BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was upheld by the Supreme Court to protect tribal adoptions. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed a bill into law codifying the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into North Dakota, and our Native Americans have a lot to say about it.
ICWA was enacted in 1978, and it gave priority to Native Americans in the foster care and adoption proceedings. The ruling states that all native children in the foster care system are to be given the first choice of being adopted by a native family; however, in 2018, a federal district court in Texas stated that ICWA violates the U.S. Constitution, resulting in the federal government and four intervening tribal nations in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Marlo Hunte, a previous candidate for ND Public Service Commissions said they’re used to situations like this happening.
For what was a century long campaign by the federal government, social service agencies, and courts were removing about a third of Native American children from their homes and placed them in non-Native American homes and institutions, deflecting the values of Native American culture. Hunte, a former candidate for Public Service Commission of North Dakota, says her daughter was removed from her own home on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the ICWA Bill played a huge role in bringing her daughter home.
“We had an amazing judge who was able to jump in time and say, ‘Hey, this our child. We need them back.’ They got the FBI involved.” Hunte says.
497 Tribal Nations, 62 Native organizations, 23 states and D.C., 87 members of congress, 27 child welfare and adoption organizations, and many others signed onto 21 briefs that were submitted to the court in favor of upholding ICWA, according to Native American Rights Fund.
Hunte said, “We don’t come from people who sit down and take things lightly. I think we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the people who paved the roads for us to be here to be able to have a voice like we do today.”
The Supreme Court made their final decision, stating ICWA is not only constitutional, but also upholds and respects tribal sovereignty. With so many more issues at hand, the Native Americans are continuously fighting for justice.
KX News will share more stories honoring our Native American communities over the next 30 days.