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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Laws protect full-bloods

Some states have revised the Indian Child Welfare Act
Laws Protect Full-Bloods
To protect Indian children from adoption agencies, tribal leaders pushed for the much-needed Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), made law in 1978. Since its passage, full blood Indian children are supposed to be protected and kept in their tribal community.
But the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994, (amended by the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996) decided: “If it turns out that a child is of mixed ancestry, including some Indian heritage, but is not an “Indian child” under ICWA, then the child’s placement is not subject to ICWA and the child is entitled to the MEPA-IEP protections against discriminatory placement decisions. If a caseworker has reason to know that a child may have some Indian heritage, it is essential to determine whether the child is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe, or may be eligible for membership by virtue of being the biological child of a member. Delays in determining a child’s status as an “Indian child” can have the unfortunate consequence, years later, of disrupting stable placements with non-Indian foster or adoptive parents to rectify an earlier failure to abide by ICWA.”
I’m a mixed blood, meaning my blood was somehow tainted or ruined. The ax cuts both ways. Tribes might lose children if one parent was white and doesn’t disclose the child’s Indian ancestry. Some tribes exclude mixed bloods based on blood quantum. Some tribes dis-enroll members who move off their reservation.
Entire tribes were terminated by the 1950s, when the U.S. government ended its federal trusteeship of roughly three percent of the Native population through a process called termination. Of the 109 tribes and bands terminated, 62 were in Oregon and 41 were in California. Others were in Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin. (Many adoptions happened in those states, too, before the ICWA.)
Termination caused cultural, political and economic devastation for those tribes. Some did reestablish the trust relationship but for others, their lawsuits lasted years.
Lost Birds I’ve met want to find their families, even if not federally recognized. Mixed blood children now can certainly fall into these loopholes and disappear. Caseworkers might determine your Indian status based on how you look, which is ridiculous.
Really, it’s a mess. There are 250 tribes on a list of non-recognized tribes, with 150 of them petitioning for federal recognition. State-recognized tribes like the Abenaki in Vermont, who receive no federal benefits, are currently petitioning the federal government. The idea that a tribe doesn’t exist is troubling. If there are tribal members, there is a tribe.
Not long ago, Vermont decided to apologize for sterilizing Abenaki Indian women and children, after a deliberate attempt to make sure there would be no more Vermont Indians. Vermont’s apology took the form of teaching Abenaki tribal history in all its schools. For many years, the Abenaki were so afraid of the government militia called Roger’s Rangers; they did not teach their children the Abenaki culture, language or ceremony.
Some history I wish wasn’t true.

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