The image with this audio is Bundy’s final affidavit to the tribal court on 8/26/2014. You an read it better at https://caicw.org/2014/09/26/bundys-additional-statement-august-2014/#.VCikHxamSSo
Can’t view this video? Try this link:
The image with this audio is Bundy’s final affidavit to the tribal court on 8/26/2014. You an read it better at https://caicw.org/2014/09/26/bundys-additional-statement-august-2014/#.VCikHxamSSo
Can’t view this video? Try this link:
Mr. Dusten Brown’s personal testimony in the original family court concerning his interest in marrying birth mother Christinna Maldonado and his later abandonment of Veronica Capobianco.
It is good for all supports and detractors to read and consider this full testimony because it reveals points to the story that should give pause to advocates on both sides. It is important for us all to be able to read, think, and pray about all aspects and know with certainty where we stand on various issues.
While Mr. Brown makes clear that he initially wanted to be married and take care of Christinna and Veronica, there is also an implication that Christinna might have backed away due to weekends he had spent with drinking buddies off base rather than coming home to be with her during the pregnancy. For any mother who has been in such a position, that is very understandable.
While Mr. Brown’s supporters have shared liberally over the last few weeks the portions of Ms. Maldonado’s testimony that appear to discredit her, it would be good to be able to read the portions of her cross examination that have been held back – those portions which give her testimony explaining her motivation. I look forward to obtaining that testimony.
Also – I have some discomfort with the assertion that the Capobiancos are “wealthy” and “connected” simply because Mr. Brown said so in his testimony – even if he claims a Guardian ad Litem told his family so. That doesn’t mean it is was actually said, and even if it was, it doesn’t mean the GAL was correct. Having known the C’s for a couple years now, I don’t believe those accusations in the testimony are true at all.
I further do not believe that it was the birth mother’s, the C’s, or the states responsibility to contact Mr. Brown and offer visits or pictures. As a man who knew he was a father and admitted in the testimony that he was aware of his obligations as a father – he had a responsibility to “man up” during those months and do what he needed to do. Many, many service men are fathers – and many are even fathers without custody. Most find ways to continue to uphold their obligations.
The laws of both Oklahoma and South Carolina agree and were enacted to ensure that men follow through with those obligations if they intend to father their children. This is why Mr. Brown has been losing legally in both state courts ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ICWA did not apply.
This testimony also contradicts claims of Brown’s supporters that Mr. Brown himself did not claim to have a Bronze Star. He is quoted here as saying that he does.
It also contradicts the claim that he had been fighting for custody of Veronica since birth.
Again – my question is, that knowing he was about to be deployed in a few days – and already locked down to base – why he had not made any attempt (by his own admission) to contact Christinna and see Veronica prior to deployment. He knew that it would be months before he returned to the states. At that point, Veronica would have been almost a year old without a father in her life.
The only reason he hired an attorney and began a process in January, 2010, was because he had been served the adoption waiver. Other than that, he would have left for Iraq without questioning Veronica’s whereabouts, period.
One can not read his testimony and come to any other conclusion.
When I consider that, it is obvious that Christinna did the right thing – giving Veronica a father from the moment she was born.
From the moment Veronica was born, Matt was there. While Mr. Brown was nursing the hurt of rejection (understandable) and justifying his reasons for not making contact (not understandable), Matt was in the birthing room, cutting Veronica’s cord and welcoming her into the world.
Julie – my husband was a man of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in the 1950’s. He didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old and began kindergarten. His fondest memories were of “ricing season” – the time in the early fall when the wild rice was ripe on the lake and the community would pitch tents down there and spend a couple weeks “ricing” the traditional way. He said it was like the Christmas Holiday is for us.
We had five children together and raised four of his relatives’ children as well. They were placed with us through ICWA – their parents were addicted to crack. So that was nine kids total. When the four came to stay with us, they were all very young. The youngest was only a year old. I had 8 kids under the age of 8 at the time (and one 12-year-old)
It was, as you can imagine, very difficult. I raised all of the kids to the age of 18. I kept the four even through my husband’s terminal illness. You see, he was very afraid of turning them back to the tribe – even though we were struggling very hard to raise them all. He had seen too many very bad things happen to children in his family. He knew what his extended family was capable of doing to children. We knew of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. I was at the funeral of a 2-yr-old who was beaten to death. I chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl. He didn’t know I was on the bed when he pushed her onto my legs, trying to take her pants off. And there is so much more.
As a man of 100% heritage – my husband had made the decision to raise his kids elsewhere, off the reservation, because of the danger and corruption going on at Leech Lake.
The fact is – he isn’t alone. 75% of tribal members, (according to the last two U.S. censuses) do NOT live on the reservation. Many have left for the same reason he did (not all have left for the same reasons – but many)
Because of his fear of his children ever being raised on the reservation, he feared what would happen if we both died. He had also become a Christian and had led me to the Lord. He was determined to raise his children Christian and so wanted me to be a Christian as well. He did not want the tribe to move the kids to the reservation or place them with relatives. If he died, he wanted one of our Christian friends to finish raising our kids.
So – it is for all these reasons that he disliked the Indian Child Welfare Act and began to speak out against it. This was in the 1990’s. We made a website – and as we wrote about the law, people across the country began to contact him.
