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Friday, October 30, 2015

Adoptions of Native foster children by Native families becoming easier

Alaska Legal Services attorney Sydney Tarzwell and Francine Eddy Jones,
director of tribal family and youth services, Central Council of Tlingit
and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, at last week's Alaska Federation of
Natives convention in Anchorage. Photo by KTUU.



The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is also trying to beef up
compliance with ICWA in the wake of the Baby Veronica case by releasing
new court guidelines. In March 2015, BIA officials said they will try to make the recommendations binding, a move that has prompted lawsuits in several states by ICWA opponents.



CLICK TO READ: Adoptions of Native foster children by Native families becoming easier

Monday, October 26, 2015

Indian Child Welfare Act must be viewed in light of the historical abuses it was intended to stop

we will be blogging but not every day
By Trace
It seems those at Goldwater Institute will do anything to procure more babies for infertile wealthy white couples. Their lawyers are searching laws to get their way and dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act.
It's not working. ICWA was created to address people just like Goldwater.

DOJ Motion to Dismiss and Supporting Amicus Briefs in Goldwater (ICWA) Litigation


Motion to Dismiss here.

Footnote 8:
Plaintiffs do not seek the type of reliefincreased funding or systemic changes in the quality of child-welfare services provided by state agencies – that the Ninth Circuit found unworthy of Younger abstention in Jamieson, 643 F.2d at 1354; instead, they demand that this Court enjoin state courts and agencies from applying long-standing state and federal laws to their ongoing child-custody proceedings, which clearly warrants equitable restraint under Younger.
(emphasis added)

Also:
Membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe, or being born the child of a member of such a sovereign entity, is not a forced association. ICWA does not require association, but rather protects associations that already exist.
In addition, Casey Family Programs plus twelve other national child welfare organizations filed this amicus brief (gold standard brief).
Finally, it is a key best practice to require courts to follow pre-established, objective rules that operate above the charged emotions of individual cases and that presume that preservation of a child’s ties to her parents is in her best interests. See National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, supra, at 14. Application of the best-interests-of-the-child standard should be guided by substantive rules and presumptions because “judges too may find it difficult, in utilizing vague standards like ‘the best interests of the child,’ to avoid decisions resting on subjective values.” Smith v. Organization of Foster Families for Equal. & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 835 n.36 (1977). Courts should not terminate a child’s relationship to a parent based on “imprecise substantive standards that leave determinations unusually open to the subjective values of the judge.” Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 762-763 (1982).
Finally, the national Native organizations (NCAI, NICWA, AAIA) also filed this amicus brief (historical brief).
The Indian Child Welfare Act must be viewed in light of the historical abuses that it was intended to stop. For most of American history prior to ICWA’s enactment, federal Indian policy favored the removal of Indian children from their homes as a means of eroding Indian culture and tribes. State and private child welfare agencies later took on the implementation of these policies, carrying them out with little concern for the families or communities they affected.  By the 1970’s, the widespread and wholesale removal of Indian children from their parents and communities resulted in a crisis recognized as “the most tragic and destructive aspect of American Indian life today.” H.R. REP. No. 95- 1386, at 9 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 7530, 7532.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Groups challenging Indian Child Welfare Act lose round in court




Indian children in South Dakota. Photo from Lakota People's Law Project
       

A federal judge has dealt an early setback to groups that are challenging efforts to strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to prevent the removal of Indian children from Indian homes. But compliance has been uneven so the BIA in February issued guidance aimed at helping state courts and state agencies meet the goals of the law. Non-Indian adoption groups, though, weren't happy with the guidelines even though they do not carry the full weight of a formal regulation. They sued the BIA in May, accusing the agency of taking action without seeking input from the public. Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, however, rejected an attempt by the National Council for Adoption and the Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency to invalidate the new guidance. He noted that the document does not constitute a "final agency action" that can be challenged in court.
Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker discusses an Indian Child Welfare Act case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. Dusten Brown, in sunglasses, was forced to give up his daughter after the justices ruled against him. Photo from National Congress of American Indians / Flickr
Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn addresses the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California, on October 19, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com
 


Lee also determined the groups lacked standing altogether. As part of comments submitted to the agency regarding a permanent ICWA rule, they already admitted that the guidelines are completely voluntary, he said. "The 2015 guidelines are merely interpretive in nature and impose no obligation unless and until a state court requires compliance with their provisions," Lee wrote in the 17-page decision on Tuesday. Although the ruling does not end the case, the standing issue poses a significant problem going forward. Without a judicially-recognized connection to challenge the BIA, the groups face an outright dismissal of their lawsuit. ICWA, however, remains under attack. Emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, non-Indians are trying to outright invalidate the law, or at least undermine it, through a series of lawsuits. One conservative organization claims the law is unconstitutional because it only applies to children based on their racial heritage.


The BIA also faces opposition to an ICWA rule that would carry the force of law unlike the guidelines. Over 1,800 comments were submitted by the May 18 deadline, according to the docket on regulations.gov. "It is in the best interest of children not to be stolen from their tribal communities," Washburn said on Monday at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California. "I think that's just a fundamental principle." Pointing to media coverage in publications like the Wall Street Journal, opposition groups are well-funded, Washburn said at NCAI. With slick websites and high-profile lawsuits, tribal advocates believe the law faces serious hurdles in the coming years. "Indian country lost Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl because the adoption industry won the PR battle before Indian country even noticed. It’s time to act," professor Kathryn E. Fort wrote on Turtle Talk in July after the conservative Goldwater Institute of Arizona filed a class action against ICWA.

