Friday, February 27, 2015

Indian Child Welfare Act Doesn't Protect Indian Children From Tribes That Terminate Them.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn released the Revised Guidelines to Ensure that Native Children and Families Receive the Full Protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act which is designed to "...provide better clarity so that the courts can carry out Congress’ intent to protect tribal families, preserve tribal communities, and promote tribal continuity now and into the future.” That's an important goal.  It does bring to mind another question:

WHO protects the welfare of Indian Children that have had their heritage ripped from them, by their own tribal government.   In the case of Pechanga, a rich casino tribe in California, over 200 children were summarily removed from the tribe.  Where was the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the National Congress of American Indians, or the Native American Rights funds, when Indian Children were being stripped of their citizenship?

In the case of Pechanga, whose enrollment committee included a relative of the family they disenrolled, sharing the same common ancestor, destroyed the welfare of a hundred Indian children.   Where were the protections for their welfare?   Why would the BIA refuse to get involved?   They may claim they were powerless, but they certainly could have issued guidance.    WHO protects the Native American child, when it's a Native American tribe that's harming them?

In the case of two large families from Pechanga , the Manuela Miranda and the Paulina Hunter descendants, the tribe voted to end all disenrollments, even though the tribal members knew it meant foregoing the resulting significant increase in their own per capita

The tribal enrollment committee consisting of less than a quorum and including members who had NO Indian heritage, voted to disenroll Paulina Hunter posthumously by a single vote.  That single vote, from a non-Indian has harmed the welfare of 200 Indian Children.  Non Indians taking the rights of Indians, while claiming those same rights for themselves.

In the recent ICWA revision press release, it states:

Several long-term studies have been conducted of Native American adult adoptees. Despite socioeconomic advantages that many of them received by virtue of their adoption, long term studies reflect that these adoptees experienced increased rates of depression, low self-esteem, and suicide. In addition, many adult adoptees continue to struggle with their identities and have reported feelings of loneliness and isolation. Today, the number of Native American children in foster care alone is still alarmingly high, and they are still more than twice as likely to be placed in foster care overall.

Is it time for a study on the experiences of depression, low esteem and suicide on children who have been discarded, sometimes by non-Indian leaders?  Think about this:

The news release continues: Protecting Indian children reflects the highest ideals of the trust responsibility to Indian tribes and the guidelines issued today are a part of this Administration’s broader approach to ensuring compliance with ICWA.     This statement begs the question: 

WHO has the trust responsibility to protect the now individual Indian children and ensuring the protections that the ICWA, provides Indian Children?

In his remarks, Assistant Secretary Washburn noted instances in which the ICWA law and BIA guidelines were not followed, preventing the goals of ICWA from being realized. These circumstances continue to alarm tribal leaders, Indian families, and Indian child welfare advocates.  

We can't even get the Secretary to LISTEN, or respond to repeated questions for help.  Where are the Indian child welfare advocates to work on behalf of the Indian children who no longer have their heritage and whose ancestors have been desecrated by disenrollment.

There are NON-Indian children, enrolled in Indian tribes who are protected by the ICWA, while a thousand Indian children, some removed by non-Indian tribal leaders, are cast aside, receiving no protection, and to whom the Indian Child Welfare Act now does not apply.  TheBIA recognizes all tribal members as Indian, yet they have abdicated their trust responsibility to Indian children, hoping nobody will notice.
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