Sunday, November 30, 2008

The ICWA has frequently been supported by One-Sided Testimony

The Montana Supreme Court noted in Skillen v. Skillen, No. 96-520, MT 43, (1998) that "after extensive hearings" Congress found the ICWA was necessary.

But what is meant by an "extensive" hearing? Most Americans would assume it means "far-reaching," "thorough," all-embracing," and "evenhanded."

However, the 1978 testimony was NOT fully representative of the people the Act affects.
  • Were representatives of enrolled parents or non-enrolled parents invited to speak?
  • Did anyone speak for non-enrolled parents?
  • Were tribal members that enjoy living within the dominant American culture invited to say so?
  • Were people that were happy with the non-tribal foster homes they were raised in represented?
  • Were parents notified that tribal lawyers, adoption agencies, and politicians were discussing a law affecting their rights and the best interests of their children?
  • If these people were not represented, was the 1978 testimony fully thorough?
In 1996, an aide to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) stated that parents and caregivers weren't invited to Senate ICWA Hearings because the Senators had already chosen who they want to hear, and they already had a full panel.
That panel consisted of tribal leaders, adoption agencies, social workers, and lawyers representing the tribal governments. There was no one there to speak for opposing families.
The aide, mentioning Rosy Parks and the number of people that participated in civil rights marches, went on to say that unless we could come up with a large number of people wanting ICWA changed, they had no interest in hearing what we had to say.

Our Rights Don't Matter.

Please read our "Family Stories" section to learn more.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kids Dress Up for Thanksgiving Pageants - Good for All

Claremont kindergartners, who for years have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast, are no longer allowed. Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner , has said it's demeaning.

Jennifer Tilton, assistant professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands and a Claremont parent, said, “Its always a good thing to think about, critically, how we teach kids, even from very young ages, the message we want them to learn, and the respect for the diversity of the American experiences.” Tilton opposes the costumes.

Right. We should think critically about how we teach the kids. Therefore, as the mother of nine enrolled members of the Minnesota Chippewa, I have no problem with Thanksgiving pageants. In fact, PLEASE. PLEASE let us have more of that type of thing! Are you kidding me? After the hate-filled campagin season we just had - listening to people drag Sarah Palin through the mud just because they didn't agree with her, as well as all the other increasingly nasty aspects of our society ...Here we have an annual lesson in cooperation, thankfulness and love using fun, creative methods to teach the kids with. It gives the kids a history lesson while showing them how different groups can get along and enjoy each other, even if they don’t agree on all aspects of life. And the left wants to take that away? Seems to me we should be increasing this type of teaching. Maybe have some parents dress up and play like they are walking in someone else's moccassins as well.

This lesson teaches that it’s possible to set aside differences and enjoy each other. And Kids have fun doing it! And yet, the intolerant, self-righteous thought police, bent on causing division and anger in their ever nasty pursuit of what they perceive as tolerance and love, have found another community event to shut down.

What’s wrong with kids learning that their father’s ancestor’s might have sat down with their mother’s ancestors and had a great meal? I think it’s an awesome thing to think about! (MOST tribally enrollable children are less than 100% Native American today. Most are in fact less than 50% Native American.)

Even if the story isn’t completely historical, the fact is that it did happen - they did sit down together and celebrate. I say all those anal people that want this type of pageant to stop should pull their kids out of public school and homeschool them. Leave everyone else alone.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

ICWA was originally based on some false assumptions

- The first assumption is that values within the Indian culture are unique, and the culture of non-Indian relatives and society is of less value. The Truth is - there are no unique value systems within Indian Country. There is nothing new under the sun. In addition, the value systems of all cultures, and every facet of a child's heritage, are valuable.

- The second assumption, that tribal governments can retain "their" children, supposes that tribal governments have sovereign ownership of individuals, and that these individuals need to be under the jurisdiction of tribal government in order for traditional culture to carry on. The Truth is - Tribal governments do not own our children. Tribal members are American citizens, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whether we are 100% Native American or 100% not, we parents should not be forced to make important life decisions based on what is best for tribal government. Additionally, tribal culture, or any culture, will exist as long as the people who love it carry it in their hearts and pass that love to their children. Government force does not preserve tradition; families do.

- The third assumption is that all families and individuals of Native American heritage think, feel and desire the same things, and any person with a small amount of heritage is automatically better off within the Indian community. ICWA requires that "the prevailing social and cultural standards of the Indian community in which … extended family resides…"be applied in placement preferences." But not only where a third cousin might reside, the act states, "or with which …extended family members maintain social ties…," further degrading the parents right to choose where and how they want their children raised.

The Truth is - Humans desire choice and have time and again fought for the freedom to make those choices. That is just as true today as it has been any other time in the history. In America, we are proud of our democracy, equality, and the right all citizens have to make individual choices and live life to their fullest.

We try to help other countries achieve the same. Are Native American citizens allowed less?

Monday, November 24, 2008

ICWA has interfered with Parental Rights

In 1989, the US Supreme Court declared in Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield that tribal jurisdiction preempted both state authority and the wishes of parents. The Court concluded an Indian tribe and an Indian child have an interest in maintaining ties independent of the interests of birth parents, and thus, "Congress determined to subject (voluntary) placements to the ICWA's jurisdiction ...because of concerns going beyond the wishes of individual parents."

They then made the chilling statement, "These concerns demonstrate that Congress could not have intended to enact a rule of domicile that would permit individual Indian parents to defeat the ICWA's jurisdictional scheme simply by giving birth…off the reservation."

