§ 1912(d) and (f), a biological Indian father could abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother — perhaps contributing to the mother’s decision to put the child up for adoption — and then could play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother’s decision and the child’s best interests. If this were possible, many prospective adoptive parents would surely pause before adopting any child who might possibly qualify as an Indian under the ICWA. Such an interpretation would raise equal protection concerns, but the plain text of §§ 1912(f) and (d) makes clear that neither provision applies in the present context.” Adoptive Couple 133 S. Ct. at 2565 (emphasis added).

This last sentence should give tribal attorneys pause. As a straight matter of statutory construction, the majority arguably could have construed the phrase “continued custody” in 1912(f) to apply to bar the termination of birth father’s parental rights, despite the fact he only had a biological relationship with the child. Indeed, Justice Scalia, dissenting, wrote that “continued” could mean “merely that initial or temporary custody is not “likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child,” but that continued custody is not likely to do so.” Adoptive Couple at 2570-71. But the majority’s finding that such a broader construction would “raise equal protection concerns” could not be a more clear invocation of the doctrine of constitutional avoidance — that the majority saw the equal protection and due process clauses as requiring the Court to hew closely to the plain language of the text. As the United States Supreme Court has held,“[I]t is a cardinal principle” of statutory interpretation … that when an Act of Congress raises “a serious doubt” as to its constitutionality, “this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the question may be avoided.” Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62, 52 Sc.D. 285, 76 L.Ed. 598 (1932); See Minn. Stat. § 645.17 (3) (presuming the legislature does not intend to violate the Constitution of the United States or of this state).

What are these “equal protection concerns”? The Court did not elaborate in detail, but the parties’ briefs provide helpful context as a guide. In Adoptive Couple, the birth father, Cherokee Nation, Solicitor, and countless amici, argued there were no such concerns. They argued the application of 1912(d) and (f) to the proceedings to block a valid state adoption, based upon the child’s blood connection alone, did not constitute racial discrimination or run afoul of the equal protection clause because the tribe’s designation of who is a member is a political, not racial, distinction. Under Cherokee law, a child is eligible for membership in the tribe if descended from an Indian on the tribe’s enrollment rolls created by the Dawes Commission in 1906. See CONST. OF THE CHEROKEE NATION, art. IV, § 1. In support, they cited Morton v. Mancari, a 1974 United States Supreme Court decision, which upheld a law granting a hiring preference for Native Americans by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. See 417 U.S. 535 (1974). In that decision, the Court stated that “the preference, as applied, is granted to Indians not as a discrete racial group, but, rather, as members of quasi-sovereign tribal entities . . . .” Id. at 554. This Court has upheld preferential treatment for Indians where the differentiation is a consequence of Indians’ unique sovereign status. Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 553 (1974).

Adoptive Couple argued when the preferences under Sections 1912(d) and 1912(f) are construed to protect preexisting connections between an Indian child and her custodial parent, there is at least the possibility that the child could be exposed to Indian culture through her Indian parent. ICWA’s preferences in those circumstances at least plausibly prevent the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and safeguard tribal cultural and social cohesion. 25 U.S.C. § 1901.

However, Adoptive Couple argued that such differential treatment predicated solely on “ancestral” classification violates equal protection principles, citing Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495 at 514, 517 (2000). Adoptive Couple argued that ICWA’s legitimacy evaporates if unwed fathers with no preexisting substantive parental rights receive a statutory preference based solely on the Indian child’s race. In that circumstance, “[i]f 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.” In re Bridget R., 49 Cal. Rptr. 2d 507, 527 (Cal. Ct. App. 1996). When unequal treatment is predicated on a status unrelated to social, cultural, or political ties, but rather blood lineage, the ancestry underpinning membership is “a proxy for race.” Rice, 528 U.S. at 514.

