Silence About Conditions at Pine Ridge Reservation

 Comments Off on Silence About Conditions at Pine Ridge Reservation
Jun 122017
 

by Thomas F. Sullivan

For generations, the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation have lived with unemployment and poverty rates that have never been seen in the majority community even during the Great Depression.

According to an MSNBC Report on Pine Ridge on May 29, 2014, “Roughly four out of five residents are unemployed and well over half live in deep poverty…… Life expectancy is just 48 years old for men and 52 for women….. About 70 percent of the students will drop out of school before they graduate.”

That last statistic is especially troubling and is inconsistent with the claim frequently stated by tribal leaders that “Our children are sacred”.

According to that same MSNBC Report, “In a startling new draft report, issued in April 2014 by the Bureau of Indian Education which oversees 183 schools on 64 reservations in 23 states, focuses attention on BIE’s inability to deliver a quality education to its students. BIE schools are chronically failing. BIE operates ‘one of the lowest-performing set of schools in the country.’ During the 2012 – 2013 school year, only one out of four BIE-funded schools met state-defined proficiency standards and one out of three were under restructuring due to chronic academic failure…. BIE students performed lower on national assessment tests than students in all but one other major urban school district.”

Given these conditions which have persisted for generations as well as the almost total absence of any economic activity on the reservation, it is not surprising that there is a high level of dysfunction as well. This dysfunction is exemplified by the following health and social welfare measures:

* The infant mortality rate at Pine Ridge is one of the highest in the nation at 3 times the national average;
* The incidence of diabetes is 8 times the national average;
* Eight out of every ten people at Pine Ridge are alcoholics. Given this fact it is highly likely that most newborns on this reservation are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a severe developmental delay. Care of children with FASD requires an extended time commitment, great patience and resilience, none of which is in abundant supply in most reservation homes:
* Drug use and abuse, both prescription and illegal, is rampant;
* The teenage suicide rate is 150 percent of the national average. In the first 8 months of 2015. There were 19 completions by youth between the ages of 9 and 24 and more than 100 attempts by children from the same age group. Within the last week, a 12-year-old girl hanged herself on a tree behind the Sue Anne Big Crow Youth Center. Shortly before a 14-year-old boy recently completed, he was being counseled by one of his teachers. She told him that Lakota tradition teaches that a spirit set free by suicide is doomed to wander the earth in lonely darkness. “You don’t want that, do you?” His response was chilling, “Anything is better than here”.
* The level of domestic violence is at epidemic levels. In CY 2014 the Tribal Department of Public Safety prosecuted 470 cases of domestic violence. During the same period one of the Tribe’s domestic shelters reported they had responded to more than 1,300 cases of domestic violence:
* In CY 2016 there were 17 homicides on Pine Ridge, a rate 4 times the current homicide rate in the city of Chicago:
* For the last several years, the Pine Ridge reservation child protection staff has been investigating, relying on rigorous standards, every case of reported child sexual abuse and confirming, on average, 2 ½ cases per week for every week during each of those years. Considering that most estimates are that 10 percent or less of such abuse is ever reported, the seriousness of this level of child sexual abuse cannot be overstated.
* Research data are clear, children who are sexually abused are 2½ times more likely to attempt and/or complete suicide than children who have not been sexually abused.

On May 1, 2015, in the New York Times Ron Cornelius, the Great Plains Director of the Indian Health Service is quoted as saying, that “the recent suicides were an incredibly sad situation that IHS was committed to working with the tribe to address this heartbreaking problem.” It is not clear to me from the public record available to me just what the IHS has done to fulfill this commitment. At that time I was the ACF Regional Administrator in Denver and heard from friends on and around Pine Ridge, “There are a lot of ‘suits’ traveling to Pine Ridge. They are not meeting with anyone from the Reservation. They spend all of their time in a conference room talking with each other. They seem to make it a point to avoid any tribal members.”

However, former Pine Ridge Tribal Judge Saunie Wilson, in a power point presentation to a west coast conference on youth suicides in early 2017, described the 20 professionals sent to Pine Ridge by IHS to “solve” the reservation suicide epidemic in the following terms, “They had, No background checks, No licenses to work in South Dakota and No knowledge of reservation culture, mores or society.” Unfortunately, this is the same inept approach IHS used when there was a comparable burst of youth suicides on Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation several years earlier. I was invited by the Tribal Chair to sit in on the IHS meetings with Tribal staff as an impartial observer for the Tribe. As a result, I could observe what IHS was doing in response to the youth suicide burst on that Reservation. They were clearly not effective then. How could they believe they would be effective several years later?

On April 5, 2017, at a meeting of the Pine Ridge Tribal Law and Order Committee, the following statement was made by Richard Little Whiteman, a Council member and Chair of this Committee, “I haven’t seen this level of violence since the 1970s”. The Committee also heard reports that the number of law enforcement officers, once numbering more than 100 sworn officers, now was little more than 20, had the impossible task of policing a geographic area comparable in size to the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined 7 days a week, 24 hours every day.

What is especially puzzling is the deafening silence from both the media, those who by their titles and their government positions have direct responsibility to correct such problems and those who claim they are advocates working on behalf of the welfare of women and children.

