Senator Hoeven and Senate Committee push “historic levels of funding for Indian country in Phase III Coronavirus response”

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Apr 022020
 
Washington DC

While all communities are in need of support during this unprecedented world crisis, when reading the numbers below, note the amount of money given to federal agencies – not to communities, and the number of redundant programs within those agencies.

Remember as well, individual tribal members will be receiving the same $1200 all eligible citizens will receive, and are able to access county and state resources as citizens.

According to a March 26, 2020 Press Release from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs;

Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today released the following statement after the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third phase of legislation to address coronavirus response and mitigation efforts across the country, including American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

“We worked hard to secure necessary resources to help Tribes combat the coronavirus outbreak,” said Hoeven. “This legislation delivers important resources for Indian Tribes to help health care providers, small businesses, schools, communities, and individuals mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in tribal communities.”

The CARES Act includes a number provisions for Indian Tribes, such as:

– $8 billion in the Tribal Stabilization Fund to provide emergency relief to tribal governments and offset costs incurred by Indian Tribes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Ensuring that Indian Tribes and their businesses are eligible for the $454 billion loan guarantee funds and $349 billion under the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan 7(a) Program.
– $1.032 billion for Indian Health Service (IHS) for coronavirus response efforts, including treatment and preventing the spread of COVID-19 on tribal lands.
– $100 million for USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
– $453 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Public Safety and Law Enforcement.
– $327 million for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).
– $305 million for Indian Housing Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

This bill will now move to the U.S. House of Representatives for further consideration.

DETAILED SUMMARY OF TRIBAL PROVISIONS

U.S. Department of Treasury Tribal Stabilization Fund — Section 601 provides $8 billion in emergency relief funds to Indian Tribes. These funds will be available to tribal governments who certify that the funds will be used to offset expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In consultation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, these funds will be disbursed by the Secretary of Treasury.
U.S. Small Business Administration Loan 7(a) Program — Section 1102 makes tribal businesses and tribal government owned businesses eligible for the $349 billion loan guarantee program. Additionally, $265 million has been secured for the education, training, and advising of small businesses in dealing with COVID-19.
U.S. Department of Treasury’s Loans and Guarantee Loans — Section 4002 makes Indian Tribes, and their businesses, eligible for the $454 billion loan guarantee fund.
U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Education schools clarification — Section 3511 clarifies that all Bureau of Indian Education schools, including contract and grant schools, are eligible to receive certain U.S. Department of Education waivers due to COVID-19.
Special Diabetes Program for Indians — Section 3832 reauthorizes the SDPI Program to the end of November 2020.
Native Inclusion of Education and Training Relating to Geriatrics — Section 753 awards grants to support the training of health care professionals who treat elderly Native Americans. $40.7 million was authorized in the Act for these grants to eligible entities, including those who prioritize serving older adults in Indian Tribes and tribal organizations.

The legislation also provided supplemental funding to help tribal communities respond to the COVID-19, including:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
    1. $100 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    2. $50 million for Facility Upgrades
    3. $50 million for Additional Food Purchases
  • U.S. Department of the Interior
    1. $453 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs, including Public Safety & Justice, to address COVID-19 on tribal lands
    2. $69 million for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), of which no less than $20 million is for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)
  • U.S. Department of Education
    1. $153.8 million for BIE schools
    2. $105 million for Institutions of Higher Education, which includes Tribal Colleges and Universities funding
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    1. Of the $1.032 billion in funding, the IHS resources will be allocated for:
    1. Up to $65 million for Electronic Health Record Stabilization
    2. Not less than $450 million for Tribal shares and contracts with Urban Indian Organizations
    3. Up to $125 million may be transferred to and merged with the “Indian Health Service, Indian Health Facilities” account
    4. All remaining funds are to be used at the discretion of the Director of the Indian Health Service
  • $15 million for Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Health Surveillance and Program Support for Indian Tribes
  • $15 million for Indian Tribes to utilize the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response’s Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund
  • $1.5 billion for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grants and cooperative agreements of which Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations are eligible to apply
  • $125 million for CDC coronavirus funding directly to Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    1. $200 million for the Indian Housing Block Grant Program
    2. $100 million for Indian Community Development Block Grant Program
    3. $5 million for Office of Public and Indian Housing
  • U.S. Department of Commerce
    1. $300 million for assistance to Tribal subsistence, commercial, and charter fisheries affected by COVID-19.

The total increase in the supplemental appropriations funding is $2.692 billion, with more available through competitive grants along with state and local governments, bringing total resources to $10.314 billion for Indian Tribes.

https://www.indian.senate.gov/news/press-release/hoeven-us-senate-passes-historic-levels-funding-indian-country-phase-iii

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHTER: The Indian Child Welfare Act Fact Sheet

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Sep 122016
 
ICWA rules, CAICW

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHTEST
The Indian Child Welfare Act Fact Sheet
FROM CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE FOR INDIAN CHILD WELFARE

In direct response to a “fact” sheet published by the National Indian Child Welfare Association in September, 2015.

The Truth about ICWA

Recently, some extremely well-funded ICWA groups have been promoting a campaign of misinformation rooted in the most egregious negative stereotypes about non-tribal social services and families. With the support of a coalition of national Native nonprofit organizations – including the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) – certain tribal entities have been turning truth on its head.

ICWA has lowered the bar of child welfare practice to the point of neglect for Native children. ICWA is proudly promoted as righting the wrongs of the past – but playing “pay-back time” with the lives of today’s children is a horrendous excuse for a law and, if truly one of ICWA’s purposes, amounts to a gross exploitation of children. ICWA is also said to address the current injustices that AI/AN children and families still face, but again, subjecting children to prolonged abuse and neglect under the justification that racial injustice exists is a horrendous excuse for a law and – if truly one of ICWA’s purposes – amounts to gross neglect of children. The rampant abuse children are subjected to in Indian Country has been well documented for many years by NICWA and other organizations:

• “Neglect endangers AI/AN children 4 times more often than physical abuse and results in numerous child fatalities” (NICWA, 1999).
• “I would venture to say over 80 percent of our children are traumatized at an early age; and so, therefore, their ability to learn and comprehend is affected very severely” (Green Bay, WI) (NIEA 2006, 23).
• “Many of the perceptions provided by tribal professionals in this survey are supported by recent data gathered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Justice Services from 96 Indian country law enforcement agencies that suggests meth is the greatest threat in their communities. These law enforcement agencies also identified increases in domestic violence, assaults, burglaries, and child abuse and neglect cases with the increased use of meth” (Roe Bubar 2007, 10).
• “… They also expressed an awareness of increases in child abuse allegations and out-of-home placements involving a meth-related investigation” (Roe Bubar, 2007, p. 10).
• “…The almost 40 children returned to on-reservation placements in abusive homes, many headed by known sex offenders, at the direction of the Tribal Chair. These children remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators available to be raped on a daily basis. Since I filed my first report noting this situation, nothing has been done by any of you to remove these children to safe placements” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “The 45 children who were placed, at the direction of Tribal Social Services (TSS), BIA social workers, BIA supervised TSS social workers and the BIA funded Tribal Court, in homes where parents were addicted to drugs and/or where they had been credibly accused of abuse or neglect. Since I filed my first report noting these placements, nothing has been done to remove these children to safe placements. I trust the Tribal Court, with the recent resignation of a judge who failed a drug test, will begin to be responsive to the children whose placements they oversee” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “The 25 cases of children most of whom were removed from physically and sexually abusive homes based on confirmed reports of abuse as well as some who still remain in those homes. Neither the BIA nor the FBI have taken any action to investigate or charge the adults in these homes for their criminally abusive acts. Many, of the adults in these homes are related to, or are close associates of, the Tribal Chair or other Council members” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “…at least two children a day were victims of crime. That is astronomical. That is off of the charts compared to the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence in the mainstream” (Hallie Bongar White 2014, 26).
• “Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide and suicide, account for 75% of deaths for AI/AN youth age 12 to 20” (SAMHSA). (Center for Native American Youth 2014).
• “…in 2010, 40 percent of children seen at Child Advocacy Centers for child sexual abuse were Alaska Native, even though we only represent 15 percent of the entire population in the state of Alaska. That is just strictly unacceptable” (Hallie Bongar White 2014, 27-28)
• “…it is estimated that 35 percent of children exposed to domestic violence will develop trauma-related difficulties (Moretti et al., 2006). …Similarly, it is estimated that between 42 percent and 90 percent of child victims of sexual abuse will develop trauma-related difficulties (De Bellis, Spratt and Hooper, 2011). …statistics related to both these issues are thought to be underestimates (Leventhal, 1998; Wilt and Olson, 1996). It is therefore likely that the actual prevalence of PTSD stemming from both childhood sexual abuse and exposure to domestic violence is greater than stated above. More difficult to estimate is the number of children repeatedly exposed to or even directly threatened by various forms of neighborhood violence” (Richard G. Dudley 2015, 9).
• “According to this data, 11 AI/AN children died in 2012 due to child abuse and neglect (DHHS, 2013). This data reflects only those child fatalities that have been reported to state authorities. However, because incidents of child maltreatment that occur under a tribe’s exclusive jurisdiction and where tribal services are provided are not necessarily reported to the state and included in national data systems, this number is likely a slight underestimate (Earl, 2001, p. 8)” (NICWA 2015).