You see, at the time, when you would google ICWA – all you would get is all the sites that supported ICWA. Ours was the only one that didn’t. So people began to contact us and ask for help. Tribal members and non-members. Birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.
Their stories broke our hearts. Lots of abuse of children – by tribal governments. But we were just two parents, no different than them. Roland continued to speak up though, and had opportunity to give testimony to the Senate Committee, among other opportunities.
In February 2004, we founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare – so we could help other families better. It has been a blessing every time we have been able to help someone – because we are small and simply do the best we can. We give all credit to God for whatever we are able to do.
When Melanie Capobianco first contacted us in July of 2011, we did our best to help her as well. I have found her to be a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, woman. She has been able to back up everything she has said with documentation. According to Oklahoma law, there is only 90 days after birth in which a father can show his interest in paternity. If he does not do this, he loses his right to object to an adoption. He is not considered a legal parent.
Mr. Brown exceeded that. He also exceeded the limits under South Carolina law. He admitted in the first family court – documented on the court record for all to see – that he did not, in truth, make any attempt to contact, inquire about, or provide for this baby in any way, shape or form. By the laws of both states, he had lost his right to object to an adoption. In the meantime, Matt Capobianco was there at the birth and cut the cord. THAT is the fact that the states have been ruling on.
Therefore, when Mr. Brown took the Capobianco’s little girl, without the benefit of any transition, breaking Veronica’s heart for the only parents she had ever known in her 27 months – it was seen by many of us as extremely selfish on the part of Mr. Brown, and that is how our judgment of him has stood. He did not care at all about Veronica’s need for the only parents she had known and was bonded to.
It was also seen as extremely selfish of the tribal government – which cares nothing about Veronica’s majority heritage. No one stops for a moment to consider whether Veronica, as a teen, might prefer to identify with the Hispanic heritage of her birth mother. If she chooses to identify as Hispanic – will she be allowed to? If she would like to meet her birth mother, who she was allowed to see while she was with the Capobiancos, will she be allowed to?
~ Do those who are demanding that she identify as a Native American truly care who she is as an individual with her own mind and heart? Or are they trying to stuff her into a box and make her into who THEY want her to be?
I just wanted you to know all this – as one Christian mother to another – both of us being mother’s in multi-heritage families.
Bless your heart; I am confused as to why you would send unkind emails to other Christian women. In the name of Jesus – please understand that these other women are not evil. They are simply seeing other aspects to this case then you have been seeing.
Some wonder why Capobianco supporters don’t side with a father whose child is being taken from him. Some have even questioned the authenticity of Christians who would support the Capobiancos. (Forgetting that even Jesus was raised by an adoptive father.)
One must understand that many Capobianco supporters have been there since the day they first saw, either in person or on video, the horror of not only having one’s child taken, but –
1) taken without the benefit of a caring transition, and –
2) taken solely due to 1% heritage, (as the father’s admitted abandonment of the child would have prevailed otherwise.)
Just 1.12% heritage.
Since then, the Cherokee Nation has put on a show, shaking signs that claim “genocide” and claiming that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.
If a C supporter brings up the 1% heritage, their statement is twisted and they are accused of racism – despite that it was the Cherokee Nation that brought the 1% into issue.
As much as the Cherokee Nation, ‘Indian Country Today’, NICWA, NARF, and others want to spin it as a “citizen” issue – it is not spinning. Very few people – including many tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere – are falling for the “citizen” claim – especially when “citizenship” is being forced on children.
At 1.12% heritage.
Ardent supporters of the Cherokee Nation, either purposefully spinning for PR or snowed by their own rhetoric, fail to see how disgusted many others are by the claim that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.. Many Americans can see that claim for the dishonesty it is – but few have wanted to speak it. While it is okay for a tribal entity to speak in terms of race and percentages, it is deemed “racist” for anyone else to. But I will say what is on the hearts of many. This was no Indian Child being stolen by “White” people.
It was a Caucasian/Hispanic child, stolen by a tribe.
That is the bottom line.
As the Cherokee Nation continues to encourage and assist Mr. Brown in defying state and federal law, it is an overtly obvious fact. And that is why the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments in general aren’t getting the traction on their genocide spin (outside of ‘Indian Country Today’) that they somehow thought they would.
When you are talking about OUR children – which this child was – NOT an Indian child – you should expect hostility when trying to claim that child as the Tribe’s.
AND if 60 more tribal governments attempt to lower their membership criteria – as 60 are talking about doing – to CN levels and begin to target children of minute heritage – as the Cherokee Tribe has – they should not expect to get sympathy. They should expect a strong push back.
They should expect push back because now, due to the Veronica horror – a whole lot of Americans who would have otherwise remained oblivious to the issue, have woken up to what is happening and are outraged by the ICWA stories they are hearing. Many now want ICWA to be repealed.
Americans’ are not buying the rhetoric that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over children of 1% heritage. It is hard enough to justify ICWA jurisdiction over a child who is 25% tribal heritage – as the child is still 75% another heritage. Even children of a parent who is 100% – such as my own – have a right to be free from tribal government jurisdiction. Even individuals of 100% heritage have a right to be free of tribal government interference in their lives and families – if that is what they choose.
So do we feel angry? Yup.
Is there a Christian purpose and righteousness in that anger? Absolutely.
