Sep 082020
 
Reveals result of tribal government corruption

[CAICW Note: While Mr. Omdahl is correct concerning the extent of corruption, protest demonstrations by Native Americans will NOT make a difference. This was already done for many years and included occupations of Alcatraz, Wounded Knee and the BIA building in DC. All that these protests did was cause the death of several people and give certain powerful tribal leaders even more power through underhanded corruption involving federal officials – resulting in increased tribal corruption, oppression and abuse of tribal members. The protests did NOT improve quality of life for a large number of tribal members. In fact, things have only gotten worse.
… What needs to happen is for Americans across the board to demand a genuine end to federal sanction, encouragement and empowerment of tribal government corruption.]

Written By: Lloyd Omdahl | Jun 17th 2020

Native Americans in North Dakota have been experiencing the same discrimination as the African Americans now demonstrating across America.

Hundreds of North Dakotas went to the streets to support African Americans even though we have only a few in the state. It was a demonstration of compassion worthy of the state.

In North Dakota, we shouldn’t think about the suffering of minorities without remembering that we have hundreds of Native Americans with grievances to redress.

In their recent demonstrations, the African Americans were fortunate in that they have been able to focus on a problem that was clearly identified. When it comes to Native Americans, our exploitation and their needs are general, making them difficult to rally societal support.

American Indians in North Dakota are faced with crisis living from the cradle to the grave. Their longevity is years behind whites; their educational system is second class; they experience chronic health problems; they are ill-prepared for off-reservation jobs.

And tribal councils fester with corruption, some highly paid and drawing double salaries, first as council members and second as economic development board members, or casino board members, or any other board that can be utilized. As they are feasting at the trough, their constituents are suffering all of the ailments of a Third World country.

If State Auditor Joshua Gallion was ever allowed on the reservation to identify the corruption in tribal operations, he would never be seen again. He would find at least 50 irregularities on each of the four reservations.

Patronage is still a big problem. Doreen Yellow Bird of the Fort Berthold Reservation once mourned about the rampant nepotism on reservations: “Employing people who support them allows leaders to stay in tribal government positions. Nepotism is hobbling program directors and law enforcement officers.”

And there is a worse kind of patronage in the form of foster care payments, patronage that has ended up with the deaths of several children in the past few years, one just weeks ago.

The problem involves the Indian Child Welfare Act that requires that foster children be returned to the tribe even though white foster parents have provided them with education, medical care and love that would not be available on the reservation.

And why would the tribe exercise the option of demanding children back? Why, Cousin George or Aunt Isabell needs the monthly stipend that goes with foster children. So children get passed around as patronage.

Writing in the Washington Post, the highly respected George F. Will called it “the blood stained Indian Child Welfare Act,” citing the case of a Methodist minister in Bismarck having to give up Indian foster children on the demand of the Spirit Lake Sioux, only to have one of them killed when a grandparent threw the child down an embankment.

Reservations are a curse for Native Americans who are not a part of the ruling cliqués. They are run like Central American republics, with the largesse consumed by a few at the top, and constituents who have little to say about tribal living.

All of the white man’s treaties should have been printed on toilet paper so they could have served some useful purpose. The promises were never kept. The most relevant one today is the assurance that the federal government would provide health care. Despite the chronic ailments suffered by Indians, federal health care was underfunded from the start.

Through the years, we have had study commissions, investigations, meetings with governors and senators, but nothing much has happened. To really solve problems will require money, and there will be no money until Native Americans can deliver huge demonstrations.

In the meantime, discrimination and deprivation on reservations will continue.

READ MORE: https://www.inforum.com/opinion/6538262-Omdahl-No-demonstrations-for-Native-Americans

Lloyd Omdahl is a political scientist and former North Dakota lieutenant governor. His column appears Sundays.

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

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Oct 212019
 
The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act - https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591/

By Elizabeth S. Morris

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Helms School of Government in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts in Public Policy

https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

‘Although the ICWA has some statutory safeguards to prevent misuse, numerous families continue to be hurt by the law.’

Preface

My husband and I began our lives together in a symbiotic alcoholic-enabler relationship in the late 70’s. With our family on the edge of self-destruction in 1987, my husband, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, born and raised on the Leech Lake reservation, had a transformational experience which changed his worldview and led him to take our family in a new direction. 

Having watched many of his relatives suffer within the reservation system, he began to see reservation violence and crime as an outcome of current federal Indian policy more than it was about past policy. This led us to forming an advocacy in the late 90’s for families hurt by federal Indian policy.  We did our best to share hope and life, as inadequate as we were, by assisting extended family in our home, neighbors in our community, and strangers across the nation. We never did it for money; there was never any money. Everything we did came from passion for the lives of our children, nieces and nephews, and extended communities.

Unfortunately, reservation crime, corruption, drug abuse and violence have continued to increase over the years. My husband has since passed away and I am a widow, continuing the work we had begun in 1996.

This thesis compiles some of the documented history, philosophy, and consequences of federal Indian policy. It also includes a preliminary quantitative causal comparative survey with 1351 participants – 551 of whom identify tribal heritage – and explores the relationship between differences.

We serve a powerful God with whom all things are possible.  Our job is to serve in the capacity He has given us, even if we do not understand why, and then enjoy watching what He does next. 

Abstract

This paper will examine the philosophical underpinnings of current federal Indian policy and its physical, emotional, and economic consequences on individuals and communities.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission found in 1990 that “[T]he Government of the United States has failed to provide civil rights protection for Native Americans living on reservations” (W. B. Allen 1990, 2). As Regan (2014) observes, individuals have been denied full title to their property – and thus use of the property as leverage to improve their economic condition (Regan 2014). Tribal executive and judicial branches have been accused of illegal search and seizures, denial of right to counsel or jury, ex parte hearings and violations of due process and equal protection (W. B. Allen 1990, 3). Violence, criminal activity, child abuse and trafficking are rampant on many reservations (DOJ 2018). Largely because of crime and corruption, many have left the reservation system. The last two U.S. censuses’ report 75% of tribal members do not live in Indian Country (US Census Bureau 2010).

Research suggests current federal Indian policy and the reservation system are built on philosophies destructive to the physical, emotional and economic health of individual tribal members. This paper contends that allowing property rights for individual tribal members, enforcing rule of law within reservation systems, supporting law enforcement, and upholding full constitutional rights and protections of all citizens would secure the lives, liberties and properties of affected individuals and families.

Introduction

For almost 200 years the U.S. federal government has claimed wardship over members of federally recognized Indian tribes.  Yet, despite the nineteenth century U.S. federal court rulings that propagated this view, disagreement continues as to whether tribes located within the United States are sovereign, whether Congress has plenary power over them, and whether individual tribal members have U.S. Constitutional rights: 

  • Some say the nineteenth century U.S. Supreme Court cases known as the ‘Marshall Trilogy’ contradict tribal sovereignty.  Others say they uphold it.
  • Some say treaties promise a permanent trust relationship. Others point out that most treaties have clearly specified final payments of federal funds and benefits and were written and signed with clear intent for gradual assimilation.
  • Some say the Constitution never gave Congress anything more than the power to regulate trade with tribes. Others claim the Constitution not only gave Congress total and exclusive plenary power to decide every aspect of life in Indian Country – but by unstated extension, gave the executive branch this power as well.
  • Some argue that the Constitution never had authority over tribes or tribal members. Others cite the Constitution when seeking judicial redress. 
  • Some tribal officials argue that international law should not have been forced upon non-European cultures that had no say in it. Others point to natural law and international law – the grounds for treaties between nations – as basis for uninterrupted tribal sovereignty.

Inherent, retained tribal sovereignty was reality for tribal governments prior to the formation of the United States and in the immediate years following its birth, but is not reflected in case law from the 1800s and much of the 1900s. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the United States had taken a position of control. Further, over the last two centuries, the vast majority of tribal leaders accepted large payments for land, accepted federal trust benefits, and submitted to federal government’s de facto power over them.   

Throughout history and every heritage, various men have coveted power over others.  Today, tribal governments, while accepting and playing into Congress’ claim of plenary power, have themselves, also, claimed exclusive jurisdiction and authority over unwilling citizens. Tribal governments regularly lobby and petition both Congress and the White House to codify tribal jurisdiction over the lives, liberty and property of everyone within reservation boundaries as well as some outside reservation boundaries.  While claiming exclusive jurisdiction, tribal governments have requested and given blessing for the federal government to manage children of tribal heritage – asking Congress to write the Indian Child Welfare Act and the executive branch to write federal rules governing the placement of every enrollable child in need of care. Some tribal governments and supportive entities have gone further – asking even governors and state legislators to expand on and strengthen control over children with heritage.

Often cited as justification for the ICWA is a 1998 pilot study by Carol Locust, a training director at the Native American Research and Training Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  Locust’s study is said to have shown that “every Indian child placed in a non-Indian home for either foster care or adoption is placed at great risk of long-term psychological damage as an adult” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  Referring to the condition as the “Split-feather Syndrome,” Locust claims to have identified “unique factors of Indian children placed in non-Indian homes that created damaging effects” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  The Minnesota Department of Human Services noted “an astonishing 19 out of 20 Native adult adoptees showed signs of “Split-feather syndrome” during Locust’s limited study (DHS 2005).

“Unfortunately,” according to Bonnie Cleaveland, PhD ABPP, “the study was implemented so poorly that we cannot draw conclusions from it.” Only twenty adoptees with tribal heritage – total – were interviewed. All were removed from their biological families and placed with non-native families. There were no control groups to address other variables. According to Cleaveland:

Locust asserts that out-of-culture removal causes substance abuse and psychiatric problems. However, she uses no control group. She doesn’t acknowledge the high rates of trauma, psychiatric and substance abuse among AI/AN people who remain in their culture and among the population of foster children. These high rates of psychosocial problems could easily account for all of the symptoms Locust found in her subjects 

(Cleaveland 2015).

Cleaveland concluded, “Sadly, because many judges and attorneys, and even some caseworkers and other professionals, are not familiar with the research, results that may be very wrong are leading to the wrong outcomes for children” (Cleaveland 2015).  While supporters of ICWA cite “Split-feather Syndrome” as proof the ICWA is in the best interest of children, many children have been hurt by application of the law. 

Questions that need more extensive study include whether children who were adopted into non-Indian families as children show greater problems with self-identity, self-esteem, and inter-personal relationships than do their peers.  Are the ties between children who have tribal heritage and their birth families and culture stronger than that of their peers, no matter the age at adoption?  Other considerations include whether all tribal members support federal policies that mandate their cases be heard only in tribal courts and whether a percentage of persons of tribal heritage believe federal Indian policy infringes on their life, liberty and property.

 The central concern of this paper is how current federal Indian policy has affected the lives, liberty and property of those who have tribal heritage – most specifically the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Through research of the historical foundations of federal Indian policy and a nation-wide comparative survey of family dynamics, this paper will attempt to answer these and other questions.

READ FULL TEXT – https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

Citation

Morris, Elizabeth S. The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Master Thesis, Helms School of Government, Liberty University, Lynchburg: Digital Commons, 2019, 337.  