ICWA does not provide the high standards and accountability required to protect children – as evidenced by numerous documented reports from tribal government entities and their supporters, as well as much anecdotal evidence from witnesses, including affected children and families. As to statements by NICWA concerning the benefits of ICWA, NICWA claims that:

• ICWA “asks social workers and courts to examine whether the use of intensive in-home services would be just as, or more, effective in protecting a child’s safety and best interest, rather than simply resorting to a de facto removal of the child as the first option.” – – In-home services that were truly intensive could be effective. Yet, even if the question has been asked and a truly intensive in-home program has been implemented, statistics do not appear to reflect evidence that this intervention has been effective.
• ICWA “encourages the use of culturally specific services that are more likely to successfully strengthen AI/AN families and help AI/AN children stay safely at home.” – – Culturally specific services can be effective if the service offers the culture of the individual child and family. But again, despite current efforts to provide culturally specific services, statistics appear to show drug, alcohol, and violence issues getting worse within reservation boundaries.
• ICWA “also helps States secure tribal assistance and ensures that experts are present in the courtroom when important decisions about the child are made.” – – ‘Tribal experts’ are often hired and paid by tribal governments and their supporting organizations. Many of these experts are there to protect tribal sovereignty and the best interest of tribal government. They frequently do not actually know the child or the child’s family – especially if the child and family have never lived in Indian Country. Many tribal experts are not testifying to the actual upbringing, culture and worldview of the child and the child’s family, but to a cultural picture preferred by tribal government. Many are not necessarily testifying to what the child’s culture is, but to what the tribal government thinks the child’s culture should be.

ICWA violates and denies children’s and parents’ constitutional rights. ICWA provides procedural and substantive safeguards that protect the assumed sovereignty of tribal governments. In the process of protecting tribal sovereignty, the constitutional rights of children and families have been violated. NICWA claims ICWA recognizes “a parent’s constitutional right to care for their child and the child’s corresponding right to family integrity,” but many dissident tribal members and non-tribal extended family say their rights have been violated and their children harmed by the ICWA.

Almost all children fare better when placed with family, in community, and connected to the culture they feel most at home with. This is true for children of every heritage, as long as their family is healthy, loving and safe. Children do not fare better in homes where they are neglected or abused.
If it is unsafe for a child to stay in their families’ home, we agree with NICWA that the second best place for children is within their community and connected with the culture they are most familiar with. This is why it is so terrible when tribal leaders rip children out of their communities and culture and force them into situations that feel totally foreign to them. Children who have never been in Indian Country should not be forced into Indian Country.
However, it is also true that due to varied circumstances, not all children who have been raised in Indian Country can go home to their family or community.

• “Furthermore, these professionals believe that meth involvement increases the difficulty of family reunification” (Roe Bubar, 2007, p. 10).

Further, varied communications to CAICW and other anecdotal evidence reveal that not all children who live in Indian Country want to be there. Some children want to go live with relatives off the reservation. Some simply want out. Some have tried to run away off the reservation, only to be taken back by tribal police.

ICWA promotes connection to Indian culture, elders, and community. That is good. But some children do not want to live there. Not all children who fall under the jurisdiction of ICWA have been raised within Indian culture or community. Tribal culture and the reservation system is foreign to many, if not most, of the children who fall under the jurisdiction of ICWA. Further, some reservation communities are simply not safe, period. Congress does not have a right to force a particular culture or religion on an individual – and most certainly has no right to force culture or community on a child simply due to race or even political affiliation. When a law or program promotes a dogma with no regard for the factual needs of the individual child, that law or program is NOT promoting the best interest of that child – it is promoting the best interest of a political agenda or entity.
While ICWA does include language allowing state court judges to deviate from the requirements of ICWA when there is “good cause,” the ability to do so is severely limited by the 2016 BIA rules, which state:

• “Without a causal relationship…evidence that shows only the existence of community or family poverty, isolation, single parenthood, custodian age, crowded or inadequate housing, substance abuse, or nonconforming social behavior does not by itself constitute clear and convincing evidence or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that continued custody is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.121(d)).
• Further, “In determining whether good cause exists, the court must not consider” whether the child has already bonded with the family he/she is currently living with or whether the child has ever had any connection to the tribe” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.118(c)).
• Finally, “… In determining whether ICWA applies to a proceeding, the State court may not consider factors such as the participation of the parents or the Indian child in Tribal cultural, social, religious, or political activities, the relationship between the Indian child and his or her parents, whether the parent ever had custody of the child, or the Indian child’s blood quantum” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.103(c)).

In other words, tribal governments and the court system “can force children with even a slight Indian heritage into environments where poverty, crime, abuse, and suicides are rampant” (Flatten 2015). These truths are evidence that ICWA does NOT “balance the need for flexibility and individualized case-based decisions,” as NICWA claims.

ICWA itself is not based on race. ICWA applies to children who are eligible for political membership in a federally recognized tribe – and, as NICWA has noted, “does not apply to individuals who merely self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.”

• “According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 5.2 million self-identified American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in the US, of whom 2 million qualify for federal services” (Center for Native American Youth 2014). The enrolled, federally recognized AI/AN population is not 5.2 million, but only an estimated 2 million – those being the ones eligible for federal services.

Tribal governments are the sole determiners of the membership criteria. However, the membership criteria of most – if not all – tribal governments is based on heritage. If a tribal government has determined that blood lineage with a distant ancestor is all that is necessary for membership, the ICWA applies, regardless if the child, the child’s parents, or the child’s extended family want the tribal government to be involved in their lives. This child is therefore placed under ICWA’s jurisdiction due to their heritage – in other words, due to their “race.”
Further, while the ICWA itself states that it is not to be used in custody battles between parents, in practice, enrolled family members are frequently chosen over non-enrolled family members in custody battles; ie: a tribal parent is chosen over the non-tribal parent, or a tribal grandparent or aunt over a non-tribal relative. This has occurred even in cases where the tribal parent or relative has a criminal record and the non-tribal relative does not. In addition, many non-tribal parents and relatives have been threatened with ICWA by their tribal counterparts. In other words, tribal courts have not always followed the ‘word’ of the ICWA law, but instead, have followed what many believe to be the ‘heart’ of the ICWA law. Abundant anecdotal evidence of rulings in favor of tribal relatives at the expense of non-tribal relatives furthers the race-based impression of ICWA.