For example, if either the city of Cambridge, MA or Berkeley, CA, each with a total population of approximately 100,000, had the same level of youth suicide completions as Pine Ridge, the following would be occurring:

1. There would be youth suicide completions just about daily in each of these communities.
2. There would not be enough curb space to park all of the media trucks providing a direct link to the community for their viewers. After all the media had ignored multiple detailed, factual reports about the dysfunction in these communities and predictions about what would follow from that dysfunction. Recognizing their prior error in not covering all of the dysfunction, media outlets were competing to provide the most offensive coverage. They characterized their coverage as “presenting the facts.”
3. Members of Congress would be convening hearings in these communities in an attempt to elicit some hints as to the cause of such dysfunction even though they had never mentioned these communities until the funerals began to be held when the dysfunction in these communities could no longer be ignored. Based on past experience the best that the local congressional delegation will be able to do is to appoint a study committee charged with reporting back on the cause of all the suicides within three years. No action would have to be taken to assist these communities until the study report was produced.
4. Advocates would be elbowing their way to get in front of any operating TV camera to push their unique solutions to such dysfunction even though they had not only known about the extreme dysfunction in these communities but they had also been silent about it until the funerals began.
5. State, county, and local officials would point at each other, claiming they had little or no responsibility to correct these problems. It was the responsibility of that “other guy” (whoever that unidentified person was) until federal funds were made available. Then the competition would be cut-throat. Each would cite their “expertise” on matters of this kind even though each had just established an extensive written record claiming they knew nothing about such matters in their efforts to avoid any responsibility (political punishment for refusing to deal with the dysfunction in their communities until the funerals began) for what was happening in these communities.
6. Federal officials whose organizations had been widely praised for formally adopting mission statements claiming they were responsible for the well-being of every citizen in their service area would initially deny any responsibility for such dysfunction, pointing at state, county or local officials as the parties responsible for addressing and correcting such behavior. When and if Congress appropriates funds to address and correct these problems, these same federal officials will distribute those funds without first establishing performance measures to determine the effectiveness of how these funds are spent. If the past is any guide, it will be several years before performance measures will be put in place.

If this is the response to the massive dysfunction and resulting epidemic of youthful suicides in communities like Cambridge or Berkeley, can anything better be expected at Pine Ridge?

Pine Ridge is a small, Isolated, rural community with little political power. They have been ignored and will continue to be ignored.

The sexual abuse of American Indian children should have resulted in a high-level commitment to stop the abuse once it had been uncovered years ago.

During the last two Administrations, I brought the twin epidemics of child sexual abuse and child/youthful suicides in Indian Country to the attention of the political leadership of the Administration for Children and Families and the Department of Health and Human Services with multiple, detailed, factual, written presentations. These presentations detailed the pervasive extent of the abuse, the long-term impact on the abused individuals, their families and the community at large and the substantial public cost of such abuse. They had no effect. It was as if they had never been read.

Until one is prepared to focus on and widely and continuously publicize the hypocrisy of those who know the facts and who deny or ignore them, thereby allying themselves with those who abuse children, nothing will be done to correct this barbaric situation. Until those who have chosen silence in the face of widespread child sexual abuse are publicly identified and shamed in all major media outlets for their alliance with sexual predators, attempting to stop the barbarism is a fool’s errand.

Thomas F. Sullivan is a former Regional Administrator for the Administration of Children and Families under the federal HHS.  He was forced out of his job in May, 2016, after defying his DC superiors by repeatedly reporting on child abuse on several reservations. 

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From Elizabeth Morris, Chair of CAICW:

Watch this 20-minute video for more information concerning the ramifications of Native American heritage on Constitutional protections:

Our world has gone nuts

 Comments Off on Our world has gone nuts
May 142016
 

Our world appears to have gone crazy. Those wishing to remain within the boundaries of sanity and reality must fight for it, as well as for our children.

Many of us in America are at a loss to understand how our world has gotten so crazy so quickly.  What has been known for centuries to be right and good is now, suddenly, in the last twenty years been turned the opposite.  What all have known to be evil is now considered good – and what has been good is now said to be evil. Darkness takes the place of light, and light for darkness. Bitter is now ‘sweet’ – and sweet is exchanged for bitter.

sBrothers and Sisters – stand fast for what you know to be true. Stand strong for what you know to be good and right for your children and grandchildren. And when you have done all – continue to stand.

You are not the crazy one.

Unfortunately – it is not just our worldview and way of life that is under attack.  Christians around the world are being persecuted and even murdered – crucified, church’s blown up, heads cut off –  simply because they acknowledge Jesus is Lord and Messiah.

None of us know where the current persecution of Christians and Jews across the world is headed.  But most of us realize we are just at the beginning of whatever is coming.

In the 1930’s, a European government began pushing new laws and world view upon its people.  Many – in their hearts – recognized the evil.  Further, contrary to popular belief, many citizens did not agree or go along with it.  Many, unfortunately, died in their efforts to stop the evil.

Praise God – although that evil government went on to torture and murder millions – they did not prevail with their intention to take over Europe and then the world.  They did not go on to murder millions more.

They were stopped. And if we care at all for the world and our children – it is incumbent on us all to stand in the gap – stand strong – and stand up for what is right and good. …and having done all, to stand firm.

 

For more encouragement and information, visit “Women Pushing Back” on Facebook….

https://www.facebook.com/WomenPushingBack/

 

 

 

Heitkamp feigns surprise over abuse of kids on rez

 Comments Off on Heitkamp feigns surprise over abuse of kids on rez
Jun 152015
 

June 15, 2015

On June 10, 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing “Addressing the Need for Victim Services in Indian Country.” We agree ALL assault victims in the U.S need help, however we disagree the solution is more funding to tribes.

The adage—the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results applies. Crime and corruption thrive with funding and lack of accountability.