Therefore, whether a parent is four-quarter Indian or totally non-Indian, ICWA states, "… the Indian tribe shall retain exclusive jurisdiction…" and if a tribal entity requests, "…the (State) court…shall transfer … to the jurisdiction of the tribe…"

In essence, Congress has consigned our children to tribal government, and opting out is not an option. We could refuse to enroll our children into the tribe, but a child does not need to be enrolled in order for ICWA to apply. ICWA pertains to any child the tribe deems enrollable.

Thus, many more children and families are affected than even realize it. Tribal governments have the right to define their membership. This means they have a right to decide the percentage of blood needed for enrollment. Most tribal constitution require one-quarter blood quantum for membership, but some allow membership with as little as 1/64 blood quantum.

Therefore, up to 3/4 or more (in some cases 63/64!) of a child's non-Indian heritage can be legally ignored by the courts, and tribal governments have been allowed jurisdiction over children with the smallest amounts of Indian blood.

The truth is, many tribaly enrolled parents have left the reservation because they don't feel it is the best place to raise their children. (According to the US census, almost 80% of those classifying themselves as Indians live off reservations.)

Steve Moore, a Staff Attorney with Native American Rights Fund, estimated that 1.96 million people of Indian ancestry live off the reservations. He said that puts the tribal courts at a disadvantage in custody cases. Turning a blind eye to individual rights, he further stated,
"There's been an obvious effort by state court judges to create loopholes and exemptions to the point that I believe Congress needs to take the matter up again."


"The bottom line is Indian children are the lifeblood of Indian tribes as a population base diminishes due to these cases."

There is no mention in the article as to why 1.96 million persons of tribal heritage have chosen to live off the reservation.

Most people in America enjoy the freedom to raise their children as they see fit, even if it is contrary to the way their extended family is raising children. Those parents also have the right to name a guardian for their children who will raise them in the manner they desire. They can put that choice in their will and have those wishes honored.

Shouldn't the parents of tribally enrollable children have that right as well?

Friday, November 21, 2008

ICWA Has hurt Children and Parents.

  1. Federal, State, and Tribal authorities have favored a child's tribal heritage over that child's Irish, Afro-American, Scottish, Latino, or Jewish heritage, or any other heritage the child has, no matter the percentages. Whether the child's heritage is predominately Slavic or Mexican, the only question asked is whether the child is enrollable.
  2. Some Tribal governments have interfered in custody battles between parents, overturned county decisions in favor of the tribally enrolled parent and ignored child abuse, neglect and drug abuse in those decisions.
  3. Some Tribal governments have claimed jurisdiction over children that have little tribal heritage and are not enrollable according to their constitutions.
  4. Contrary to state laws pertaining to the best interest of the child, some Tribal governments have ignored the interaction and relationships children have had with caregivers; the child's adjustment to home, school, and community; the length of time the child has lived in a stable home, and the permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home.
  5. Many county courts and social services have backed away when ICWA is involved because they do not understand ICWA or can not afford to fight back.
  6. Several State Governments have given "Full Faith and Credit" to tribal courts and will not review or overturn tribal court custody decisions.
  7. ...Read their letters


Thursday, November 13, 2008

ICWA 's Wrong - Kids Have Rights

Deborah Maddox, acting Director of the BIA Office of Tribal Services in 1993, said, "the intent of Congress in passing the Indian Child Welfare Act was to protect Indian children from removal from their tribes and to assure that tribes are given the opportunity to raise Indian children in a manner which reflects the unique values of Indian culture."

According to West's Encyclopedia of American Law, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), "…intended to limit the … removing (of) Native American children from their tribe and family and placing them in a non-Indian family or institution. The act seeks to achieve these goals through…placing children…in a…home that reflects the unique values of Indian culture."

(ICWA) "seeks to protect the rights of the Indian child as an Indian and the rights of the Indian Community and Tribe in retaining its children in its society." - House Report on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

But most enrollable children are of mixed heritage. What about the rights of the child of Indian heritage as a Latino, Black, or Italian? And what gives the Tribe the right to claim children who are predominately of another heritage?

Advocates of ICWA point to the devastation suffered by children of tribal heritage when, years ago, they were forcefully removed from the homes they loved and forced to stay at boarding schools. The trauma those children and families expereinced was, indeed, devastating.

However, today, some tribal leaders have been doing the exact same thing when they have removed children from the homes and environments they love, forcing them to live with people they barely know in Indian Country.

There is no inborn difference between persons of tribal heritage and other persons. Any emotionally healthy child, no matter their heritage, will be devastated when they are taken from their familiar homes and forced to live with strangers.

Even children of 100% tribal heritage will be devasted if taken from the only home they know and love, even if it is non-tribal, and placed into a reservation home they know nothing about.

The Full Text of the INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT OF 1978 (ICWA):
THE ICWA LAW: PUBLIC LAW 95-608, 25 USC Chapter 21

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Time to get Started Again

Okay - We've had a long period of inaction due to having moved my family first from Alberta back down to the States, but then six months later, to a new state; one in which we had never lived before. Getting kids started in school, trying to find our place in the community, and, of course, giving attention to the presidential election all took a little time. But we've been too far from the important issue of ICWA for too long and now it's time to focus again.

The new legislative session mean an opportunity to talk to the states about the issues. We also need to get back to work on the website - - in order to share the ICWA problems and possible solutions to those problems.

Remember - any that are interested in helping are more than welcome.

Read the stories of families struggling against ICWA and tribal jurisdiction over their families at