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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker responds to transfer of custody of Veronica Brown

Statement from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker:

"There is no word for goodbye in the Cherokee language.  We say dodadagohv’I - we will see each other again.  It was with a heavy heart that we watched Veronica Brown leave her home, her family and the Cherokee Nation Monday night.  History is repeating itself, as a Native American child is being forcibly relocated to South Carolina against the will of her father and her tribe.

Once again, a Native American is being told where to live.  Once again, a Native family is being torn apart.  And once again, a young Indian girl will not awaken in the home of her elders.

Our prayers go out to Dusten and Robin Brown, Tommy and Alice Brown, Veronica’s sister Kelsey, and their extended family which includes 320,000 Cherokees. This brave man who served our country simply wanted to raise his child—a child who shares his genes and his heritage. A child who looks like him—and by all family accounts—acts like him too. Veronica may have left the Cherokee Nation, but she will always be a Cherokee citizen.  Perhaps one day she too will have her own children, and they will share her and Dusten’s DNA, and those children will be Cherokee as well.

Our Nation did everything possible to stop this family from being torn apart.  We used every legal avenue at our disposal to keep this family together. But the Cherokee Nation is also a nation with a longstanding history of obeying the rule of law, so that is what we did on Monday. We also have a long standing tradition of adoption within our culture and know that adoption is a good thing when it is ethical and moral.   We will continue to advocate for a greater understanding of and adherence to laws by the courts and adoption agencies to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated.

Dusten Brown packed his daughter’s suitcase, and told her he loved her before sending Veronica off to live with those who wish to adopt her.  This is something a father should never have to do, but for the sake of his daughter, Dusten handled himself with courage and dignity and grace, and we could not be more proud of the way he conducted himself.

And to Veronica— one day you will read about this tumultuous time in your life, and understand why we fought so hard alongside your father to keep your family whole. We hope at that time you understand how special and significant it is to be a Cherokee citizen. You will always be welcome in Tahlequah and in homes across the Cherokee Nation.  Whether we see you sooner or later, we know we will see you again.  In the meantime, we will carry you in our hearts."

Wado,

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

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ICWA

Congress enacted the ICWA to protect the best interests of Indian children and to prevent the erosion of tribal ties and cultural heritage by preserving future Indian generations. In enacting the ICWA, Congress declared that “it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture…” (25 U.S.C. § 1902.)

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