Hearing testimony:

1) One rape or child sexual abuse reported every other day on some reservations.

2) Violence accounts for 75% of the deaths of Indian children between 12 and 20.

3) Many leaders/social workers contribute to the abuse

Senator Heitkamp says she is “horrified”—though she’s been told numerous times over years and admits she saw the same stats in the 90s as AG. Her solution: additional funding to tribal governments.

The Senate Committee and BIA have long been aware of well-documented and rampant sexual abuse and youth suicide on reservations. Yet, Senator Heitkamp claims we must figure out why NA children are disproportionately placed in foster care.

Rampant reservation crime thrives with ‘tribal sovereignty.’ Many CAICW members abandoned rez life because of crime and corruption. According to the U.S. census 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country. Despite claims of tribal leaders, many reject their version of what’s culturally relevant and necessary.

Despite the mass exodus from the rez, Federal government continues to back tribal leaders who claim to speak for everyone, and supports tribal sovereignty at all costs —particularly the cost of our children.

Insist politicians put children first. Tribal “leaders” do NOT speak or know what is best for everyone of heritage. Handing additional funding and control to corrupt tribal leaders IS NOT the best way to help victims.

 

 

Rep. Cramer is the only one who has tried to help

 Comments Off on Rep. Cramer is the only one who has tried to help
Oct 252014
 
http://dakotansforhonestyinpolitics.com/

October 25, 2014

A police officer died in a car wreck on Sept. 22, 2014. Just five hours earlier, he was talking to us on the phone, telling us he had tape recorded his meetings with BIA social services and tribal court because he finally wanted his story to be public.

Lavern “Bundy” Littlewind was a BIA policeman and Spirit Lake tribal member. He wanted people who don’t live on the reservation to understand why child abuse is endemic on so many reservations. Many Tribal social services don’t protect kids. They protect tribal sovereignty.

Jastin Ian Blue Coat died 10-18-2014

Jastin Ian Blue Coat died 10-18-2014

A toddler, Jastin Blue Coat, was murdered October 18, 2014, in Eagle Butte, SD. Because of his heritage, he wasn’t allowed the same protection other children get.

After a series of child murders at Spirit Lake two years ago, our federal government – in the form of the BIA, FBI and U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon – was called in to oversee, improve care, and protect the kids. Federally funded programs such as Casey Family Services and ACF were also supposed to be improving care. But that money has been poured down the drain.

There is no serious intention to protect children if the only real solutions are perceived to threaten tribal sovereignty. Protect tribal sovereignty at all costs – even at the expense of children.

Power and money have corrupted nations from time immemorial.

In all our years of going to DC about this, Representative Kevin Cramer has been the only Congressman to take real action. This year, he pushed for an oversight hearing and called the BIA on the carpet. His office asked Bundy to testify at the June hearing as well, but Bundy was nervous, thinking tribal government might use his kids against him if he spoke up. That’s understandable – many have seen that happen.

The U.S. Government has set up a system that allows crime and corruption to occur without repercussion in Indian Country. We are very grateful to Rep. Cramer. It takes real courage to address something other Congressman have been afraid to touch. We need him to remain in office, pursuing protection for kids at Spirit Lake as well as across the country.

Rampant Sexual Abuse on Reservations – BIA, ACF and US Attorney look the other way.

 Comments Off on Rampant Sexual Abuse on Reservations – BIA, ACF and US Attorney look the other way.
Dec 122013
 

By Lisa Morris

December 2013

“…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

Horrible Child Abuse STILL Happening on Spirit Lake Reservation!

 Comments Off on Horrible Child Abuse STILL Happening on Spirit Lake Reservation!
Feb 232013
 

February 23rd, 2013

A HORRIFIC report just leaked to us: Thomas Sullivan, Regional Administrator of the Denver Office submitted this to the DC office of Administration of Children and Families just this morning –

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is my Twelfth Mandated Report concerning Suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. It is being filed consistent with the Revised Guidelines approved by the Attorney General.

It has been more than 8 months since I filed my first report. In that time neither my sources nor I have seen any evidence the more than 100 children cited in these reports have been moved into safe placements. Most of those children remain in the full time care and custody of known sex offenders, addicts and abusive families.

Nor have we seen any indication of any effort by law enforcement to investigate, indict or prosecute the adults who have been credibly accused of being physically and sexually abusive to more than two dozen children.

In these 8 months I have filed detailed reports concerning all of the following:

  1. The almost 40 children returned to on-reservation placements in abusive homes, many headed by known sex offenders, at the direction of the Tribal Chair. These children remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators available to be raped on a daily basis. Since I filed my first report noting this situation, nothing has been done by any of you to remove these children to safe placements.
  1. The 45 children who were placed, at the direction of Tribal Social Services (TSS), BIA social workers, BIA supervised TSS social workers and the BIA funded Tribal Court, in homes where parents were addicted to drugs and/or where they had been credibly accused of abuse or neglect. Since I filed my first report noting these placements, nothing has been done to remove these children to safe placements. I trust the Tribal Court, with the recent resignation of a judge who failed a drug test, will begin to be responsive to the children whose placements they oversee.
  1. The 25 cases of children most of whom were removed from physically and sexually abusive homes based on confirmed reports of abuse as well as some who still remain in those homes. Neither the BIA nor the FBI have taken any action to investigate or charge the adults in these homes for their criminally abusive acts. Many, of the adults in these homes are related to, or are close associates of, the Tribal Chair or other Council members.