– “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)
Having raised nine tribal members, five of whom are my birth children, and seen much tragedy, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and other horrors on more than a few reservations – and having an advisory board and membership of parents who have raised, adopted and witnessed the same – we know far too much about tribal governments seeking children for the federal dollars, then showing little or no interest in what happens to them once they have been “retrieved” for the tribe and placed with a member. We won’t be bullied or intimidated.
We have known of far too many kids abused in ICWA homes, and some even murdered.
(Don’t even try to argue that point with me; I had been an ICWA approved home myself for 17 years. I know how little the tribal social services paid attention.)
So, concerning this particular case, in summary – for those who are flabbergasted that we would not be supporting the father – understand this: from the get-go,
1) Mr. Brown has been seen as an extremely selfish man.
2) The Cherokee Nation has been seen as an extremely selfish organization – using this child as a political pawn.
What appalls us is that not only were Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation willing to hurt this child deeply the first time a transfer took place – by taking her without any concern for her need of a transition – but even worse, Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation are now willing to do it to her a 2nd time.
How in the world are we expected to sympathize with people who do that?
Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, columnist for Women’s Voices Magazine, and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com a dramatic true story of transformation and hope.
Why Did the State Order that Veronica be Adopted?
By Elizabeth Sharon Morris
As the drama concerning Veronica Rose Capobianco plays out for the media in Oklahoma, some ask how and why a State could order a child adopted when the birth father has stepped forward and wants to raise his child.
The Baby Veronica case in Oklahoma is very complicated. Baby Veronica spent the first twenty-seven months of her life with Matt and Melanie Capobianco. At the request of Veronica’s birth mother, Matt and Melanie were in the birthing room and Matt cut the cord. They had an open and proper adoption agreement and good relationship with the mother, and no court or attorney has every accused them of being unfit or having committed any crime.
This isn’t a case where adoptive parents have appeared out of nowhere. Their home was the only home Veronica knew – and they were her only parents.
Further, the sole reason that South Carolina family court gave custody to the father at the end of December, 2011, allowing Mr. Brown to take this child without any transition period at all, was because the judge thought that the Indian Child Welfare Act required it. It was not due to the “best interest of the child” because the Cherokee Nation, fearing that “best interest” would mean leaving her with the only parents she knew at the time, argued that ICWA didn’t allow for a ‘Best Interest’ hearing. The tribal attorneys wanted the decision to be made on the basis of ICWA alone.
The high courts, however, looked at all the evidence presented and not only ruled that ICWA did not apply to this case, but that the father – despite claims to the contrary – had abandoned his child. States have laws concerning paternal abandonment so that mothers and children are able to move forward with their lives. Adoptive parents must also be able to come forward without fear that a father could show up any time and disrupt things. If there were no abandonment laws, adoptive parents would be risking everything – not just money, but their hearts and the hearts of extended family.
This particular birth father had texted the mother prior to birth and stated he was giving up his rights. After Veronica was born, he made no attempt to support or even inquire about the baby. In fact, contrary to what has been claimed, he was not surprised by the papers served to him in January 2010. Reports are that he had ducked service of the adoption papers, possibly thinking they were for child support, all autumn.
The judges looked at the facts presented by all the parties and concluded that he had abandoned his child. They also agreed – and the father’s attorneys admitted – that the birth mother has done nothing wrong. Her legal team had taken all the steps required by law.
Mind you – up until the papers were served on Mr. Brown that January day, he had not shown any concern for this baby, although he thought Veronica was with her mother and he knew where the mother lived, what her phone number was, and where she worked. Four months passed. How many more months would have passed if the papers he hadn’t been served that day? Further, when Mr. Brown came back from deployment for a few weeks in August 2010, he made no attempt to contact or visit his child. Nor did he make any attempt after he returned again in December 2010.
While it is very sad and one can feel pain for the Brown family, it has to be understood that Mr. Brown made very poor decisions in relation to his daughter four years ago. As a result of those poor decisions, another family became involved and raised this child as their own for 27 months. There are consequences to poor decisions. Changing one’s mind doesn’t erase those consequences, especially when it involves the hearts and lives of others.
Where it comes to the most important heart of all – Veronica’s – there is no doubt that she was well-bonded to the Capobiancos and there is reason to believe she could still remember them. Mr. Brown’s continual refusal to allow the Capobiancos to even see her raised the question of what he was afraid of.
But every day this drama drags out brings new revelation as to the character of Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Dodging the law and instructing your child to “Kick, scream, hit, punch, and spit” when people “come to get her” not only calls into question one’s parenting skills, but calls into question one’s true concern for her.
When the Capobiancos were faced with having to turn their daughter over to the Brown’s, despite the fact they still had appeals available, they did as ordered. Their hearts were broken, but Melanie did her best not to show it to Veronica because she wanted the transition to be as easy on Veronica as possible. She told Veronica that she will be going with some nice people to a new home, and that they would see her soon. Of course, Veronica still cried and held her arms out as Matt and Melanie were leaving. It isn’t possible to totally remove the trauma. All you can do is try to reduce it as much as possible.
Many empathize with a father having to give up his daughter and believe Mr. Brown has a right to ignore attempts at mediation and visitation meant to ease the transition. In fact, they believe he would be right to fight back and create as much drama as possible should it come down to a forced removal.
