The Complex Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools & Contemporary Child Welfare Systems, and more

In this post:

  • The Complex Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools & Contemporary Child Welfare Systems
  • Tribes file briefs on critical ICWA case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • U.S. District Court in South Dakota finds county election redistricting plan dilutes Native voting power
  • Line 5 updates

The complex legacy of Indian Boarding Schools & contemporary child welfare systems

Patrice Kunesh, a descent of Standing Rock Lakota, wrote a very informative piece explaining how boarding schools and the child welfare system have contributed to historical and ongoing trauma in Native communities.

It’s one in a series of essays published by the Montana-based National Native Children’s Trauma Center.

If your looking for a good explainer on historical trauma for your congregation of DEI committee at work, Kunesh’s essay is a great place to start. Here are few nuggets. Read the whole essay.

Kunesh offers some disturbing statistics and ideas for reforms.

“Removing Native children from their families has become normalized and systemic—it is done bureaucratically through child welfare systems, court proceedings, and social services …” she writes. “Native children as a percentage all children in foster care is shockingly high: South Dakota, 57%; Alaska, 53%; North Dakota, 39%; Montana, 34%; Minnesota, 27%.”

She traces the roots of the crisis to colonial history. Government officials and other leaders pushed policies to break up Native families to coerce them to conform to the dominant society, meanwhile taking their lands and resources. “Boarding schools, one of the most aggressive assimilation devices, directly contributed to the cultural annihilation and upheaval of generations of Native families.”

Solutions include promoting Tribal sovereignty and addressing child poverty

Tribes file brief on critical ICWA case befor the U.S. Supreme Court

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court in Haaland v. Brackeen, a case that will be hugely consequential for preserving Native families.

ICWA set federal standards for removing Indian children from their families, giving priority to placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes “which will reflect Indian culture,” the law says.

Congress passed ICWA for several reasons, including the “alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children” by nontribal public and private agencies, and the high number of such children who “are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.”

ICWA also responded to states, who run child custody proceedings, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.”

Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and non-Indigenous plaintiffs are trying to get ICWA declared unconstitutional, arguing it’s racial discrimination.

Native Nations argue ICWA isn’t based on race but on Tribal, or political, identity.

The Tribes involved in the suit (Cherokee Nation, Oneida Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Navajo Nation) recently filed a brief to keep ICWA intact.

They write: “In truth, Plaintiffs blue-pencil the Constitution with their own policy views. Plaintiffs do not represent Indian Tribes, families, or children but fill their briefs with claims about Indians’ best interests. They trumpet that they know best; that Congress, Indian Tribes, and Indian families are all benighted; and that if only this Court returns Indian children to States, all will be well.”

Protecting Indian families also is part of the U.S. government’s solemn and fundamental obligation to Tribes, the brief says. “When Tribes made peace with the United States and ceded lands that today constitute the United States, treaties promised ‘protection’ in return.”

U.S. District Court in South Dakota finds current redistricting plan dilutes Native voting power

The U.S. District Court in South Dakota granted an injunction to block the use of Lyman County’s election redistricting map this November to protect Native voters’ “right to fair elections,” the Native American Rights Fund reports.

“The decision acknowledges that the county’s current redistricting plan would dilute the voting power of the Native community and requires the county commissioners to create a new plan for the county elections in November, said Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Staff Attorney Samantha Kelty. “This decision affirms that gatekeepers must make inclusive changes protected by the Voting Rights Act in a timely fashion and acknowledges that everyone benefits when local governments cooperate with tribal governments like the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.”

Line 5 updates

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for Enbridge Line 5 pipeline tunnel under the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac. It’s taking comment on what the DEIS should cover, known as the scoping process. For more, see the Army Corps’ Line 5 EIS website.

Also, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has opened comment period on the draft EIS it released for the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline through northern Wisconsin. For more, see the DNR’s page on Enbridge Pipeline Projects in Wisconsin.

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