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Wilkinson, Charles F., and John M. Volkman. “Judicial Review of Indian Treaty Abrogation: As Long as Water Flows, or Grass Grows upon the Earth–How Long a Time is That.” California Law Review 63 (5 1975): 601-661.

Wilson, James. “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals.” Founding.com: A Project of the Claremont Institute. 1790-91. http://founding.com/founders-library/american-political-figures/james-wilson/of-the-natural-rights-of-individuals/ (accessed 4 8, 2019).

Woodward, Stephanie. “Suicide is epidemic for American Indian youth: What more can be done?” 100 Reporters. Oct 10, 2012. http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/10/14340090-suicide-is-epidemic-for-american-indian-youth-what-more-can-be-done (accessed July 27, 2016).

Worcester v. Georgia. (US Supreme Court, 1832).

Declared “Sanctuary” for Children Running from ICWA –

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Feb 202017
 
sanctuary

Over the years, we have seen so many distraught families – panicked over what was happening to their children, unsure what to do to protect them, and unable to get help.

Many times, especially in light of the new ICWA rules and guidelines published by the Obama admin in 2016, …there has been little a family could do.

Watching several families struggle at this current time, we have come to a decision:

Whereas, up to half of Americans believe sanctuaries from federal law are a good and reasonable necessity – where people, fleeing oppression from their home nation, can hide from federal law that would send them back to that home nation;

And Whereas; most American citizens believe federal laws that target, isolate, and separate children and families on the basis of heritage are unconstitutional and should not be allowed;

And Whereas, for decades in America, many Christian church buildings have served as sanctuaries, and while there is no law defining a sanctuary or mandating it be respected, the federal government has often declined to enter and forcibly remove people from a declared Christian Sanctuary;

And Whereas, federal authorities have shown their willingness to ignore state and federal law for the last two years when they declined to enter the Cheyenne River Reservation to remove two little girls who were taken from North Dakota by their non-custodial mother when their non-tribal fathers were granted legal custody; and federal authorities have also shown their willingness to ignore federal law in several cases during the 1980’s when Guatemalan illegal-immigrants sought sanctuary in various church buildings around the country;

And Whereas; many children of tribal heritage, even in teen years, have expressed their desire to stay with their chosen families and not be uprooted by tribal governments, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many birth parents have objected to tribal jurisdiction over, or involvement in, their families, and have made it clear they do NOT want their children on the reservation or their custody case heard in tribal court, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many extended family, of varied heritages, have had children removed from them by tribal officials for no other reason than that the tribal officials did not like that branch of the family, or the family was non-Indian, or there were friends or family of tribal officials that wanted the child;

And Whereas; there are many documented instances of tribal courts practicing corruption and nepotism in their choice of homes for children, despite clear evidence of harm to children in those homes;

And Whereas; an untenable number of children have been sexually abused, seriously injured or murdered as a result of placement in homes under the Indian Child Welfare Act;

And Whereas; there is solid legal argument concerning the unconstitutionality of the ‘Indian Child Welfare Act,’ and Justice Clarence Thomas intimated as much in his concurrence in the case, “Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl;

And Whereas; once a child has been placed in the custody of a tribal government, particularly within reservation boundaries, it can be extremely difficult to remove the child;

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare does hereby from this day forward declare itself a ‘Sanctuary for Children and Families Threatened by the Indian Child Welfare Act.’

Families will need to show:

1) It is in the child’s clear best interest to remain with them; or that while best interest might yet be unclear, the child needs more time for all aspects to be studied and for true best interest to be made clear; and
2) They are in imminent danger of being forcibly removed by tribal authorities and/or local police under the direction of tribal authorities.
3) They intend to tirelessly work a plan of action to prove and win the best interest of the particular child or children;
4) Understand the CAICW sanctuary they would stay in is a Christian home – where Jesus Christ is Lord.

Lastly, we fully respect President Trump’s position concerning federal funds – and can proudly guarantee we will not be requesting or requiring any federal funds for this Sanctuary.

Families can contact us by messenger or email.

PLEASE – share this message freely.

__________________________________________________

– – Those who object to this and see things from a progressive perspective can explain why they feel it is okay for sanctuaries to shield people of some heritages from some federal laws, but not people of other heritages from other federal laws.

– – Those who see things from a conservative perspective and object to any instance where a person is shielded from federal law… We can only beg your understanding that these children are American citizens, and the federal law in question does not provide equal protection. Please ask your Senators and Congressman to act quickly on repealing this law, so that no child of tribal heritage will need a sanctuary.

Aug 272015
 

There was a comment on this site last night that most people couldn’t see.

As our followers know, I had banned certain words and names from this site long ago – and we avoid using any child’s real name or location unless the family has chosen to publicly use their names and places. The writer last night tried to use one of the names, thus the site hid her comment.

I pondered whether to open it up for view, as it illustrated the continuing hate and twisting of fact coming from those who demand complete control over our children. I wondered if it might be good for new people to see. What continues to amaze me is the disregard so many have for the rights of children and families to choose not to be involved with tribal governments.

It goes over the writer’s head that tribal members themselves are filing lawsuits against ICWA because they do not want tribal government interfering in their families.

The writer cannot seem to see or accept the rights of individuals and families. Disturbing, as that was the same mindset in 1930’s Germany, where it was honestly believed government had the absolute right to decide all matters for individuals and families – including whether they can marry a person of a different race. That government also claimed ownership over children – as is common in a tyranny. They saw children as government property – the lifeblood of the nation.

Yes… I will make that comparison. I make that comparison because our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law. On the basis of even small amounts of heritage, our children are not allowed protection equal to that of children who have no tribal heritage.

The lack of protection is not because they are not citizens under the law. Under the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, tribal members are fully United States citizens. Further, it is currently argued that even non-citizens of our country have rights under the United States constitution. Whether or not that is true, it is argued that every human, no matter what their citizenship, deserves equal protection in the United States.

But the fact is, individuals of tribal heritage are not currently afforded equal protection. Local, State and Federal officials continually refrain from ‘interfering’ with tribal government when it comes to our children, and activists for non-citizens do not speak up for the equal protection of our children.

Why? Why do our children not deserve equal protection? Why are our children less important than children – citizens and non-citizens – who have no tribal heritage?

The police went in to Indian Country in 2013 to retrieve one child who had media attention, but won’t go in and rescue two little girls kidnapped from their birth fathers by members of the Cheyenne River Reservation in 2014 – two little girls who haven’t gotten any real media attention.

You won’t hear any of the people who are obsessed with the one little girl and her father stand up for the two little girls and their two fathers – because it goes against the authority of tribal government, which is apparently what these people are truly most concerned with. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection. Their ‘best interest’ is irrelevant if in conflict with the wishes of tribal leadership.

I make the comparison with 1930’s Germany because of three children who were handed to a woman at Cheyenne River, who was known to be extremely abusive, but wanted them because of the river money that came out last year. ICWA was used to do this. After many subsequent reports were made of her abusing those kids, they went missing. Their maternal family is still striving to get them back. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

I make the comparison because of the number of children known to have been taken from safe foster homes – only to die when placed back into situations known to be abusive. A three-year-old at Spirit Lake died within the month of her removal from a safe home, an 18-mo-old at Standing Rock died within a month, a little boy at Cheyenne River died – and the list goes on. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

I make that comparison because of the Spirit Lake tribal policeman who called to tell us what was really happening – that it was more important to protect tribal sovereignty than it is to protect children, and that is why so many things are hidden and swept under the rug. He provided us with taped conversations between himself and tribal social services. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

I make that comparison for the young girl in Arizona – now a woman – who was forced against her will by ICWA to return to the mother who had broken her nose before she was five months old – only to suffer more physical abuse until she was able to finally get away again. She now refuses to have anything to do with the reservation. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

I make that comparison for the young girl at Leech Lake – now a young woman – who tried to run away from her uncle who was raping her every night – walking in the ditches on a rainy night to avoid being seen by tribal police – only to be found and sent back due to ICWA. She eventually tried to hang herself. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

I make the comparison due to the number of stories we get of severe but ignored sexual and physical abuse that many kids are going through.
I make the comparison because of the number of non-tribal members who are told they have no right to their own children – and who don’t have the money to find a good attorney to help them. They are simply ignored by local, state and federal officials who claim they can’t do anything about it. Our children are being treated as less than human in matters of law and protection.

Bottom line – Congress has decided our children are not as important as tribal sovereignty. What I have mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many from the Cherokee Nation call us hateful for reporting all this. They think that because they don’t see it so much in their area of the world, it isn’t factually happening on many real reservations. If they are aware of what is really happening, they apparently won’t admit it. Protection of ‘tribal sovereignty’ is all that really matters.

The obsessive pathology concerning one particular child – who is factually doing very well with her adoptive parents – and the continuing push for complete control over our children against all evidence of the harm ICWA is causing – is not only disturbing, but extremely frightening.

This is not a game. We need our Congressmen to wake up, stand against the BIA on this issue, and factually protect our children.

Our children are human. They are American citizens – with the unquestionable right to equal protection under the United States Constitution.

Dec 052014
 

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder Vowed to give Permanent Jurisdiction of Multi-racial Children Across the Nation to Tribal Governments on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

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.”

(READ his remarks in full here – https://caicw.org/2015/05/18/attorney-general-eric-holders-dec-3-2014-remarks-in-full/#)

He made this vow in remarks during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. Below is a response from a Parent – the Chair of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.

Attorney General Eric Holder;

Re: Your statement during the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Dec. 3, 2014, in regards to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

What is consistently left out of the ICWA discussion is the civil rights of United States citizens of every heritage – those enrolled in tribal communities and those who are not – who do not want tribal government interference in their families. Shortsighted placation of tribal leaders ignores these facts:

1. 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country
2. Most families falling under tribal jurisdiction are multi-racial, and
3. Many families have purposefully chosen to raise their children with values other than those currently popular in Indian Country.

Federal government does not have the right to assign our children to political entities.

Further, federal government does not have the right to choose which religion, customs or traditions a child should be raised in. This holds true for children who are 100% a certain heritage, let alone children who are multi-heritage. It holds true because we are a nation that respects the rights and freedoms of every individual citizen – no matter their heritage.

Please recognize that while we agree with you 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” – neither is any child fundamentally different from a Hispanic Catholic, German Jewish, or Irish Protestant child growing up in any U.S. city or rural town. In fact, most enrollable children in America have Caucasian relatives – and many live with their Caucasian relatives. My own enrolled children are no different from their fully Caucasian cousins or their cousins with Filipino heritage. Children are children – with fundamentally the same emotional and physical needs. We agree 100% with you.

We also agree no child “should be forced to choose between their cultural heritage and their well-being.” Tragically, that is the very thing federal and tribal governments are doing to many of these children.

Enrollable children – and at times even children who are not enrollable but are targeted by a tribal government anyway – are currently forced to accept what is purported to be their cultural heritage – at the expense of their safety and well-being. This has even been done under the watchful eye of the Justice Department, as in the case of 3-year-old Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered in 2013.