Tribal governments claim in congressional testimony and to the general public that they care deeply about the safety and well-being of their children and families. Yet, statistics, reports and documentation from tribal governments and their supporters, as well as anecdotal evidence from witnesses, show repeated placements of children into physically and emotionally dangerous environments, as well as repeated disregard for the factual needs of individual children.
To build a better future for children of every heritage, the experience, insight, and wisdom of those who factually know and love the individual children must be respected and included, and State child protection laws must be applied equally for children of every heritage.

• “…incidents of child maltreatment that occur under a tribe’s exclusive jurisdiction and where tribal services are provided are not necessarily reported to the state and included in national data systems” (NICWA 2015).
• “American Indian and Alaska Native populations have seen a 164% increase in the number of drug-related deaths from 3.9% in 1979-1981 to 10.3% 1998. The North Dakota Drug Threat Assessment of 2002 concluded that meth use and distribution was a problem in all reservations within the state” (U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center”(NDIC, 2002). (Roe Bubar 2007)
• “Wallace and Bachman (1991) found that almost half of Native American youth under the age of 17 drank alcohol or smoked marijuana, with a higher substance abuse rate for boys than for girls” (Roe Bubar 2007).
• “The addition of meth-exposed children to an already strained network of social services in tribal communities almost guarantees additional complications in educational, social, and medical services on the reservation” (Doney, 2006; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights [USCCR], 2003) (Roe Bubar 2007, 15-17).
• “According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16 percent of students at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in 2001 reported having attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months” (Center for Native American Youth 2011).
• “Recent research shows that while the US child mortality rate for children ages 1 to 14 has decreased by 9% since 2000, it has increased by 15% among AI/AN children (National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association)” and “Alcoholism mortality rates are 514% higher than the general population” (Center for Native American Youth 2014).
• “…a study of Native American sixth graders from one reservation found that 75% had clinically significant levels of PTSD” and “Researchers have reported a 14% prevalence rate of Major Depressive Disorder among AI/AN adolescents” (NICWA, SAMHSA 2014).
• “Indian children experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and triple the rate of the general population” (Flatten 2015).
• “Native teens experience the highest rates of suicide of any population in the U.S.—at least 3.5 times higher than the national average.11 (NICWA, SAMHSA 2014).
• “Suicide is the second leading cause of death—2.5 times the national rate—for Native youth in the 15 to 24 year old age group” (Executive Office of the President 2014, 5).
• “These figures must be considered alongside the data describing child fatalities and incidence of child maltreatment in AI/AN families. This data is in line with data showing that AI/AN families are more likely to have child welfare involvement due to neglect and suggests a unique risk factor specific to AI/AN child fatalities. Given the multitude of potential responders, differences in how entities may determine child fatalities, and limited framework in Indian Country for investigating child fatalities, questions arise as to whether some of these accidents may be related to child neglect as opposed to tragic accidents” (NICWA 2015, 5).

ICWA is unworkable. It never has been workable; it never will be – because it forces itself on children and families who don’t want it, and we are United States citizens who love our children and will fight back to protect them. This is not a matter of the simple “noncompliance” tribal governments refer to. It is a matter of pure rebellion. We will never “comply” in handing over our defenseless children to a situation we know will hurt them. This is not “noncompliance,” it is civil resistance, and includes not only dissident persons of heritage and their extended families, but also certain attorneys, courts and social workers. This is not “noncompliance,” in the case of social workers and others hiding the heritage of a child; it is civil disobedience, and it will never stop because we love and care about children. It is a matter of families and people of good sense fighting back against a terrible law that is hurting our children. It is a matter of people pushing back out of true love and concern for children we know – children who have been victimized by this over-reaching, incomprehensible mandate. It is people attempting to protect the children they love from a bureaucracy and a political entity that do not know or love our children, but are using them as pawns in a political game. It is time for this particularly unjust social experiment to stop. ICWA is totally unworkable and will never work the way tribal governments want it to. They will end up going back to the federal government and again and again, trying to make the ICWA worse for us – but this will never stop us from fighting for our children.

Congress has unique authority over this issue. Tribes are legally ‘domestic dependents’ within the larger United States. Matters regarding tribes and tribal members are within the purview of the federal government. It is under Congressional authority that ICWA has been legislated.

The BIA rules and regulations are also Congressionally authorized. ICWA rules published in the federal register in June, 2016, by the BIA were based on the authority granted by Congress which states: “the Secretary shall promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.” Therefore, it is Congress’ responsibility to right this egregious wrong and protect our children.

“AI/AN children currently appear less likely to be adopted compared to White children. This positive finding, reported by CWLA (1999), may be due to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)” (Indian Country Child Trauma Center 2005).

Birthed by the biological parents of enrollable children, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare was founded in February 2004. CAICW is a national non-profit Christian ministry and family advocate, which has ministered with music and teaching at churches in the U.S. and Canada as well as a children’s home and street ministry in Mexico. CAICW is both a judicial and educational advocacy for families at risk of – or hurt by – the Indian Child Welfare Act, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

CAICW is not an adoption agency or a legal aide office, and 100% of staffing is volunteer.

References

BIA. (2016, 6 14). Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings. THE FEDERAL REGISTER, 25 CFR 23; RIN 1076-AF25(Document Citation: 81 FR 38777), 38777-38876 (100 pages). Retrieved 6 15, 2016, from FEDERAL REGISTER: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/06/14/2016-13686/indian-child-welfare-act-proceedings

Center for Native American Youth. (2011). Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. Washington DC: Aspen Institute.

Center for Native American Youth. (2014). Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. Washington DC: Aspen Institute.

Executive Office of the President. (2014). Native Youth Report. Washington DC: The White House.

Flatten, M. (2015). Death on a Reservation. Phoenix: Goldwater Institute. Retrieved 6 22, 2016, from http://goldwaterinstitute.org/en/work/topics/constitutional-rights/equal-protection/death-on-a-reservation/

Hallie Bongar White, J. L. (2014, April 21). INTERSECTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD VICTIMIZATION IN INDIAN COUNTRY. Retrieved July 28, 2016, from Justice.gov: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/defendingchildhood/legacy/2014/04/21/intersection-dv-cpsa.pdf

Indian Country Child Trauma Center. (2005). Demographics. Oklahoma City: Indian Country Child Trauma Center. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from icctc.org: http://www.icctc.org/demographics-1.asp

NICWA. (2015). Testimony of Sarah L. Kastelic. Washington DC: Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

NICWA, SAMHSA. (2014, April). Native Children: Trauma and Its Effects. Trauma-Informed Care Fact Sheet. Portland: National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Richard G. Dudley, J. M. (2015, July). Childhood Trauma and Its Effects: Implications for Police. New Perspectives in Policing, pp. 1-22.

Roe Bubar, M. W. (2007). Perceptions of Methamphetamine Use in Three Western Tribal Communities: Implications for Child Abuse in Indian Country. West Hollywood: Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

Sullivan, T. (2013). 12th Mandated Report. Denver: ACF.

Apr 082016
 

I speak not only as the Chair of a national non-profit advocating for the rights of families who have chosen their own political affiliations and disengaged from Indian Country, but as the birth mother and grandmother of enrollable citizens.

As many of you know, on Monday, March 21, 2016, 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.

To date, her removal has caused the biggest reaction from America as dozens from within her community gathered around her home in prayer – and then personally witnessed her removal in tears. Hundreds of thousands more watched video clips of the event online and cried with them, knowing this little girl – who is not Indian in the eyes of most Americans – was removed from her home solely because of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Many Americans already knew that our paternalistic federal Indian policy has been hurting tribal members. But in witnessing the pain of a child such as 6-yr-old Lexi, America awakened to the truth that federal Indian policy is hurting citizens of all heritages. What most Americans still don’t know is the extent of hurt. They don’t know there are dozens of children across the country right now facing the same situation Lexi faced – if not worse. In fact, the Cherokee Nation alone has admitted it has over 100 attorney’s targeting over a thousand children across the nation.