 Even though ICWA has been on the books for 35 years, Indian children are still overrepresented in the child welfare system. In South Dakota, for example, 51 percent of children in the foster care system are American Indian or Alaska Native even though Native Americans represent just about 9 percent of the state population. Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case being handled by Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in Virginia, NCFA v. Jewell.

Additional documents from other ICWA cases can also be found on Turtle Talk. Federal Register Notices:
Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (March 30, 2015)
Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (February 25, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

#ICWA in the news

Federal ICWA Cases Update Memo


We originally posted this when the first three lawsuits were filed. There have been two additional ones since then. Here is the memo with the most recent updates.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the ICWA Appellate Project at Michigan State University College of Law—collectively known as the ICWA Defense Project—are working collaboratively to defend ICWA and the long overdue reforms to it introduced this year. This memo will summarize the pending litigation and describe some of the legal and communications strategies these partner organizations have developed to inform, advance, and unify a coordinated effort across Indian Country to respond to these attacks.
Here is a link to the page where we are keeping all of the PACER documents.

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A little girl named Veronica is our inspiration to keep ICWA intact...Trace

Wall Street Journal Article on ICWA Lawsuits


Here.

PDF copy here.

From the end of the article:
An Interior spokeswoman said Congress has determined it “is in the best interests of an Indian child to keep that child…with the child’s parents,” extended family and tribal community.
Kathryn Fort, a lawyer with the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University, defends the law and the guidelines. Ms. Fort said that before the law was passed, social workers would argue that it was in the “best interests” of an Indian child to be permanently removed from a house that was merely messy or lacked the most modern conveniences. “It’s really a way of allowing—and perpetuating—discrimination against Indians,” she said.
Supporters of the law say the adoption delays often required are part of its point. The law “demands excellence in how we treat Indian children,” said Matthew Newman, a staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund. “That often requires a bit of time.”

Trauma May Be Woven Into DNA of Native Americans

Courtesy crystalinks.com/smudging.html
Folks in Indian country wonder what took science so long to catch up with traditional Native knowledge.

Trauma is big news these days. Mainstream media is full of stories about the dramatic improvements allowing science to see more clearly how trauma affects our bodies, minds and even our genes. Much of the coverage hails the scientific connection between trauma and illness as a breakthrough for modern medicine. The next breakthrough will be how trauma affects our offspring.

The science of epigenetics, literally “above the gene,” proposes that we pass along more than DNA in our genes; it suggests that our genes can carry memories of trauma experienced by our ancestors and can influence how we react to trauma and stress. The Academy of Pediatrics reports that the way genes work in our bodies determines neuroendocrine structure and is strongly influenced by experience. [Neuroendocrine cells help the nervous and endocrine (hormonal) system work together to produce substances such as adrenaline (the hormone associated with the fight or flight response.] Trauma experienced by earlier generations can influence the structure of our genes, making them more likely to “switch on” negative responses to stress and trauma.

In light of this emerging science and how it works with the way we react to trauma, the AAP stated in its publication, Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma, “Never before in the history of medicine have we had better insight into the factors that determine the health of an individual from infancy to adulthood, which is part of the life course perspective—a way of looking at life not as disconnected stages but as integrated across time,” according to the AAP in their recent publication examining the role of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) on our development and health.  The now famous 1998 ACES study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente showed that such adverse experiences could contribute to mental and physical illness.
“Native healers, medicine people and elders have always known this and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsoi, Navajo, PhD Research Associate in Genetics at Harvard University. (Courtesy SACNAS)
“Native healers, medicine people and elders have always known this and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsoi, Navajo, PhD Research Associate in Genetics at Harvard University. (Courtesy SACNAS)

Folks in Indian country wonder what took science so long to catch up with traditional Native knowledge. “Native healers, medicine people and elders have always known this and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsoi, Navajo, PhD Research Associate in Genetics at Harvard University during his presentation at the Gateway to Discovery conference in 2013.

According to Bitsoi, epigenetics is beginning to uncover scientific proof that intergenerational trauma is real. Historical trauma, therefore, can be seen as a contributing cause in the development of illnesses such as PTSD, depression and type 2 diabetes.

What exactly is historical or intergenerational trauma?  Michelle M. Sotero, an instructor in Health Care Administration and Policy at the University of Nevada, offers a three-fold definition. In the initial phase, the dominant culture perpetrates mass trauma on a population in the form of colonialism, slavery, war or genocide. In the second phase the affected population shows physical and psychological symptoms in response to the trauma. In the final phase, the initial population passes these responses to trauma to subsequent generations, who in turn display similar symptoms.
According to researchers, high rates of addiction, suicide, mental illness, sexual violence and other ills among Native peoples might be, at least in part, influenced by historical trauma. Bonnie Duran, associate professor in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Director for Indigenous Health Research at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute says, “Many present-day health disparities can be traced back through epigenetics to a “colonial health deficit,” the result of colonization and its aftermath.”

According to the American Indian and Alaska Native Genetics Research Guide created by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), studies have shown that various behavior and health conditions are due to inherited epigenetic changes.

Authors of the guide refer to a 2008 study by Moshe Szyf at McGill University in Montreal that examined the brains of suicide victims. Szyf and his team found that genes governing stress response in the victim’s hippocampus had been methylated or switched off. Excessive trauma causes us to produce hormones called glucocorticoids which can alter gene expression. Chronic exposure to this hormone can inhibit genes in the hippocampus ability to regulate glucocorticoids. Szyf suggested that the genes were switched off in response to a series of events, such as abuse during childhood. All victims in the study were abused as children.

Nature or Nurture? It’s Both!
Szyf, in collaboration with another scientist at McGill, Neurobiologist Michael Meaney, did research showing a significant difference in the hippocampus between adults rats raised by attentive and inattentive mothers. Adult offspring of inattentive rat mothers showed genes regulating sensitivity to stress to be highly methylated. The rats with attentive moms did not.