Since I filed my first report detailing these failures to investigate, charge, indict, prosecute those adults, my sources and I have observed nothing to suggest this has changed. Those adults remain protected by the law enforcement which by its inaction is encouraging the predators to keep on hunting for and raping children at Spirit Lake.

When was the last time the US Attorney indicted a child rapist at Spirit Lake? How many child rape cases from Spirit Lake has he declined to prosecute during the last 18 months? How many Spirit Lake child rape cases have been prosecuted during those same 18 months?

  1. Several years ago several former Tribal employees (including Tribal judges, TSS staff and Tribal elders) filed a formal complaint about TSS and the Spirit Lake BIA when they met with BIA’s Regional Director in Aberdeen, SD. The Regional Director was provided with substantial documentation of the bases for their complaint against the BIA’s Spirit Lake Superintendent.

A week after returning from Aberdeen they saw this documentation in its original unopened package on the desk of the Spirit Lake BIA Superintendent. It remained there, unopened, unread and uninvestigated for several months before it was shredded.

Similar delegations met with the leadership of the state Department of Human Services, its Child Welfare Agency, as well as with the FBI. In each case comparable packages of documentation were delivered. Since nothing ever came of these efforts to correct the situation at Spirit Lake, it can only be assumed that this documentation sat on desks somewhere, unopened, unread and uninvestigated until it too was shredded.

Since I filed my first report detailing these efforts on the part of several concerned citizens to correct the situation at Spirit Lake, to stop the abuse of children several years before I filed my first report, nothing has been done to investigate the clear malfeasance of so many high level state and federal officials. This failure to act, to correct this situation allowed the rape and abuse of children at Spirit Lake to persist for years beyond when it should have been stopped.

  1. I believe the highest obligation and priority for every public official involved in this situation is to insure the safety of those children who were abruptly removed from safe, off-reservation placements and returned to on-reservation placements in many cases to the full time care and custody of known sex offenders where they were available to be raped daily as well as those children placed in unsafe homes in the care of addicts and abusers as a result of decisions made by BIA, TSS and the Tribal Court.

I have been instructed by the leadership of my agency that my beliefs do not reflect the policy position of either my agency or my department.

From what my sources and I have been able to observe the highest priority of the state, the FBI, BIA as well as other federal agencies has been to silence us, to label us as liars, as incompetents not qualified to identify the abuse of a child, to minimize the seriousness of this situation with their fabricated, self-serving claims. Among these claims are, “It’s a new problem”; “This problem arose because the Tribe lost the person responsible for filing their forms”; “If those whistleblowers would shut up everything would be fine”; “Everything is fine”; “They are making great progress”; “You are expecting too much progress too quickly”; “They are working hard.”;“It’s all fixed.”; “We’re doing a great job for kids” “You are not a subject matter expert”.

If that attitude was held by those who served on the Grand Jury that indicted Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, there would have been no indictments. It would have been decided that neither McQueary, the janitors nor any of those victims were credible because Jerry would have told them that all of those witnesses were lying and they would have believed him.

If just a bit of the energy devoted to trashing us was used to assist the children of Spirit Lake, all of the 100 plus children might be in safe placements now. But it appears that agencies and those involved have taken a different path for reasons known only to them and their agencies leaving these children in the care and custody of addicts and predators. These actions track the same path followed by the leadership of both Penn State and the Catholic Church when these organizations sought to protect their institution’s reputation by covering up the rape of children.

  1. The BIA Senior Criminal Investigator (CI) at Spirit Lake is a thug who should be in prison if the domestic violence allegations made by his wife and other eyewitnesses are to be believed. Because none of you, not even those in the highest levels of BIA law enforcement in Washington, DC, have investigated his wife’s complaint, sought to speak either with her or those eyewitnesses, he walks free, a fine example of the integrity and professionalism of BIA. How will BIA comply with OPM’s recent directive on Domestic Violence when it is shielding a Domestic Violence thug from investigation and prosecution?
  1. There are an unknown number of undocumented children (it is estimated by knowledgeable sources that there are more than 40 children who are trapped in this situation) who are being cared for by Foster Parents who are not being paid for their care. For most, if not all, payment is not an issue. However, without birth certificates, court orders and other documentation these children cannot be enrolled in Head Start, pre-school, school or qualified for Medicaid. Neither the state, county social services, BIA nor TSS have been willing to assist these foster parents in obtaining the necessary documentation. Since the Tribe placed all of these children with these Foster Parents, it is especially disturbing that now they deny any responsibility for them. Why is the BIA collaborating with the Tribe in this abuse of power?
  1. On September 29, 2012 a 13 year old little girl was raped in her home by a 37 year old man. Law enforcement was called. The name and a description of the rapist was provided. No rape kit was collected. More than three weeks elapsed before the alleged rapist was interviewed. The little girl’s mother was told over the phone by FBI Agent Cima that the FBI had turned the case over to the BIA.

The BIA Senior Criminal Investigator (CI) called the mother to tell her that he had spoken with the alleged rapist who told him, “That girl wanted to have sex with me. What was I supposed to do?” The BIA CI then said, “Since the sex was consensual, there was no crime here and there will be no prosecution. This little girl contracted gonorrhea as a result of this rape.

It seems strange to me that the BIA CI ruled out the possibility of statutory rape in this case when the girl was so young and her rapist was almost 25 years older. It is even stranger that all of you accept without question the self-serving tale of a 37 year old rapist, “She wanted to have sex with me. What was I supposed to do?” Surely all of you have more brains than to accept that line.