Veronica was no less Matt and Melanie’s daughter. Now imagine trying to give up your daughter as Melanie did. Though overcome with grief, not wanting your child to be afraid, you smile through the tears and tell your baby girl it’s all going to be okay.
One has to ask, in terms of Solomon, who it is that is tearing this child apart.
Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, columnist for Women’s Voices Magazine, and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com a dramatic true story of transformation and hope.
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
A terrible injustice that has occurred to a two-year-old South Carolina child named Veronica Rose and her adoptive parents. Two years ago Veronica’s Latina birth mother chose Matt and Melanie to love, nurture and raise her child. To this day, Veronica’s birth mother remains committed to her decision and Veronica has been a thriving, happy child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. On or around Jan. 4, 2010, the birth father signed papers agreeing to give up his daughter.
However, because Veronica has some Cherokee heritage from her birth father’s side of the family, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to her birth father. Because of a federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, a family court judge ruled that she be immediately transferred to her biological father.
Psychologist who witnessed Veronica’s transfer comments on the detrimental effects –
Click Baby Veronica to hear an audio of the interview
The ruling placed the rights of the birth father and tribe above the best interests of this small child. Child-bonding experts agree that removing her from her home and family would be devastating and have long-lasting consequences. Numerous child psychologists stated this would be detrimental to any child. Yet on Dec. 31, Veronica was handed over to her biological father as if a possession without rights.
We believe that children need protection and should not be removed from loving, nurturing environments. We understand the premise of this law is to protect children; however, in Veronica’s case it has been used inappropriately.
Former U.S. senator Jim Abourezk (SD) authored ICWA. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, after reviewing Veronica’s story, Abourezk called the interpretation in this case “something totally different than what we intended at the time.”
“That’s a tragedy,” he said. “They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume, the child was attached to them.”
According to the 2000 census, approximately 75% of people claiming to have American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry live outside the reservation. Further, interracial marriages are a fact of life. It is must be recognized that most children of heritage live off the reservation and have extended family that are non-tribal. Though supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it. Children who have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs are affected. The Cherokee Nation alone is currently tied up in about 1,100 active Indian Child Welfare cases involving some 1,500 children.
Tragically, under the Indian Child Welfare Act:
1) Some children have been removed from safe, loving homes and placed in danger
2) Equal opportunities for adoption, safety and stability are not always available to children of all heritages
3) The Constitutional right of parents to make life choices for their children, for children of Indian heritage to associate freely, and for children of Indian heritage to enjoy Equal Protection has in some cases been infringed upon.
We want more than anything for Veronica to be allowed to come home. As our elected representatives, we urge you to protect Veronica’s rights in all possible ways as well as make legislative changes that will prevent this from happening to any other child again. While we understand you are unable to interfere in court proceedings, we ask you to speak out on this issue and let your constituents know clearly where you stand. We also ask you to sponsor legislation and encourage fellow Congressmen to support the amending of the Indian Child Welfare Act to:
1. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
2. 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.
3. 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.)
4. 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 will 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…”
• Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.
5. Include well defined protections for Adoptive Parents.
6. 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.
7. Mandate that only parents and/or legal custodians have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, we are asking that parents, as U.S. citizens, be given the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them.
• 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”
Washington DC Teach-In:
The goal of our meetings throughout the week in DC was to let people know what we are about and to invite them to the
Teach-in on Friday. We had wonderful speakers lined up for the event, including a mom who is on the verge of losing her daughter – a little girl of LESS than 1% heritage.
After years of practice, we’ve finally figured out that taking four days to visit Congressional offices is way to go. Monday, we focused on the Hart building, with some in Dirksen. Tuesday, Rayburn. Wednesday, Russell and Dirksen, and Thursday, Cannon and Longworth. LOTS less running around and back and forth, and we were able to take time to bop into various extra offices in between the scheduled meetings. We’ll make this into a science yet – (well, I suppose it was already made into an art by lobbyists long ago)
Sarah and I had four meetings scheduled the first day, Monday. While listing names and associations might seem dull, I want to give you all the information so you can make personal decisions about whether or not to contact someone. If you would like me to write more about my poor choice in motel, having to spend $30 in taxi fees a day just to get to a Metro station, or what it is like to ride the underground metro after the taxi driver letting you off tells you that he would never allow his mother to wait at this particular station alone, just let me know.
We began our day with Kawe Mossman-Saafi in Senator Inouye’s office. Senator Inouye (Hawaii) is on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) as well as the ‘adoption caucus’ – the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA). The meeting with Ms. Mossman-Saafi went well. She had been unaware of these things happening to children under the Indian Child Welfare Act, was very kind and interested, and agreed something needs to be done.
We next met with Kathryn Hitch in Senator Crapo’s office (Idaho), who is also on the SCIA. This meeting also went well and she told us she would be coming to the teach-in on Friday.
We had a little time before the next meeting, so we dropped into Senator Bingaman’s office and visited with Casey O’Neil. If you live in New Mexico, please call him and tell him about ICWA. He was very nice but needs some help understanding the issue.
Jayne Davis was the aide for Senator Conrad, ND. (SCIA & CCA) She read up on us before hand and had a good idea of why we were there. She was very friendly and agreed to come on Friday.