To test their research they switched the parents for rat babies born to bad and good mothers. The babies born to attentive moms but given to inattentive moms also developed highly methylated genes and grew to be skittish adults. The opposite proved true for babies born to bad moms but given to good moms. As adults the rat babies born to bad moms but raised by good mothers appeared calm.
This research seems to combine the historically polarizing theory of nature versus nurture in determining behavior. Nature is that which is inherited while nurture is the environmental influences.
Native researcher Teresa Brockie PhD, Research Nurse Specialist at the National Institute of Health suggests that such gene methylation is linked to health disparities among Native Americans. In her article in Nursing and Research and Practice, she and her research colleagues note that high ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experience) scores have been linked to methylation of genes that regulate the stress response. They further noted that endocrine and immune disorders are also linked to methylation of such genes.

The researchers found that Native peoples have high rates of ACE’s and health problems such as posttraumatic stress, depression and substance abuse, diabetes all linked with methylation of genes regulating the body’s response to stress. “The persistence of stress associated with discrimination and historical trauma converges to add immeasurably to these challenges,” the researchers wrote.
Since there is a dearth of studies examining these findings, the researchers stated they were unable to conclude a direct cause between epigenetics and high rates of certain diseases among Native Americans.

One of researchers, Dr. Jessica Gill, Principal Investigator, Brain Injury Unit, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Nursing Research wrote in response to questions to the NIH’s public affairs office, “Epigenetic studies provide a unique opportunity to characterize the long-term impact of stressors including historical trauma on the function of genes. The modification of gene function through epigenetic modifications can greatly impact the health of the individual and may underlie some of the health disparities that we observe in populations including Native Americans. This line of research is of great promise for nurse scientists, as it will be instrumental in the promotion of the health and well-being of patients impacted by trauma and stress.”

Although epigenetics offers the hope of creating better and more specific medicines and interventions for mental health problems, it also suggests the notion that Native peoples and other ethnic groups may be genetically inferior.

Researchers such as Shannon Sullivan, professor of philosophy at UNC Charlotte, suggests in her article “Inheriting Racist Disparities in Health: Epigenetics and the Transgenerational Effects of White Racism,” that the science has faint echoes of eugenics, the social movement claiming to improve genetic features of humans through selective breeding and sterilization.

Inherited Resilience
Epigenetics is indeed a hot topic, and pharmaceutical companies are actively searching for epigenetic compounds that will help with learning and memory and help treat depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Many researchers caution, however, that the new science may be getting ahead of itself. “There is a lot of research that needs to be done before we will understand whether and how these processes work,” says Joseph Gone, professor at the University of Michigan and member of the Gros Ventre tribe of Montana.

Scientific developments such as epigenetics can offer exciting new insights not only into how our bodies react not only to trauma but also how we manage to survive it.
Native peoples ability to maintain culture and sense of who they are in the face of such a traumatic history suggests an inherited resilience that bears scientific examination as well, according to Gone.
Isolating and nurturing a resilience gene may well be on the horizon.

This project is made possible by support from The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism and Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, University of Southern California;  the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.

SOURCE http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/05/28/trauma-may-be-woven-dna-native-americans-160508

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pala Tribe to protect Native American Children in California's Welfare System

October 16, 2015 | NEWS  

PALA, CA – The Pala Band of Mission Indians is the first tribe in California to receive clearance to conduct LiveScan background checks for tribal foster homes under new State law (Senate Bill 1460). 
The tribe is also the first to apply to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) program,  Purpose Code X, to assist tribal services agencies within federally recognized tribes that are seeking to place children in safe homes during an emergency situation, when parents are unable to provide for their welfare.                                                                                                                                                       

"We are very excited to be a part of this momentous change to protect our Native youth in the welfare system," said Robert Smith, Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. "For years, Native American children have been placed in homes that do not reflect their cultural heritage and placed with foster parents who have not had their criminal history thoroughly vetted because the tribe was not allowed to conduct these background checks. Now we can certify tribal homes that are prepared to care for these children in a timely manner and ensure that Native American children are maturing in an appropriate environment."

The Purpose Code X program provides BIA Office of Justice Services with the ability to provide tribal social service agency partners with much-needed information to help make sure children requiring emergency placement will be placed in safe homes. The program arose out of a 2014 working group formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Interior (DOI) to identify sustainable solutions addressing the civil needs of the tribes. Under this program, BIA dispatch centers will be available to provide 24-hour access to criminal history records, so name-based checks can be done immediately.

With the changes made in California law, tribes are now able to receive criminal history and child abuse information from the California DOJ and be involved in the approval of tribal foster homes. The law also provides for the transfer of Native American children case records from a county to tribal government. Under new standards for foster homes, the tribe will be provided with a federal criminal offender check of all adults residing in a family home, as a condition for approval.

"It has been an honor to be part of the work behind SB 1460 and to see the positive impact it has made for Pala and the other California Tribes," said Season Brown, Director of Social Services of Pala Band of Mission Indians. "I'm very excited for Pala to begin the new venture of piloting Purpose Code X and being able to reduce the trauma experienced by our Native children, which is often associated with being placed outside of their Tribal community in Non-Native homes."

Purpose Code X and California State law are now working cohesively to ensure that tribes are able to effectively serve and protect their communities by ensuring the exchange of critical data.

