Tribal Coalition Report Finds South Dakota ‘Willfully’ Violated Child Welfare Law

From NPR:

South Dakota’s foster care system “systematically violated the spirit and the letter” of a law meant to protect Native American children, a coalition of tribal directors from the state’s nine Sioux tribes said in a report released Thursday night. The report comes a year after NPR aired a series questioning whether the law was being enforced.

The 30-year-old Indian Child Welfare Act says native children must be placed with relatives or their tribes if they are removed from their homes, except in unusual circumstances. The coalition said the state appears to have violated the law willfully, “and it may have done so at least partly to bring federal tax dollars into the state.”

The following is from an email I received from a Native American who lives in South Dakota.  The author gives more information not necessarily in reports.

“The Lakota Law Coalition  has been working with the tribes here in South Dakota on the issues with our kids. They have just submitted a report to congress highlighting the violation of the ICWA laws by the state of South Dakota, DSS and the BIA .

I know the BIA and the State are trying desperately to hide all these records and cover this up because our Governor, who was head of DSS prior to taking office, has been directly involved.  A Native and the head of the ICWA department here in SD tried to cover-up my report, that included 23 witness statements from people in the community who thought that the Native kids in our community should never have been placed in this abusive white foster home, and how the foster mother openly talked about “the only reason I have these kids is they are my money tree.”

2012 and this is still going on?  I’ve spoken with those who were removed from their families (hair cut, beatings for not speaking English, forced to attend Christian services) but the Stewart Indian School in Carson City, NV stopped the practice in the mid-1960’s.  I had no idea that it was still continuing.

This will only be rectified if the protesting voices are loud and many.

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  • Several years ago, I listened to Russell Means as he addressed some group in Chicago (on C-Span). He was asked why Native Americans do not assimilate into society like others have done, and do. His response: “There is no Bureau of Chinese Affairs, there is no Bureau of Jewish Affairs…..”

    I’ve long questioned BIA’s hold on the tribes and what seems to be an effort to keep Natives under their collective thumbs. My husband worked for BIA, building bridges and schools. Some of the stories he shared were anger-making. In more recent years, I watched as BIA declinated a tribe, took over management and finances, leaving the Tribal Chairman as an empty puppet.

    Is there still a reason for this over-bloated and self-serving agency? (There are BIA employees who do their job and care about their clients, but the larger picture creates many questions.)

    Thank you, Steve, for the kind remarks and for the help with technical issues. Old dog, new tricks are sometimes difficult.

  • I replied to your message, Kayse but the Agonist’s private message uses the “snail mail” system. You may receive my response, therefore, sometime next week.

    Great post!

    • LOL – I got a message saying the one I sent as reply to you still hadn’t been delivered.

      Thanks about the post. I’ve had a great deal of involvement with several tribes, have seen too much that is upsetting (on all sides), realize I, alone, can’t change a thing. Only better education and role models can help the young.

      There are some very well organized tribes but too many still fight the issues of the 1800’s.

      • Thank you for the link. That was a very interesting article.

        In the early days after my arrival in Canada, I went to see a play with a Canadian girlfriend. The stage set represented a native Indian living space. I remember expressing shock to my friend about what I saw – dilapidated living quarters that resembled a shack in an African shantytown. I repeatedly said to her: “How can this be? This is Canada, how can this be? She finally told me to STFU, not in those words, of course, but which, nevertheless, made me realize this scene did not disturb her as much as it did me. I continued to watch the play in silent amazement.

        Since then I’ve learned a lot about the state of affairs regarding the native Indians of Canada. In fact, I had a long discussion about this topic on the old Agonist, way, way back. (If only I could find it).

        I’m very pleased they are playing a strong part in derailing the proposed pipeline from Alberta to the BC coast, which would ship oil to China.

        I also hope the native Indians will not give up their fight with the Harper government and that in the end, the truth will come out about the horrors so many of their children experienced in the “residential schools”.

        Keep on fighting for them, Kayse. It’s a very worthy cause.

  • The following is an email from my contact in South Dakota. It pretty much says it all, but a link is provided.

    …..the state of South Dakota is putting two state workers who helped expose this whole mess with the kids on trial next week in Aberdeen. These two workers were involved in exposing the agencies I was having so much trouble with when I was trying to get the kids from our community removed from their abusive white foster homes. They helped put two foster parents behind bars for raping the little Lakota girls they had in their custody, the foster dad is serving 15 years but if the state gets their way this guy can appeal.

    Anyway I am sure I will end-up in jail next week because I am going to the courthouse along with the Lakota legal team and a bunch of other people to protest and then Wed – Friday I am out at Pine Ridge to attend the state meeting on the uranium mining in the Black Hills and they have arrested all the protestors in the past so I will become a known jailbird but that’s ok. Read this link and see if this just doesn’t make you angry as all hell.

  • Above post, continued: The reference to the Friday events is to try to stop the state selling off mineral rights of the reservations to an uranium LLC. The state has already sold tribal water rights. Yes, it’s being taken to Federal Court, but too much falls through cracks. This is important as it will poison water and ground for generations to come.

    The tribe is poor. My friend works to raise money for basics such as home heating. I questioned why that isn’t covered by BIA and was told that Pine Ridge is the last tribe to get any help. Payback for Custer? That’s the common reason if you talk to tribe members, but it rings like humor I’ve found in many tribes.

    If any care to spread the word, write Senators, etc., please do so. All helps.

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