Concerning your directive regarding cultural heritage, the federal government does not have the right to mandate that my children and grandchildren – or any of the children whose families we represent – be raised in a home “suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” As parents, my husband and I had a right to decide that our children’s Irish Catholic, German Jewish, and “American” Evangelical heritage is all equally important. It is the parent’s choice, not the government’s, as to how our children are raised (Meyer vs. Nebraska, 1923; Pierce vs. Society of Sisters. 1925)

My name is Elizabeth Sharon Morris. I am the widow of Roland John Morris, a U.S. citizen of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage who was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation, speaking only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten. I am the birth mother, grandmother, foster and adoptive mother to several enrolled or eligible members, and an aunt and sister-in-law to dozens. Our home was an accepted ICWA home for 17 years and we raised over a dozen enrolled children in it.

I am also the Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, a national non-profit founded by my husband and myself in 2004. CAICW represents children and families across the nation who’ve been hurt by federal Indian policy – most notably ICWA – and who, as U.S. citizens, do not want tribal government control or interference in their families.

The facts are:

1) According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of tribal members DO NOT live in Indian Country. Many, like our family, have deliberately taken their children and left in order to protect their families from the rampant crime and corruption of the reservation system. These families do NOT want their children turned over to tribal authorities under any circumstances – and having made a decision to disassociate, should not have to live in fear of their children being placed on the reservation if the parents should die.
2) The abuses at Spirit Lake in North Dakota are well known, but it is also known that Spirit Lake is just a microcosm of what’s happening on many reservations across the country.
3) Gang activity involving drugs is heavy and rampant on many reservations. My husband’s grandson was shot and left for dead at Spirit Lake in July, 2013. To date, your Justice Department, which you’ve highly praised for its work in Indian Country, has not charged anyone for the shooting despite family knowledge of who was involved in the altercation. Many children have been dying within Indian Country whose names don’t make it to the media – and for whom justice is never given.
4) These abuses are rampant on many reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.
5) Many, many times more children leave the reservation system in company of their parents, who have been mass exiting – than do children who have been taken into foster care or found a home in adoption. But tribal leaders won’t admit many parents consciously take their kids out of Indian Country in attempt to get them away from the reservation system and corrupt leaders. It makes a better sound bite to blame evil social services
6) There are many documented cases of children who have been happy in homes outside of Indian Country and who have fought being moved to the reservation, and who have been severely traumatized after being forced to do so. Many in federal government are aware of these children but, as done with the reports of ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan, have chosen to ignore them.

It is claimed the cause of crime and corruption in Indian Country is poverty and “Historical Trauma,” and that additional funding will solve the problems. Yet, crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money.

It’s time to stop listening to those with vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power, and admit the physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of tribal members by other tribal members and even many tribal leaders.

Every time power to tribal leaders is increased, tribal members – U.S. citizens – are robbed of civil freedoms under the constitution of the United States. Equal Protection is a constitutional right.

To better protect children, we need to:

A. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
B. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
C. Recognize the “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
D. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.

    • When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians need to be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b)“…In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent…”
    • Further, parents involved in any child custody proceeding should have a right to object to tribal jurisdiction. Many tribal members don’t take things to tribal court because they don’t expect to get justice there. For the Justice Department to deny this reveals the Justice Departments willingness to ignore how many tribal courts factually work.
    • 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.

E. Include well-defined protections for Adoptive Parents equal to protections afforded families of every heritage.
F. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost – not tribal government.
G. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, parents, as U.S. citizens, should have the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them. Only parents and/or legal custodians should have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe.

    • Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
    • Remove the words “eligible for membership in” from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words “an enrolled member of”

Thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns and take action to protect our children and grandchildren from further exploitation.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Cc: Tracy Toulou, Director, Tribal Justice
Members of Congress

Infant brutally murdered by father –

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Oct 252014
 

The death of 2 1/2 month old Joseph Jenkins on October 17, 2014, was just outside my husband’s reservation.

The Bemidji Pioneer news report states, “The St. Louis County medical examiner said the infant had experienced blunt force trauma as well as cuts and injuries to his chest, abdomen, hand, fingers, feet and toes, according to the complaint.

Investigators interviewed the infant’s mother, who said Jenkins bit their son many times because the baby was crying, according to the complaint. Jenkins wouldn’t allow the baby to go to a scheduled medical appointment because Jenkins did not want anyone to see the injuries.She also said they made up the story about the neighbor’s dog biting the baby, according to the complaint.Jenkins allegedly “committed multiple acts of child abuse on his infant son,” County Attorney John J. Muhar said in a statement.Jenkins has multiple convictions, including for domestic abuse and driving while intoxicated, according to court records.”

We don’t know yet if there was any tribal social service involvement – but the story illustrates again the pervasive violence within my husband’s community.

Many people (not all) in my husband’s community look the other way. That’s simple fact, whether admitted or not.

There is a climate of “mind your own business.” “This doesn’t concern you.” People who “stick their nose in where they don’t belong” can end up getting beaten, as well.

It is that climate, which disallows anyone from saying anything – that contributes to the cycle of depression, abuse, hopelessness, and suicide.

It is a climate of violence and fear. Increased federal funding or tribal sovereignty isn’t going to fix that. It just reinforces it – rewarding and protecting the lifestyles of abusers.

Blaming the past, or pushing hypotheses of “historical trauma,” and “white privilege” isn’t going to fix the extensive abuse, anger and depression either. Those faux concepts only INCREASE feelings of anger and hopelessness.

There are people at the top of the food chain who benefit from this garbage at the expense of everyone else. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

They want people to keep on blaming – and never look inside to what is really going on.

Matthew 24:12 (NIV) “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”

Job 24:15,17 (NIV) “The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed… For all of them, deep darkness is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”

Isa 29:15 (NIV) “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”

Psalm 36 1-4 (NIV) “I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.”

Jeremiah 17: 9-10 (NIV) “The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, probe into people’s minds. I examine people’s hearts. And I deal with each person according to how he has behaved. I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.

1 Corinthians 4:5b “[God] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.

James 1:21 (NIV) “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Prov 28:13 (NIV) “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

1 Thes 5:5-8a (NIV) You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled.

Ps 119:105 (NIV) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

2 Cor 4:2,6 (NIV) “We have renounced secret and shameful ways… For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Ephesians 5:8-14 (NIV) “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

http://www.bemidjipioneer.com/content/updated-itasca-county-man-charged-infant-sons-death

Aug 132014
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEogtESN5Wo

Sage was 4-years-old and one of the first children to be hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. She was 6-years when she and the family she loved went on the run to protect her from the law that intended to force to live with an abusive birth parent. She was 13 when she was finally forcibly taken from her family to be placed on the reservation with the birth mother who had almost killed her.

She tells her story of going on the run with her chosen parents, her trauma of being taken from them, and ultimate relief when she was finally released from the reservation and allowed to return home. To this day, thirty-some years later, she is upset by what the government and ICWA put her through.

– http://youtu.be/TEogtESN5Wo

VERONICA SUPPORTERS – What You Need to Know:

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Sep 262013
 
Flower Planter

Family StoryMany have expressed desire to help stop the harm ICWA has been causing.  These are some specifics of the fight you want to help with, from a mother who has been through it:

“I am sharing some more personal stuff because it is easy for people to focus on Veronica but the reality is, she is one of hundreds needing our help. The toll on the children and families trying to help them is huge!  It is sometimes seen as a grand, wonderful thing to support a cause but the reality is – it is hard and dirty for those on the front lines. I know people are shouting hurray for some of the leaders of Save Veronica -but truly MVERONICA SUPPORTERS – What You Need to Know: and M are the heroes and the attorneys who helped them

–          The work is hard.

–          The financial price is high.

–          The emotional stress is devastating.

–          Saving the children is priceless.

Helping case by case is important but an organized effort to take down the ICWA is essential. If we can get rid of the ICWA the individual cases will decline. We need some heavy hitters to get involved.

I know you know most of this but so many have no idea:

1)      Attorneys won’t work for free….we lost 2 attorneys because we couldn’t pay them. They showed up for court and before they left said it would be the last time they would be representing us. We then had to come up with $5000 to retain a new attorney.

2)      ICWA are specialty cases. You can’t just get any old Joe…we learned this the hard way. Our original attorney said he could do an ICWA case and told us he knew what he was doing and had a friend who could help him if he had questions. This attorney in reality had no idea what he was doing. Before it was over we had 4 different attorneys. Oh, and had 2 judges.

3)      Emotional stress is very high…A person tends to run pretty efficiently when you are fighting but it takes a toll. My husband would head off to work and I would do as much as I could all day while watching the kids, making phone calls and such.  When he got home, he watched the kids and I got busy working on the computer and reading and researching. I would stay up until 2 or 3 every night. There was so much to do and we didn’t have an army to help us.

4)      One has to work hard to guard their children from all of the chaos. We work so hard to keep the kids from the reality of the situation. They did not know they were on TV or that someone was trying to get their brother. This was a daily effort on our part.

5)      Addressing all the struggles he was having because of visitations was huge.  We spoke with a physiologist friend, a few attachment therapists, and did lots of research. We started homeschooling mostly because we knew he couldn’t handle public school at the time. We tried diets, discipline techniques, and medicines.

6)      Our marriage… LOL – Our dates were a meal after court. We couldn’t afford a sitter and we didn’t want to ask my mom to babysit for something that seemed frivolous. She watched the kids for us for every court date, visitation, attorney meeting, therapist meeting, GAL meeting, etc… every time the media would come to interview she would take the kids so they didn’t know what was happening. She helped soooo much.

7)      We had support from our community, family and church but it was still very, very hard.

8)      When the adoption was finally done we went into a mode of relief and relaxation. I remember enjoying lots of bubble baths… LOL – We would stay up and watch TV instead of reading court documents. We made a lot of popcorn at night and both gained about 10 lbs – LOL. We hardly knew what to do…I think we needed the rest but maybe let the pendulum swing to long. There was still much we had to do. Our family needed some repairing and our little boy needed some help but the constant necessity to be driven was over.

9)      Fundraising is so important – It seems there are so many places to give and times are tight right now but this fight takes money. Our case cost over $150,000 and we didn’t even end up going to trial [because the birth mom changed her mind and ended up wanting us to have him.] The bills from our attorneys every month were often bigger than our monthly income. Yes, we would have months when our bill might be $5000. It could be more or less…but just to get an idea.

Some adoptive parents, like us, are required to sign contracts with bio-parents and tribal government. It is unknown whether this was part of the negotiations Matt & Melanie went through. However, these can be hard to deal with as well.

–          We had to sign an agreement with the tribe and bio-mom. The adoption agency contacts me every year to make certain we comply with terms. The tribe has NEVER contacted us.  Only one time when I asked for some information did we hear from them and the effort to fulfill our request was pathetic.

–          The tribe had us sign that we would take trips to the reservation and visit family there and bring the bio-mother with us (she does not live on the reservation.)  Also we are to do things with her and her extended family yearly, like pow-wows, and pick up the bio-mom and transport her there.  (BTW – bio-mom told us she doesn’t believe in pow-wows and such because she is a Christian)

–          We have not heard from our son’s bio mom since Valentine’s Day.  She will do that…then will call a few times a week for awhile, making promises she won’t keep, and then…off the radar for who knows how long.