California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has made it a priority to protect the rights of children and focus the attention and resources of law enforcement and policymakers in safeguarding every child so that they can meet their full potential. These measures will ensure that laws and regulations enacted to protect children, inclusive of Indian welfare children, are consistently and effectively enforced.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians is a federally recognized tribe whose reservation is located along the Palomar Mountain range approximately 30 miles northeast of San Diego. The majority of the over 900 tribal members live on the 12,000-acre reservation, established for Cupeño and Luiseño Indians, who consider themselves to be one proud people - Pala. 


====================
Pala tribal history website
Background:

President Rutherford Hayes, prompted by the Supreme Court holding, declared the Indians "trespassers" and ordered the tribe relocated to Pala, California, just beyond the Palomar Mountains where a 10,000-acre reservation had been established. Pala was a Luiseno reservation then, not Cupa.
This act marked the first time in U.S. history that two distinct Indian tribes were herded together in one reservation. This was a blemish upon a nation that prided itself on leading the world into the 20th Century and the cultural and political renaissance that accompanied such a transition.

On the morning of May 12, 1903, Indian Bureau agent James Jenkins arrived with 44 armed teamsters to carry out the eviction. Rosinda Nolasquez — the last survivor of the expulsion — later testified that "Many carts stood there by the doors. People came from La Mesa, from Santa Ysabel, fromWilakal, from San Ignacio to see their relatives. They cried a lot. And they just threw our belongings, our clothes, into carts."

The 40-mile journey from Cupa to Pala took three days. The Cupeños call it their "Trail of Tears."
READ MORE

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Horrifying Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools Hasn’t Ended – Here’s What You Need to Know




An old classroom is shown with an empty desk
Source: iStock
As we come fully into fall and social media timelines fill with photos of kids shining with scholastic achievement (mine being one of them – star speller, woohoo!), I’ve been reflecting on one photo in particular.

A friend posted a picture she took while at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania earlier this year. It shows the headstones of a Piute child named Boise and a Shawnee child named Fanny.
It’s a sobering and triggering photo.

Carlisle was the first off-reservation Indian boarding school. For many Natives, it represents the destructive and often deadly nature of official US assimilation policies forced down the throats of Native youth and families from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.
Note: I use the term “Indian” sparingly and only when referring to the legal and historical name thrust upon Indigenous people of the US by the federal government. “American Indian” is the legal term used today. Whenever possible, I use Native, Indigenous, or specific tribal names.
I’ve heard harrowing first-person accounts of children having lye spread in and around their mouths for speaking prohibited Native languages. Kids as young as five and six were bathed in kerosene and forced to cut their sacred hair upon arrival.

Physical and sexual abuse was widespread. Trying not to die was as much a part of the curriculum as learning a new trade.
Boarding schools were Guantánamo for Native babies.
And it was considered totally legit in the name of mainstreaming. Carlisle – and the dozens of other schools modeled after it – ruled by the motto: “Kill the Indian, save the man.”
As someone who has worked extensively with Native youth and families in both the public education and social services systems, and as someone whose immediate family were sent to Indian boarding schools, I can say unequivocally that the effects of what’s known as the Indian boarding school era are still felt – in immense and powerful ways – today in both the US and Canada.

And yet many refuse to lay blame at the feet of these institutions. Boarding schools weren’t that bad, they say. They point to the Natives who got good jobs, or flourished athletically, like Jim Thorpe, and especially those who refused to return to their Native homelands in favor of the Western lifestyle.

More still know nothing of the atrocities experienced by boarding school survivors and dismiss studies that show intergenerational trauma affects Native students in classrooms today.
I’ve heard these phrases and more too many times to count: “They’re just lazy,” teachers tell each other in the lounge discussing failing students. “Their parents don’t even care,” they surmise after another missed parent-teacher conference. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “Work harder like your peers,” they tell the kids who don’t turn in homework.
Educators need to remember context before passing judgment.
It’s therefore my hope the following serves as a sort of history lesson to explain the links between the Indian boarding school era and Native educational outcomes today.

The Humane Way to Assimilate

Let’s assume good intentions established Indian boarding schools during the late 1800s. Using a broad lens, the concept of boarding schools doesn’t look so bad.
Many historians say these schools were a way to save what many saw as a dying race.
The reservation system was failing, Natives were living in extreme poverty, and conflicts continued to plague US military forces on the Great Plains (and, uh, massacres continued to plague Native tribes).

Assimilating Native youth seemed to be the only way to save Native people. If Native youth learned how successful they could be learning English and Western culture, everyone’s problems would be solved.
At first, churches and missionaries set up schools outside reservation borders and kids would attend during the day and return home in the afternoon. But Native kids still learned from family and cultural systems on the reservation, still spoke their Native languages, and were generally still “Indian.”
Army officer Richard H. Pratt came on the scene in 1879, fresh from an experiment working with Native prisoners, to whom he taught English and Christianity and trades for employment.
Not so surprisingly, the inmates overwhelmingly chose conversion and assimilation to longer imprisonment, so Pratt saw his experiment as a success and published “then and now” photos showing the prisoners first as “savages” (long hair and leather clad) and then as “civilized” (cut hair, pressed shirts, and polished shoes).

Pratt and his supporters were certain the prisoner experiment would work for Native children. What could go wrong?
Pratt convinced the families of about 80 children from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota to let him educate their kids 1,500 miles away in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The long distance, he argued, would break the hold tribal life had on students.
Pratt’s school was styled on military regimen; drills and industrial work were built into a school day that lasted from 5:45 a.m. through 9 p.m. Tribal languages and practices were not allowed. Pratt’s the guy who coined the “kill the Indian” phrase mentioned above.
In 1893, mandatory education for Native children became federal policy. If parents refused to send their children away, Bureau of Indian Affairs authorities could withhold treaty-obligated annuities or rations (food, clothing, land) and jail offenders.