  1. On September 27, 2012 I filed a formal complaint against FBI Special Agent Bryan Cima due to his interference with my responsibilities as a Mandated Reporter of child abuse This filing was done consistent with instructions we received from the Grand Forks, ND FBI office. Since I have not been contacted by anyone asking for additional information concerning my formal complaint, I can only assume, given their complete disregard for this complaint, that the USDOJ and FBI view it as even less important than the eleven mandated reports I have filed.
  1. The BIA, for several years, has been conducting annual reviews of the Spirit Lake TSS with each succeeding review producing lengthier and lengthier lists of deficiencies requiring correction. The last one completed almost a year ago, produced a list of 75 deficiencies, most so serious they required immediate correction according to the BIA reviewers. To my knowledge none have been corrected.
  2. Five months ago on September 20, 2012, Hankie Ortiz, Deputy Bureau Director of BIA’s Office of Indian Services was quoted in the NY Times article about Spirit Lake saying, “the news media and whistleblowers had exaggerated the problem. This social services program has made steady progress.” Since I specifically asked Ms. Ortiz in my Sixth Mandated Report on October 30, 2012 to provide detail about how those of us who have been speaking out about the epidemic of child sexual abuse at Spirit Lake have “exaggerated the problem”, she has provided nothing to substantiate her lying, self-serving claims.

Apparently she has now taken a vow of silence. That vow makes good sense because six weeks after she was quoted in the NY Times, the Tribal Chair directly contradicted her fabricated defense of BIA. The Tribal Chair in a General Assembly meeting said in response to questions from an enrolled member that there were no lies in my reports and that he could not document any improvement in the condition of the children I had cited in my reports. Now, five months after her claim of “steady progress” neither my sources nor I have seen anything that would pass for “progress”.

  1. A little girl, who on the first day of pre-school gave an aide an accurate and detailed description of what was involved in giving a blow job, was removed from her home due to physical abuse. When evaluated at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Grand Forks, ND, the specialist there determined that she had also been sexually abused and required immediate intensive therapy.

Since the Tribe would be required to pay for the therapy the Foster Parents had to get approval from TSS. They were turned down initially and at least once a month for the last six months because as the TSS case worker said, “If I approve this request for therapy, I will be fired in the morning as soon as the Tribal Council learns of it.” (The Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles, CA followed a similar policy not so long ago so that pedophile priests were not allowed by the Church to go to therapists who were required by law to report the sexual abuse of children by their clients to law enforcement).

This little girl is the granddaughter of a convicted sexual offender who also serves on the Tribal Council. Since the BIA has taken over all responsibility for TSS activities at Spirit Lake, why is BIA preventing this little girl from getting the therapy she desperately needs? How many other Spirit Lake children is the BIA preventing from receiving the therapeutic services they need in order to recover from the abuse they have suffered?

  1. I understand two young children (two and three years of age) who had been removed from their homes in late December, 2010 and were evaluated at the nationally recognized Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Center at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine in Grand Forks, ND during the late winter of 2011 and were diagnosed with severe developmental delay – they did not and could not speak, they did not understand simple words, they acted as though they had never seen a toy and had no idea what to do with them. Their only form of interaction was to hit each other and fight.

The Founder and Executive Director of the Center evaluated these children. His expert recommendation, provided in a written report, was that these children should never be returned to the home they came out of, that it would be a crime if they were ever placed back in that home.

The TSS Director ignored this expert evaluation and recommendation and placed these children back in that home shortly after he received that written report. They are still there suffering ever more developmental delay with every passing day.

TSS and BIA staff have been reviewing and correcting any problems with paperwork for most of the last several months. Why has this expert recommendation been overlooked? This is just one more example of the continuing, grotesque failure of the BIA to protect the children of Spirit Lake.

  1. A few weeks ago I was informed about a case that is well known to you, Ms Settles, because you intervened to assist a concerned adult. This adult was concerned for the welfare of a foster child who had confided to her about his abusive home life, the refusal of the foster parent to spend money received for this child on this child as well as other examples of abuse and neglect. This child’s mother took her own life. This child attempted suicide a year ago. He has for some time been demonstrating profound depression. When a BIA social worker was assigned to his case, she closed it without even speaking with this child. When this adult spoke with Marge Eagleman, BIA Supervisor of Social Services, she was told, “well the investigator has done her job and the case is closed.” When this adult spoke with Rod Cavanagh, BIA Superintendent at Spirit Lake he said, “the investigator has a Master of Social Work degree and I trust she did her job.”

When this adult spoke with you, Ms. Settles, you ordered the case reopened. Unfortunately, it has been more than two weeks since you took that action and no one has yet spoken with that little boy. I trust all of us understand how those mindless decisions and failures to follow up can turn a difficult situation into a tragic one.

  1. The adult mentioned in # 14 is a Mandated Reporter of suspected child abuse since they are on the staff at the Four Winds School. This adult has received a letter of reprimand from the Superintendent of the school system because of their efforts on behalf of this little boy. Their son was fired from his position at the same school because of his efforts on behalf of this boy. Since you have known about these efforts to silence, intimidate and retaliate against two Mandated Reporters for more than two weeks, Ms. Settles, what have you done to correct this situation? If you have done nothing, would you please explain the rationale for your inaction?

Mr. Purdon, what will you be doing to protect the rights of these two Mandated Reporters?

The Sandusky scandal horrified the nation resulting in a widespread outcry against those who had facilitated his continuing rape of young boys by keeping silent about what they knew. He assaulted and raped one boy at a time. At Spirit Lake there are many sexual predators who have been given free rein to rape at will. Hundreds of children have been exposed to conditions that place them at risk of being raped daily at Spirit Lake.

