Indigenous families at risk in upcoming SCOTUS ruling

Adrienne Lawrence
Liberal Opinion

Adrienne Lawrence

Legal commentator
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Native children are more likely than White children to be taken from their parents and put into foster homes. The Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted in 1978, was designed to protect indigenous youth and keep them with Indian families. In a Nov. 9 hearing, the nine Supreme Court justices questioned plaintiff attorneys about whether the law violates the constitution. Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence argues that the SCOTUS case, Brackeen v. Haaland, could have disastrous effects not only basic child custody but tribal sovereignty altogether.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging indigenous children rights not to be separated from their people.

Basically, a White couple in Texas want to be able to adopt an indigenous child but that whole Indian Child Welfare Act prioritizes placing a child with other indigenous families. This case, Brackeen versus Haalland, may seem like a basic child custody case, but it’s far bigger than that, and it’s also pretty heinous what’s going on.

In short, the Republicans are using this case to try to gut laws protecting tribal sovereignty. It’s really just a means of gaining access to tribal lands and resources. This attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act is all about securing a boon to the fossil fuel industry. That’s the true end goal here, but the way the GOP is going about it is equally disgusting. The Republicans are looking to erode the Indian Child Welfare Act — that’s this law put into place 44 years ago — because White people couldn’t stop stealing Native kids.

From at least 1869 and until the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were taken from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the government and churches. State child welfare agencies made it a practice of seizing indigenous children from their homes, forcing them to assimilate to White American culture. Indian children were put in foster care systems at far higher rates than other children, and they were rarely placed in indigenous homes. As a result of these inhumane and incredibly disturbing acts of child acts, children would be severed from their Native culture, tongue, practices.

Last week, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging indigenous children’s right not to be separated from their families.  Basically, a white couple in Texas wants to be able to adopt an indigenous child but the Indian Child Welfare Act prioritizes placing the child with other indigenous families. The case, Brackeen versus Holland, may seem like basic child custody stuff but far more is going on here and it’s utterly heinous. In short, with the help of our conservative leaning Supreme Court, the republicans are using this case to try to gut laws protecting tribal sovereignty as a means of gaining access to Tribal lands and resources. This attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act is all about securing a boon to the fossil fuel industry. That’s the true end goal here, but how the GOP is getting to that end goal is equally disgusting. The republicans are looking to erode the  Indian Child Welfare Act. This law was put into place 44 years ago because white people couldn’t stop stealing native kids. From at least 1869 and until the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were taken from their homes and families and placed in the boarding schools operated by the government and churches. State child welfare agencies made it a practice of seizing indigenous children from their homes and forcing them to assimilate to white American culture. Indian children were put in the foster care system at far higher rates than other children, and they rarely were placed in Indigenous homes. As a result, these inhumane and incredibly disturbing acts of child theft would sever the ties between the child and their native culture, tongue, practices. That wasn’t accidental, but intentional because anything but white culture has been unacceptable. This practice of stealing children was a slowly calculated genocide of a peoples orchestrated through the acts of colonialism. The Indian Child Welfare Act was supposed to help ameliorate some of this harm by basically giving Tribes the first right of refusal to care for an indigenous child should their parent be unable. Yet this white Texas couple clearly doesn’t care about the history and the reality of what will happen to the child they’re intent on tearing away from their people. It’s as though there aren’t other children out there that this white couple could adopt. Sure, there are people out there who will try to say “the best interest of the child” should govern here. And I completely agree but that standard is impotent here as our colonized society does not appreciate the value of a non-white race, culture and ethnicity. These things are far more valuable and beneficial to a child who derives from a people who will go extinct unless their autonomy is preserved. Let’s not pretend that exploitation and extinction of indigenous people hasn’t been the goal in this country since white settlers took to New England shores. Today indigenous peoples, including Alaskan natives, compose just two percent of the US population. It was ethnic cleansing, enslavement, force assimilation, biological warfare all at the hands of white people over the centuries that has killed an estimated ninety percent of all indigenous people in the United States. You’d think that these people have suffered enough and could simply be left alone to raise their children on what meager land they’ve been “given” from our government after it’s been stripped of resources. But no, now white America is coming again for indigenous children and any sense of sovereignty they have left. And it’s worthwhile to note that in this case, Brackeen versus Holland… the Holland is Deb Holland,  the U.S. Interior Secretary who also happens to be the first Native American cabinet secretary in the history of the United States. So she’s not only defending the laws of the United States but also the right of her people to not have their children stolen from them. The GOP should be ashamed. 

 

 


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