To Senators Hoeven & Udall Concerning Congressional Commission on Native Children

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Jul 282020

As a member of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, I am sharing with you my letter to the Chairman and Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs concerning the Commission on Native Children.

It is important that every Congressman, as well as the President of the United States, fully understand the points made in this letter.

I encourage you to share the letter or your own version of it with your elected officials as well.


July 27, 2020

The Honorable John Hoeven
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Tom Udall
Ranking Member
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Sent via e-mail

Re: Letter concerning an extension of time for the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children

Dear Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Udall,

Due to difficulties securing funding through the Department of Interior, followed by the threat of the Covid virus, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children has not been able to maintain the necessary timeline for its work. As a member of this Commission, I am writing to you concerning S. 3948

As you know, a comprehensive study determining the effectiveness of all programs, grants, and supports available for Native children is absolutely necessary. Redundant, ineffective and detrimental programs cannot continue. Limited resources coupled with the severe need of a large number of children means attention needs to be on programs that are genuinely beneficial. After decades of government interventions, the difference between what has helped and what has not should be evident.

Of particular importance is recognition that children who have Native American heritage are diverse individuals, each with their own needs, experiences, and world view. Not only do the 500 different tribal communities each have their own diverse histories, traditions and culture, but not all the children live within tribal communities. They live within disparate environments and situations. Some live within the reservation system, some live in cities or suburbs, and some live on rural farms. Some live with financial wealth, some do not. Some live in safe and loving homes, other do not. Some decisively embrace traditional religion. Others do not as a matter of choice. The children live within all walks of life, and most do not live within Indian Country. Some reject the reservation system and do not want tribal officials making decisions for them.

It is vital this be recognized and that children not be treated as if cut from all the same cloth. Programs fail when they do not correctly address the true heart of a child, but instead make assumptions about what the child really wants and needs.

This makes wide-ranging and far-reaching research all the more important. This Commission needs time to ensure that the recommendations submitted to Congress are well informed and bring genuine understanding and respect for the individual needs of children.

I am submitting a letter of support for S. 3948. Thank you for your consideration of our request.


Elizabeth Morris
Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children

We will NOT be Intimidated – Send your Testimony for the Commission on Native Children

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Apr 012020
Phoenix Arizona

I never use alcohol or drugs – not in decades anyway – and have no intention of starting. While I struggle with ADD – which can definitely make situations more adventurous if not challenging – it hasn’t stopped me from ultimately doing what I need to.

If anyone wants a fuller listing of my faults, they can find them in the book ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ There are plenty of faults in there – ( ).

I have a job to finish with ICWA and fully intend to do so.

In fact – following recent events and the dishonest manipulations those events exposed – I have renewed motivation. We cannot leave our families at the mercy of those bent on political agendas, greed and/or personal power.

I have had less time to work with CAICW over the last five years or so because I was in school, working on my Master of Arts: Public Policy, then began my doctorate.

I had also toned down my work over the last three years because I had been nominated to the Commission on Native Children and was advised not to rock boats for a little while.

Well…“a little while” is done. I will no longer remain ‘toned down.’

As some of you know, we have filed Amicus briefs in the Brackeen case. With the Brackeen case and others along the pipes, we might see an end to this horrid law within a couple years. Praise God.

I have also published my Master thesis – which, at 350 pages, is a wealth of documented history from colonial times as well as legislative history and case law concerning various aspects of Indian law. You might be surprised by some of the facts that came out of that research.

“The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act”

Further, there is the Commission on Native Children. I hope each and every one of you will SUBMIT TESTIMONY.

When you consider the testimony you will be sending to the Commission on Native Children – form it as the message you know CONGRESS needs to hear.

We need genuine talk from genuine people about the best interest of their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, students, foster children, playmates, neighbors, “2nd Cousin’s girlfriend’s grandma’s nieces”… anyone that has anything at all to say. We need to know: What things genuinely helped the children to grow – and which things did not.

We especially need testimony from young adults that have tribal heritage – explaining what they felt helped or hurt them.

The testimony from tribal entities and their supporters, which the writers of the final report will focus on and play up, is that participation in tribal programs, tribal services, language immersion, etc, are the only way our children can be healthy and happy.