Sandusky’s abuse became public when he was indicted. The failure of law enforcement at all levels to investigate, charge and indict is a key factor in the continuation of the epidemic of child sexual abuse at Spirit Lake. When was the last time the US Attorney for North Dakota indicted a sexual predator for his rape of a child at Spirit Lake? When was the last time the Tribal Prosecutor filed a charge of child rape against a predator in Tribal Court?

It is my understanding that some believe my Tenth Mandated Report, filed on January 2, 2013, lead to the indictment of the father described in that report on charges of Gross Sexual Imposition (a Class 2 Felony) In Ramsey County, ND. If that is true, the county attorney in Devils Lake, with that indictment, has done far more to protect the children of Spirit Lake than any of those who have received these reports and have done nothing but fabricate excuses for their inaction.

The predators have been defended by the actions of the Spirit Lake Tribal Chair and council. The state, TSS, FBI, BIA and other federal agencies’ leadership by their failure to investigate complaints, made several years ago, about such abuse have facilitated this abuse. By their delay in effectively responding to these Mandated Reports, these organizations and their leaders have extended the reign of terror inflicted on the children of Spirit Lake.

A child at Spirit Lake will be raped today because little or nothing has been done to correct the heinous conditions I have identified in these Reports. Tomorrow another child will be raped at Spirit Lake due to this inaction. And the day after that another child will be raped at Spirit Lake because of this inaction. And so on, and so on and so on, until that fateful day when the decision is made to protect the children of Spirit Lake from rape and abuse.

Thomas F. Sullivan

Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

ICWA Abuse: Girl Tells Senate Staff she was given to a man at age of ten

 Comments Off on ICWA Abuse: Girl Tells Senate Staff she was given to a man at age of ten
Feb 062013
 

February 6th, 2013

Where to begin? We met with staff members from seven DC Senate offices on Monday. We had come to talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it infringes on the right of children and parents.

But sitting next to this young woman, who comes from the same reservation as my husband… I realized there is so, so much more we all need to talk about.

She told how she was abused and used sexually as a child. She said she was first given to a man at the age of ten. Her sisters were also given to men. She told how she begged to be allowed to return to the only family she had ever felt safe with – the foster family that the tribe, through ICWA, had taken her from. She told how she tried to run away over a dozen times – to get back to the foster home where she knew she was loved. She told how the home where the tribal govt placed her made her destroy pictures of the family she loved, and how they had cut a rope to save her when she had tried to hang herself. It was only then that they finally allowed her to return to her true home.

The feeling in Congress and across much of America is that the tribal leaders can’t be messed with. Don’t you dare step on their toes.

Holy cow. I mean, literally, ‘holy cow.’

Enough with the trepidation about messing with tribal sovereignty. I told our family’s story in the book “Dying in Indian Country” – and apparently, I didn’t even tell the half of it. I knew that things had gotten worse to an extent – but I had no idea how really, really bad it was now. The prostitution of young girls has become common place. You want to talk about sex-trafficking? Don’t forget to look at many of the reservations as well. I should say – don’t be AFRAID to look at many of the reservations as well.

Have you heard yet that the BIA had to go in and take over children’s services on the Spirit Lake Reservation?

– Have you heard about the “Native Mob” now active on reservations in three states?

One of the Senate staff members said her Senator would like to do hearings concerning Spirit Lake. I would love to see that happen – as well as inquiries into the gang activity and harm to children occurring on many reservations. Spirit Lake is not isolated. Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth, Pine Ridge – and more.

PLEASE CONTACT your Senators and encourage/support them in taking action. Many Senators are very afraid of stepping on the toes of tribal government – but while they cringe, girls as young as ten are being prostituted.

What this girl said today matches what I was told by another Leech Lake family last week. What they shared with us is horrific.

We NEED to let our Senators know that this is not OK in America. They MUST make is stop!

Children need to be protected. For our family, that also means getting rid of ICWA. You might not want to take that drastic a stand on the ICWA – but our family must. But at the very least – please press your Senator for hearings on the issue of child welfare and protection in Indian Country.

Please – especially press your Senator to do this if he/she is on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

1) ASK YOUR SENATOR to contact Senator Cantwell’s office – to tell Senator Cantwell that ICWA needs to be on her agenda for this session. They are preparing and setting this sessions agenda RIGHT NOW. If ICWA is NOT put on her agenda for the session – it will not be discussed for changes this year nor probably next. WE NEED AS MANY SENATORS AS POSSIBLE – ALL OF THEM – TO CALL SENATOR CANTWELL and ask that ICWA be on Senator Cantwell’s Indian Affairs Committee agenda!

2) ASK YOUR SENATOR to contact Senator Cantwell’s office and press for hearings on Spirit Lake and other reservations were abuse of children is rampant!

3) PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE CHILDREN, FOR US – AND FOR THE WORK IN FRONT OF US!

Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare

ICWA put her into the home of a rapist and ignored her pleas for help

 Comments Off on ICWA put her into the home of a rapist and ignored her pleas for help
Feb 052013
 

February 5, 2013

Where to begin? We met with staff members from seven DC Senate offices on Monday, February 4th. We had come to talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it infringes on the rights of children and our rights as parents.

But sitting next to this young woman, who comes from the same reservation as my husband… I realized there is so, so much more we all need to talk about. Michelle Bachmann

Sierra Campbell told how she was abused and used sexually as a child. A tribal member from the Leech Lake Reservation, she said she was first given to a man at the age of ten. Her younger sister was also given to man.