The Adoptive Couple majority did not hold that Morton constituted a “blanket shield” to any preferential treatment of Indians. Indeed, it never even mentioned the decision. For had the Court found that Morton shielded sections 1912(d) and (f) from equal protection scrutiny — because they were supposedly applied based upon the child’s “political” as opposed to racial status — it would not have found that their application raised any “equal protection concerns.” Conversely, the Court did not suggest in its analysis that Sections 1912(d) and (f) would have raised equal protection concerns when applied to a custodial parent of an Indian child. (fn 6) For in that instance the child’s connection to the tribe would have proved to be more than racial — it would have meant she was enmeshed in a real Indian family with a custodial parent. Thus at a minimum, Adoptive Couple stands as a clear signal from the Court that the application of ICWA, and perhaps other Indian preference statutes, cannot be based merely upon a person’s lineal or blood connection with a tribe. Something more is required. In Adoptive Couple, it was the requirement of parental custody. What that “more” will be in other contexts will no doubt be the subject of further litigation.

Adoptive Couple: impact on state ICWA laws

Many states have adopted laws that purport to expand upon or provide higher protections to Indian parents or custodians than exist under ICWA itself. Indeed, ICWA permits them to do so. Under 25 U.S.C. § 1921, [i]n any case where State or Federal law applicable to a child custody proceeding under State or Federal law provides a higher standard of protection to the rights of the parent or Indian custodian of an Indian child than the rights provided under this subchapter, the State or Federal court shall apply the State or Federal standard.” (emphasis added). Interestingly, in § 1921 the higher standards to be applied must be applied to the parents or custodians of an Indian child — not to the child.

Minnesota adopted the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) in accordance with § 1921. Several provisions of MIFPA raise the same “equal protection concerns” the Supreme Court sought to avoid in Adoptive Couple. For instance, MIFPA defines“ Indian child” as “an unmarried person who is under age 18 and is: ( 1) a member of an Indian tribe; or
 (2) eligible for membership in an Indian tribe. Minn. Stat. § 260.755, subd. 8. By contrast, the federal definition of “Indian child” under ICWA is more restrictive: “Indian child” means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe. 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4). It is now clear under Adoptive Couple, that while ICWA in general may apply based upon the child’s eligibility for membership — and being the child of a member — the application of ICWA, in toto, based upon the child’s genetic or racial connection to the tribe alone, forces the same equal protection concerns Adoptive Couple sought to avoid by making its stringent protections applicable to custodial parents who were tribal members.

Likewise, MIFPA makes ICWA’s sections 1912(d) and (f) applicable — irrespective of whether a parent has had custody of an Indian child. Minn. Stat. § 260.771, subd. 2, provides, “[t]his chapter and the federal Indian Child Welfare Act are applicable without exception in any child custody proceeding, as defined in the federal act, involving an Indian child. This chapter applies to child custody proceedings involving an Indian child whether the child is in the physical or legal custody of an Indian parent, Indian custodian, Indian extended family member, or other person at the commencement of the proceedings.” This subdivision thus squarely achieves what the Supreme Court sought to avoid in Adoptive Couple — reaching a result that offends equal protection by making such sections applicable on the basis of race alone. Its constitutional validity is now highly dubious.

Other states, too, have passed laws which grant the noncustodial father the right to ICWA termination trial, purportedly “exempting” them from the reach of Adoptive Couple. See, e.g., California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 224(a) states: (2) (“It is in the interest of an Indian child that the child’s membership in the child’s Indian tribe and connection to the tribal community be encouraged and protected, regardless of whether the child is in the physical custody of an Indian parent or Indian custodian at the commencement of a child custody proceeding, the parental rights of the child’s parents have been terminated, or where the child has resided or been domiciled.”). Application of the heightened procedural protections in Section 1912 to a father who has never had custody or parented the child, and solely on the basis of a child’s racial connection to a tribe, resurrects the grave equal protection concerns the Supreme Court sought to lay to rest in Adoptive Couple by limiting Section 1912’s application to Indian families where a parent had custody.

ICWA was passed in 1978 with a laudable purpose. Congress found that “an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families [were being] broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies.” 25 U.S.C. § 1901(4). Under Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the United States Supreme Court has set out some boundary lines as to how far ICWA may be extended before this laudable purpose becomes suspect and ICWA itself undermined. In that sense, the case remains an important reminder that ICWA is not a sui generis body of law, but rather must be understood and construed consistently with equal protection principles, respect for the due process rights of fit birth parents wishing to make decisions about the future care of their children, and ultimately the best interests of Indian children.

1 Mark D. Fiddler was co-counsel to the adoptive couple before the South Carolina Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Editorial assistance provided by Jason Teiken, Esq.

