Editor’s Note: In the original story,
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which helped regulate Native American foster care and adoption proceedings following decades of concerns that children were too often removed from Indian families and placed in non-Indian ones.
The case was heard in lower before being brought by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Courts have repeatedly recognized that tribal citizenship is a political classificiation. That may be an inconvenient truth for those that want to convince the supreme court that ICWA violates the constitution’s equal protection clause,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
“[It was] An effort to deny us our future by denying us the next generation.”
Chief Hoskin was joined by Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo, Secretary of State Tina Glory Jordan and Delegate to Congress Kim Teehee to hear the oral arguments in Brackeen v Haaland, a lawsuit brought by Texas and individual plaintiffs to strike down the legality of ICWA.
The Cherokee Nation is joined by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation and Quinalt Indian Nation as the four defending tribes in Brackeen v Haaland.
“The Indian Child Welfare Act deprives Native –deprives Indian children of the best interests of the child test. It replaces that test with a hierarchy of placement preferences that puts Native — non-Indian families at the bottom of the list,” said Matthew McGill in his oral argument as Counsel of Record for the petitioners in the case.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was authorized in 1978 “…to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture… “(25 U.S. C. 1902).
Native American policy expert Mike Andrews said the federal law helped prioritize protections for Native children.
“Congress acted as a preventative measure and said, “No, the Native communities are better served to take care of Native kids,’” said Mike Andrews, Senior Vice President of Federal Public Affairs for McGuireWoods Consulting.
“Indian kids in Indian communities, it’s working [and] it’s been a bright light to many communities to develop and of course, enhance their tribal community num,” he continued.
“If [the law is] struck down, then you’re going to see a little bit more divisiveness for these for these children and it’ll be up to the state, perhaps, to determine what will be the best interest for the child.”
“ICWA has kept Indian nations whole and Indian children in tribal homes so that elders and tribal citizens can pass down their language,” said Chief Hoskin, while adding that the measure was to correct a longtime effort to stamp out Native culture.
“Before ICWA, there was an awful history in this country of Native children being removed from their homes. About 35 percent of our children were removed from their parents, extended families and tribal communities by state child welfare and private adoption agencies, and majority placed outside of their families and tribes,” he added.
To hear the oral arguments, visit this link.