ICWA has been around long enough for a generation of children victimized by this law to have grown up. Some former ICWA children are speaking out – saying that due to the forced transfers, they unfortunately grew to hate the reservation. This is the opposite of the purported intent of the law – but should have been expected given the way so many children have been treated under it.

After all – our children are NOT chattel and children of tribal ancestry are NOT cookie-cutter replicas of each other. Nor are they any different from any other child in the United States when ripped from the ones they love.

This should be common sense, but for some reason, a large number of people are willing to believe racist rhetoric to the contrary. Unfortunately, many of those people are within federal government and have control over federal Indian policy.

America – as we all know – is angry with the lack of common sense in our federal government. We are angry over rouge and corrupt bureaucracies, mismanaged funds, lack of protection for U.S. citizens, and inaction by Congress – all of which are evident in the BIA, HHS and DOJ’s protection of tribal sovereignty over the rights and needs of children.

These federal agencies were at the NICWA conference in St. Paul, Minnesota this first weekend in April – celebrating a Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies to enforce the ICWA against our families as well as the formation of a national database on our children which would identify them as property of a tribal government should anything happen to us – their parents. We have tried to bring this process to your attention several times in 2015, but to this date, no one has stopped it.

How many more Lexi’s must be hurt before Congress moves to protect our children from the insanity?

  • On December 3, 2014, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to give permanent jurisdiction of multi-racial children across the nation to Tribal Governments. 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.”

  • The BIA is on the verge of implementing new ICWA rules making it almost impossible for dissident enrollable parents to protect their children from tribal governments. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/20/2015-06371/regulations-for-state-courts-and-agencies-in-indian-child-custody-proceedings
  • The ACF under the HHS has recently proposed a rule (https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/04/07/2016-07920/adoption-and-foster-care-analysis-and-reporting-system ) that would place our children on a national database. Our children are NOT chattel for tribal governments and DC officials – and should not be monitored on a database based on an aspect of their heritage. U.S. citizens have a right to choose or refuse political affiliation – as well as protect their children from forced political affiliation based on racist mandates.
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch spoke at the NICWA conference in St. Paul this last weekend and reiterated Attorney General Holder’s threat concerning permanent control over our children and grandchildren. He stated,

    “… To this end, the three departments represented here today have been engaged in extensive interagency collaboration to promote compliance with ICWA. We’ve been talking at all levels – from staff on the ground and in the regions, to the folks on this stage, to our bosses – about how we can creatively use the authorities and resources that each of our agency has to assess and promote compliance with this important federal law. And we’ve taken steps to make sure that this effort lasts beyond our time, by formalizing the agreement to continue this interagency collaboration. Just this past week, our three agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding, in which we commit to work together on these issues, and in particular, to regularly meet as an interagency workgroup.”

  • Director of Tribal Justice, Tracy Toulou has told us directly on several occasions over the last 15 years that the U.S. Department of Justice is to protect tribal governments, not individual citizens.
  • The DOJ appears to have looked the other way when the Cherokee Nation refused to allow a father to voluntarily relinquish his membership and that of his daughter. (in Matter of M.K.T., C.D.T. and S.A.W., 2016 OK 4.) …This – while tribal governments continually claim their right to discriminate is due to political affiliation, not race.

Our Federal government has literally made the decision to protect tribal sovereignty at all cost – even at the cost of our children.

Many families of heritage, knowing the rate of child abuse, crime, and even murder on their reservations, have in the last few decades moved away from Indian Country. According to the last two U.S censuses, 75% of persons eligible for tribal membership do not live in “Indian Country.” As more families left, tribal leaders – panicked by declining membership – pushed Congress for increased control over children of heritage.

This includes children who are multi-heritage – with one of their parents being totally non-tribal, children who have never been near Indian Country, and even children whose only connection is one dissident great-grandparent who purposefully left the reservation system decades ago. All that matters to the federal government is whether the tribe itself believes the child is enrollable. Individual citizens are being robbed of choice – forced into affiliation based on heritage.

Some tribal governments, as evidenced by the proposed BIA rules and the NICWA conference in St. Paul, demand complete control over our children. Some have been extreme enough to refuse to allow the kids to live in foster homes off the reservation – even if there is no safe home available on the reservation.

Documentation of this abounds. There have been at least two federal studies/hearings held on abuse within Indian Country in the last three years. Regional Director for the Administration of Children and Families, Mr. Tom Sullivan has also documented the resultant placement of children into homes of known child abusers and sex offenders. There have also been known deaths of children after having been placed in dangerous homes.

Mr. Sullivan reported this multiple times to his DC superiors, who told him to cease reporting it, and when he refused, recently began the process of firing him.

Again, America is fed up with officials who don’t do what they were hired to do. Mr. Sullivan is one man who was honestly attempting to do what he was hired to do – protect the children in Indian Country – and he is on the verge of losing his job because of it.

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 – asking Congress for additional funds and increased control over our children. We understand it is easier to look the other way. But that’s not what we want from our government.

America is angry with DC’s ‘business as usual” and the lack of common sense.

The bottom line is, tribal leaders, NICWA, NARF, the NAIC and Casey Foundation do NOT speak for every person of heritage, nor do they know what is best for every individual child of heritage – no matter whether that child is 100% or 1%. Despite claims of looking out for youth, the reality is tribal leaders have a vested financial interest in maintaining control over our children.

Our Congressmen need to put children before politics.

  • Rescind the Indian Child Welfare Act – which will then do away with the need for draconian rules by federal agencies.
  • Protect an honest and brave public servant – whistle-blower Tom Sullivan.
  • Finally – end the practice of funding tribal governments based on enrollment. Stop putting a price on our children’s heads. – Recognize that treaties did NOT promise everlasting funding. In most cases, treaties promised funding for only twenty years. If the demand is that treaties be upheld – then uphold the twenty-year limit.

Crime and corruption didn’t end just because Jack Abramoff went to prison. Crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money and power.

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.

Foster Care Exec Gives PC Excuse for Support of BIA Rules

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May 282015
 

This is the response by an executive on the board of more than one Foster Care Association after a tribal member – from a family terribly hurt by ICWA – asked why her association had signed on in support of the unconstitutional, ill-thought and emotionally destructive BIA Rules for ICWA.

This executive’s response does not address the concerns brought to her attention by the tribal member. It reflects the rhetoric pushed by tribal leaders, NICWA, NARF and the Casey Foundation, with little thought or regard for fact and the true needs of individual children. It appears that expediency – making her job and that of others in the industry easier – is much more important than addressing the individual and critical needs of hurting children.

This is the type of rhetoric that needs to be brought to light and shown for what it is – in order for persons in this woman’s position to begin to correct themselves and look at children of heritage as something other than expendable.

Placing children into safe homes – meeting their immediate needs in a timely and nurturing manner – a manner equal to that of children of every other heritage – is never “inappropriate.”

For people in her position to assume that any child with even the smallest amount of tribal heritage “needs” to be under tribal government jurisdiction and control – overlooking the reality of non-tribal relatives, lack of existing relationship with Indian Country, and even strong familial opposition to tribal government’s world-view – is the epitome of racism.

But – this is an example of the type of response commonly received from many who sit in similar positions.

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

Date: May 28, 2015 at 1:24:16 PM CDT
Subject: NFPA Response
From: Irene Clements

Dear Ms. XXXXXX,
Thank you for contacting the National Foster Parent Association.

The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) believes that children belong with their birth families (parents or relatives) whenever safely possible and when that is not possible, that the children are served in family foster homes and/or placed into adoption when appropriate. NFPA does not endorse group or congregate care that is not short-term or treatment related.

NFPA signed on to a letter of general suppoprt to proposed regulations/guidelines developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) because the current ICWA regulations were passed in 1979 and are in desperate need of revision. Regulations that are nearly 40 years old are not current nor do they reflect current child welfare best practice in general. We support that new regulations/guidelines are important and necesary at this point in time.