Having come from a dysfunctional home life, they were passed from foster home to foster home until they landed at the home of Gene and Carol Campbell.  Carol Campbell remembers holding and rocking Sierra for hours when she would wake up with night terrors. After a period of time, the Campbell’s filed to adopt the girls.  But the Leech Lake government would not allow it and decided to move the girls back to the reservation and into the home of an uncle. According to the Indian Child Welfare Act, the tribal government had the right to decide who the girls could live with.

Sierra told the Senate staff how she begged to be allowed to return to the only family she had ever felt safe with. She told how she tried to run away over a dozen times to get back to the foster home where she knew she was loved. She told how her uncle had made her destroy pictures of the family she loved, and how when she was sixteen, they cut her down from a rope when she had tried to hang herself. It was only then that they finally allowed her to return to the Campbell’s.

What this young woman told the Senate Staff matches is similar to stories we have been told by families across American for years. This travesty has gone on for too long. And there is much, much more. The prostitution of young girls has become common place. You want to talk about sex-trafficking? It is happening on reservations as well.

The feeling in Congress and across much of America is that the tribal leaders can’t be messed with. Don’t you dare step on their toes – don’t you dare question tribal sovereignty.

Well, I am questioning it.

Rebuttal to NPR’s ICWA Series; from a Mother of Enrolled Children

 Comments Off on Rebuttal to NPR’s ICWA Series; from a Mother of Enrolled Children
Nov 212011
 

 On October 27th, 2011, I walked through the drizzle, past Union Station and up Massachusetts Avenue to find the offices of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. I was in DC to speak to various congressional staff about harms caused by the Indian Child Welfare Act and to invite people to the ‘Teach-In’ our organization was holding on Friday, Oct. 28th in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room. I hoped that the CCAI would be interested because ICWA has been hurting children and adoptive families across the country and at some point, there needed to be an honest discussion about it.

Finding the office in a rowhouse a couple blocks from the Senate buildings, I climbed the steps and went in. Two women quietly listened while I shared with a third the purpose of my visit. Across America, children who had never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal community – including multi-racial children with extremely minimal blood quantum – have been removed from homes they know and love and placed with strangers chosen by tribal social services.

When I was finished talking, the woman, who had been listening attentively, told me she had just finished an ICWA story for NPR, and that she supported the tribal position. I initially thought she meant she had been writer for it, but now wonder if she simply meant she had been following it. At any rate, she was kind, and I was able to tell her some of the flip side and invite her to our Teach-in. She was polite and accepted the folder of letters from hurting families. She did not come to the Teach-in.

I had heard small bits about the NPR series from two Congressional offices the day before, and over the next few days a couple of our members also notified me about it. Two of my brothers even sent me links to the article. One friend wrote to me on Facebook that the NPR series had her yelling at the radio. With so much attention to the series, a rebuttal is necessary.

As the birth mother of five enrolled children, the legal custodian of three others, the legal adoptive mother of one and emotionally adopted mother of another, I can tell you what NPR did NOT report.

First, not ALL enrollable persons want to live on the reservation or be under tribal jurisdiction.

Persons of tribal heritage are no different than any other human. Each individual has their own mind, wants and needs. Blood Quantum has nothing to do with an individuals decision to participate in reservation life: some persons of 100% heritage choose to live separate from the tribe while some who have very little heritage choose to identify totally with the tribe. The notion that there is some hereditary tie – an inherent gene binding children to a single cultural tradition or geographic location is not factual.

According to the 2000 Census –

  • There are 4,119,301 people claiming to have American Indians and Alaska Native ancestry in the United States and 562 federally funded Tribes. This population includes individuals with too little blood quantum to be tribal members as well as individuals who are members of state recognized tribes.
    Approximately 75% live outside the reservation, with about 55% living in metropolitan areas. Only about 25% live on the reservations.
    As much as 45% of reservation residents are non-Indian. (On some reservations, it is reported that as much as 80% might be non-Indian.)
    • On 30% of the reservations, the number of non-members is equal to or greater than the number of tribal members.
    • The Montana Supreme Court, in Skillen v. Menz, wrote, “Interracial marriages are a fact of life, and, as with other marriages, so are interracial divorces and custody disputes over the children of those marriages.”

The above facts are the reason we are having troubles with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

  1. Most people of Indian heritage choose to live and raise their families outside of the reservation system.
    2. Most people of Indian heritage have more than one heritage – meaning extended family from other heritages as well.

Now, while the 2010 Census indicates that the reservation populations may have increased over the last ten years (The Seattle Times, May 6, 2011, asserts this is due to “successful casinos and other business ventures, including commercial fishing operations, economic opportunity…”) the fact remains that most enrollable children live off the reservation and MOST enrollable children have non-enrolled family members.

So while it is simple to interview only people who live on South Dakota reservations and enjoy the lifestyle found there – those who were interviewed represent only a fraction of all tribal members, reservation residents, and enrollable citizens. Further, South Dakota itself and the reservations within its boundaries don’t represent all 50 states or 562 tribes.

Was NPR providing one-sided coverage?

Having taken a full year to do their investigation, why didn’t NPR interview many of the 75% of enrollable citizens who have chosen to live off the reservation? Many, like my husband, chose to leave the reservation and raise their children differently.

