By Lisa Morris
“…The Tribal Elder who observed two little boys engaging in anal sex in her yard did call police immediately. No one in law enforcement took her statement. She tried to tell her story at the February 27, 2013 hearing but she was shushed by the US Attorney, the BIA leadership and all of those on the platform. The US Attorney did say publicly that he would speak to her privately after the Hearing concluded. He did not. Nor did anyone from his office take her statement.” – Tom Sullivan, March 29, 2013
This is just one of 100+ events reported over a year by Tom Sullivan, Regional Administrator for Administration of Children and Families, to his Superiors in DC. Their response? Transfer his duties to another department:
“I want to be clear with you that the Children’s Bureau is leading this effort for ACF and will manage work with both the Tribal leadership and the Tribal social services staff moving forward”…”It is my expectation that you will refer all future inquiries to the Department concerning Spirit Lake to the Children’s Bureau and respect the Bureau’s role in leading and coordinating the Department’s efforts to achieve the goal of protecting Spirit Lake’s children.” – Marrianne Mcmullen, ACF, Nov. 1, 2013
Ms. Mcmullen wasn’t alone. George Sheldon, former ACF Assistant Secretary, wrote Sullivan April, 15, 2013, to say the ACF doesn’t want to hear his reports. Mr. Sheldon also stated the ACF stands firmly behind the BIA, FBI & US Attorney at Spirit Lake, despite numerous reports from Spirit Lake residents and ACF’s own Sullivan that horrific child abuse has been ignored by those federal agencies.
YET – The horrific child abuse Mr. Sullivan reported to the ACF in 2012 and 2013 was supported by a recent CNN segment (Oct, 1013) entitled “Sexual Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation” as well as a Front-line documentary “Kind-Hearted Woman” in Spring of 2013.
Worse – had ACF Assistant Secretary Sheldon listened to Mr. Sullivan – toddler Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered at Spirit Lake 6 months ago in June, might be alive today.
The situation for many children in Indian Country is at crisis and it’s time Congress quit pretending. Read some of Mr. Sheldon’s letters, Tom Sullivan’s reports, and other documents here – http://caicw.org/2013/12/04/letters-from-george-sheldon-ignore-tom/
We need your help. We need immediate hearings concerning the allegations Mr. Sullivan has made of negligence by the FBI, BIA, ACF and US attorney Tim Purdon in dealing with children at Spirit Lake.
We’ve also been told it’s well known among agencies that Spirit Lake is a microcosm of what’s happening across Indian Country. They know what is happening at Spirit Lake is widespread in Indian Country, but are playing political games anyway.
Our Senators need to know their constituents not only support them in confronting the problem, but expect them to. Please contact them and let them know lives of children are far more important than politics.
NOTE: We’re told the Senate will not under any circumstances entertain releasing people from tribal jurisdiction. We’ve been told current Senate leaders unequivocally support tribal sovereignty. Noting this is not an attempt to be partisan. This is simply reality in Congress. A Senator’s office explained they were unable to find even one Democrat to support constitutional rights over the demands of tribal leaders when voting for VAWA last spring – and Democrats control every committee in the Senate.
However, many well-meaning Senators have heard only the lobbyists for tribal sovereignty. They’ve never heard the stories of average tribal members and others who’ve been hurt by Indian law. They’ve never heard the other side of the story.
If Senators were to request hearings concerning Mr. Sullivan’s allegations – it would give the other side of the story a chance to be told and educate those who have never heard it. It would also show the Senate’s concern for constitutional and civil rights.
Our strongest hope, though, is that comprehensive hearings will save lives. We have no choice but to insist on oversight hearings based on the documentation we have linked to above.
We are asking 1) for hearings on Tom Sullivan’s allegations, and 2) that all federal agencies to be instructed to uphold law pertaining to child protection, immediately. Further, we want our Senators to:
- Repeal the Indian Child Welfare Act – which is hurting children and families across the country. ICWA protects tribal governments and sovereignty – NOT children.
- Change the VAWA to give victims of all heritages the right to be heard in country courts if they choose. Some women have reason for not wanting to tell their stories in tribal court. The current VAWA forces victims to choose between tribal court or keeping silent. U.S. citizens of every heritage have constitutional rights that are not always recognized in Indian Country.
Thank you so much for your willingness to consider this and help. Our children have been viewed as collateral damage in DC’s ongoing political games for far too long.
Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of “Dying in Indian Country”- a true story. Website: http://DyingInIndianCountry.com