facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

LANSING, Mich.— Two state Senators in Michigan have introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure Native American children can benefit from guardianship assistance, including permanent placement with guardians instead of temporary foster care.

The bills, introduced Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), would fix a “fundamentally unfair situation” in the state’s Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP), according to Irwin. Currently, children with guardianship orders from tribal courts or out-of-state courts do not qualify for assistance through GAP.  

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

“We know of at least 10 Sault Tribe families and many other Native families from around the state who have been impacted by the current laws on Guardianship Assistance Program benefits because their cases involve a tribal rather than a state court,” Austin Lowes, chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said in a statement. “When this happens, children have to remain in unfamiliar foster homes rather than in the home of a close relative, and those foster families may not uphold tribal cultures or customs.”  

The United Tribes of Michigan, which works on behalf of Michigan’s federally recognized tribes, supports the bills. 

“Guardianship is greatly needed, as it most closely resembles and honors our traditional practices, while ensuring legal protections for our children,” according to Jamie Stuck, President of the United Tribes of Michigan. The legislation would allow for all of the 12 federally recognized Tribal Courts in Michigan to access GAP funds and serve Michigan’s Indigenous children. 

 “The Tribes and the state have recognized each other’s sovereign status by the implementation of conforming laws for the protection of minors, such as the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Protection Act,” Stuck said.  “The GAP amendments continue this laudable process of mutual recognition of tribal protection court orders and state guardianship processes to offer seamless protection of children across jurisdictional borders of the Tribe and the State, while at the same time, recognizing the legitimate independent interests of each tribal sovereign and the state.” 

Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, expressed support for the bills.

“Over the last several decades at Bay Mills, we have had multiple children who have not been able to participate in the Guardianship Assistance Program but desire guardianships to preserve the established familial relationship with their parents,” Gravelle said in a statement.  “By enacting this (legislation), both the State of Michigan and Tribal Nations will strengthen services provided in guardianships so that we can better serve our children and our families across the Great Lakes.” 

More Stories Like This

Nex Benedict's Death Being Investigated as a Crime; Vigils Across the Nation Mourn Native, Non-Binary Teen
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin Addresses Impact of Federal Government Shutdown to Speaker of the House
Native News Weekly (February 25, 2024): D.C. Briefs
South Dakota House State Affairs Committee Advances Bill to Expand and Protect Native American Voting Rights

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].