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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rez Family Speaks Out - Dying in Indian Country


There’s another side to the ICWA that until very recently has received little disclosure or news coverage. Just why would a family (2-parent, single-parent, multi-generational, or blended) decide that reservation life is not what they CHOOSE for their family? The reasons are many, but some of the reasons are shocking.  

What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, what is being hidden on some reservations is that scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result of the accepted behavior on those reservations, and the ICWA 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 that must be revealed is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.” Some have said that there are children actually being traded and sold by the very people who are being paid to “foster” them. The Spirit Lake tribal government in North Dakota is not isolated in the mistreatment of children.

Though tribal governments claim there are accountability measures in place, in reality many children within the foster system never receive adequate care or any follow-up at all. Some tribal members report that extended family members, social workers, judges, lawyers, teachers, and other “mandated reporters” all seem to participate in this broken system where, as long as a child remains in foster care, the tribe and the custodian(s) receive a check. There is no incentive to permanently place an Indian child in an adoptive home, and no incentive to report abuse. The adults in charge simply turn a blind eye and pretend that the system works, and children are denied the most basic of human needs…real love and a safe place to call home.  

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 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 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 M├ętis 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

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Voting for Welfare of Russian children while turning backs on U.S. Children?


by Elizabeth Sharon Morris Late Tuesday night, January 1st, 2013, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. Res. 628, expressing disappointment over the Russian law banning adoption of children by American citizens.
Senator Inhofe, one of the two Senate Co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and a wonderful supporter of children and families, rightly stated, “It is extremely unfortunate and disheartening that the Russian Duma and President Putin would choose to deprive the children, the very children that they are entrusted to care for, the ability to find a safe and caring family that every child deserves…It is nothing more than a political play…that ultimately leads to greater hardships and more suffering for Russian children who will now be denied a loving family.”
In addition, earlier this month, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Members sent a bi-partisan letter to President Putin urging him to veto the legislation, stating,
“We fear that this overly broad law would have dire consequences for Russian children...Nothing is more important to the future of our world than doing our best to give as many children the chance to grow up in a family as we possibly can.”
The vote in support of Russian children was unanimous by the Senate. The CCA, Senator Inhofe and many others are correctly speaking up for these children and families. Many in the CCA are also correctly concerned – for the very same reasons - about children of native heritage here in the United States. However, while ALL the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs members voted for this resolution preventing adoption of Russian children - several members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs continue to uphold similar 'Putin-like' legislation preventing adoption of American children. Take the statements above and replace the word “Russian” with the word “Indian” and it fits our argument against the Indian Child Welfare Act exactly. Further - speaking as the birth mother of several enrollable children - I need to stress that while the argument against ICWA is important for adoption, it is also important to many birth families who don’t wish to have tribal jurisdiction and control over their own children. Children who had never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs, some with extremely minimal blood quantum - as well as some with maximum quantum - have been removed from homes they know and love and placed with strangers chosen by social services. Facts to note: 75% of U.S citizens with tribal heritage live OFF the reservation. This includes many of 100% heritage who choose not to be involved with the reservation system. Some have moved away purposely because many reservations are not safe places to raise children. Others have never lived on a reservation. MOST enrollable citizens have less than 50% tribal heritage and are connected to their non-native relatives, some not having been connected to the reservation system for a couple generations. Although it has been felt that the Indian Child Welfare Act has safeguards to prevent misuse, stories affecting multi-racial families abound across America. Letters from tribal and non-tribal birth parents, extended family, foster parents and pre-adoptive families can be read at http://caicw.org/family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/ In the words of Dr. William B. Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
“... We are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…"
Consider calling your Senators, and while thanking them for voting for S. Res. 628, ask them to support the rights of children and families of Native American heritage as well.  


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