–          Bio-mom is not required to make any effort. We do all the work. The tribe who fought so hard for him has had nothing to do with him since.

 

Anyway, people need to know this is not a $20,000 regular adoption cost, it is not an easy, happy road.  Like my husband said, when it comes to ICWA cases, logic is gone. You are dealing with illogical thinking from that point on. We found that to be one of the hardest things.

We couldn’t believe how it seemed there was absolutely no common sense involved with the case and decisions.

Christian Ministry

Revealing CAICW’s Sinister Hidden Agenda –

 Comments Off on Revealing CAICW’s Sinister Hidden Agenda –
Sep 142013
 
FAMILY, 2000

I was interviewed this week by an AP reporter.  Wishing to avoid a repeat of the disingenuous interview I had two weeks earlier with the reporter from “Religion” News Service, who did NOT report who did NOT report things as they were actually said, I asked the AP reporter if she wouldn’t mind writing questions down for me.  I told her that I could then either simply write out my answers (ensuring accuracy for both of us) or talk on the phone.

This are my responses to her six questions:

 

1.       Can you talk about the founding of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare. Why did you and your husband want to start the organization?

This was all explained to the reporter, Angela Aleiss of Religion News Service, as well. None of it was important enough to include in her article.  As you have spent time reporting on things in the Dakotas, I am praying you will be able to see his heart a little easier than this reporter from Los Angeles was able to.

My husband was a man of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in the 1950′s. He didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old and began kindergarten. His fondest memories were of “ricing season” – the time in the early fall when the wild rice was ripe on the lake and the community would pitch tents down there and spend a couple weeks “ricing” the traditional way. He said it was like the Christmas Holiday is for us.

Roland and his newborn, 1990We had five children together and raised four of his relatives’ children as well. They were placed with us through ICWA – their parents were addicted to crack. So that was nine kids total. (not a total of 13 as stated by the other reporter)  When the four came to stay with us, they were all very young. The youngest was only a year old. I had 8 kids under the age of 8 at the time (and one 12-year-old)

It was, as you can imagine, very difficult. I raised all of the kids to the age of 18 (although one was in therapeutic care for a couple years). I kept the four even through my husband’s terminal illness. You see, he was very afraid of turning them back to the tribe – even though we were struggling very hard to raise them all. He had seen too many very bad things happen to children in his family. He knew what his extended family was capable of doing to children. We knew of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. I was at the funeral of a 2-yr-old who was beaten to death. I chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl. He didn’t know I was on the bed when he pushed her onto my legs, trying to take her pants off. And there is so much more.

The other reporter, despite being told this, chose to make the story about me and MY motivation for getting involved.

As a man of 100% heritage – my husband had made the decision to raise his kids elsewhere, off the reservation, because of the danger and corruption going on at Leech Lake.

The fact is – he isn’t alone. 75% of tribal members, (according to the last two U.S. censuses) do NOT live on the reservation. Many have left for the same reason he did (not all have left for the same reasons – but many)

Because of his fear of his children ever being raised on the reservation, he feared what would happen if we both died. He had also become a Christian and had led me to the Lord. This can be confirmed by his cousins as well as many others who were around at the time.  He was determined to raise his children Christian and so wanted me to be a Christian as well. He did not want t

Roland and Senator Conrad Burns, 1997

Roland and Senator Conrad Burns, 1997; Click for link to his 1998 Senate Testimony

he tribe to move the kids to the reservation or place them with relatives. If he died, he wanted one of our Christian friends to finish raising our kids.

So – it is for all these reasons that he disliked the Indian Child Welfare Act and began to speak out against it. This was in the 1990′s. We made a website – and as we wrote about the law, people across the country began to contact him.

You see, at the time, when you would google ICWA – all you would get is all the sites that supported ICWA. Ours was the only one that didn’t. So people began to contact us and ask for help. Tribal members and non-members. Birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

Their stories broke our hearts. Lots of abuse of children – by tribal

governments. But we were just two parents, no different than them. Roland continued to speak up though, and had opportunity to give testimony to the Senate Committee, among other opportunities.

In February 2004, we founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare so we could help other families better. It has been a blessing every time we have been able to help someone – because we are small and simply do the best we can. We give all credit to God for whatever we are able to do.

When Melanie Capobianco first contacted us in July of 2011, we did our best to help her as well. I have found her to be a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, woman. She has been able to back up everything she has said with documentation.  As the Supreme Court of the United States noted, the ICWA should NOT have been used to prevent this adoption. According to Oklahoma law, there is only 90 days after birth in which a father can show his interest in paternity. If he does not do this, he loses his right to object to an adoption. He is not considered a legal parent.

Mr. Brown exceeded that. He also exceeded the limits under South Carolina law. He admitted in the first family court – documented on the court record for all to see – that he did not, in truth, make any attempt to contact, inquire about, or provide for this baby in any way, shape or form. By the laws of both states, he had lost his right to object to an adoption. In the meantime, Matt Capobianco was there at the birth and cut the cord. THAT is the fact that the states (and SCOTUS) have been ruling on.

2.       What, in your opinion, are the problems with ICWA? Why is it harmful?

We are told time and again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) isn’t about race or percentages, but about preserving a dying culture.

There is much benefit in enjoying ones heritage and culture.

Everyone of us has a historical heritage. Some hold great value to it and want to live the traditional culture (to a certain extent. Few try to REALLY live traditional), others only want to dabble for fun – but others aren’t interested at all.

My children have the option of enjoying Ojibwe traditional, German Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Scottish Protestant heritage. We told them as they were growing up that each one of their heritages are interesting and valuable. (While at the same time making it clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.)

Most of us whose families have been in America for more than a couple generations are multi-heritage. Even most tribal members are multi-heritage. All individuals have a right to choose which heritage they want to identify with. If one of my children were to choose to identify with his or her Irish heritage, it would be racist for anyone – even a Congressman – to say that their tribal heritage was more important.

Beth, September 1987There are times to speak softly, and other times when people and situations need to be firmly set right.  This is a time for firmness. For those who think I don’t have a right to speak because I am not “native,” think again.  As long as they are claiming multi-heritage children, I have a right to and WILL speak. They are claiming jurisdiction over MY children and grandchildren.

Reality Check: It is up to families and their ethnic communities to preserve traditional culture amongst themselves if they value it. That is the same no matter what heritage is the question.  Many groups do this by living or working in close proximity – such as in Chinatown, or Dearborn, Michigan – or any of the ethnic neighborhoods within large cities. It is a very normal thing for humans to do.

But no other community has asked the federal government to enforce cultural compliance to that community.  The federal government has NO right to be forcing a heritage or culture onto an individual or family.  Contrary to what Congress assumed, my children are NOT the tribal government’s children – nor are they “commerce” under the “Commerce Clause” the ICWA was based on.

To those who constantly parrot that “white people” are “stealing” THEIR children, Wrong:  TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS are currently stealing OUR birth children.

I am NOT comfortable phrasing it that way IN THE LEAST. I try to avoid talking about race in ways that give it any kind of validity.  Tribal governments and the BIA, although claiming to the contrary, are the ones making “race” an issue.

  • There is no gene in our DNA for “race” according to the Genome Project. All there is are genes from familial traits such as color of hair and shape of cheekbones, etc.  In fact, the Genome Project has traced all DNA back to one singular family.
  • Those ‘DNA tests’ for ‘race’ don’t actually test for race. They test for the genes that show up primarily within a people group – in actuality a “family” gene – and the location of that people group is mapped.  The assumption is then made that this is a “racial marker.”
  • There is NO inherent gene in persons of Native American descent that will cause them to have “Split Feather” if not raised within Indian Country. “Specialists” in “Split Feather” simply blame any mental health issue that comes up on this fictitious malady.  The “studies” on “Split Feather” have serious flaws – i.e: taking a small sample of children, some of whom have alcohol related birth defects, who had been abused and neglected by birth parents and then placed in Caucasian foster homes – and blaming ALL later emotional difficulties on the fact that they were in Caucasian homes without any real regard for the precipitating issues.
  • My husband and I did not make race an issue in our multi-heritage home. Although we recognized the treasure in all heritages, we chose to make Jesus the bigger and better focus.

Those who accuse us of genocide for demanding that tribal government keep their hands off our kids need to get something straight.  They are free to raise their children in the manner they see best. They are NOT free to raise MY children in the manner they see best – nor are they free to do so with the thousands of families across the United States who feel the same way that we do.

Targeting other people’s kids to bolster membership rolls might be easier than doing the work necessary to keep one’s own children within the reservation community – but that isn’t something we are standing for anymore.

Reality Check: 75% of tribal members, according to the last two U.S. Census’, do NOT live in Indian Country. Some continue to value the reservation system and culture, but by the admission of tribal leaders who bemoan the loss of tradition – MOST do not.  Individual tribal members are making private and personal choices. To continue blaming it on “white” people is disingenuous.

Our boysPersonal experience: While taking Ojibwe language classes for a year to learn more about my husband’s culture – I attempted to encourage our household to speak it more.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  My husband who spoke it fluently from birth, wasn’t interested in having the kids learn it. His teenage nephews, who I was raising at the time, weren’t the least bit interested in learning it. And you know what? THAT was their choice! My husband was a man – my nephews were free individuals. No one has a right to force them to conform to what tribal government thinks is best.

If people are leaving Indian Country and turning their backs on culture and the reservation system – that is something Tribal governments are going to have to look inward to resolve.

Reality Check: Tribal members are individuals with their own hearts and minds – not robots ready to be programmed by the dogma spewed in “Indian Country Today.”  Further, they are U.S. Citizens – and many, despite the rhetoric of a few – value being U.S. citizens.

If people are turning their back on traditional Indian culture and embracing American culture — that’s no different than what happens with any heritage in close proximity to other heritages. It’s been a reality to civilizations forever. China tried to prevent it for centuries.  North Korea is trying it today.  But to keep things forever the same – a government has to suppress the rights of the populace – many times with cruelty.  However, no dictatorship has been able to keep it up forever.

Those yelling and screaming about it being the fault of “white” people who adopted babies and the fault of boarding schools from 50 years ago and the fault of everyone else – need to wake up. Free-thinking individuals have been taking their kids and leaving the reservation system in droves for decades. It is no one’s fault. It is life.  It’s probably even the REAL reason ICWA was enacted. (Blaming the exodus on “White” adoptive homes just sounded better – there was more of a hook in it than “our people are simply taking their kids and leaving.”)

Reality Check: Stealing babies won’t solve the problem because many of them will grow up and leave as well.

Extending membership criteria to match that of the Cherokee Nation – as 60 tribal governments are currently considering doing  – won’t solve the problem either. It is only going to further open the eyes of the rest of America, and further anger those of us who do not want oppressive and predatory tribal govt touching our children, grandchildren, or great-great grandchildren.

Tribal leaders can NOT force other families to submit to their value system. That is why ICWA is totally unconstitutional. They are attempting to force many people of heritage to preserve something they have personally decided isn’t of value to them.

Now – I realize that tribal governments will turn that statement around and make it about ME – claiming I am out destroy tribal culture and commit Genocide and again totally ignore the fact that tribal members themselves are fleeing Indian Country.