Part of the problems over the past years hav been created by some states not following current ICWA laws and not doing due diligence on children as they are identified as members of a tribe and need out of home placement. Also, the tribes have historically not had appropriate funding to implement adequate foster care services. At this time, Title IV-E funds are available to assist tribes in this endeavor.

We believe if there is a proper due diliegnce provided by the state prior to a long term placement of tribal children, there will be less disruptions for the child. We hope that the new regulations will stop the inappropriate placement of children until all possible birth or kinship families within the tribe are explored.

Irene Clements
Executive Director, National Foster Parent Association
Public Policy Chair, Texas Foster Family Association
Chair, EveryChild, Inc Board of Directors
Foster Care Consultant

May 282015
 

By Tony Mauro, The National Law Journal
May 27, 2015

“A husband-wife team from two Washington, D.C., law offices filed suit Wednesday challenging strict new government guidelines for adopting Native American children in the aftermath of a landmark 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“Lori Alvino McGill, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and her husband Matthew McGill, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, filed the case on behalf of the National Council for Adoption and other groups and individuals, including birth parents who placed Indian children with non-Indian adoptive parents…”

Read more: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202727560257/New-Challenge-to-Native-American-Adoption-Rules#ixzz3bRgBBAWm

READ THE LAWSUIT IN PDF HERE –
https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/45a843bd-720a-4588-9c1f-e68acd715a58

May 232015
 
Roland and his newborn, 1990

A friend or relative appears to be struggling with the difficulties of parenting and appears to either not understand the needs of children at varied points in their development, or is overwhelmed with inside or outside stress and has been unable to complete certain tasks.

You want to help, but are uncertain how. Should you tell yourself it is none of your business and look the other way, speak to the parents privately and appear to be a busy-body, or anonymously call CPS and let them be the bad guys?

You need to decide what degree of danger the children are factually in and take steps based on that determination.

Wearing the same clothes for two days in a row is not necessarily child neglect. Some parents might simply be good stewards of limited resources. I once knew a wonderful mom who checked the clothes for soil, and if they were fine, hung them up again for use the next day. This family was cutting down not only on laundry expense, but the wear and tear of good clothing (the lint trap in your dryer is evidence of the wear and tear of frequent washing.) This was simply a lifestyle choice.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with living in what others might call “poverty.” Some of our best years as a family were when we lived extremely low income. In rural Montana, out in the middle of a cornfield, we opted to go without government welfare programs, despite the fact we would have easily qualified. Instead, we obtained goats and chickens (most of which were given to us by friends), taught our kids chores, baked bread from scratch, and raised a garden in glorious view of the Mission Mountains.

This was a lifestyle choice – and it was a healthy choice for our family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Difficulties only arose when we felt compelled to take in extra children after being called by county social workers in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. My husband’s adult children were struggling with addiction, and someone needed to take the grandchildren.

You see, ICWA had no qualms about our “poverty” status. That was a non-issue. However…our inability to handle that many children – theirs and ours – under the age of 8 was also a non-issue. ICWA workers weren’t at all concerned about whether we were capable and didn’t do any kind of home study or background check prior to placing four children with us. The only concern they had was to find a relative home – no matter what condition the home was in.

Twenty years later, after having raised all the children to adulthood, we belatedly know how the situation could have been handled much better for all concerned.

What I will tell you next is how I wish it had been handled and how I now advise others to handle similar situations.

Know this, first off. The placement of a child by tribal social services is not always in the best interest of the child. We have numerous documented accounts of placements made out of expediency for tribal government and tribal social services with little regard for the factual needs of the child. You do not want to take children out of the frying pan and put them into the fire.

There is financial incentive for a tribal government to take jurisdiction over a child. Tribal governments do get more money per head. Federal dollars are tied to tribal rolls and the U.S. census. The fact that a child in question has never been enrolled previously only increases the incentive, as it means an addition of dollars the tribal entity had not had up to that point. The true purpose of ICWA is to protect tribal sovereignty, not children.

For more explanation of this and what has been factually happening to children, Read: – https://caicw.org/2015/05/21/ive-messed-up-and-someone-is-threatening-to-call-cps/#.VWDZE6jlY6k

Second, if a child has even the smallest – or even a suspected – percentage of heritage. social services and court systems of every jurisdiction across the country are advised to contact a tribal government to take jurisdiction if the tribe so chooses. It is a guideline right now, but could become a permanent rule within the year.

What if the family you are concerned with has had no connection to or interest in being associated with tribal government? What if the family has purposefully decided to distance themselves from the reservation system? According to the BIA guidelines, that is irrelevant. The only matter of concern is whether the tribal government wants the child as a member. If they do, no other entity can stand in the way, including the parents.

With all this in mind, you need to decide whether intervention is necessary for the family you are concerned with, and if so, what kind of intervention.

If you decide to speak to the parents directly and offer personal assistance, the following points could help:

#1) Assure the parents that they are capable of raising their child, but simply need some short term guidance and teaching. Many parents respond better if they feel they are respected and not mocked. Assure them that you love them all and want to help before some stranger calls CPS and causes trouble for them.

#2) Determine to help them bond well and stay bonded to their child. If together you decide the child should be moved to your home or the home of another in order to give respite to the parents, make healthy reunification the primary and foundational goal. You do NOT want to raise their child to adulthood.

#3) Understand your own needs and limitations. I did not do this. I did not understand at the time that I was factually a loner who thrives on alone time. I could deal with my own children, but dealing with children I did not know very well almost broke me.

If you are a loner, see if other family or friends might share the responsibility with you. If, for example, you take actual custody, perhaps others can commit to scheduled and consistent respite care for you.

#4) If at all possible, leave CPS out of this, especially if the child has tribal heritage. You want the parents to be successful as a family – not destroyed. While there are many social workers and systems throughout the country that also want the family to be successful, there is no guarantee this will happen once a tribal government intervenes, and the current BIA guidelines can (and the probable rules will) tie the hands of all well-meaning social services and courts.

I am not afraid to make the last statement. Documentation of dangerous placements by tribal courts abound. See ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan’s whistle blower report as just one example of documented evidence. READ – https://caicw.org/2015/05/10/acf-regional-director-blowing-the-whistle-on-child-abuse/#.VWDZfKjlY6k

#5) The success in helping the family won’t be the result of separating them from their child – but in how patiently and lovingly you can teach the parents to be the best parents they can be….together with how willing and open they are to being taught.

Willingness will have to come from both sides. – they need to be willing to submit to at least weekly hands on teaching in the comfort and care of a child – spending the day with you, if possible – and the more often they do this, the more willing to be taught, the sooner they can resume as an independent family. This doesn’t have to take many weeks. It could end up being just a short time. It will depend on how willing they are to be taught.

#6) Speak the TRUTH – with Love. Yes, the truth can hurt. But outside of the truth, little will change. You will need courage and wisdom to identify the true problem areas and speak about them with gentleness. The parents will need courage and wisdom to accept the truth with humility and deal appropriately with it. God be with you all in the process.

#7) Leave money out of the issue if at all possible. Do not make this about money if you can avoid it. But in your teaching, encourage the parents to take increasing personal financial responsibility for the child’s physical and educational needs.

Take the hit and appear to be a busybody.

The government should be called where children are in danger and there is no other way to protect them.

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

May 182015
 
http://www.iheartdesi.org/submission.html

Afraid to Comment in the new ICWA rules? We’ve been told the BIA has approved an opportunity to anonymously submit comments on the BIA ICWA rules.

Make a statement and simply preface it with this statement:

“Because of fear of retribution from my tribe or others, I am submitting my comments anonymously.”

If you want to state your tribal affiliation or of the children in the situation you are discussing, you may. But you don’t have to. You don’t have to mention the state, either.