2 Taken verbatim from opinion. Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552, 2554-2555 (2013). No U.S. Reporter citation for this case yet.

3 The United States Supreme Court has been clear that “[p]arental rights do not spring full-blown from the biological connection between parent and child. They require relationships more enduring.” Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 260 (1983). An unwed father’s parental rights are constitutionally protected only if he has “demonstrate[d] a full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood by com[ing] forward to participate in the rearing of his child.” Lehr, 463 U.S. at 261 (emphasis added).

5 http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/adoptive-couple-v-baby-girl/

6 The ICWA defines “Indian child” as “any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe.” 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4).

http://www.mnbar.org/msba-home/msba-news/2014/05/13/family-law-forum-vol.-22-no.-2-spring-2014#.WMkEURsrKyI

May 062014
 

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To: Various Legislative Staff – 1:33 PM

I am forwarding to you a letter written today by Administrator Tom Empty SwingSullivan. I was aware of an 8-month-old passing away last week at Spirit Lake, but this was the first I heard about the newborn.

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 –

Tom Sullivan - Regional Administrator ACF———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sullivan, Thomas (ACF) Date: Tue, May 6, 2014 at 11:45 AM
Subject: Criminal Corruption continues at Spirit Lake
To: “Mcmullen, Marrianne (ACF)” , “Sparks, Lillian (ACF)” , “Chang, Joo Yeun (ACF)” , “Kennerson, Marilyn (ACF)”
Cc: “Murray, James (ACF)” , “Greenberg, Mark (ACF)”

Ms. Mcmullen:

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
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 460
Hillsboro, ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org

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

Spirit Lake Child Abuse: Feb. 11 Letter from Sullivan to McMullen

 Comments Off on Spirit Lake Child Abuse: Feb. 11 Letter from Sullivan to McMullen
Feb 112014
 
Lauryn Whiteshield, July 19, 2010 - June 13, 2013

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

February 11, 2014

Ms. McMullen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas F. Sullivan

Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

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Letter to McMullen 021114.docx

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————————-

Congressman Issa,

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

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

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

Read the emails:

———- Forwarded message ———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you again for your response.

—————

On Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 8:31 AM, Martin, Kenneth (Indian Affairs) wrote:

Ms. Morris,

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

Kenneth Martin

—————-

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

Ms. Thompson and Mr. Martin

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

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

I would appreciate your comments concerning the below. Thanks –

—————————————-

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

Subject: Spirit Lake

Marrianne:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will we take responsibility?

After your assessment? How long will that take?

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

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

———————————————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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### END FORWARDED MESSAGE

Sep 102013
 

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

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

In a blog for adults who were adopted and had negative experiences, Mr Anaya stated,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

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)
https://caicw.org

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     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

Wake Up & Read It! VAWA Protects Tribal Government rights, NOT women!

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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
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org

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

 

Feb 062013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Join Us in DC: February 4-8, 2013

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Jan 072013
 

 

Since January 2011, CAICW has traveled to Washington, D.C. three times to speak and inform lawmakers on the negative and disturbing effects the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been having on families across the country.

A recap of these visits:

  • January 24-27, 2011: Three wonderful families joined us to relate their experiences as a result of ICWA to various Congressmen.
  • October 24-28, 2011: We returned to hold an ICWA“teach-in” with Dr. William B. Allen, which was held in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing room. Dr. Allen moderated the event, and three families joined us on the panel, including Johnston Moore of the organization “Forever Home.
  • July 10-13, 2012: In conjunction with the newly formed Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children and Families (CPICF), our most successful meeting took place with a standing-room-only crowd that included legislative aides, adoption and social services organizations, attorneys, and three representatives from the Cherokee Nation. Dr. Allen joined us again for this forum, as well as attorney Mark Fiddler, and adoptive father/speaker Johnston Moore. Sage DesRochers, who was hurt by ICWA years ago as a child, then subsequently ‘saved’ from the reservation and returned to the adoptive mother she loved by Dr. Allen and others, also gave her testimony.