Nope.  I said you can’t force tribal members who are not interested in preserving the culture to submit to the demands of the few who DO want to preserve it. You are forcing your values down the throats of people who have decided to live differently and have chosen to raise their children differently.

Example. I have a niece that is 50% Native American, 50% African American, who has decided to be Muslim and raise her children Muslim.

That isn’t me doing it.  She knows her Uncle wanted her to know Jesus.  That is an individual making her own decision – no matter how her uncle would feel about it – or how tribal Government feels about it.

 

3.       Some people are surprised that your husband, who was Native American, spoke out about his displeasure with the Act. Why was that?

Just why would a family decide that reservation life is not what they choose for their family? The reasons are many.

Sweet Girl Don't DieWhat cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result – and the Indian Child Welfare Act is trapping more and more children into this unacceptable system.

While many tribal governments continue to fund congressional candidates who promise to increase tribal sovereignty, the voices of the children who are at the mercy of corrupt government continue to go unheard.  The truth is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.”  Instead, they are gathering children where they can because federal funding allocations are based on the U.S. census and tribal rolls.

Our book, Dying in Indian Country, tells exactly why Roland felt the way he did about ICWA and about tribal sovereignty in general.  It provides a real glimpse into some of the unacceptable conditions his family has lived in – and I am not referring to poverty.  We have been very comfortable with poverty.  Living low income isn’t a bad thing.  But violence, child abuse and child neglect is.  ‘Dying in Indian Country’ tells the story of our family – which after years of alcoholism and pain, comes to realize that corrupt tribal government, dishonest Federal Indian Policy, welfare policy, and the controlling reservation system has more to do with the current despair than the tragedies that occurred 150 years ago.

 “Dying in Indian Country is a compassionate and honest portrayal… I highly recommend it to you.” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000, Baptist Pastor, Father of four Native and Métis children

“He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…I can think of no one at this time, in this dark period of Indian history, who is able to speak as Roland has.”  Arlene,Tribal Member

“…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, -Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

 

4.       Can you give some examples of how ICWA has, in your opinion, caused problems for individuals or families?

 – This 3-year-old was beaten to death in June, three months ago, after having been taken screaming from the safe, loving home she had been in Bismarck –

https://caicw.org/2013/06/21/a-child-dies-and-dozens-more-remain-in-abusive-homes-ignored-by-the-bia/

Washiington DC, February 2013

Washiington DC, February 2013

 

– Sierra came with us to DC in February, 2013 and told her story to Congressional offices – how she was taken from the only home she loved (albeit Caucasian) and placed with an uncle who she was forced to sleep with at the age of 10.  She begged to be allowed to go “home” to the people who wanted to adopt her.  They would not let her go – until she was 16 and they cut her down from a rope when she tried to hang herself.

http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y

 – A birth mom stands up for herself:

http://www.xojane.com/issues/my-uterus-will-not-be-used-to-fill-your-tribal-rolls-i-fought-the-icwa-and-won?utm_medium=facebook

 – An official report from Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the ACF, Denver office, concerning the abuse at Spirit Lake.  There is a link to his 12th report as well.

https://caicw.org/2013/04/05/13th-mandated-report-re-spirit-lake-child-abuse/

Jose Rodrigues 2005

Removed from Hispanic grandparents home due to ICWA, he was beaten at maternal grandmothers home for speaking Spanish.

 – This family wrote to us recently and asked me to post their story  –

https://caicw.org/2013/09/08/like-veronica-this-child-is-hurt-by-icwa/

 – Rebuttal to the NPR series:

https://caicw.org/2011/11/21/rebuttal-to-nprs-icwa-series-from-the-mother-of-enrolled-children/

 – Other evidence of harm:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/us/focus-on-heritage-hinders-foster-care-for-indians.html?_r=2&

 – Two years ago – I had the letters from various families arranged much better on our website. Some people decided to help me with it and it’s not quite as I like it anymore… I still have to find time to arrange it my way again…  But this is a link to many stories…    https://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/

There are many, many more.  I think its’ been a good two years since I have been able to put newer letters up.

 

5.        How has the Baby Veronica case shed light on ICWA?

Some wonder why Capobianco supporters don’t side with a father whose child is being taken from him. Some have even questioned the authenticity of Christians who would support the Capobiancos. (Forgetting that even Jesus was raised by an adoptive father.)

One must understand that many Capobianco supporters have been there since the day they first saw, either in person or on video, the horror of not only having one’s child taken, but –

1) taken without the benefit of a caring transition, and –

2) taken solely due to 1% heritage, (as the father’s admitted abandonment of the child would have prevailed otherwise.)

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Just 1.12% heritage. 

Since then, the Cherokee Nation has put on a show, shaking signs that claim “genocide” and claiming that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.

1.12% heritage.

If a C supporter brings up the 1% heritage, their statement is twisted and they are accused of racism – despite that it was the Cherokee Nation that brought the 1% into issue.

1.12% heritage.

As much as the Cherokee Nation, ‘Indian Country Today’, NICWA, NARF, and others want to spin it as a “citizen” issue – it is not spinning. Very few people – including many tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere – are falling for the “citizen” claim – especially when “citizenship” is being forced on children.

At 1.12% heritage.

Ardent supporters of the Cherokee Nation, either purposefully spinning for PR or snowed by their own rhetoric, fail to see how disgusted many others are by the claim that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.. Many Americans can see that claim for the dishonesty it is – but few have wanted to speak it. While it is okay for a tribal entity to speak in terms of race and percentages, it is deemed “racist” for anyone else to. But I will say what is on the hearts of many. This was no Indian Child being stolen by “White” people.

It was a Caucasian/Hispanic child, stolen by a tribe.

That is the bottom line.

As the Cherokee Nation continues to encourage and assist Mr. Brown in defying state and federal law, it is an overtly obvious fact. And that is why the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments in general aren’t getting the traction on their genocide spin (outside of  ‘Indian Country Today’) that they somehow thought they would.

When you are talking about OUR children – which this child was – NOT an Indian child – you should expect hostility when trying to claim that child as the Tribe’s.

BIA - DCAND if 60 more tribal governments attempt to lower their membership criteria – as 60 are talking about doing – to CN levels and begin to target children of minute heritage – as the Cherokee Tribe has – they should not expect to get sympathy. They should expect a strong push back.

They should expect push back because now, due to the Veronica horror – a whole lot of Americans who would have otherwise remained oblivious to the issue, have woken up to what is happening and are outraged by the ICWA stories they are hearing. Many now want ICWA to be repealed.

Americans’ are not buying the rhetoric that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over children of 1% heritage. It is hard enough to justify ICWA jurisdiction over a child who is 25% tribal heritage – as the child is still 75% another heritage. Even children of a parent who is 100% – such as my own – have a right to be free from tribal government jurisdiction. Even individuals of 100% heritage have a right to be free of tribal government interference in their lives and families – if that is what they choose.

So do we feel angry? Yup.

Is there a Christian purpose and righteousness in that anger? Absolutely.

– “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

Having raised nine tribal members, five of whom are my birth children, and seen much tragedy, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and other horrors on more than a few reservations – and having an advisory board and membership of parents who have raised, adopted and witnessed the same – we know far too much about tribal governments seeking children for the federal dollars, then showing little or no interest in what happens to them once they have been “retrieved” for the tribe and placed with a member. We won’t be bullied or intimidated.

We have known of far too many kids abused in ICWA homes, and some even murdered.

(Don’t even try to argue that point with me; I had been an ICWA approved home myself for 17 years. I know how little the tribal social services paid attention.)

So, concerning this particular case, in summary – for those who are flabbergasted that we would not be supporting the father – understand this: from the get-go,

1) Mr. Brown has been seen as an extremely selfish man.

2) The Cherokee Nation has been seen as an extremely selfish organization – using this child as a political pawn.

What appalls us is that not only were Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation willing to hurt this child deeply the first time a transfer took place – by taking her without any concern for her need of a transition – but even worse, Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation are now willing to do it to her a 2nd time.

How in the world are we expected to sympathize with people who do that?

https://caicw.org/2013/09/01/taking-veronica-from-a-loving-father/

 

6.      Anything else you’d like to add?

Mr. James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,urges “relevant authorities” to maintain Veronica’s “cultural identity” and “maintain relations with her indigenous family and people.” The fact is that Veronica’s family is primarily of European descent and that is therefore much more of her “cultural identity” then her 1% Cherokee ancestry.

Veronica Capobianco's RightsIf Mr. Anaya  really cared about Veronica’s rights – he would advocate for her right to be an individual with freedom to choose her own identity. But he doesn’t honestly care about Veronica’s rights. He cares only for tribal sovereignty and the “right” of government to subjugate people.

In a press release, Mr Anaya stated,

“Veronica’s human rights as a child and as member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Mr. Anaya stressed. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.”

Never mind the “individual and collective rights of all United States citizens.” Never mind the children’s families and equally important heritage.

This is racism at its worst – regardless of the spin about it being about citizenship and political affiliation. Those are just fluff terms to gloss over the racial discrimination evident every time a supporter of tribal sovereignty states that “White people” are stealing tribal children, or that “White people” are guilty of genocide every time they adopt.

The claim that “White people” can’t possibly raise a “Native American Child” is especially offensive – in that most enrollable children are multi-heritage, primarily Caucasian.

Wake up people – hundreds of thousands of “Native American Children” have been and are currently being raised successfully by their own “White” birth parents.

If I can successfully raise my own birth children – so can my sister and my best friend.

You are absolutely right that this is about politics, not “race,” Mr. Arayo. If I had to choose between a friend (no matter the heritage) and someone with your political bias to adopt and raise my children – you lose.

We are not interested in honoring the racial prejudice of the Indian Industry supporters. A stranger from my conservative Church community (no matter the heritage) is preferable to a stranger beholden to Tribal government.

Keep politically biased, predatory, self-serving and profiting hands off of our kids. Period.

 

 

LASTLY – re: All the belly-aching about how “Un-Christian” we are being:

If certain groups want to believe it is “Un- Christian” to side with individuals, families, and human rights over horrific Government oppression – than so be it. I am tired of hearing the accusation that we aren’t being “real” Christians.

  1. Are they suggesting that Jesus threw money-changers out of the temple and called Pharisees “Dogs” because he was timid and didn’t want to offend anyone?
  2. Or that he was hung from the cross because everyone loved hearing what he had to say?

No, actually, this is what being Christian is about:

Ps. 82:3-4 (Psalmist to the kings) ”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Prov. 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Isa. 1:17 “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow.”

Isa. 10:1-3 (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites) ”Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ Declares the Lord, ‘but your eyes are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”

Jn. 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world., That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Matt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Col. 3:24 “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

My husband and I prayed for years about what we were saying and doing and long ago came to the solid conclusion that it was the right thing to do before God. This org can’t be bullied about it now.  We are past it.

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico, June 2003

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

 

Sep 092013
 
Sweet Girl Don't Die

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

We are told time and again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)  isn’t about race or percentages, but about preserving a dying culture.

There is much benefit in enjoying ones heritage and culture.

