OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A big case with huge implications is on the docket before the Supreme Court of the United States.
This month, the justices are expected to reach a decision regarding a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act, (ICWA) which gives tribal leaders power over adoption or foster care of Native children.
But, Native parents say the ICWA must be protected at all costs.
“If we lose that protection, we lose our future,” said Frances Danger.
Danger was nineteen years old when she gave birth to her daughter.
Choosing adoption as the best option for the young mother, who said she was not prepared at the time to raise a child.
“I’m a Muskogee Nations citizen and then also Seminole. And I successfully fought against the Indian Child Welfare Act to give my child over to a non-Native family and I now deeply, deeply regret that decision,” she said.
“When the Musckogee tried to tell me [they could] take her and place her with a family, I could have let it happen, but I didn’t know,” she added.
Raised in a home with a non-Native mother and a Native lineage fractured by forced assimilation and relocation, Frances said she had no cultural ties.
Instead, Frances said she fought for five years to get her daughter placed permanently with a non-Native family.
In an interview Friday with KFOR, she said that decision was a mistake; but reconnecting to her heritage changed her perspective.
“I was invited in [to the tribes] culturally, spiritually, physically. I get something from being Muskogee and Seminole that I don’t get from anywhere else. It’s something so special and beautiful and wonderful. It absolutely kills me that I denied that to my daughter,” she said.
“If I knew then what I know now. Yes, yes, 100%. I would have given her to any anyone who was native who was, you know, deemed fit to have a child.”
While ICWA 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, ICWA advocates have said the pending Supreme Court decision could reverse that established precedent.
“Historically, we’ve been targeted. And right now, this case in front of the Supreme Court is just another target on our backs. [The family] at the center of this case adopted their child. They’re just mad they couldn’t get a second one,” Frances said.
She says if Native children can be placed with families they share culture and kinship with, they fare better.
“That’s not favorability on natives. That’s science, and if we are all working together towards the betterment of our children, of all children, wouldn’t you want to give every child that protection?”