We thought we had good meeting with Kenneth Martin and Sarah Butrum in South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson’s office (SCIA & CCA). Although he said there is no stomach in Congress to change ICWA, he assured us that either he or his aide, Sarah, would be at the Teach-in on Friday.
That day we also made unscheduled visits to the offices of Senator Akaka (SCIA & CCA), Lieberman (CCA), Rubio, Barrasso (SCIA), Murkowski (SCIA & CCA), and Franken (SCIA).
The aide for Senator Barrasso (WY),Travis McNiven, was extremely friendly and surprisingly apologetic. He said he had intended to get hold of us for an appointment but hadn’t had a chance. He was glad that we had stopped in and asked us to send him a legislative draft, which I did when I got back to the motel that evening. Senator Rubio’s aide, Jonathan Baselice was also very friendly.
In all, we went to eleven offices on Monday. At a few of the unscheduled visits, there was no aide to meet with so we briefly explained that the Teach-in is an opportunity to discuss the ICWA problems as a community, and then left some information and an invitation to the event.
We started Tuesday meeting with Michele Bachmann’s staff at 10am. Rep. Bachmann’s office is extremely supportive of our efforts and has said they will co-sponsor legislation that will protect children better. Katie Poedtke was our contact this day, and gave us the list of members of the adoption caucus (CCA), which was great to use for unscheduled visits. Rep. Bachmann co-chairs the CCA. She is not, however, on the House Subcommittee on Indian/Alaskan Native Affairs (SIANA)
We stopped in at offices for Rep’s Don Young (SIANA), Denny Rehberg, Dan Boren (SIANA), Dale Kildee (SIANA), Ed Markey (SIANA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (CCA).
On Wednesday it was back to the Senate offices. This was our day to meet with Senator Hoeven’s staff. They had been very helpful in assisting us to set up the Teach-in and were very attentive during our this meeting. Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Bernstein asked several very good questions about ICWA. Sara Egeland, our contact for setting up the Teach-in, was also at there.
Unscheduled visits included Senator’s Burr (CCA), McCain (SCIA & CCA), Snowe (CCA), Blunt (CCA), Rand Paul, and John Thune (CCA). Per the request of one mom, we made sure to drop a packet of letters for her Senator, Jim DeMint (SC). He is also a member of the CCA. I was able to meet with Senator Inhofe’s aide, Ellen Brown, briefly. Senator Inhofe (OK) is another co-chair to the CCA. Ms. Brown was very nice, as was John Zimmer from Senator Mike Johanns’ office (NE) (SCIA).
The one that surprised me the most was Jackie Parker, from Senator Carl Levin’s office. (MI) (CCA). She was very glad we dropped in but was in a hurry to another meeting, so asked me to walk with her and tell her more about the issue. She wants to stay in contact and asked for ideas and potential tweeks to the law.
Senator Coburn’s Chief of Staff, Mike Schwartz was incredibly welcoming. He remembered us from our visit in 2007 and was still just as supportive. Mr. Schwartz urged us to visit Senator Landrieu’s office as well. He said that not only is she a co-chair for the CCA, she is a wonderful person and a good friend of his. I stopped by her office and picked up contact information for a couple of her aides.
One of our Mom’s flew in Wednesday night with her son. Debra had lost a 2-year old to ICWA a few years ago. So we started Thursday with a meeting with her Senator, Maria Cantwell. (WA) (SCIA). Senator Cantwell’s aide, Paul Wolfe, was wonderful and we look forward to corresponding with him more.
We then visited with Todd Ungerecht, an aide to a Representative from Debra’s State. Rep. Doc Hastings (WA) is the Chair to the Natural Resource Committee, which the House Indian Affairs is a subcommittee of. He was very good to meet with.
At this point, Sarah took Debra and her son sight seeing, and I went on to my Representative’s office, Rick Berg. There I met with Danielle Janowski. Rep. Berg’s office has got to be the one most on the ball on Capitol Hill, because they had a Thank You card already in my mailbox by the time I got home.
While waiting for another parent, Johnston Moore, to arrive for a meeting with his Representative, I dropped into as many additional offices as I could, including the offices for Rep’s Benishek (SIANA), Gosar (SIANA), Flake, Thompson, Hunter, Denham (SIANA), Lujan (SIANA), Hanabusa (SIANA), and Speaker John Boehner. I simply explained that we wanted to start a conversation about what is happening to children and families affected by ICWA as well as leave some information.
The staff person for Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota was not as welcoming this time as she had been last January. She basically told me that pushing for a change in the ICWA right now would be too difficult. I was very disappointed as their office had seemed so helpful the last time we had been there. It is important for us (especially families from South Dakota) to continue speaking to Rep. Noem about this as she is on the SIANA. It could be that the NPR series on ICWA, which aired the very week we were in DC and was very condemning of South Dakota’s foster care system, has frightened them.
We had good meetings in the offices of Raul Labrador (SIANA), Tom McClintock (SIANA), and an interesting one in the office of Karen Bass (Co-chair of the CCA).
By Thursday evening, we had visited the offices of every member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, every member of the House Committee on Indian Affairs, and many of the members of the adoption caucus. I went in to several additional offices as well, just to tell the front desk about the Teach-in, why we are having it, and inviting members of their staff to come – especially if I thought that particular Congressman had a heart for the Constitution.
Now the five of us walked a couple blocks to one of our favorite restaurants, a deli called “Cosi,” and enjoyed getting to know each other a little better. We’ve spent years talking on the phone and had never before met face-to-face.