Your comments don’t have to be long or formal. Even handwritten from children would is great.
Then upload them at http://www.iheartdesi.org/

Click on photo of Desi at lower right hand side of page and upload your file.
If you have trouble with that, we have an email address for tribal members afraid to testify against the ICWA rules. Message us privately to get the email address.

http://www.iheartdesi.org/

ANONYMOUS TRIBAL MEMBER COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY TONIGHT – MAY 18 – TO ‘iHEARTDESI.ORG’ IN ORDER FOR THEM TO COMPILE THEM BY TOMORROW –

Apr 122015
 
ICWA

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Visited over 80 offices in last few days concerning how the BIA is hurting not just our kids, but kids of EVERY heritage across the U.S.

NONE of the offices I visited were aware of the new BIA rules, and many of the aides said they weren’t even clear on the ICWA. (You need to be calling your state delegation more, people!!)

However – when told what the new rules say and do, most (ON BOTH SIDES THE AISLE) were shocked.

(Most. I will tell you of the one stomach turning visit at the bottom here.)

Factually…these are NOT rules Congress intended, nor rules most Americans would agree with.

Friends, we need more of your friends and family to understand what the BIA did six weeks ago, as well we need you to call your Congressmen and Senators and TELL them in you own words how these rules could – or do – affect you, your family, your friends, your neighbors… And simply what an unconstitutional affront this is to all Americans of every single heritage – as, (contrary to what its authors portray)… It DOES affect families of every heritage.

1) READ the BIA ICWA Rules – http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-029447.pdf (Beginning in middle of the page, right – “Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.”)

2) CALL your State Senators and Congressman! (If you need their phone numbers, please ask us – write ‘administrator@caicw.org’ )

3) PLEASE COMMENT ON THE NEW FEDERAL RULES CONCERNING ICWA… Comments must be received on or before May 19, 2015. You can submit comments via e-mail to comments@bia.gov; include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message. You may also mail comments or go through the federal rule making portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=BIA-2015-0001-0001

According to the new rules, effective immediately

– EVERY child who is presented to ANY court for adoption or foster care MUST be vetted for even the smallest connection to tribal heritage – and the tribal government MUST be notified and given the option to interfere. This is because families of minute heritage have been getting away with shutting out tribal govt, and tribal governments want that to stop. They want the money our children bring.
NOTE: It is proven that when ICWA is raised in a custody issue, a child’s permanency is delayed. It can be held up for months, sometimes years. Bad enough this has already been happening to a number of children, no matter their true needs and desires. Now the BIA has mandated a rule that could delay permanency for EVERY child – of EVERY heritage.

For the children a tribal govt decides it wants to claim –
It doesn’t matter if the child and his family have never lived in Indian Country.
It doesn’t matter the percentage of blood quantum
NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO ARGUE “BEST INTEREST” OF THE CHILD. The BIA claims that Congress has already decided your child’s best interest is ICWA preferences. No other ‘best interest’ is relevant.

FURTHER –
NO ONE is allowed to even question a placement chosen by a tribal court – ‘as questioning it undermines the tribal court.’

…In other words – these rules PROVE what we’ve stated all along; that ICWA IS NOT ABOUT WHAT IS GOOD FOR OUR CHILDREN.

‘Factual good’ for our children is irrelevant.

This issue – the ICWA – is and always has been about what is good for tribal government. It is – and has always been – about power and money.

Remember – federal funds to tribal governments are tied to the US census and tribal rolls. In other words, tribal governments get more money per head.

This is why tribal governments with thriving casinos are not the ones we hear targeting children as much. Reservations such as the one in Shakopee prefer to keep their rolls small. And…people allowed to be members are usually quite happy about it.

However, other tribal governments appear to make an industry out of targeting other people’s children. In 2012, an attorney for the Cherokee Nation stated they have about 125 attorneys targeting over 1500 children across the United States. Many of those children had very minimal heritage and had never been connected to Indian Country.

The ICWA – and these rules, in stating that no other best interest matters – fly in the face of all that is known about child development and child psychology… not to mention what we ourselves know to be true about our own children and grandchildren.

These rules confirm that the true needs of our children don’t matter.

Remember, even our families of 100% heritage – or who HAVE lived on a reservation – have a right to choose their own political affiliation for their families. ALL Americans should have a right to say NO to tribal government interference in their families.

75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country – according to the last two US census’. Many – including my husband and many of our org members – have left due to tribal corruption and crime.

Congress and tribal governments have NO right to mandate political affiliations – and most especially NOT mandate political affiliations for our children.

NO treaty gives them that right. Ask them what treaty – and the wording – that allows it.
It has also already been shown that the Indian Commerce Clause doesn’t allow it.

Lastly – the only LOUSY meeting I have had yet, where common sense simply had no welcome – was in Representative Doug LaMalfa’s office (R-CA) with staff member Kevin Eastman – who did not seem at all interested or concerned about the reality of what the ICWA and these rules do to our children and families. He blamed the courts for the way they interpret the law. He said, essentially, that it isn’t Congress’ problem. This, while courts cite Congress’s intent when they make their rulings. And, this, while the BIA is stating ‘best interest’ doesn’t matter because Congress says it doesn’t matter.

Everyone points the blame at the other – is no one willing to take responsibility and fix it?

Congress needs to fix it. NOW. No more games or pushing off the blame.

SHARE with friends and family – and CALL your Congressmen and Senators! Educate them!!

1) READ the BIA ICWA Rules – http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-029447.pdf (Beginning in middle of the page, right – “Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.”)

2) CALL your State Senators and Congressman! (If you need their phone numbers, please ask us – write ‘administrator@caicw.org’ )

3) PLEASE COMMENT ON THE NEW FEDERAL RULES CONCERNING ICWA… Comments must be received on or before May 19, 2015. You can submit comments via e-mail to comments@bia.gov; include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message. You may also mail comments or go through the federal rule making portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=BIA-2015-0001-0001

There is also a public teleconference concerning these rules to be held on Tuesday, May 12, from 1 – 4 p.m. Eastern Time. The number to call is 888-730-9138, the Passcode is INTERIOR –
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Feb 252015
 

For immediate release: February 25, 2015 Contact: Elizabeth Morris, Chairwoman

BIA Issues Devastating ‘Anti-Family’ ICWA Rules

Washington DC

The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued new ICWA guidelines on February 24. These guidelines claim to clarify existing law for the protection of families – despite marginalizing the rights of birth parents as well the reality of extended non-tribal birth family. There is no acknowledgement that the vast majority of eligible children are multi-racial and 75% of eligible families live outside of Indian Country. Every State court in the nation is required to apply these rules effective immediately.

The rules clarify that tribal governments can intercede at any point of a proceeding on the basis that the tribe’s rights have been violated. Parental wishes or the best interest of a child do not need to be considered. The rules state Congress has already decided a child’s best interest is with the tribe. Birth parents can still refuse tribal court, but not extended family in the case of a birth parent passing away.

The Rules further state:
1. It doesn’t matter if the child lives on or off the reservation,
2. There is no need for a certain blood quantum. Tribal government has total say over whether a child is a member and subject to ICWA,
3. EVERY child custody case MUST be vetted to see if it is ICWA, because children who are just 1% heritage might not look Indian – so courts must question EVERY child.
4. If there is any question that a child is Indian – he is to be treated as such until proven otherwise,
5. The tribe has a right to interfere in a family even if the child is not being removed from the home.
6. No one is to question the placement decision of tribal court, because pointing out that a certain home has a history of child abuse would undermine the authority of tribal court.

The only “best interest” of importance is keeping the child with the tribe. It repeats there is “a presumption that ICWA’s placement preferences are in the best interests of Indian children; therefore, an independent analysis of “best interest” would undermine Congress’s findings.”

These rules reiterate the prejudicial assumption that everyone with any tribal heritage has exactly the same feelings, thoughts and needs. It prejudicially assumes it is always in the best interest of a child to be under the jurisdiction of tribal government, even if parents and grandparents have chosen and raised them in a different environment with different worldview.

