In response to Lisa’s Open Letter
by Anonymous – received Sat 9/7/2013 10:44 PM
New International Version (NIV)
The Call of Jeremiah
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.
As I read the passage above it occurs to me that like Jeremiah, God had chosen Veronica for this difficult struggle long before he formed her in her mother’s womb. For that matter, Ms. Maldonado, the Cs, the Browns, the attorneys and judges have all been chosen to execute his plan and in the end it will be God’s word and will that will prevail. As Christians this is all we have to understand in order to find comfort and peace as this struggle plays out.
A little over one year ago I too unwittingly joined the crusade to speak out for the injustices and the hurt that ICWA is increasingly causing to good families and helpless children of Native American descent. I feel this story has to be told, because unlike Veronica, it takes place on a reservation and similar stories happen with regularity, but no one ever hears about them. Like Veronica, these children also deserve to live with a permanent, loving family and be afforded all the privileges, rights and opportunities that other children of the United States enjoy as a result of being citizens of the greatest nation on earth.
My intimate struggle with ICWA began years ago when I befriended a Native family living on a reservation. The family was poor, the father having been raised in the bush by people living a very old, sacred traditional life. He came to be raised this way only after being abandoned by his birth parents and spending his earliest years on a work farm where he was physically, emotionally and sexually abused by the church people that ran the farm. As a result, this father never learned to read and write and only learned to speak English in adulthood. The mother of this family grew up on the reservation and experienced the same type of abuse as a child. As a result of their pasts, both of these parents had made a conscious choice not to have children. This was a rare decision indeed. When the wife’s niece and nephew were found to be severely abused in all unthinkable manners by their own parents, grandparents and extended family members, as well as members of the gang their family belonged to, social workers placed the children in this couple’s care. There were no background checks or formal transfer of the children. A year later a drug and alcohol addicted infant came to be in their care through a respite program. Again no background checks. Soon afterwards, the great grandmother of this infant, who was said to have custody of the child, came to them and said for them to raise this child as their own. And they did. In Indian Country, they call this a “traditional adoption.” The only catch was that the grandmother kept the child’s government subsidy. Another common occurrence with Indian foster families. The infant was nurtured and loved as it withdrew from the drugs and the other two children began to make positive progress as a result of the couple’s devotion.
Seven years later, after a long illness, the wife, who was a member of the tribe, passed away. By then, the two older children had been returned to the custody of their father even though he continued to live a bad life. The children were passed to many different caregivers and juvenile programs and most of the good work and progress they had made in the care of my friends soon was lost. The youngest child remained in the custody of the father, while the grandmother continued to receive the child’s check. She did not provide for the child in any way. The man was not a member of the tribe himself so the tribe did nothing to help him support the child. In fact, no tribal members came forward to help him when his wife passed. The father was very worried about how he and the child would make it, so I lent a hand. They both struggled at the loss of the wife/mother.
One year ago, as I was working to set the family up so that they could reside in a safer area of the reservation, the grandmother who had approved the plan, abruptly reclaimed the child who was by now 8 years old. Neither the father or the child wanted to be separated, but the grandmother told the father that he would never get the child back because she would loose her check. Apparently, my involvement and the death of the wife caused a panic.
In the entire 8 years there had never been any social workers involved or background checks or follow up on the well being of the child. That being said, virtually every doctor, teachers, mayors, judges, tribal lawyers, tribal council members and every so called “mandated reporter” knew this child was being raised by the couple and was considered their “legal” child by virtue of the traditional adoption. All of these same people turned a blind eye and refused to help the man and his child. They told him that he had opened a can of worms and to this day father and child are not permitted to see or talk to one another.
Imagine losing the only mother you have ever known and then just a year later being torn from the man you know as your father. What type of cultural was preserved by these actions? Without a question, the child’s best interests were not served. Tribal members burned the man’s property in an attempt to silence him. The man is now homeless and his life and his child’s life will never have the chance to see a happy ending as hopefully Veronica’s will.
When an ICWA injustice is served to you on a reservation, there is little recourse. ICWA children mean a check for the tribe and a check for the caregiver. The tribal government and tribal courts will do ANYTHING to strengthen the ICWA. They do not want stories such as this one (and there are many) to see the light of day because it will expose the uncomfortable truth that even within Indian Country, the ICWA isn’t about preserving culture or serving the best interests of children. The ICWA is the philosophical and financial cornerstone of tribal sovereignty and the fact that children are being sacrificed to further this agenda does not bother those in power.
I witnessed this child being torn from its father, crying “daddy” and trying to cling to him for dear life. The transition time was 3 minutes, not even the hour that the Cs and Veronica were allowed. Shortly after this happened, I found CAICW, and unquestionably, Lisa has been a huge support in a vast sea of people who actively advocate for the ICWA, but many who do so have no idea of what a life confined to a reservation means to a child. There are few if any adults willing or able to speak out against the ICWA. Knowing that regardless of gender, it isn’t a matter of whether a child living on a reservation will be raped, trafficked or abused, but rather when, is a source of constant fear and anxiety for me now because I can do nothing but turn the situation over to our all loving God and trust that He and his angels will see fit to watch over and protect a young child I had come to love and would have gladly offered my life, time, love and financial resources to so that the child could fulfill its full potential.
As the ongoing struggle to return Veronica to her parents continues to unfold, I continue to pray for the right words and the opportunity to speak out for ALL the special children who God has set apart to be his voice in this struggle. I ask all involved, those who support and those who do not support the ICWA, to take time to ask the children how the ICWA is working for them. Why haven’t we asked the children? If this law is meant for them, shouldn’t they have a voice too?
Before my story took place, I knew the ICWA existed and as a self-imposed student of Native American history, I was acutely aware of the historical precedent and destruction of the Native family that was the impetus for the passage of this law. In the past year, as I have struggled and mourned the loss of knowing and communicating with a motherless child, I have followed Veronica’s story, the plight of the children on the Spirit Lake Reservation (which mirrors the stories on the reservation I am intimate with) and I now understand how this law has been corrupted and abused to serve those in power. I have so many beautiful, yet tragic faces of children etched into my memory. I have reached out to some who say they are working to amend the ICWA and asked, “but what about all the kids on the Rez.” One such person told me I was crazy, that it would take a crusade. Well, I’ve been called much worse. I’m happy to be called crazy and to be part of a crusade if it means that just one child will be afforded the same opportunities and love that I have been blessed with in my life.
I thank Lisa and Roland Morris for their EXTREME bravery and courage to do what they felt was right for their family, and for Lisa to speak out about what both she and I know to be true about what it is like to live in Indian Country today. I am so grateful that Lisa is there for so many families struggling with the unintended consequences of this law. I urge people on both sides of this struggle to consider the needs and best interests of the children involved. I pray that we can start an open truthful dialog and that compromises can be reached and political agendas put aside so that THE CHILDREN have some hope for a better future.
In closing, I invite you to join Lisa and CAICW supporters in weekly prayer each Sunday (9 EST, 8 CT, 7 MT, 6 PST) as we pray for ALL children in Indian Country and those to whom their best interest is entrusted. As we pray Ephesians 6, we ask that God’s will be done, in his time and according to his plan. We pray for peace and love to fill the hearts and minds of all those involved in bringing truth, light, justice and permanent families to ALL of God’s children. Amen.
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.