I’m discouraged to learn about the latest tactics to use children, once again, as leverage to take away Native rights. The intentional cruelty of the violent removal of children to the institutions of forced assimilation was what finally broke Indigenous resistance to stealing the land, and its resources, from native peoples.
The previous administration also used the intentional cruelty of stealing children from those trying to enter the country called the United States.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted in 1978 to help keep Native children in Native homes. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) worked closely with Congress to enact the legislation. One benefit of ICWA was to give Native families the legal right to keep their children out of those schools.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) — a federal law that keeps Native children with Native families — tribal sovereignty could soon be a thing of the past in the U.S. Should the Supreme Court rule in the plaintiffs’ favor in the case of Brackeen v. Haaland, we could quickly see a return to blatant, pre-1978 genocidal practices — when Native babies were legally stripped of their families, culture, and identities.
It’s critical that every one of us take immediate action. Before you do anything else today, sign our petition telling President Biden and the Department of Justice to defend ICWA, Secretary Haaland, and tribal sovereignty with every available means.
In this landmark case, the Brackeens — the white, adoptive parents of a Diné child in Texas — seek to overturn ICWA by claiming reverse racism. Joined by co-defendants including the states of Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana, they’re being represented pro bono by Gibson Dunn, a high-powered law firm which also counts oil companies Energy Transfer and Enbridge, responsible for the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines, among its clients. This lawsuit is the latest attempt by pro-fossil fuel forces to eliminate federal oversight of racist state policies, continue the centuries-long genocide of America’s Native populations, and make outrageous sums of money for energy magnates, gaming speculators, and fossil fuel lawyers. The story below may seem unbelievable, but it is 100 percent true.
Key Points to Take Away
- Big Oil’s lawyers, Texas, and three other states with very few Native inhabitants are attacking the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
- The Texas Attorney General is asking the Supreme Court to declare ICWA unconstitutional.
- The Plaintiffs argue that tribal affiliations should be considered racial, rather than political, designations.
- Overturning ICWA could be the first legal domino in a broader attack on tribal rights and sovereignty.
TEXAS, BIG OIL TARGET INDIAN CHILDREN IN BID TO END TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY By Sarah Rose Harper and Jesse Phelps, Lakota People’s Law Project, September 22, 2021
If the Supreme Court overturns the Indian Child Welfare Act, Native children, mineral rights, and tribal self-determination could quickly become collateral damage.
I can only write from the perspective of a settler, but I do want to highlight a few of the current struggles. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the history of the founding of the United States, to join in struggle with those who are oppressed and to transform our society to end these devastating institutions.
The Tulalip tribe in Everett, Washington also participated in the national day on September 30 with a vigil and speak out. They called it Residential Boarding School Awareness Day or Orange Shirt Day because one survivor Phyllis Webstad’s favorite orange shirt was taken from her on the first day of school. It wasn’t until 1978, through the Indian Child Welfare Act, that indigenous parents gained the right to keep their children out of those schools. Now that act is under threat of being overturned by the US Supreme Court and big oil is behind that attack.
That big oil would go after indigenous children is a response to the effectiveness of indigenous leadership in the fight to protect the planet. A recent report led by the Indigenous Environmental Network found that just in the past ten years, indigenous resistance to fossil fuel projects “stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY REMINDS US TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND SUPPORT INDIGENOUS STRUGGLES By Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance, October 11, 2021
Indian Child Welfare Act Under Attack
On Sept. 3, the U.S. solicitor general, Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation, and Quinault Indian Nation filed cert petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court in Brackeen v. Haaland to defend the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
This law was enacted in 1978 to help keep Native children in Native homes. FCNL worked closely with Congress to enact the legislation. In ICWA cases, the first preference is that the child go to an extended family member for placement, even if the relative is non-Native. The second preference is placement with someone within the child’s tribe, and the third preference is placement with another tribe.
The state of Texas, however, is continuing to challenge the constitutionality of ICWA. They claim that it’s a race-based system that makes it more difficult for Native children to be adopted or fostered into non-Native homes. A Supreme Court response to the tribes’ petition and Texas’ petition is due Oct. 8.
September Native American Legislative Update By Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock, Friends Committee on National Legislation, September 30, 2021
“To those of you invested in anti-pipeline movements, know that this fight is no different from those we’ve undertaken at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline or in Minnesota against Line 3,” said Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law Co-Director and Lead Counsel. “It’s the same enemy using a different tactic to poison the planet. This is almost certainly Big Oil coming through the back door, and the danger may now be even greater. The victim is not just Mother Earth, her waters, and her sacred womb. It’s not just the Indigenous women and families on the front lines of the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It’s not even just the children being protected by ICWA. We are talking about the potential destruction of all tribal law, the taking of all tribal lands, and the elimination of all Native sovereignty. The only difference is that, this time, it certainly appears that Big Oil and its allies are using children as human missiles and the courts as the lever to accomplish its destructive agenda — all, of course, in the name of corporate profits.”
TEXAS, BIG OIL TARGET INDIAN CHILDREN IN BID TO END TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY By Sarah Rose Harper and Jesse Phelps, Lakota People’s Law Project, September 22, 2021. If the Supreme Court overturns the Indian Child Welfare Act, Native children, mineral rights, and tribal self-determination could quickly become collateral damage.
Native children and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland are under legal attack in Brackeen v. Haaland. The powerful people behind the lawsuit include both Big Oil and the State of Texas. If their attempt to have a conservative-majority Supreme Court overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act is successful, the door will be open to the total elimination of tribal sovereignty. Take action now to stop this horrific attack on Native rights!
Dear President Biden and attorneys for the Department of Justice,
As the Supreme Court decides on whether to render judgment in the case of Brackeen v. Haaland, I write today to ask you to do everything in your power to protect the Indian Child Welfare Act and defend Secretary Deb Haaland. We need strong federal protection of Native families and tribal sovereignty.
Please file every available motion, prepare every legal argument judiciously, and do everything else you can to stop this attack on tribal citizens. The plaintiffs will not be easily stopped. Should the Supreme Court accept this case and validate the plaintiffs’ argument that tribes do not have the power to place their own enrolled children in tribal kinship care, we will have crossed a rubicon into dangerous legal territory that could ultimately lead to the disbanding of tribal nations — and the loss of tribal lands, gaming revenues, and mineral rights.
It’s no coincidence that the same attorneys — Gibson Dunn — representing the plaintiffs in this case also have deep ties to fossil fuel interests such as Enbridge and TC Energy (the oil conglomerates responsible for attacking tribal interests through the Line 3 and Dakota Access pipelines, respectively).
The Indigenous peoples of this land have always deserved better. The few gains made over centuries littered with oppression, and in the face of overwhelming systemic racism, must not be lost now. Please fight hard to protect original Americans. Please do everything possible to stop this attack on children, families, and sovereignty.