For more information concerning numerous families hurt by the ICWA and how to help, please visit caicw.org.

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The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW, founded by tribal member Roland J. Morris and his wife after becoming concerned for the welfare of extended family, is both a ministry and advocacy group. CAICW has been advocating since February 2004 for families at risk of harm from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our advocacy has been both judicial & educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

PLEASE CONTACT SENATOR JOHN HOEVEN (202) 224-2551,
SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP (202) 224-2043
AND REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN CRAMER (202) 225-2611
AND TELL THEM THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! Please Contact YOUR Congressmen as well!

LINK TO NEW ICWA RULES – http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-029447.pdf

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Feb 242015
 

These guidelines make it clear that a child’s extended birth family is irrelevant and the only matter of concern is the wishes of tribal government.

It claims to be protecting families – while treating as irrelevant the fact that the vast majority of eligible children are multi-racial with many extended family members who are non-tribal. If I am understanding correctly – with these rules, tribal governments CAN take children from their non-tribal extended family – and it appears no one will be allowed to question it.

Birth parents can refuse tribal court, but not grandmas, aunts, uncles….

It further states that a tribal government can intercede at any point in a proceeding, for any reason – and they can do so on the basis that the tribe’s rights have been violated. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with parental wishes or the best interest of the child – as theses rules state that Congress has already decided that a child’s best interest is with the tribe.

http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-029447.pdf

“SUMMARY: These updated guidelines provide guidance to State courts and child welfare agencies implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) provisions in light of written and oral comments received during a review of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Guidelines for State Courts in Indian Child Custody Proceedings published in 1979. They also reflect recommendations made by the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence and significant developments in jurisprudence since ICWA’s inception. The updated BIA Guidelinesfor State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings promote compliance with ICWA’s stated goals and provisions by providing a framework for State courts and child welfare agencies to follow, as well as best practices for ICWA compliance. Effective immediately, these guidelines supersede and replace the guidelines published in 1979.

http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-029447.pdf

PLEASE CONTACT SENATOR JOHN HOEVEN (202) 224-2551, SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP (202) 224-2043 AND REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN CRAMER (202) 225-2611 AND TELL THEM THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR OWN STATE’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION AND TELL THEM AS WELL!

“Stakeholders” – the new BIA buzz word –

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Jun 202014
 

The word “stakeholders” is the new buzz word at the BIA. They use it in attempt to delimit who they will listen to and who they will not when it comes to federal Indian policy.

However, the Merriam definition of the word is, “a person or business that has invested money in something, one that has a stake in an enterprise, the person entrusted with the stakes of bettors, or one who is involved in or affected by a course of action”

By the Merriam definition, everyone in America, whether as tax-payers, as extended family members (no matter the heritage), as residents of a reservation (no matter the heritage), as business owners on or around the reservation, as local, state, or federal officials, or as simply neighbors adjacent to the reservation (no matter the heritage) – everyone is a “Stakeholder” in federal Indian policy.

And this is what our Congressmen and bureaurats need to realize.
They CAN NOT pass laws targeting one group of people and pretend it doesn’t affect others. They CAN NOT continue to disregard how it affects ALL people.

It is a silly, ridiculous fallacy to pretend only one arbitrarily chosen group of people (as each tribal entity defines its own membership and it varies greatly) is affected by federal Indian policy – and thus are the only stakeholders in the government’s decisions.

It’s long past time for our current government pull its collective head out and respect and honor the US Constitution and the rights and responsibilities afforded by it.

We are ALL stakeholders in federal Indian policy. Period.

May 012014
 
BIA - DC

On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 CAICW wrote the following letter to BIA officials:

Ms. Cave and the committees involved with transforming ICWA guidelines;

Thank you for allowing input concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines.
The hosts of the listening session on Thursday, April 24 stated that only tribal leaders have a stake in the ICWA and are thus the sole “stakeholders” in what happens with ICWA. I realize this is what the BIA as well as many in Congress believe.

However, tribal members who have rejected tribal jurisdiction, non-member persons of heritage who rejected the reservation system and/or have never lived under it, and hundreds of thousands of non-Indians across the nation are in fact “stakeholders” in this law – whether government wants to admit it or not.
Non-Indian stakeholders would include the non-Indian birth moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of children adversely affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are hundreds of thousands of them. You can not say that these families are not “stakeholders” if they are having to fight a tribal government over rights to their own children.

And yes – we have current cases of birth family having to fight tribal governments for their own children. We had a grandmother in Colorado last month who won her case to keep her 7-year-old grandson – but would not have won without help from good attorneys. Sadly, we have a birth mother in Michigan right now who is losing against tribal court because she had no money to hire an attorney who could stand up and say the tribal court isn’t following ICWA, let alone regular family law.

When government passes a law that mandatorily gives jurisdiction of ones family to a political entity – and that law affects not just persons who have chosen to be part of that political entity, but everyone of 100% certain blood heritage – Government has approved a law based on race and has way overstepped its bounds. It gets even worse. Bad enough that many persons and families of 100% heritage are forced unwillingly into this political situation due to their race, but our federal government went further – forcing everyone down to 51% heritage to be included in the law – as well as hundreds of thousands of people with even less than 5% heritage. This means families who are predominately non-native – many of whom are unconnected to the reservation system.

Government has lost sight of the reality that 75% of those who are considered Native American do not live within the reservation system and appears to be blind to the reality that the vast majority of people affected by ICWA are predominately of non-Indian heritage. These affected children have OTHER extended family, roots, traditions, and worldviews – all equally important and acceptable.
I am speaking as a birth mother, grandmother and aunt. I am also speaking as representative of our national membership. I and the people I represent are undeniably stakeholders.

Below are some of the issues brought up by tribal officials in the listening session last Thursday. Tribal leaders are talking about ways to strengthen their jurisdiction over our children. We were very dismayed at the suggested ICWA changes.

Some of the upsetting points of change requested by tribal leaders and their attorneys are listed here. I have summarized reasons for our objections in italics.
1. ‘Make it easier to transfer children to tribal court’ – (Thus harder for families such as ours to protect themselves)

2. ‘Tribal decisions concerning eligiblity should be conclusive’ – (Dominating the feelings and decisions of the birth family, who might have purposefully left the reservation system due to prevalent crime and corruption. Parents and primary caregivers should have the final say as to whether their children are enrolled.)

3. ‘A tribal committee should make revisions to the guidelines and those guidelines should become binding law.’ – (Despite the legislative record, which shows that the guidelines were never meant to be binding. Further – ALL stakeholders should be invited to the table, not just those who have a financial and power stake in having possession of our children.)

3. ‘Make it easier for kids to be eligible. Allow for combining the heritage from two different tribes to help a child reach eligibility.’ – (We are obviously talking about children here who are primarily of non-native heritage. Are tribal governments grasping at straws to keep control over other people’s children?)

4. ‘Require complete ancestry charts for BOTH parents’ – (No tribal government has any right to see my ancestry chart. I am not a tribal member – they have no right to demand any of my personal documents or a right to inspect my lineage.)

5. ‘Eliminate all language referring to “delay” being a problem, the advanced stage of proceedings, or the undue hardship of transferring to tribal court.’ – (OUR children have a right to be respected and protected. There are laws in every state limiting how long a child must wait for permanency BECAUSE it is well documented that children have an emotional need stable and permanent homes as soon as possible. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, our children are no different from any other child in America. It is extremely racist to claim that OUR children are somehow different than other kids and do NOT need permanence as early. What this is essentially saying is that it is okay if children of heritage have their lives disrupted and pulled apart – it doesn’t matter how long they cry or pine for the people they knew and loved best – because they are not as important or valued by our government as other children are. Our government is willing to deeply hurt our children simply because they have Native American heritage. Does the government consider them not as worth protecting as other children?)