Hundreds of Indian boarding schools, both on-site and off-reservation, were built and utilized through the early part of the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of Native children were forced through the system.
By the 1920s, however, the boarding school trend lost favor, primarily because of how expensive it was (annual appropriations reached into the millions) and how few Native students chose to assimilate into white society upon graduating.  The feds turned over many school administrations to religious organizations.

It would be another half-century, in the 1970s, that the Indian boarding school era would fade out its mission to “civilize” Natives.
Today, many boarding schools continue to operate specifically to education Native children, but under tribal authority and oversight and with positive, education-based missions that incorporate Indigenous teachings and perspectives. 

Fear and Punishment as Educational Tools

Though I find it problematic at best, many consider the foundations and intentions of Indian boarding schools to have been beneficial and successful – if the aim was to save a dying race, then the 5.2 million of us alive today can thank Indian boarding schools for a job well done.
It is my belief, however, that government and church-run boarding schools have had the single greatest negative impact on Natives, beyond wars or reservations or anything else the US threw our way.

Not only did the forced removal of Native children result in the destruction of the tight familial structures and cultural values many tribes relied on, it also brought tribes to their knees politically and ended Native-led resistance efforts.
What better way to establish dominance and ensure submission than to take away that which is most precious to the people you’re trying to conquer?
The schools weren’t developed to educate, but to “civilize” by whatever means necessary.

Interviews and accounts from school administrators in a document known as the Kennedy Report (1969) show how they believed brutal punishments for transgressions like speaking Native languages were necessary to (literally) break children from tribal values.
My mom and other relatives went to Indian boarding schools, and I’ve listened to and researched first-person accounts of the abuse and destruction children endured.

One gentleman I interviewed told how he was five years old and didn’t want his hair cut, as was mandatory for boys arriving at school. One clergyman told him to get in line with the girls if he wanted his hair kept long. Staff gave him a pink rosary, instead of the blue reserved for boys.
He didn’t think anything of it – gender roles weren’t so rigid for Lakota people as they were for Westerners – until the teachers and older students began to mock him and laugh at his long hair and pink rosary.

Though shamed, he still refused to have his hair cut. He was beaten and blacked out; when he awoke, his hair, considered sacred by the Lakota, was gone.
I also interviewed a woman who said she watched as a girl in her dorm slowly died from a common cold because the staff didn’t want to waste medicine on a child they thought was faking illness, and she was made to run extra laps in the morning.
The woman said she and the other girls piled blankets on the sick child and pushed her bed up by the heater at night, but she was dead within the week and buried in the back of the school.
I’ve heard countless stories of physical, emotional, and sexual violence.
This isn’t education. It’s torture.

The Impact on Native Student Outcomes Today

Earlier this year, a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics used science to prove what Natives have known for a long, long time: Trauma affects DNA.

To put it another way, intergenerational stress and historical trauma are real and impact children in real ways.
Generations of kids forced into boarding schools meant generations of parents without children to raise. The system succeeded in dismantling traditional family and cultural structures and values.
When it comes to boarding schools, the trauma is passed down in obvious ways:
  • There are many in my generation and younger who were never taught our tribal languages. Why would our elders teach us something that could get us beaten or worse, as they were?
  • Boarding schools taught many parents and grandparents raising children today to be distrustful of the education system.
  • Violence in Native communities remains cyclical in nature. The abuse experienced by thousands of Native youth at boarding schools was rarely, if ever, treated or addressed. Left unchecked, the violence has cropped up in families generation after generation.
  • Due to the lack of mental health resources on reservations, many abuse survivors turned to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Crimes committed to feed addictions led to incarceration. The Native incarceration rate is nearly 40% higher than the national average.
  • Our children don’t learn positive ways to cope. Native youth suicide is at more than three times the national average (reservation communities experience ten times the national rate).

Less straightforward is how Native students fare in schools today.
Educational achievement for Native kids in K-12 schools continues to be the worst of any demographic. Natives have the highest drop out rates, the lowest graduation rates, and terrible test scores.
Our histories with the education system mean many Native adults don’t see the point in making their kids do well in school. Distrust is one thing, but an even bigger problem is that teachers and staff have no concept of boarding school horrors and thus, wrongly assume lazy students and disinterested parents.
Moreover, the idea that Native culture doesn’t belong at school – or it does, but only within a stereotypical framework – continues to this day. We see majority white high schools with mockery-laden homecoming traditions and kids being sent home for having “distracting” hairstyles.
Make no mistake: Actions and viewpoints like these have similar consequences on today’s Native students as boarding schools had on their ancestors.

Healing from Indian Boarding School Trauma

Ironically, education is key to overcoming the devastating effects of the Indian boarding school era.
I’ve given talks about boarding schools to teachers in districts across the nation and after every presentation, it never fails that at least a few teachers express how sorry they are for their ignorance and judgment of the Native students in their classrooms.

My presentations usually last one hour. Think of what could be possible if education majors had whole courses on the subject in college.

Native immersion programs for K-12 schools that incorporate family interaction into the curriculum are important to build trust and parental buy-in. When I was teaching a Native social studies program to middle school students a few years ago, my day included built-in, one-on-one time with students and home visits with family to engage them with the Lakota curriculum.

Furthermore, districts should never doubt the impact a relatable teacher can have on students and families. I often advocated for my students who left unexpectedly for funerals or other family gatherings, which hold different importance for Natives than Western traditions dictate. Without my intervention, many of those students would have been expelled or sent to truancy court.