To prevent Congress from continuing to sign the lives of our children over to these tribal entities, we need Congress to accept that there is a full range of possibilities for our children – not just the politically-favored viewpoint. If the other options and experiences are not mentioned to the Commission, they won’t be included in the data as acceptable and effective avenues of healthy growth for the children.

One does not need to mention tribal programs if tribal programs haven’t been a part of that child’s experience. That is fine. One could elaborate on what the child HAS experienced as a normal part of growing up. For example – how high school sports impacted a child, or learning jazz dance, or participation in school plays, or an interest in gardening, raising sheep, playing the harp, or the child’s relationship with the church or a particular school teacher.

However, it is also important to mention experiences that were detrimental to health and growth – including whether tribal programs or services were harmful. It is very important to include those experiences if the child has had them. Congress needs to accept that this has been a reality for many, many children.

Did the above make sense? For more information, including where to send your testimony – read this post on CAICW’S blog…

Tell Congress How to Best Meet the Needs of Native Children

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Mar 132020
Little girl on trike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

To send signed testimony identifying you and/or the child – Send your testimony directly to the Commission at:

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

You can submit your testimony to Elizabeth Morris at:

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

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

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

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

Carlyle Begay
Former State Senator

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

Jesse Delmar
Director, Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety

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

Don Atqaqsaq Gray
Board Member, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation

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

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

Melody Staebner
Fargo/West Fargo Indian Education Coordinator
North Dakota

Merry Christmas

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Dec 262019
Merry Jesus Christmas native

CAICW Chairwoman Elizabeth Morris earned a Master of Arts degree in public policy this last summer as a ‘Graduate with Distinction.’ She is now working on her Doctor of Philosophy: Public Policy: Social Policy.

Morris’ master thesis, ‘The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act’ examines documented interactions between North American tribal communities and alternate governments from colonial times on, and the legal history, constitutionality, and social impact of current federal Indian policy. It is just under 350 pages long and can be accessed at or on Pro-quest.

The Congressional ‘Commission on Native Children’

In May of 2018, Morris was appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to the “Alyce Spotted Bear/Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children” (AKA the ‘Commission on Native Children’). The Commission finally had its first working meeting at the end of October this year…
• Representatives from the Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Interior, Dept of Health and Human Services, and Dept. of Education – and their various agencies, including the ACF, BIA, BIE, OJS and more – met with the Commissioners at the DOI in Washington. They each presented descriptions of their varied tribal programs and budgets in the millions.
• Four ‘detailees’ have been assigned to the Commission; one each from the DOJ, DOI, DHHS, and DOEd. Through these detailees, the Commissioners will get the agency data necessary to make decisions about program effectiveness.
• The commission will be holding hearings around the country. For the year 2020, the hearings are scheduled for Phoenix, Alaska, and Hawaii. (Although Hawaiians are not members of a federally recognized tribe and therefore not wards of the federal government.) There will be hearings in additional areas in 2021.

PLEASE PRAY for this commission – and keep watching the CAICW Facebook page for updates on hearings. UPDATE

• CAICW filed a motion and an en Banc amicus in the Brackeen (Un-constitutionality of ICWA) case in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in October. We are making an additional Constitutional argument.
• We don’t post the stories of families who contact us on the CAICW Facebook page anymore because people have gotten into trouble for contacting us. But these families do still need prayer. There are several families to pray for right now – but there is one, in particular. A one-year-old boy is currently being transitioned into his birth mother’s home. Despite drug use, DWI’s, and jail time just last week, unsupervised overnight visits are taking place. The little boy screams and tries to get away from the birth parents when they come for him.
• CAICW has avoided fundraising for about six years. This isn’t because funds aren’t necessary, but because we no longer want to waste time or energy worrying about it. Living and working as frugally as possible is preferable. This is why there is no office or employees. Home offices work fine, and in 2014, living frugally meant camping in the DC area for six weeks, living on about 25 dollars a day – including subway fare. We choose and prefer to trust God and remain focused on the children. While we gratefully accept unsolicited donations, we don’t want money to be a primary focus. There is no way we can come close to matching the finances of our opponents anyway. What will win this battle is God – in prayer, partnerships, and perseverance.

Nevertheless, being small – and busy with the tasks we all know need to be done – we aren’t able to communicate as often as we would like. Thank you for your patience and prayers. Please keep returning to this site as well as Facebook for updates as we are able.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. Have a Blessed Christmas and New Year.