6. ‘No more talk about a child not being connected to the tribe – as if the child isn’t “Indian” enough. Eliminate use of the Indian Child Doctrine nationally.’ – ( It is extremely racist for tribal governments to claim that they know my child, who they have never met, better than I do – and that it is more important for my child to be connected to the tribe than it is for my child to have a permanent, safe, and stable home. It is extremely offensive for Tribal leaders to make racist statements like this – completely denying the rights and feelings of non-Indian families as well as Indian families who have purposefully distanced themselves from the reservation system.)

7. ‘Acknowledge that a parent who has not had custody is still a parent with continuing custody.’ – (Would this acknowledgment apply to non-Indian parents as well? Will the government consider the non-Indian mother in Michigan as one with ‘continuing custody,’ even though the tribal court has ripped her 13-yr-old daughter away from her – against the daughter’s wishes? Or is the suggestion that only non-custodial parents of tribal heritage will always be considered a custodial parent? Why? Does the U.S. government continue to view U.S. citizens of native heritage as somehow incapable? Is there an underlying racist notion that parents of heritage are somehow different than their non-native counterparts – despite the vast majority of citizens of tribal heritage living average, mainstream lives off the reservation? To many parents of heritage who choose to live outside of Indian Country, it is offensive that our government continues to pigeon hole people. Further, to non-native parents of eligible children, it is appalling anyone would suggest the other parent be considered to have had custody simply due to a percentage of heritage. Parents without custody are non-custodial parents, period.)

8. ’24-months isn’t long enough for some parents. ex – One dad wasn’t the one with custody because most young children are raised by the mothers and so it is not his fault. He wasn’t responsible for the current situation and needs more time.’ – (The best interest of the child – the need for permanence, safety and stability – needs to be of utmost importance. The needs of Dads who haven’t been in the picture – many times by choice, although they might regret it later – must be secondary. Our society needs all parents, no matter the heritage, to be responsible and accountable, not blaming. We need to make the emotional needs of individual children priority and quit making excuses for adults who should know better.)

9. ‘What one culture deems normal, another culture might not.’ – (This is true. But many ICWA workers seem to ignore the cultural norm an individual child has been raised in – as well as ignore any other heritage of the child – for the sake of the culture tribal leaders and ICWA workers deem necessary and solely important. This appears to happen even when a child has been completely raised and feels comfortable in an alternate culture. Among many ICWA workers, there appears to be a complete disregard and even antagonism for the equally good and acceptable cultures many children living outside of the reservation system have been comfortable with.)

10. ‘States should be required to give the tribal gov’ts a list of all their licensed foster homes so they tribal gov’t can identify preferred families.’ – (Foster families have a right to privacy. This expectation and demand is frightening.)

The following are a list of proposed ICWA changes we would like to see:

1. Children of tribal heritage should be guaranteed protection equal to that of any other child in the United States.
a) Children should never be moved suddenly from a home that is safe, loved, and where they are emotionally, socially and physically comfortable simply because their care-givers are not of a certain heritage. The best interest of the child should be considered first, above the needs of the tribal community.
b) State health and welfare requirements for foster and adoptive children should apply equally to all. If there is proven evidence of emotional and/or physical neglect, the state has an obligation to that child’s welfare and should be held accountable if the child is knowingly or by Social Service neglect left in unsafe conditions. ( – Title 42 U.S.C 1983)

2. Fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage and superseding wishes of tribal government. US Supreme Court decisions upholding family autonomy under 5th and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection include Meyer vs. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Brown v. Board of Education.

3. The “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” must be available to families and children that choose not to live within the reservation system.
a) In re Santos Y, the court found “Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted…” Santos y quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at length. Santos also states, Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”
b) In Bridget R., the court stated, “if the Act applies to children whose families have no significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, such application runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways:
— it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states,
— it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights respecting family relationships; and
— on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children and exposes them…to having an existing non-Indian family torn apart through an after the fact assertion of tribal and Indian-parent rights under ICWA”.
c) In re Alexandria Y., the court held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply ICWA “because neither [child] nor [mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” Question: If current ICWA case law includes many situations where existing Family Doctrine has already been ignored, then have serious constitutional flaws already occurred?

4. United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.
a) When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians, whether enrolled or not, have to be told their rights, including 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1911. (b) “Transfer of proceedings [to tribal jurisdiction] …in the absence of good cause to the contrary, [and] objection by either parent…”
b) The rights of non-member parents must be upheld: for example; 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions “Permanent Placement” (1) (iv) “shall not include a placement based … upon an award, in a divorce proceeding, of custody to one of the parents.
c) Non-members have to be able to serve county and state summons to tribal members within reservation boundaries and must have access to appeal.
d) Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

5. Adoptive Parents need well defined protections. These are the citizens among us that have been willing to set aside personal comforts and take in society’s neediest children. Adoptive parents take many risks in doing this, the least of which is finances. People build their lives around family. Adoptive parents risk not only their own hearts, but the hearts of any birth children they have as well as the hearts of their extended family. These parents have an investment in the families they are building and have a right to know that they can put their names on the adoption paper with confidence. If we, as a society, continue to abuse these parents, we will find fewer people willing to take the risk of adoption and more and more children will languish in foster homes.

6. A “Qualified expert witness” should be someone who is able to advocate for the well being of the child, first and foremost: a professional person who has substantial education and experience in the area of the professional person’s specialty and significant knowledge of and experience with the child, his family, and the culture, family structure, and child-rearing practices the child has been raised in.

7. Finally, if tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, (as argued) than is it constitutional for the definition of an Indian child to include “eligible” children, rather than “enrolled” children?
a) 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions: (4) ”Indian child” means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either
b) member of an Indian tribe or
c) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe;

However;
1. Tribal governments have been given the right as sovereign entities to determine their own membership at the expense of the rights of any other heritage or culture as well as at the expense of individual rights.
2. ICWA does not give Indian children or their legal guardians the choice whether to accept political membership in the tribe. Legal guardians have the right to make that choice for their children, not governments.
3. Non-member relatives are being told that these children are now members of an entity that the family has had no past political, social or cultural relationship with.
4. So IS it then the blood relationship that determines membership? Bridget R., stated, “If tribal determinations are indeed conclusive for purposes of applying ICWA, and if, … a particular tribe recognizes as members all persons who are biologically descended from historic tribal members, then children who are related by blood to such a tribe may be claimed by the tribe, and thus made subject to the provisions of ICWA, solely on the basis of their biological heritage. Only children who are racially Indians face this possibility.” Isn’t that then an unconstitutional race-based classification?
5. Keeping children, no matter their blood quantum, in what the State would normally determine to be an unfit home on the basis of tribal government claims that European values don’t apply to and are not needed by children of tribal heritage is racist in nature and a denial of the child’s personal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
6. Even with significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, forced application of ICWA runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways: (1) it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states, (2) it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights; and (3) on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children.

Thank you for listening to all the stakeholders – including us.

Letter’s from George Sheldon say “Ignore Tom.”

 Comments Off on Letter’s from George Sheldon say “Ignore Tom.”
Dec 042013
 

 

George Sheldon, Former Director of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), made it clear in April, 2013, that the ACF does not want to hear about atrocities occurring at Spirit Lake. He further stated the ACF stands firmly behind the behavior of the BIA, FBI and US Attorney at Spirit Lake – despite numerous reports from Spirit Lake residents as well as ACF’s own Regional Director, Tom Sullivan, that horrific child abuse has been ignored by the federal agencies.

The horrific child abuse that Mr. Sullivan reported to Mr. Sheldon in 2012 and 2013 was supported by a recent CNN segment (Oct, 1013) entitled “Sexual Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation.”

Further, had Mr. Sheldon listened to Mr. Sullivan, toddler Lauryn Whiteshield might be alive today.

Capitol Hill