Hiring Native teachers and inserting Native perspectives into curriculums, including math and sciences, would undoubtedly help turn failing students into successful ones.
Finally, healing the trauma experienced by parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents alive today may never fully be realized, but lobbying Congress to completely fund its obligations to tribes so they can establish quality mental health and treatment facilities in tribal communities is a good place to start.

Despite President Obama’s 2016 budget request asking for a small increase in tribal funding over this year, programs in Indian Country remain woefully underfunded. Advocacy from allies in the form of calls and letters to your government representatives is a must.
Consider signing a petition from the Native American Rights Fund, which urges the US government to acknowledge victims’ experiences, claim responsibility, and provide resources for tribal communities to heal.

For many, the emotional and physical scars received at boarding schools might never fade, but healing can start with mass education campaigns, therapy, legal reparations, and official acknowledgment and apology from governments and religions institutions.
For a host of resources along these lines, visit the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
Solutions and healing are possible. A good place to start? Get comfortable with the full, unabridged history of the Indian boarding school era.
Doing so provides relevant context in understanding the strains on today’s educational systems, Native families, and most importantly, Native students.






Taté Walker is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is Mniconjou Lakota and an enrolled citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She lives in Phoenix and is the editor of Native Peoples magazine. Contact her at www.jtatewalker.com and read her articles here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Eastern Cherokee's new child care welfare system


 Oct 14th, 2015| News 

Title IV-E document approved by HHS


By SCOTT MCKIE B.P. |  ONE FEATHER STAFF

The Title IV-E plan containing plans and policies (Cherokee Administrative Rules) for the new child welfare system for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been approved by federal officials.  Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave their stamp of approval in a letter to the tribe dated Monday, Oct. 6.

“We appreciate all of the effort and work you have put into the process toward submitting an approvable title IV-E plan,” wrote Rafael Lopez, Commissioner in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families within the HHS.  “We wish to thank you, the EBCI tribal leaders, your social services program staff, legal staff, fiscal staff and your partners for their diligent work toward finalizing your title IV-E plan.  In particular, we want to recognize both Hannah Smith and Sheena Meader for all their motivation, national leadership and attention to detail in the development of your title IV-E program.”

Approval of the tribe’s plan gives the EBCI Family Safety Program the ability to operate Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Guardianship Assistance Programs.

“This is an important milestone in your ongoing work to support the safety, permanency and well-being of EBCI’s most vulnerable children and families,” Lopez said.

Smith, EBCI attorney general, commented, “This document totals hundreds of pages of laws and regulatory policy for all aspects of the federally-funded tribal Family Safety Program.  Managing the production of this document over the past two years required a lot of team work, a learning curve for the application of diverse subject matters and best practices in the areas of integrative services, human sciences and federal program administration.”

Sheena M. Meader, EBCI associate counsel, worked on the Title IV-E plan and said the tribe is only one of seven nationally to such a plan approved.  “This places the EBCI in an elite group of tribal child welfare providers and raises the tribe to the highest level of recognition in the eyes of child welfare programs and professionals across the nation.  Not only does the Title IV-E plan and program approval bolster credibility and provide for the implementation of quality services, standards and adherence to best practices, it also serves as the foundation for the EBCI in supporting the safety, permanency and well-being of the tribe’s most vulnerable children and families.”

She continued, “By incorporating the integration of child welfare and behavioral health into the backbone of laws, rules, policies and procedures which were included in the approved plan, the Family Safety Program is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for not only other tribes but state child welfare programs as well.

Eastern Cherokee powwow photo
The tribe joins six other federally-recognized tribes that have an approved Title IV-E plan including: Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe of Kingston, Wash.; Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, Mont.; South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency of Shelton, Wash.; Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Baraga, Mich.; Navajo Nation of Window Rock, Ariz.; and Chickasaw Nation of Ada, Okla.

“This is an incredible achievement for the Office of the Attorney General and a real bright spot in the futures of Cherokee families,” said Smith.

Meader went on to say, “Additionally, through the tireless work of Sunshine Parker, EBCI Division of Health and Human Services, as a foster care licensing authority with approved standards that meet or exceed the recognized national standards for foster care licensing, is able to license tribal foster homes to promote the placement of Cherokee children in Cherokee homes.”

She said the Family Safety Program is “actively recruiting” EBCI tribal members to serve as foster parents.  If you are interested, call 359-1520.

‘Without our children, what are we?’ Maine cited for removing Native kids

Truth and Reconciliation Commission says many Wabanaki children placed in foster care because of long-standing racism

BANGOR, Maine — A commission has found that Native American children in Maine are five times as likely to be placed in foster care as non-Native children.

The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) presented its preliminary findings and recommendations on Thursday at the first in a series of public forums in Maine.

TRC Executive Director Charlotte Bacon told a group of a few hundred Maine residents gathered at Husson University in Bangor that the higher rate of foster care for Wabanaki children stems, in part, from racism and cultural differences in childrearing.

“One of the things we found is that there are real differences for people who are working inside the state system and people who are Wabanaki around the idea of safety — what constitutes safety, what does it look like,” Bacon said.

The Maine Wabanaki TRC was established in 2013 to document the widespread removal of Native children from their homes and address the collective trauma experienced by tribal communities in Maine. With the participation of Maine’s four Wabanaki tribes and the state government, the commission aims to propose policy changes and initiate a healing process.

For more than a century, Native American children were taken from their families and communities in systematic forced assimilation. As many as 35 percent of Native children were placed in non-Native homes and boarding schools. Some suffered abuse and neglect, and many were left with lifelong psychological scars. Extended families were irreparably fractured.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 attempted to reverse the state-sanctioned practice by mandating tribal jurisdiction over Native child custody cases. But a federal review in 1999 found Maine to be severely noncompliant, with Native children continuing to be removed from their homes at a much higher rate than white children.

