Dec 292019
Commission on Native Children

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children will conduct a comprehensive study of supports for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 27, 2019
CONTACT: Carlyle Begay,

[Washington, D.C., November 2019] – The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, established by Congress, held its first official meeting from October 30-November 1, 2019. The bipartisan Commission is the vision of former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who provided opening remarks along with Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Comprised of 11 individuals specializing in juvenile justice, social service programs, Indian education, and mental and physical health, the Commission will conduct a comprehensive study of the programs, grants, and supports available for Native children at government agencies and in Native communities. They will then have three years to issue a report containing recommendations to address the challenges currently facing Native children, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wraparound services to Native children.

Native children (including American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children) suffer from Commission on Native Children, DC, DOIhealth and well-being challenges at a much higher rate than their non-Native peers, often experiencing trauma that impacts their ability to learn, thrive, and become resilient adults. Resources and supports for Native children are currently inappropriate, insufficient, or limited by bureaucracy so that they are ineffective. The Commission has a unique and historic opportunity to fundamentally change the trajectory of Native children for the better. In her opening remarks, Senator Murkowski said to the Commissioners, “The Commission can address education issues and childhood trauma in a more holistic way…Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of money to give a child support, love, and care.” Former Senator Heitkamp added, “I want the Commission to give us hope that things can change and that we can do better. You are the ‘Hope Commission’…Collect and rely on data and research, and lead with your heart; it will take you where you need to go.”

The Commissioners are excited to take on this charge. Gloria O’Neill, Chair of the Commission and President/CEO of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage, Alaska, stated, “We are looking forward to moving the needle on positive outcomes for Native children. We have a great opportunity as there is great alignment in Congress and our partners in the federal government to get things done.”

Over the next couple of years, the Commission will be holding hearings in and reviewing documentation from tribal communities throughout the country to hear from Native children, their families, tribal leaders, and community members. The Commission will also hear from respected researchers and experts as they consider their recommendations. The first public hearing of the Commission will be held in Arizona in March 2020.

The Commissioners of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children 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.