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Oral Arguments Made in Brackeen v. Bernhardt Case in U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

NEW ORLEANS — Leaders of national American Indian organizations were in the courtroom of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to hear oral arguments defending the Indian Child Welfare Act in the Brackeen v. Bernhardt case.  

They left the New Orleans courtroom feeling confident the 41-year old Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) will be upheld.

“We look forward to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision,” said Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, in a news release from the Protect ICWA Campaign. “We are confident the Fifth Circuit will affirm ICWA’s strong constitutional grounding. ICWA protects children in state child welfare systems and helps them remain connected to their families, cultures, and communities.”

The Protect ICWA Campaign is comprised of the following four national American Indian organizations: National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Association on American Affairs (AAIA), and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).

“Today, before an en banc panel of the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Indian Country advocated a strong and compelling argument that the Indian Child Welfare Act is not only constitutional, but serves the best interests of American Indian children,” NCAI Chief Executive Officer Kevin Allis commented to Native News Online. “ICWA has been successful in reversing the unacceptable removal of American Indian children from tribal families and communities, ensuring that our culture, customs and traditions continue to endure.”

Oral arguments were heard on Tuesday were held at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Courtesy photo

“We are confident the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will again confirm the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act,” said John Echohawk, executive director of the NARF.  “We will always stand with our children, families, and Tribes against any and all efforts to diminish our communities, well-being, and sovereignty.”

"There has been an overwhelming amount of resources coming forward to support the Indian Child Welfare Act,” said Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, executive director and attorney for the AAIA. “We should be spending our resources protecting Indian children and not fighting interest groups that seek to dismantle the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Tribes. The Fifth Circuit will be on the right side of history protecting Indian children, and by doing so strengthening the child welfare system for all children."

A nationwide coalition of 495 tribal nations, more than 60 Native organizations, 26 states and the District of Columbia, 77 members of Congress, 31 leading child welfare organizations, and Indian and constitutional law professors agree ICWA is vital to the well-being of Indian children and the stability and integrity of Indian families today.

To learn more about ICWA visit: nicwa.org/about-icwa/ or read the full text of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The following briefs were filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fifth Circuit in Brackeen v. Bernhardt:

Defendants-Appellants Briefs

United States Brief

Tribal Intervenor Defendants Brief

Navajo Nation Brief

Amicus Briefs Supporting ICWA

486 Tribes and 59 Indian Organizations Brief

26 States and District of Columbia Brief

Members of Congress Brief

Casey Family Programs and Child Welfare Organizations Brief

Indian Law Professors Brief

Administrative Law and Constitution Law Professors Brief

Professor Gregory Ablavsky Brief

Native American Women, Indian Tribes, and Organizations Brief

Quapaw Nation Brief

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