Waiting for the taxi to come to take us to Capitol Hill the next morning – my stomach was tied up in knots. “Lord Jesus, please be with us as we speak and interact with our guests. Help us to remember that this is all about you – not about us – and all we want is what You want – to care for the children. Lord, in the name of Jesus, please help us to speak as we ought to speak, with wisdom and grace… Amen”
Friday’s presentation was wonderful. The information given by Dr. Allen, Yale Lewis, Johnston Moore, and the mothers who came to tell their stories, Debra and Melanie, was incredible. I can’t say enough about the compelling effort and testimony given. Please keep Melanie and her family in prayer right now.
Congressman Tim Scott from South Carolina, Senator Hoeven from North Dakota, Congressman Faleomavaega from American Samoa, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota all sent staff to attend the event. Jayne Davis from Senator Conrad of North Dakota also attended for a short time. A representative from a national adoption council also attended and was very interested.
There were certain Legislative Aides who were quite interested during meetings earlier this week who had already told us they would be unable to attend. Senator Barrasso’s office, Senator Levin’s office, Senator Inhofe’s office, and Senator Tom Coburn’s office, in particular.
While disappointed in the low turnout, the message was phenomenal and we look forward to sharing portions of the video tape. People who hear the stories are always surprised this is happening to children and supportive of efforts to ensure their best interest. To get the attention of Congress, the rest of America needs to know what is happening. We are discussing ways to use the video tape to get the story out.
We have begun posting portions to YouTube. We also want to make a short version for use in churches and speaking events. The wrap up by Dr. Allen is particularly incredible. If you would like to share the video or portions of it in your area, please let us know. You might be able to decide better after we get a couple more things up on YouTube. Again – if there is anyone that is able to help with this type of thing, we embrace volunteers.
Roland Morris, Sr., 58, ascended to heaven on Wednesday, June 9th after a four year fight with cancer. Roland, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, was born July 1, 1945, in Cass Lake, MN. Ojibwe was his first language, and he grew up fishing, hunting, and gathering wild rice with family and friends. He also played intramural basketball, worked hard in the woods, spent time in a foster home and various jails, drank, smoked, and played guitar with friends at various bars.
Roland went to college in Kansas and was a draftsman for a short time before becoming an upholsterer. While he struggled with many difficulties in his early years, he was a perfectionist with upholstery and throughout his life performed his craft well.
After a life changing spiritual experience with Jesus in 1988, Roland moved his second family to Ronan, Montana to be near his cousin and Christian evangelist, Frank (Scotty) Butterfly. There, in 1992, Roland and his wife, Elizabeth, created Montana’s first patient transportation service, Mission Valley Medicab. They also helped instigate the Montana Passenger Carriers Association and the charitable organization, Valley Missions, Inc., all without tribal assistance.
Roland taught his children about wild ricing, hunting, fishing, and a little of the Ojibwe language. But the biggest, strongest desire of his heart was that his children, grandchildren, and entire extended family come to the saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Having watched many friends and relatives die physically, spiritually, and emotionally from alcoholism, violence, and suicide, Roland could no longer stand aside and do nothing. He was concerned for the children and felt distress at the attitudes of many adults within his community. He wanted the self-destruction to stop.
Roland’s relationship with Jesus coupled with his conviction that much of the reservation system was harmful led him to some amazing life experiences. Actively opposing much of federal Indian policy, Roland served as President of the Western Montana organization All Citizens Equal, was a board member and Vice-Chairman of the national organization; Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, was the Secretary of Citizens Equal Rights Foundation.
He also ran as a Republican candidate for the Montana House of Representatives in the 1996 and testified before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in April,1998, the Minnesota Attorney General in 2000, and numerous Mont. State committees. With his family, he also had a private meeting with a member of the President’s Domestic Policy Council May, 2002 in Washington DC.
As time progressed, Roland became more convinced of the importance of Jesus in his life. So in 2000 he attended a year of training at the Living Faith Bible College, Canada. Over the last three years, he and/or his family went on mission trips in Canada and Mexico. During a 2003 trip to a children’s home in Juarez, Mexico, he fixed most of their dining hall chairs, taught 6 boys how to upholster, donated materials, and preached a Sunday street service.
Through the years, he has appeared in numerous newspaper articles across the country. The last article he appeared in was on Friday, May 14th, in the Washington Times. Reporter Jennifer Lehner wrote, “the ICWA [Indian Child Welfare Act] protects the interests of others over [Mr. Morris’] grandchildren,” and “Mr. Morris said that once children are relocated to the reservations, they are subject to the corrupt law of the tribal government. Instead of preserving culture, he said, the tribal leadership uses the ICWA to acquire funds provided through the legislation.” Ms. Lehner quoted Mr. Morris as saying that the law is “supposed to help children, but instead it helps tribal governments.”
Finally, in February, 2004, he and his wife founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare. The purpose of this was to encourage preaching, teaching and fostering of the growth of the Christian Faith in all places, encourage accountability of governments to families with Indian heritage, and educate the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.
