Published October 10, 2018
RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas recently decided that provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) were unconstitutional in a case entitled Texas v. Zinke. The court sided with non-Indian Plaintiffs who are seeking to adopt Indian children in clear violation of the ICWA, and the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana. The goal of the Plaintiffs’ litigation is extreme: to have the ICWA declared unconstitutional so that tribal children can be forcibly removed from their families and communities, and can be freely available for adoption by non-
Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr.
Indians who have no connection to tribal communities.
The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law that was enacted by Congress in 1978 as a national response to a history of culturally biased child welfare practices by county and other local social service agencies, which often resulted in the separation of Indian children from their families, tribes, and heritage. When the field work was being conducted by congressional committees in the 1970’s to determine whether the enactment of the ICWA was necessary, county courts in Northern Minnesota stood out as examples of the worst abuses of tearing Indian families apart. Court records demonstrated that in the early 1970’s one county court in Northern Minnesota had terminated the parental rights of 25 percent of the Indian children born in the county during the period of study, and permitted the adoption of the children outside of their tribal communities. Other similar abuses were documented in Indian Country throughout the United States. As a result, there was overwhelming congressional support for the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted into law in 1978. Since it was enacted, the ICWA has been a valuable tool for Indian tribes and Indian families in assuring that Indian children remain with their families and tribal cultures.
Red Lake Nation Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. responded to the recent decision as follows: “We refuse to go back to the dark days before the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act when our children were forcibly removed from their families and their communities by state courts and state agencies without recourse, and the Red Lake Nation supports all efforts to have the recent wrongly decided Texas court decision reversed.”
The Goldwater Institute and other ideologically conservative groups backed the non-Indian parties in this recent case. The Goldwater Institute and the other ideologically conservative groups have had the ICWA in their sights for several years, and have wrongly argued that the ICWA is unconstitutional because it burdens Native children more than their non-Indian counterparts because of the protections that must be accorded to Indian children pursuant to the law. These conservative groups have no understanding of tribal cultures, they have no respect for the rights of Native people, and they work together in unison to strip away federal protections for Native people for their own selfish ends.
The chaotic atmosphere created by the current Trump administration has contributed to the bold actions of the Goldwater Institute and other ideologically conservative groups in their zeal to attack laws that benefit Native people. These groups view the ICWA as an impediment to non-Indians in their efforts to adopt Indian children.