A committee was formed with representatives of the state government and the Wabanaki tribes. They found that new regulations and cultural awareness training were not enough.

“We weren’t talking about what happened in the past,” said Esther Attean, a Passamaquoddy woman and a co-director of community outreach organization Maine-Wabanaki Reconciliation Engagement Advocacy Change Healing (REACH). “We were trying to do reconciliation work without the truth.”
In 2008 the committee began discussing the idea of creating a truth commission modeled after those in South Africa and Latin America. Canada and Australia have established truth commissions to deal exclusively with the treatment of indigenous peoples; the Maine Wabanaki TRC is the first to do so in the United States.

“It is innovative in the U.S. to start this kind of process,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, the director of the truth and memory program of the International Center for Transitional Justice. “But in my view, this should be seen as the avant-garde, something that should happen more extensively in all of the country, because by no means is what happened in Maine unique.”

‘Kill the Indian … save the man’

Forced assimilation of Native American children in the U.S. dates back to the 1870s, when Army officer Richard Henry Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. The boarding school taught Native American children English, Christianity and European art and prohibited students from speaking their Native languages and practicing their cultural traditions.
Pratt famously wrote in an 1892 essay, “All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

His philosophy served as a model for boarding schools later founded by religious groups and the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. By 1973, an estimated 60,000 Native American children were enrolled in these schools.

Foster care and adoption programs also decimated Native American communities. In 1958, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America established the Indian Adoption Project, through which 395 Native American children were adopted by white families. By 1972 in Maine’s Aroostook County, 1 in 3 Native children were in foster care, according to Bacon.

The trauma of storytelling

At first, Wabanaki people were reluctant to participate in the TRC. Commissioner Carol Wishcamper said they distrusted a program that had the backing of the government and were not ready to open old wounds in the company of outsiders.

“The act of storytelling can be healing, but it also can be retraumatizing.” she said. “I don’t think anybody really anticipated the fact that there wouldn’t be trust of outsiders coming in. We thought that people were much readier than they were to meet the commission and tell their stories.”

Commissioners and statement gatherers had to rethink their approach to the tribal communities. After months of outreach, healing ceremonies and sharing circles, Wabanaki people began to tell their stories. The TRC has collected 159 statements from Wabanaki survivors, their family members, foster families and employees of the state child welfare system — social workers, judges, lawyers, guardians ad litem.

These statements, not yet publicly available, will be archived at Bowdoin College after the TRC’s closing ceremony in June. Then the work of implementing the commission’s recommendations begins. Much of that reconciliation work will be taken on by Maine-Wabanaki REACH.

“For us as white Mainers and for white people in this country, our job is to really look at what enabled that to happen and what’s alive in us today that enables that still to happen,” said Penthea Burns, a co-director of Maine-Wabanaki REACH.

The treatment of Wabanaki children must be considered, Burns said, within the context of an ongoing genocide against Native Americans. Attean agreed. She places the removal of Native children on a long list of injustices and indignities suffered by the Wabanaki peoples of Maine.

“Our land was taken. We couldn’t speak our language, couldn’t practice our religion, couldn’t farm, couldn’t fish, couldn’t hunt. But at least we had our families, and at least we had our children. We could still be together. But when they take the kids …” Attean’s voice trailed off. “Without our children, what are we? They are everything.”

Friday, October 16, 2015

MAINE's TRC: FIRST LIGHT FILM


New Short Film on Maine Truth and Reconciliation Commission

VIDEO Here.
Lots of good information here.
Press coverage here.

The longer movie is due out in 2017, but it’s very nice to have this short film and supporting website available now as an antidote to all of the Goldwater blitz.

NOW free online

PURCHASE:  DVD  |  DOWNLOAD  |  BOTH


“It’s not just about removing children, it’s dismantling every aspect of their being in the process.

— gkisedtanamoogk
First Light independently documents the work of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the first such task force to investigate issues important to Native Americans. The commission was dedicated to uncovering and acknowledging the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the child welfare system. First Light is the debut film in the Dawnland series, which is anchored by the feature film Dawnland slated for release in early 2017.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

BC Premier’s office site of native protest over child welfare

 Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian and Chief Stewart Phillip of the B.C. Indian Chief's Union speak to a small crowd of protesters Tuesday outside B.C. Premier Christy Clark's office in West Kelowna. Contributed/ Global Okanagan
Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian and Chief Stewart Phillip of the B.C. Indian Chief’s Union speak to a small crowd of protesters Tuesday outside B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s office in West Kelowna.
Contributed/ Global Okanagan


, Global News, Oct 13, 2015

WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – Protesters gathered at Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office Tuesday afternoon in support of aboriginal child welfare rights.

About 50 members of Okanagan aboriginal communities, including the Splatsin Nation from Enderby, chanted and drummed at the protest. They are concerned about the province taking care of their children instead of being care for by First Nations.

The Splatsin Indian Band and Chief Wayne Christian are suing the B.C. government, looking to have their right to self-govern their social welfare enforced by the courts. The B.C. government granted aboriginal communities jurisdiction over their own child welfare on this date in 1980.

Christian says their agreement has not been fulfilled.

“The grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles don’t have “a legal right” to the child, that’s what the minister says,” says Christian. “No. Our system is different than yours. They have a right to be there for that child.”

“Their system is not working,” says Christian of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, which operates on a $1.39 billion annual budget. “It’s failing our children and families miserably and they’ve got to change what they’re doing.”

Christian says more than half of B.C. foster children are aboriginal, but First Nations communities receive no funding to manage social welfare as they see fit.