Roland praised God to the very end. When his final struggle began, several of his friends and family were praying with him. When those present sang old-time hymns, he raised his hand in the air for as long as he could. When “I Surrender” was sung, he sang the echo. While Pastor Kingery sat next to Roland, holding his hand, Roland looked him straight in the eyes and pointed his other hand up to heaven. When he passed on to greater life, his good friend Marvin Bauer was softly playing Gospel songs for him on his accordion.
Roland is survived by his wife, nine children, twelve grandchildren and a great grandson. Also important to his heart was his “special” son, Jesus Garcia, in Juarez, Mexico. Surviving brothers include Harry Morris and Steven Jones; and sisters include Clara Smith, Bernice Hurd, Sharon Goose, and Christine Jones, as well as numerous nephews and nieces and his great cousin, Scotty Butterfly.
Roland was preceded in death by his parents, Jacob and Susan Jones; siblings Thomas and Wallace Morris, Robert, Martin, Caroline, Frances, Barbara and Alvina Jones, Loretta Smith, and grandson Brandon Kier.
Roland’s loving friend, Jim Ball, crafted a beautiful casket for him as a gift. Funeral services were at the CMA Church in Ronan, MT, on Sunday, June 13, 2004 and the CMA Church in Cass Lake, MN, Tuesday, June 15. Internment was at Prince of Peace Cemetery. He is strongly remembered for his strength, character, and love for the Lord Jesus.
Roland, our husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend; We Love you and Miss you so very much. You are with God now.
Gi gi wah ba min me na wah
Wake up America. Tribal Government’s should not be given jurisdiction over our children simply because they claim the right. I understand that tribal government jurisdiction over Indian children sounds like common sense. It seems like a no brainer when tribal governments approach the federal and state governments and say, “They are our children and we have a right to raise them.” Everyone just nods their head and says, “Sure, no problem!”
Heavens, everyone’s afraid they’ll be accused of racism if they take the time to really think the issue through.
Wake up. These aren’t the tribe’s children. The ones in my home, for example, happen to be MY children, and we have no intention of living within the reservation system. Other parents across the country feel the same. According to the last census, most enrolled tribal members live off the reservation. Many, just like our family, left because they don’t want their children raised amid the dangers and dysfunction on the reservation. As American citizens, we have the right to make that choice for our families. And as well-intended as some in government are, they haven’t the ability to know what is best for my family or for the many other families that have left to live a different life.
Further, MOST children falling under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other tribal jurisdiction laws have relatively small amounts of Indian heritage. Did you read that right?
Tribal governments decide their own membership and most have decided ¼ blood quantum is all that’s necessary. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma goes further and claims jurisdiction over any child with ancestry tracing back to the Dawes Rolls no matter how minute the blood quantum.
Now, the ICWA defines an Indian child as any “enrollable” child. Think it through.
Parents can’t avoid ICWA and other jurisdictional laws by not enrolling their children.
Therefore, many children with 1/4 or less heritage and no connection to Indian Country fall under ICWA. And that is actually most of the affected children.
It’s plain as day. Think of a pyramid. Children of 100% heritage are the least common. They are at the tip. The largest number of children are the ones with little heritage. They make up the base. But being of little heritage also means they are primarily non-tribal and have a large percentage of relatives that are also non-tribal.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not noting this because I think the non-tribal heritage is of primary significance. There is no blood quantum of any heritage is of primary importance over another. All of my children’s heritages are interesting and valuable. I hate the idea of referring to a percentage of a child’s heritage in the same way one refers to the pedigree of a dog. How demeaning. Or worse, it is abhorrent to focus a preference on one blood heritage in the same way 1940’s Germany scrutinized the heritages of millions. The only point of noting blood quantum is to note that children with less than 100% heritage have more than one history and more than one set of interesting and important relatives.
What I am pointing out is that ICWA and other jurisdictional laws affect millions of people – and most aren’t even aware of it.
Until something comes up.
January 2008, the Navajo Nation sent for a 6-year-old girl in Texas. The little girl had been living with her father most of her life. Now, the birth mother wanted custody. Normally, there is a hearing, an attorney looking out for the child’s interests, and a transition period if there is to be a change of custody. Normally, both parents get equal opportunity to state their case. But this wasn’t normal, and the Texas County police, thinking the Navajo court order was enough, helped the tribe pick the little girl up from her day care without a Texas Court order. The little girl and her father wept, and then she was gone. He has seen her only once since, at a hearing in Navajo Tribal Court. Again, they held on to each other and wept.
That was in late March. He hasn’t been able to see or speak to her since. He hasn’t been given an address or phone number to contact her and the guardian ad litem hasn’t been able to locate her. He has no money, and the attorney he hired has put him on notice. No funds, no help.
A man in Oklahoma has fought to keep his baby girl. The tribe took custody right after the child’s birth and refused to even tell him her name let alone see her. Two years ago, a tribal court judge told him that because he is white, he had no rights to his baby. At one point he won custody. However, the tribe has appealed it, and his lawyer told him he needs about $30,000 to fight the appeal. He doesn’t have the money.
As unbelievable as it seems, some parents have lost custody of their children because they couldn’t afford a lawyer.