Everyone of us has a historical heritage. Some hold great value to it and want to live the traditional culture (to a certain extent. Few try to REALLY live traditional), others only want to dabble for fun – but others aren’t interested at all.

My children have the option of enjoying Ojibwe traditional, German Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Scottish Protestant heritage. We told them as they were growing up that each one of their heritages are interesting and valuable. (While at the same time making it clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.)

Most of us whose families have been in America for more than a couple generations are multi-heritage. Even most tribal members are multi-heritage. All individuals have a right to choose which heritage they want to identify with. If one of my children were to choose to identify with his or her Irish heritage, it would be racist for anyone – even a Congressman – to say that their tribal heritage was more important.

There are times to speak softly, and other times when people and situations need to be firmly set right.  This is a time for firmness. For those who think I don’t have a right to speak because I am not “native,” think again.  As long as you are claiming multi-heritage children, I have a right to and WILL speak.

Reality Check: It is up to families and their ethnic communities to preserve traditional culture amongst themselves if they value it. That is the same no matter what heritage is the question.  Many groups do this by living or working in close proximity – such as in Chinatown, or Dearborn, Michigan – or even ethnic neighborhoods within a large town. It is a very normal thing for humans to do.

But no other community has asked the federal government to enforce cultural compliance to that community.  The federal government has NO right to be forcing a heritage or culture onto an individual or family.  Contrary to what Congress assumed, my children are NOT the tribal government’s children – nor are they “commerce” under the “Commerce Clause” the ICWA was based on.

To those who constantly parrot that “white people” are “stealing” THEIR children, Wrong:  TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS are currently stealing OUR birth children.

To those who are accusing us of genocide for demanding that tribal government keep their hands off our kids – get something straight, you are free to raise your children in the manner you see best. You are NOT free to raise MY children in the manner you see best.

Targeting other people’s kids to bolster membership rolls might be easier than doing the work necessary to keep your own children within the reservation community – but that isn’t something we are standing for anymore.

Reality Check: 75% of tribal members, according to the last two U.S. Census’, do NOT live in Indian Country. Some continue to value the reservation system and culture, but by your own admission – with your own statistics, such as losing 4 Indian languages a year – that is individual tribal members choosing NOT to speak the language. To continue blaming it on “white” people is disingenuous.

How can that I say that?  While taking Ojibwe language classes for a year to learn more about my husband’s culture – I attempted to encourage our household to speak it more.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  My husband who spoke it fluently from birth, wasn’t interested in sharing it. His teenage nephews, who I was raising at the time, weren’t the least bit interested in learning it. And you know what? THAT was their choice! My husband was a man – my nephews were free individuals. No one has a right to force them to conform to what tribal government thinks is best.

If people are leaving Indian Country and turning their backs on culture and the reservation system – that is something YOU are going to have to look inward to resolve.

Reality Check: Tribal members are individuals with their own hearts and minds – not robots ready to be programmed by the dogma spewed in “Indian Country Today.”  Further, they are U.S. Citizens – and many, despite the rhetoric of a few – value being U.S. citizens.

If people are turning their back on traditional Indian culture and embracing American culture — that’s life.  (Go ahead and screen shot that and share it with your friends. They need to wake up to reality as well.)

Those yelling and screaming about it being the fault of “white” people who adopted babies and the fault of boarding schools from 50 years ago and the fault of everyone else – need to wake up. Free-thinking individuals have been taking their kids and leaving the reservation system in droves for decades. It is no one’s fault. It is life.  It’s probably even the REAL reason ICWA was enacted. (blaming the exodus on White adoptive homes just sounded better – there was more of a hook in it than “our people are simply taking their kids and leaving.”)

Reality Check: Stealing babies won’t solve the problem because many of them will grow up and leave as well.

Extending membership criteria to match that of the Cherokee Nation – as 60 tribal governments are currently considering doing  – won’t solve the problem either. It is only going to further open the eyes of the rest of America, and further anger those of us who do not want oppressive and predatory tribal govt touching our children, grandchildren, or great-great grandchildren.

You can NOT force other families to submit to your value system. That is why ICWA is totally unconstitutional. You are attempting to force many people of heritage to preserve something they have personally decided isn’t of value to them.

Now – I realize that you are going to turn that statement around and make it about ME – claiming I am out destroy tribal culture and commit Genocide and again totally ignore the fact that tribal members themselves are fleeing Indian Country.

Please note what I factually said. I said you can’t force tribal members who are not interested in preserving the culture to submit to the demands of the few who DO want to preserve it. You are forcing your values down the throats of people who have decided to live differently and have chosen to raise their children differently.

Example. I have a niece that is 50% Native American, 50% African American, who has decided to be Muslim and raise her children Muslim.

That isn’t me doing it.  She knows her Uncle wanted her to know Jesus.  That is an individual making her own decision – no matter how her uncle would feel about it – or how tribal Government feels about it.

 

If you want to believe it is “Un- Christian” to side with individuals, families, and human rights over horrific Government oppression – than so be it. I am tired of hearing the accusation that we aren’t being “real” Christians.

Are you suggesting that Jesus threw money-changers out of the temple and called Pharisees “Dogs” because he was timid and didn’t want to offend anyone?

Or that he was hung from the cross because everyone loved hearing what he had to say?

 

No, actually, this is what being Christian is about:

Ps. 82:3-4 (Psalmist to the kings) ”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Prov. 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Isa. 1:17 “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow.”

Isa. 10:1-3 (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites) ”Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ Declares the Lord, ‘but your eyes are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”

Jn. 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world., That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Matt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Col. 3:24 “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

 

My husband and I prayed for years about what we were saying and doing and long ago came to the solid conclusion that it was the right thing to do before God. This org can’t be bullied about it now.  We are past it.

 

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

 

 

Sep 082013
 
Sunset on the Rez

 In response to Lisa’s Open Letter

by Anonymous – received Sat 9/7/2013 10:44 PM

Jeremiah 1In the Woods by the Lake

New International Version (NIV)

The Call of Jeremiah

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“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.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

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. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

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.

 

A CAICW logo from Veronica

Rep. Kevin Cramer: Gentleman, Hero

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Apr 042013
 

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer

When an elected official shows not only class and dignity, but a sincere desire to uphold Constitutional rights, some of us tend to feel a little shocked.

Below is the apology delivered by Representative Kevin Cramer following a disagreement at a meeting of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women in late March.

First – from what I understand of what happened, he did not need to apologize. He was standing up for me, my daughters, my granddaughter.  He was standing up for Due Process and our Constitutional rights.  This is exactly what I want him to do.  But he did apologize, even though he didn’t need to, and for that, I think he has class.

———————————————————————-

“I recently met with members of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women Services regarding the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization, and my passion concerning some of the problems I fear may exist with this legislation. Critics of this Act have expressed due process concerns in regard to some of its provisions.  I therefore voted in favor of an amendment designed to address this potential harm.

Unfortunately, my efforts were not supported by my Congressional colleagues.

Because VAWA protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by streamlining grants, improving investigation, prosecution and victim services, as well as enhancing penalties against offenders, I voted in favor of this legislation. I am quite open about my passion regarding helping those within our society that are exposed to violence. I believe my Congressional floor speech concerning VAWA, in particular, demonstrates my personal connection to this issue, as well as my apprehension in regard to the legislation I helped pass.

Certain statements I recently made regarding my frustrations with VAWA are under scrutiny.  This is deserved as, in hindsight, my tone and rhetoric was better suited for active debate in Congress (or a floor speech) rather than my true intention; requesting guidance from the peers of this important issue. I apologize.

My intent was not to disparage anyone. I want to end violence. I truly appreciate Ms. Merrick’s statements, specifically relating to this issue, because it is a pointed reminder of what I love most about my country; equal protection, balance of power, due process. And, most importantly, unfettered free speech, which is ot only unopposed in its ability to humble its leaders, but its capacity towards inspiring debate.

But, I want to make clear that successful court challenges to all, or parts, of this legislation are always adjudged by our Constitution, notwithstanding the best intentions of its proponents. Overturned convictions will revictimise the very people we are trying to protect. I am encouraged by the considerable energy available to fix the serious, societal problem of violence (against all victims).

It is my hope that improving lives is always our upmost focus.

Since VAWA 2013 is only the beginning, I look forward to working with all stakeholders to improve it“.

______________________________________________

What was most uplifting for me was that Rep. Cramer understands the harm caused by the recently passed version of the Violence Against Women Act, forcing women into tribal court whether they want to be there or not.   Well… actually, the law forces women to choose between asking for justice in front of potentially corrupt tribal courts – or keeping ones mouth closed and not seeking justice at all.

Representative Cramer not only gets it, but it matters to him.  He wants to improve it.

Thank you, Representative Cramer.  We are here to help you do that, anyway that we can.  You are my hero.

 

 

BIA & Tribal Entities Attempt Exemption from Sequester

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Mar 262013
 

Mom and BabyRecently, tribal entities have claimed a need to exempt tribal and BIA funding from the sequester budget cuts that were to be across the board.

Amber Ebarb, analyst for the National Congress of American Indians, stated in a news report, (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/16/tribes-plan-for-worst-with-looming-budget-cuts/)

“While food distribution, welfare programs and health care services that serve the needy are exempt from the cuts, similar services on reservations aren’t,”  she said. “…it’s outrageous that tribes are subject to these across-the-board cuts.”

According to the report, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) are urging colleagues to spare Indian Country from the budget cuts. Clara Pratte, director of the Navajo Nation’s D.C. office, said tribal leaders should press Congress to make funding for Indian programs mandatory, not discretionary. “I’m talking about grandmas, grandpas, kids under the age of 10. We can’t very well expect them to go to work.”

Elizabeth Sharon Morris, Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, disagrees that funding should be mandatory or that most of it goes to the elderly and children.

“With the varied reports across the nation of corruption and abuse within tribal government, (example – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kind-hearted-woman/ ) – to continue the charade that taxpayer money is unquestionably well managed and appropriately used to serve the needy within Indian Country is unconscionable. Instead of the BIA attempting to “make it hurt” in order to keep outlandish budgets, let’s ensure that all elderly and children from across the nation, no matter their heritage or location, are the number one priority and are well cared fo, while instead, cutting out the real waste and corruption that we know exists within bureaucratic budgets.”

Money used under questionable circumstances is illustrated in part in the accounts of tribal leaders of the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. Many charges on the card statements (http://freepdfhosting.com/d0394560b2.pdf, & http://freepdfhosting.com/5738f18be4.pdf ) are local charges – not traveling charges.

Gang activity is also rampant in Indian Country, http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/verdict-reached-minnesota-indian-gang-trial-18765999#.UVDMJ1fxlGo – yet Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. states that he will cut the police force rather than unnecessary expenditures – or swollen salaries of tribal leadership. If this is the conventional stewardship of federal funds, there is no doubt there needs to be cuts:

Further, the BIA, like many federal programs, is a bloated institution with questionable purpose in an age when we prefer to recognize and respect functional adults for their capability to make their own life decisions. Cutting some of the funding to it is in America’s best interest.

Wake Up & Read It! VAWA Protects Tribal Government rights, NOT women!