“It’s going to be enough when we can take care of our own, bottom line,” he says. “It’s not about money. People think it’s about money. It’s the ability to look after our own laws and our own processes.”

The B.C. government has yet to file a response to the Splatsin lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Christian says they are planning province-wide protests in November.
http://globalnews.ca/news/2275302/premiers-office-site-of-native-protest-over-child-welfare/

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Listen to the Elders: Lighting 8th Fire



According to their oral tradition, at the time of this and other signs, the Hopi had a responsibility to seek out a House of Mica (glass) that would stand on the far eastern shore of Turtle Island -- a place where leaders from around the world would come to discuss their problems. In 1948 the Hopi recognized the newly constructed UN headquarters as the long-awaited House of Mica. Prophecy instructed the Hopi that, when they found the great meeting house for the leaders of the world, they should make four knocks on the door -- four attempts to speak there and to deliver a key message.

The House of Mica - United Nations headquarters in New York City, with its distinctive glass facade, which gleams like the mineral mica in the desert sunshine. (UN Photo 104 713 SAW LWIN).

Over the years since 1948 the Hopi elders came and knocked again and again at the door to the House of Mica, but they were turned away.
Finally, a delegation of four Hopi elders came to New York in 1993 for the Cry of the Earth conference -- what amounted to a fourth and final knock at the door to the House of Mica. The Hopi were accompanied by 24 other traditional elders from six other Native American nations, including the four-person Algonquin delegation headed by Grandfather Commanda.
Speaking at UN headquarters, the elders delivered a unified and explicit warning that the time of purification -- the era of withering fruit spoken of in their traditions -- is already in progress, and likely to intensify. They presented their understandings, handed down orally since antiquity, regarding the ethical, ecological, and spiritual crises confronting humanity today. Their messages fell on deaf ears.
When Grandfather Commanda gauged the lack of understanding at the UN, he saw an urgent need to take the messages of the elders directly to the people, and to fulfill the instructions set out long ago by the Seventh Prophet. The experience at the UN set the idea in his mind. It impelled him to sound the call for a prayer walk that would "retrace the steps of the ancestors along the path of the Sun," from East to West, to recover what had been lost long ago, as the Seventh Prophet had said should happen.
Although UN officials and the media were unmoved by the elders unified cry of warning in 1993, at least one person heard the message. It changed the course of his life. Tom Dostou is a man of mixed Wabanaki and Irish heritage. He had come to New York that November in a rage. He was seeking guns and money to support an incipient revolt against the Canadian government on a Mohawk reservation. But he was stopped in his tracks by the elders.
Upon hearing their messages, Tom had what he would later describe as an instant spiritual awakening. He forswore anger and violence, and abandoned his search for weapons. He determined instead to spearhead the prayer walk that Grandfather was calling for – to retrace the footsteps of the ancestors. A forceful and charismatic figure, Tom assumed the mantle of headman for the walk.
Plans for the pilgrimage began to take shape. The walkers would start near the Eastern Door of Turtle Island -- in Massachusetts along the Atlantic Ocean -- and then retrace the footsteps of the ancestors south and west, carrying the message of the elders directly to the people.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ 

Nine months after the elders spoke at the UN's House of Mica, something happened that intensified the sense of urgency for the walk to get underway. A white buffalo calf was born.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ 

"I ask you to listen not just with your minds. I ask you to listen with your hearts, because that is the only way you can receive what it is -- what we are giving. These are the teachings of our hearts.
"This walk is going to take eight or nine months. There are lots of elders out there across Turtle Island, and they have many beautiful teachings, many teachings that all the people need now. It is our hope, it is our prayer that they will come forward now that the Eastern Door is open
"It is our prayer that they will meet us as we walk; that they will teach and share what they understand from their hearts. Be patient. Listen to the elders. You need patience to receive these teachings. It doesn't all come at once. You need patience."
- Frank Decontie, Algonquin
June 23, 1995
First Encounter Beach, Massachusetts





 
Odyssey of the 8th Fire -  Sacred journey. From First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, across Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, toward the Western Gate, California. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Closing the Circle

British Columbia cannot continue to do child and family welfare on the cheap.

The B.C. Liberal government has failed to prioritize proper funding for services and supports for vulnerable children and their families for the last decade.
Budget numbers speak for themselves. Since 2008, Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) funding has been cut by $44 million, before inflation.
In 2004/05, spending per capita on child, youth, and family services in B.C. was $360. Today, it’s $287 – a cut of more than one-fifth – even as the consumer price index rose by 17.3% during the same period.

Yet B.C. is experiencing increasing demand for child, youth, and family services.

Every year, MCFD provides services to around 155,000 children and youth and their families—or about 17% of BC’s population under age 18. The province’s child and youth population is projected to grow by an estimated 27,000 over the next five years.

The complexity of support needs required continues to increase because of persistent high childhood poverty, increased diagnoses of complex physical and mental health disorders for at-risk children and youth, and the unfortunate over-representation of Aboriginal youth in B.C.’s social welfare system.

Solution: Increase funding to child, youth and family services in the short and long term to address staffing and other concerns

At minimum and in the short term, government should restore $44 million in MCFD funding cut between 2008/09 and 2013/14, and adjust this amount for inflation.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report

Across North America

Every. Day.

Every. Day.
adoptees take back adoption narrative and reject propaganda

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Join!

National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network (NISCWN)

Membership Application Form

The Network is open to all Indigenous and Foster Care Survivors any time.

The procedure is simple: Just fill out the form HERE.

Source Link: NICWSN Membership

Read this SERIES

Read this SERIES
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ADOPTION TRUTH

As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

Our Fault? (no)

Leland at Goldwater Protest

#defendicwa

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