The goals we outlined at the event:

  • To protect the individual rights of Indian children and their families
  • To ensure they maintain the right to a safe, supportive and stable family
  • To request support for appropriate amendments to the ICWA

Attorney Mark Fiddler gave a powerful presentation on the ICWA law, outlining reasons why it must be changed, and presenting suggestions for how to do so. He pointed out distinct problems with the law, and provided clear instructions on ways to protect the children. Several family stories were cited including the Belford’s, the Helmhoz’, and the Anderson’s.

Johnston Moore presented on problems the ICWA has caused families, and Melanie Duncan presented well researched information regarding attachment issues, citing that children of tribal heritage are no different than any other child in the world in regards to these matters.Dr. William B. Allen and Sage

Dr. William Allen introduced Sage DesRochers, who as a thirteen-year-old was forcibly removed from the only home she knew and loved, to be placed with her birth mother on the reservation. She spoke about the trauma, and ultimate relief she experienced when she was finally “released,” from the reservation a few years later and allowed to return to her chosen family. To this day, some twenty years later, she is upset by what the government and the ICWA put her through.

JOIN US FEBRUARY 4-8, 2013, as we return again to educate our Congress, speaking again to older statesmen and introducing the issue and concerns to new.  Tell your stories, and/or support the rights of children and families across America.  We have some exciting meetings planned.

Thanks to your kind support and contributions over these years. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your help.

CAICW’s Mission
The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is committed to seek God’s
guidance in defending the rights of the poor and needy, as instructed in Proverbs 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.”

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

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org 

TWITTER: http://twitter.com/CAICW

EMAIL: administrator@caicw.org

 

Voting for Welfare of Russian children while turning backs on U.S. Children?

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Jan 032013
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

Late Tuesday night, January 1st, 2013, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. Res. 628, expressing disappointment over the Russian law banning adoption of children by American citizens.

Senator Inhofe, one of the two Senate Co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and a wonderful supporter of children and families, rightly stated,

“It is extremely unfortunate and disheartening that the Russian Duma and President Putin would choose to deprive the children, the very children that they are entrusted to care for, the ability to find a safe and caring family that every child deserves…It is nothing more than a political play…that ultimately leads to greater hardships and more suffering for Russian children who will now be denied a loving family.”

In addition, earlier this month, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Members sent a bi-partisan letter to President Putin urging him to veto the legislation, stating,

“We fear that this overly broad law would have dire consequences for Russian children…Nothing is more important to the future of our world than doing our best to give as many children the chance to grow up in a family as we possibly can.”

The vote in support of Russian children was unanimous by the SenateThe CCA, Senator Inhofe and many others are correctly speaking up for these children and families. Many in the CCA are also correctly concerned – for the very same reasons – about children of native heritage here in the United States.

However, while ALL the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs members voted for this resolution preventing adoption of Russian children – several members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs continue to uphold similar ‘Putin-like’ legislation preventing adoption of American children.

Take the statements above and replace the word “Russian” with the word “Indian” and it fits our argument against the Indian Child Welfare Act exactly.

Further – speaking as the birth mother of several enrollable children – I need to stress that while the argument against ICWA is important for adoption, it is also important to many birth families who don’t wish to have tribal jurisdiction and control over their own children.

Children who had never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs, some with extremely minimal blood quantum – as well as some with maximum quantum – have been removed from homes they know and love and placed with strangers chosen by social services.

Facts to note: 75% of U.S citizens with tribal heritage live OFF the reservation. This includes many of 100% heritage who choose not to be involved with the reservation system. Some have moved away purposely because many reservations are not safe places to raise children. Others have never lived on a reservation. MOST enrollable citizens have less than 50% tribal heritage and are connected to their non-native relatives, some not having been connected to the reservation system for a couple generations.

Although it has been felt that the Indian Child Welfare Act has safeguards to prevent misuse, stories affecting multi-racial families abound across America. Letters from tribal and non-tribal birth parents, extended family, foster parents and pre-adoptive families can be read at https://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/

In the words of Dr. William B. 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…”

Consider calling your Senators, and while thanking them for voting for S. Res. 628, ask them to support the rights of children and families of Native American heritage as well.

 

FIND YOUR SENATOR’S CONTACT INFO

 

ICWA is the REAL War on Women

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Dec 192012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So. Carolina High Court Rules in favor of Cherokee Nation in Baby Veronica Case

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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

jessica@trio-solutions.com

843-708-8746