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Feb 282013
 

.

On February 12, 2013, a horrid violence against women was committed when Mother holding babythe ‘Violence against Women Act’ was passed by the U.S. Senate by a 78-22 vote with all amendments intact.  Women across the nation were thrown under a bus.

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. House repeated the violence with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats to pass the bill 286-138. God only knows if this callous assault on women can be stopped. The measure now heads to Obama’s desk.

Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”

Does no one actually read these things? We are discussing women and young girls who have been vulnerable and already victimized – being forced into further victimization.  Where is the language in the VAWA that tribal government can only have jurisdiction under informed consent and absent objection of the victim?

If there is none, is this Act protecting the rights of women, or the rights of tribal government?

I asked this question to both Ms. Tracee Sutton and Ms. Gail Hand from Senator Hetkamp’s office. Both were silent in response.

I understand that most of our Congressmen on the Hill have never been in the situation of being a victim within Indian Country. I understand that they might not be aware the ramifications these amendments will have on tribal and non-tribal women.  Reading the recent report by Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan, Administration of Children and Families in Denver of the severe corruption and abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation might shed some light on the problem. If even a portion of what he is saying is true, our Congress has no right for mandating tribal jurisdiction over U.S. citizens.

Never assume that simply because a woman is of tribal heritage, she wants her case to be heard in tribal court. A person does not know the meaning of “Good ol’ Boy’s Club” until one has dealt with some of the tribal courts.  On top of this, our government has given all tribal courts full faith and credit, meaning once the case is ruled on in tribal court, the victim can’t go to the county or state for justice.

And while many enrolled women will be upset when told their options have been limited, please realize that multi-racial marriages and relationships are very, very common in Indian Country and non-member women are no small number in domestic violence cases within reservation boundaries.

Further, it is interesting that in the language in section 4(A) below, describing under what conditions in which there would be an exception to tribal jurisdiction, the defendant is addressed more than the victim. It doesn’t matter what heritage the woman is – that isn’t the deciding factor for tribal jurisdiction. The language below addresses the perp’s relationship to Indian Country as the deciding factor.

In fact, under this section, ‘victim’ is defined and limited to only women who have obtained a protective order.  In other words, women who DON’T have a protective order would NOT be considered victims under the exception section, and thus, no matter what, are subject to tribal jurisdiction.

FURTHER – the words, “in the Indian country of the participating tribe” are used over and over. Do you know what this means? I will tell you what it doesn’t mean. It DOESN’T mean inside reservation boundaries.  But I can’t tell you what it DOES mean as far as how many miles outside the boundaries it extends – because, apparently, that is up the tribal government and BIA.

Yes, friends.  A woman, off the reservation, who is assaulted by a person whom she might not even be aware is a tribal member (we talked about multi-heritage relationships, right?) might find herself fighting for justice in a tribal court.

… But trying to read the legalese in section 4, I have to ask, if both the victim and perp are non-Indians, but the victim doesn’t have a protective order…? (Who writes this stuff?)

It appears that the language has been written to protect the defendants, specifically enrolled men, from state and federal jurisdiction.  They might come down hard on a non-member, but given the track history of many tribal courts – do not doubt that this bill will end up protecting certain men and further victimizing many women.

This type of language throws women of all heritages under the bus.  Not only could enrolled women be forced into a court predominantly run by her ex’s relatives, but non-tribal women, viewed as outsiders no matter how long they have lived in ‘Indian Country’, could be forced to share their horrific story and plea for justice in a room full of potentially hostile relatives and friends of the defendant.

How many women will simply suffer in silence rather than attempt to be heard in tribal court?  How do laws like this seriously protect an already victimized woman?  What can be done to ensure that victims know they have the option to refuse tribal jurisdiction and seek justice elsewhere?

Further – could you please tell me in what manner women who would be affected by these amendments were consulted?  During the discussion of these amendments, what non-tribal entity or organization represented and advocated for needs of women who live within Indian Country?

 

PLEASE URGE PRESIDENT OBAMA NOT TO SIGN THIS HORRIBLE VERSION OF THE VAWA!

 

`SEC. 204. TRIBAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

`(4) EXCEPTIONS-

`(A) VICTIM AND DEFENDANT ARE BOTH NON-INDIANS-

`(i) IN GENERAL- A participating tribe may not exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over an alleged offense if neither the defendant nor the alleged victim is an Indian.

`(ii) DEFINITION OF VICTIM- In this subparagraph and with respect to a criminal proceeding in which a participating tribe exercises special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction based on a violation of a protection order, the term `victim’ means a person specifically protected by a protection order that the defendant allegedly violated.

`(B) DEFENDANT LACKS TIES TO THE INDIAN TRIBE- A participating tribe may exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant only if the defendant–

`(i) resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe;

`(ii) is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or

`(iii) is a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of–

`(I) a member of the participating tribe; or

`(II) an Indian who resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe.
Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Author

Dying in Indian Country
PO Box 253
Hillsboro, ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW   ( @CAICW )
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org

 

Washington D.C. Feb 4-8, 2013: Lawmakers—The Good, The Bad and What Can You Do Next

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Feb 102013
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

The dust is just beginning to settle from our most recent trip to Washington, D.C., Feb 4-8, 2013, where we spent five days visiting lawmakers to talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it infringes on the rights of children and parents across our nation. Five CAICW members, all of whom have been affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), joined me to share their stories and to advocate for positive changes to this law.

Our group met up in Washington on February 4 eagerly prepared to attend the 20 or more appointments that I had arranged prior to our departures. During the week we also managed to squeeze in a number of drop-in visits. As expected, our message was met with a range of responses.

We want to thank all of the lawmakers and their staffs for taking time to listen to our message. We met with at least 55 offices—35 Representatives and 20 Senators. We had meetings with the staff of 9 of the 14 members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and with staff of the two ranking leaders of the House Indian Affairs and the Senate Indian Affairs committees, as well as 3 of the 4 co-chairs of the adoption caucus. For those of you interested, a complete list of offices we visited and their general reaction to our positions can be provided in a chart by request.

What We Shared

In connection to the necessary changes to the ICWA, we talked about several serious matters that impact families and children in Indian Country. We brought attention to the recent BIA takeover of children’s services on the Spirit Lake Reservation after the murder of 2 children exposed serious deficiencies in the tribal child welfare system and rampant child abuse. We pointed out that these problems are not isolated to this reservation, and that like Spirit Lake, many tribal governments and agencies are totally unequipped to handle these problems. We also brought attention to the Native Mob gang and the current trial taking place, as well as other organized gangs that are active on reservations in five states. Gang activity has rapidly increased over the past decade and it has a direct impact on all tribal members, but mostly on the young people who seek out gangs as a replacement for the families they do not have. Gangs are now well organized crime operations that are responsible for much of the violence, drug trafficking and use, gun running, and sexual recruitment of children and women.

We also discussed the serious implications of the Violence Against Women Act. While many only understand the impact of the ICWA on adoption cases in this country, more and more people are beginning to understand that the ICWA also contributes to much larger and much more serious problems affecting Indian Country.

Trapping more and more children and families in the dangerous confines of reservation life is doing nothing to serve the best interest or welfare of the children, their families or to preserve traditional culture. It is vital that we all come together and talk as a community.

As in the past, we started our presentations by sharing stories of families that have been hurt by the ICWA. We pointed out that even parents of 100% tribal heritage have the right to determine where their children should be placed as long as the home is safe—and heritage is simply a data point, not a definition of who you are. An increasing number of individuals and families of tribal heritage are voicing reluctance to live within reservation boundaries. Many are opposed to overreaching laws, which interfere with private family affairs, such as the ICWA and other laws being written into new tribal constitutions. The ICWA and the Native Nation Building Movement, which encourage and promote individual tribal constitutions over the U.S. constitution, interfere with basic U.S. Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens who also happen to have tribal heritage.

We stressed to lawmakers that the ICWA works more to promote the tribe then the best interests of children. We urged everyone we visited with to take up these discussions and to work to seek positive reforms to protect and strengthen families across the nation.

Sierra Shares Lessons on Indian Adoption

The Campbell family, Carol, Gene and Sierra bravely shared their heartbreaking and dramatic story. Sierra and her adopted parents openly spoke about how Sierra was abused and used sexually as a child. Sierra recounted how she was first given to a man at the age of ten and how her younger sister was used in the same manner. Sierra explained how she attempted to run away over a dozen times and begged to be returned to the only family she ever felt safe with and knew she was loved—the Campbells. She told how while in a tribal foster home she was ultimately cut down from a rope she used in attempt to hang herself.

Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune recounts Sierra’s dramatic story and covers her family’s recent trip to Washington to advocate for changes to the ICWA in an article that can be read at: http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y

Steps You Can Take to Bring Positive Change to Indian Country

Contact your representatives in the Congress and Senate and encourage them to take action in regards to amending the ICWA and bringing serious changes to Federal Indian Policy. It is especially important to contact lawmakers who serve on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

  • URGENT: Contact your senators and ask them to contact Paul Wolf in Senator Cantwell’s office to request that the ICWA be placed on Senator Cantwell’s agenda for this session. The agenda is being prepared and set NOW. If the ICWA is not put on her agenda for this session it will not come up for discussion this year nor probably next.
  • Urge your senator to contact Paul Wolf in Senator Cantwell’s office to press for hearings on the Spirit Lake Reservation and other reservations where child abuse and child sexual abuse is rampant.
  • Inform your neighbors, friends and families of the importance of bringing POSITIVE CHANGE to Indian Country. Many U.S. citizens have no idea how the ICWA, the Violence Against Women Act and issues of tribal sovereignty impact all of us as U.S. citizens.
  • Continue to pray for everyone negatively affected, intentionally or non-intentionally by the ICWA, Violence Against Women Act and Federal Tribal Policy. Especially pray for the children who have no voice or representation in their own well being. And please pray for us as we work to bring these issues forward.

 

Dec 312012
 

From Tragedies – to Transformation…

Just why would a family decide that reservation life is not what they choose for their family? The reasons are many, but some of the reasons are shocking.

Dying in Indian Country is one family’s story of  hope.

What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result – and the Indian Child Welfare Act is trapping more and more children into this unacceptable system.

While many tribal governments continue to fund congressional candidates who promise to increase tribal sovereignty, the voices of the children who are at the mercy of corrupt government continue to go unheard.  The truth is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.”  Instead, they are gathering children where they can because federal funding allocations are based on the U.S. census and tribal rolls.

An amazing transformational story, Dying in Indian Country, by Elizabeth Sharon Morris, provides a real glimpse into some of these unacceptable conditions. Dying in Indian Country tells a compelling true story of one family who after years of alcoholism and pain, comes to realize that corrupt tribal government, dishonest Federal Indian Policy, welfare policy, and the controlling reservation system has more to do with the current despair than the tragedies that occurred 150 years ago  –  then tells how, by the Grace of God, they came out of it.

