The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) goes before the Supreme Court of the United States tomorrow in the landmark case Brackeen v Haaland (2021). This case puts Indigenous children, sovereignty, and Indigenous lands at risk.
When Richard Henry Pratt founded the Indian Residential School system and Carlisle Indian Industrial School. He said: “A great general [Custer] has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” The residential boarding school system was built on genocide and continued to carry out a genocide. These schools are but one part of the problem. The other part of the problem was children being taken from their families and communities and placed into orphanages, placed into to white (predominately) Christian homes. Orphanages, adoption, and foster homes were also weaponized by church and state as tools of genocide. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) began trying to address these abuses and stop the genocide. ICWA while an imperfect colonial instrument has been an important way for indigenous nations and peoples to be able to keep Indigenous children in our communities learning our languages and learning our culture. For more see American Indian Law Alliance founder Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga nation) report to the United Nations (PDF).
Brackeen v. Haaland as it is written and supported by states like Texas threatens not only to undo ICWA but also attempts to legally strip away Indigenous peoples inherent right to sovereignty. The case seeks to undermine Indigenous sovereignty by not seeing as separate cultural and political entitles from the United States (For more see law professor Peter D’Errico’s analysis). As NDN Collective notes the attorney for Brackeen is Gibson Dunn who has represented oil and gas companies like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) so extractive industries executives are also watching this case closely.
What can you do?
- Join the DC protest
- Write to your legislators to ensure ICWA stays. If you need help. We recommend Resist Bot: text phone number 50409 the code PCCPGW and they will help you write.
- Write to your local paper to Support ICWA
- Follow and repost @protectICWA on social media
- Post about #ProtectICWA on social media
- If you organizing around ICWA and would like us to boost your work on social media email us
- Tonya Gonnella Frichner, “The Indian Child Welfare Act: A National Law Controlling the Welfare of Indigenous Children” (PDF).
- Peter D’Errico, Brackeen v. Haaland, the Indian Child Welfare Act case now in the Supreme Court: Seen in Perspective.
- Gaeñ hia uh/Betty Lyons, “Truth and Justification: On the Cruelties Against Indigenous People”
- This Land Podcast by Crooked Media
- National Indian Child Welfare Assoc. (NICWA)
- Protect ICWA – Twitter – Instagram
Acknowledging our relatives
Thank you to Dismantling Doctrine of Discovery, Indigenous Values initiative, NICWA, NDN Collective, @ProtectICWA, & so many others for inspiring this list and putting together important list of resources as well.