A three year old girl in Oregon hasn’t seen her birth mom in over two years. The last time she saw her mom was when the tribal police took her out of her mother’s arms at a tribal court hearing that was only supposed to be about getting a DNA test. The mom tried to hang on to her, but the judge ordered the police to take the baby by force, so they put pressure on her arms until she let go. Since then, she tried to get her back but couldn’t to find a lawyer to help. In 2007, she wrote:
“… Last year was very hard for me, and the constant let down of not being able to see or speak to my baby has tore me apart. I have spoken to the … father and he informed [me] that it is final that I will never be able to see my little girl again as long he has anything to do with it. So I have taken it very hard. I did write the tribal court judges, and asked for another hearing at least for visitation, and my pleas were denied. …. There is probably not a day that goes by that I don’t cry for my baby. I feel like the life I once had no longer exists.”
She isn’t alone. A mother in Wisconsin is trying to keep her 4-year-old daughter off the reservation. She said she has spoke to dozens of lawyers and can’t find anyone to help her.
ICWA doesn’t apply to custody battles between parents. Nonetheless, many tribal courts claim jurisdiction over all children, even in custody battles. Non-tribal parents with limited knowledge or funds find themselves in situations they can’t do anything about, commonly facing discrimination in the tribal courts.
ICWA does apply in foster and adoptive cases, but the next two stories are examples of how the law can harm even these children. It is also an example of how the law reaches out to affect children with limited tribal heritage.
A Texas fireman and his wife offered to take custody of a baby whose mother was considering abortion. She agreed. Later, after the baby was in their home for several weeks and adoption procedures had begun, the father wrote,
“… it was discovered she [the birthmother] is 1/128th Cherokee. That makes my son 1/256 or .0039% Native American and 99.9961% not…. His mother…was very adamant about the Cherokee Nation NOT raising her child and the court records show this. In April of 2006, we were notified of the Cherokee Nation’s intent to take us to court and remove our son from our home… Since then, we have been in a constant state of panic…”
To this date, in May 2008, this family is still fighting to complete this adoption. They have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the effort, but will continue to fight to the end because of their love for this little boy.
A couple in Arkansas had custody of two little girls for 5 years. Late one night in February, 2007, as the adoptive parents were getting their two girls ready for bed, police arrived at their door. The 10-year-old twins already were in pajamas, but brandishing a court order, the police took the frightened girls and drove them 60 miles to the home of the other relative. They weren’t able to even tell friends good-bye.
Background: In October, 2002, the birth mother, a distant cousin, had arranged for the couple to adopt the twins. However, after signing the papers, an elderly relative who had four of the twins’ siblings began custody action. Although everyone agrees the adoptive parents kept a loving and stable home, the elderly relative won custody with the Tribe’s support. But within months, all of the children were removed from that home due to neglect. However, the twins weren’t returned to their adoptive parents. All the children were instead places back with the birth mother.
Interestingly, neither the birth mother, the adoptive family, NOR the relative were Indian, so why was the tribe involved?
Because the twins’ natural father is an enrolled member. And although the court said that he had “undisputedly abandoned the children,” his status made him “relevant to this case.” This gave the tribe jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The tribe wanted the twins placed with the siblings, “irrespective of the fact that many other full and half-siblings are scattered among several other states.” And irrespective of the children’s other various heritages.
Again, why take children from the only safe, nuclear family they’d ever had, and place them in unstable homes?
Power. Citing a 1974 Congressional hearing statement, “there is no resource … more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children…,” an appeals court found that the “best interest” of the child wasn’t the only issue for a court to consider. Citing ICWA, the court found that “maintaining the integrity of the Nation, its culture, its children, and its progression through time not to become extinct” also had to be considered.
In other words – (stop and re-read what this appeals court actually said) this law is for the benefit of the tribal entity and tribal government. It is not designed for the benefit of individuals or families.
Be that as it may, neither the Tribe nor Arkansas explained how moving the girls from the potential adoptive parents and non-tribal home they loved to a foster situation in a non-tribal home they were strangers to would help preserve the tribe.
According to Mississippi v. Holyfield, ICWA’s original goal was to combat “abusive child welfare practices” that took children from tribal communities and placed them in unfamiliar environments with strangers. The trauma that Indian children suffered from, among other things, being forced to enroll in far-off boarding schools is undeniable. But today the reverse is happening. Children that have never been near a reservation are being removed from environments they love and forced to live with strangers chosen by tribes.
Tribal authorities argue they are most qualified to decide the best interest of enrollable children. Are they? Arguments aside as to how ICWA has safeguards to prevent misuse, stories affecting black, Hispanic, Norwegian-American and other families reflect this reality. Letters from birth parents, grandparents, pre-adoptive families, and tribal members themselves can be read at https://www.caicw.org/familystories.html
Three years ago, two boys of 50-50 heritage were taken from their paternal, Mexican grandparents in California and sent to their Ute grandmother in Utah. Their home in California was loving and safe. They were sent to Utah only because social workers decided that ICWA required it. In a matter of weeks, 3-year old Emilio Rodriguez and his brother, Jose, 4-years-old, were beaten so severely that they both suffered severe concussions and Jose ended up in a coma. Why were they beaten? It was reported in the Utah papers that their maternal grandmother didn’t like that they were speaking Spanish.
The boys and their sister are now back with their Mexican grandparents who recently won a million dollar lawsuit against the United States for removing the boys and placing them with the Utah grandmother. The Utah grandmother is in jail.
If there is any case that illustrates just how bad the ICWA is, this one would be it. Wake Up, America. Do away with this law that primarily benefits governments, not people.