 

A true story of pain, hope, and transformation –

“Dying in Indian Country is a compassionate and honest portrayal… I highly recommend it to you.” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000, Baptist Pastor, Father of four Native and Métis children

“He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…I can think of no one at this time, in this dark period of Indian history, who is able to speak as Roland has.”  Arlene,Tribal Member

“…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, -Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

Dying in Indian Country is available at:   http://dyinginindiancountry.com

 

 

New Book: Dying in Indian Country – An Amazing Family Story

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Jul 022012
 

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Dying In Indian Country - by Beth Ward

This is the true story of an American tribal member who, after coming to know Jesus Christ, realized just how much policies within tribal and federal government were hurting his extended family.

Roland grew up watching members of his family die of alcoholism, child abuse, suicide, and violence on the reservation. Like many others, he blamed all the problems on “white people.”

Beth Ward grew up in a middle class home in the suburbs. Raised in a politically left family, she also believed that all problems on the reservation originated with cruel treatment by settlers and the stealing of land. Meeting her husband, her first close experience with a tribal member, she stepped out of the comfort of suburban life into a whole new, frightening world.

After almost ten years of living with his alcoholism and the terrible dangers that came with it, they both came to realize that individual behavior and personal decisions were at the root of a man’s troubles, including their own. After coming face-to face with the reality of Jesus Christ, their eyes opened to the truth of why there is so much Dying in Indian Country.

What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violence. The reservation, a socialistic experiment at best, pushes people to depend on tribal and federal government rather than God, and to blame all of life’s ills on others. The results have been disastrous.

Roland realized that corrupt tribal government, dishonest federal Indian policy, and the controlling reservation system had more to do with the current pain and despair in his family and community than what had happened 150 years ago.

Here is the plain truth in the eyes of one family, in the hope that at least some of the dying in Indian Country — physical, emotional, and spiritual — may be recognized and prevented.

Unfortunately, persistent public misconceptions about Indian Country, misconceptions sometimes promoted by tribal government and others enjoying unaudited money and power, have worked to keep the situation just as it is.

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  • “Roland truly has encouraged many people…the last trip to D.C. was a testimony to God’s faithfulness.Rev. Robert Guthrie, B.Th. M.A. –Professor, Vanguard College, AB
  • “…he earned my deepest respect, and…made heroic and very honorable attempts to improve the lot of Native Americans in this country.” Jon Metropoulos, Attorney, Helena, MT
  • “‘Dying in Indian Country’ is a compassionate and honest portrayal…I highly recommend it to you!” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000; Baptist Pastor, father of four native and metis children
  • “I truly admire Roland for the message he was trying to have heard.” Ralph Heinert, Montana State Representative
  • “He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…. I can think of no-one at this time in this dark period of Indian history who is able to speak as Roland has.” Arlene, tribal member
  • “…hope emerging from despair… This is a story about an amazing life journey.” Darrel Smith. Writer, Rancher, South Dakota
  • “He’s a Christian now you know… I saw him crying on his knees on my living room floor. I was there.” Sharon, tribal member
  • “…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, – Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

Read More:

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Haley Hernandez Reports on the Veronica Petition – 20,000 Signatures

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Jan 262012
 


Reporter Haley Hernandez followed @Save_Veronica to Columbia today, look who they spoke with about the Indian Child Welfare Act … http://ping.fm/MWk43

Delivering the Petition with 20,000 signatures to South Carolina leaders –

By: Haley Hernandez | WCBD

On New Year’s Eve, Jessica Munday watched helplessly as her close friends, Matt and Melanie Capobianco were forced to hand over their adopted little girl, Veronica, to her birth father.

Now Munday and Stephanie Brinkley (a Charleston adoption attorney) are on a mission to “save Veronica.”

“Rather than sit on the sidelines and just say ‘how sad’, I wanted to say ‘how sad, what can I do?’” Binkley said.

Tuesday they went from one government office to another, starting in Charleston and driving up to the State House in Columbia, delivering a petition from supporters of the organization.

Kathy Crawford, the district director at Congressman Tim Scott’s office said it’s a shock that this could happen to a family, “a child could be taken away from the only mom and dad that they’ve ever known and you know, we hope that the courts will do the right thing.”

The organization delivered the petition to lawmakers with more than 20,000 signatures. In an unscheduled visit, Governor Haley spoke with Munday and Brinkley and empathized with the Capobiancos.

“If you have a child you know that’s just like the precious part of your life and so my heart breaks for them, I will be happy to take this,” Gov. Haley said taking the petition. “The federal delegation and I communicate about a lot of things, because it is a federal issue doesn’t mean I can’t at least say “what are y’all doing about this?” so I’ll be happy to ask the questions, be happy to see what’s going on if anything.”

“I’m thankful that she was so receptive to us being there and so compassionate about what’s happened,” Munday said after speaking with the governor.

“This is a matter that affects the people they represent, it represents a South Carolina couple and a South Carolina child and that child needs to be heard so it’s great that they are receptive that we’re trying to be a voice for Veronica when she can’t represent herself,” Brinkley said about lawmakers listening to their concerns.

SaveVeronica.org is still taking signatures for their petition. Lawmakers said they will try to get a copy to the Senate committee that will hear the case.

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My Question: When is the Senate Committee going to hear it? I doubt they have any plans to put it on their agenda – we will need to do lots of pushing to get it there – and lots more to get a fair hearing!

Someone on the ‘Save Veronica page’ asked what one would ask the President about ICWA if one had the chance. As a birth mother, I have had several questions. These are questions that my husband and I felt disturbed by ever since our children were small:

– “Mr. President, what part of the Constitution gave Congress the right to give jurisdiction over OUR children to another government when my husband chose to raise our children apart from that government, and I have had no part in that government?

– Why is it that if I should die, another government would have the right to take our children and place them in a home neither my husband nor I would approve of?

– Why is it that strangers within that government would have more right to raise my flesh and blood children than my flesh and blood brother or sister have?” –

The bottom line is – both my husband and I had always held that OUR Children were NOT the tribal government’s children – as the NICWA logo attests. They aren’t the federal government’s children, either.

My husband did not feel his reservation was a safe place to raise children and thus raised them elsewhere. Further, we are not alone. Many tribal members have left the reservations on purpose and taken their children with them. As U.S Citizens, we have a right to choose how and where we want our children raised. We had personally chosen the friends and family we would have liked to be guardians should the need arise.

The ICWA law is poorly thought out – stepping on the lives of U.S. Citizens in order to benefit tribal leaders, not children. Which is why it is continually misapplied and has been as hurtful as it has been to many children and families – and why there are so many parents writing to you on this page wondering why they aren’t getting help to keep their kids. They mistakenly believe that ICWA was actually meant to help them.

For those who are concerned that the Veronica case involves a birth father – let me clarify:

The adoption wasn’t finalized because the tribe had intervened, but M&M were ‘parenting’ Veronica from the moment she was born. They were at the birth. The bio-dad was not. Matt cut the umbilical cord – the bio-dad did not. Melanie stayed in a room at the hospital where she could parent/mother Veronica right away. The bio-dad did not. The bio-dad made no effort during the pregnancy or after birth to contact or support the mother, and made no real effort or request to see the little girl at any point in her life. She had never met him up until the evening she was handed over to him in the attorney’s office. The judge had allowed only ½ hour for Veronica to meet this man before he was free to take her. But it took two hours for the transfer to complete because she kept crying for M&M every time they tried to leave the room.

Matt and Melanie are the only parents she has ever known.

Had South Carolina law been applied to this case, the bio-dad would not have had any standing. By state law, he has essentially abandoned her and would not have had any parental rights. He had also signed a paper sometime after her birth giving up any claim to her. But after Veronica had been with M&M for four months, he changed his mind. And because he has a small percentage of Cherokee heritage, he was able to get the tribal attorney involved.

Veronica wasn’t the only one in tears. Matt & Melanie are emotionally devastated.

And this family isn’t a rare case. This actually happens quite often, especially when dealing with the Cherokee Nation; it’s just that for some unknown reason, this time it got attention. Read letters from more families – and how they were hurt by ICWA at https://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/ and watch the story of James on the CAICW YouTube Channel ~

This does not need to happen to another child. Please Call your Congressmen and tell them this has to stop.

Find information for contacting Congressmen at SaveVeronica.org

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Save Veronica Rose!

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Jan 122012
 

A terrible injustice that has occurred to a two-year-old South Carolina child named Veronica Rose and her adoptive parents. Two years ago Veronica’s Latina birth mother chose Matt and Melanie to love, nurture and raise her child. To this day, Veronica’s birth mother remains committed to her decision and Veronica has been a thriving, happy child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. On or around Jan. 4, 2010, the birth father signed papers agreeing to give up his daughter.

However, because Veronica has some Cherokee heritage from her birth father’s side of the family, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to her birth father. Because of a federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, a family court judge ruled that she be immediately transferred to her biological father.


Psychologist who witnessed Veronica’s transfer comments on the detrimental effects –
Click Baby Veronica to hear an audio of the interview

The ruling placed the rights of the birth father and tribe above the best interests of this small child. Child-bonding experts agree that removing her from her home and family would be devastating and have long-lasting consequences. Numerous child psychologists stated this would be detrimental to any child. Yet on Dec. 31, Veronica was handed over to her biological father as if a possession without rights.

We believe that children need protection and should not be removed from loving, nurturing environments. We understand the premise of this law is to protect children; however, in Veronica’s case it has been used inappropriately.

Former U.S. senator Jim Abourezk (SD) authored ICWA. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, after reviewing Veronica’s story, Abourezk called the interpretation in this case “something totally different than what we intended at the time.”

“That’s a tragedy,” he said. “They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume, the child was attached to them.”

According to the 2000 census, approximately 75% of people claiming to have American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry live outside the reservation. Further, interracial marriages are a fact of life. It is must be recognized that most children of heritage live off the reservation and have extended family that are non-tribal. Though supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it. Children who have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs are affected. The Cherokee Nation alone is currently tied up in about 1,100 active Indian Child Welfare cases involving some 1,500 children.

Tragically, under the Indian Child Welfare Act:

1) Some children have been removed from safe, loving homes and placed in danger
2) Equal opportunities for adoption, safety and stability are not always available to children of all heritages
3) The Constitutional right of parents to make life choices for their children, for children of Indian heritage to associate freely, and for children of Indian heritage to enjoy Equal Protection has in some cases been infringed upon.

We want more than anything for Veronica to be allowed to come home. As our elected representatives, we urge you to protect Veronica’s rights in all possible ways as well as make legislative changes that will prevent this from happening to any other child again. While we understand you are unable to interfere in court proceedings, we ask you to speak out on this issue and let your constituents know clearly where you stand. We also ask you to sponsor legislation and encourage fellow Congressmen to support the amending of the Indian Child Welfare Act to:

1. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
2. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
3. Recognize the “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
4. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.
• When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians will be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b)“…In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent…”
• Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

5. Include well defined protections for Adoptive Parents.
6. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well being of the child, first and foremost.
7. Mandate that only parents and/or legal custodians have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, we are asking that parents, as U.S. citizens, be given the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them.
• Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
• Remove the words “eligible for membership in” from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words “an enrolled member of”

Save Veronica Supporters Worldwide
www.saveveronica.org
www.facebook.com/saveveronicarose
www.twitter.com/save_veronica

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