While some seek economic advantages, poverty itself isn’t a bad thing or the only reason for leaving. Some of our most content years as a family were living on a couple acres in the middle of a corn field, raising goats and chickens. But crime, hopelessness, and child neglect – which is not the same as poverty – is a bad thing. Many people choose to raise their children in a safer setting.

NPR attempts to discount the impact neglect has on children by stating,

“…in South Dakota very few are taken because they’ve been physically or sexually abused. Most are taken under a far more subjective set of circumstances. The state says the parents are neglectful.”

But neglect is a valid issue of concern for children of all heritages. While some readers have come to the defense of the mother in the NPR story whose children had been left alone, the fact is that there was evidence of frequent neglect. Quote from the story; “The children, however, had a plan for situations like this. If they were ever left alone or if someone was drinking at home, they were always instructed to go across the street, to their grandma’s. If she wasn’t there, the back door would be left unlocked.”

In other words – this had happened before, and often enough that the kids needed to have a plan. NPR brushes this off as if it is a non-issue that the kids would need to seek refuge from their home. NPR, it is NOT a non-issue. What is being described IS a dangerous situation. The children were left alone. No, this does not happen in every home in America. The fact that many residents on various reservations gloss over and treat such things as a non-issue is testimony to the severity of the problem – and yes, the need for intervention.

There seems to be an inconsistency within people unfamiliar with reservations who, on the one hand, decry poverty on reservations while on the other hand maintain a belief that Indian people – and in particular, children – prefer to live in conditions most other families find dangerous. What is particularly disconcerting about this assumption is the underlying idea that Indian people don’t mind living in crime ridden, dirty circumstances.

What is most upsetting about this series, having watched so many children in our extended family suffer from neglect and abuse, is the implication that most children are removed for no cause. The biggest grief my husband and I have had over the years was that more children weren’t removed sooner. I have chased a drunk off a 10-year-old girl, stood at the casket of a 2-year-old who had been beaten to death, stood in the closet where a beautiful 16-year-old had just hanged herself, begged a hospital not to release a 15-yr-old back to the streets with her newborn daughter, and sat in shock when I was called a few weeks later by a relative hoping that I had that same baby, because the 15-year-old had “lost” her the night before while drinking.

One Minneapolis social worker once told me that the only reason my husband’s grandchildren weren’t removed from their parents sooner was because of the Indian Child Welfare Act. He said that had they been of any other heritage, they would have been protected much sooner.

In one family story that NPR highlighted, the author takes the family’s word that there had never been any prescription drug abuse –which is rampant on many reservations – and thus no reason for the children to have been taken. I don’t know if there was or wasn’t, but I wouldn’t blame social services for being cautious. Many in our extended family heavily abuse prescription drugs. I have raised four extra children in my home, on top of my five, because of the neglect and abuse they suffered. We were asked to take several more because we were considered one of the few safe homes in the extended family. Unfortunately, when we couldn’t take in any more children, that didn’t mean they were going to find another safe home. That’s not how ICWA works. When a safe relative’s home can’t be found, less safe homes are considered. Indian kids are not getting the protection that other children get.

Severe drug and alcohol abuse is rampant on many reservations. Let’s stop pretending. By glossing over reality, helpless children are being subjected to further, extended abuse and neglect. It is not racist to remove children from abusive and neglectful homes and place them somewhere safe and nurturing.

This is why we started this:

– We need help bringing attention to this issue. Indian Kids need protection EQUAL to any other child – PLEASE sign this White House Petition – 25,000 signatures will prompt a White House review of the issue. http://wh.gov/bvZ 

Read between NPR’s lines. There appears an attempt to paint the picture of a helpless group of people with almost every sentence. Take for instance the statement; “There’s only electricity when it’s possible to pay the bill” – as if that wasn’t true for every family in the United States. What I am saying is, 1) Everyone in America needs to pay their bill in order to keep the lights on, and 2) Electricity is available on this reservation. The sentence is worded to give the impression that utilities are woefully intermittent in South Dakota.

In defense of one of the parents in trouble, NPR stated,

“…tribal courts can be over-run, under funded and operated only part time.”

That may be true, but it is tribal government – under the claim of sovereignty – that is responsible for making tribal courts work, not federal or state government.

As further evidence of the series being one-sided, the article points out that “…two South Dakota judges, two lawyers and a dozen tribal advocates told NPR that state law doesn’t apply. Federal law says tribes are sovereign. The experts say a state official can’t drive off with an Indian child from Crow Creek any more than a Crow Creek official could drive off with a child from Rapid City.” (Tell this to the birth father in Texas whose child was taken by tribal officials from Arizona three years ago.)

So…NPR found less than two dozen or so officials in South Dakota who think that placing a child of heritage into a non-tribal home is illegal. Obviously, there are many more in SD who view it differently. Thankfully, there are some who realize that the best interest of children is far more important than playing politics.
NPR even quoted, then discounted, a tribal ICWA worker stating,

“I get along real good with the state and I have a good rapport with them…I’m satisfied.”

NPR also brings up the memories of the old border school system, as if it has relevance to the current need to protect children. Yes, taking children years ago for no good cause from the families they knew and loved was wrong. And it is just as wrong to do it today – taking children from homes they know and love and forcing them to live with strangers on reservations.

It is also time to stop painting every attempt at Child Protection as something malicious. Even the boarding school system wasn’t inherently malicious. David Tickerhoof, who NPR identified as the current pastor at Saint Paul’s Church, is quoted in the article saying,

“There had to be a pretty stringent discipline system…The goal wasn’t to make them non-Indian; the effort was to really help them stand as an equal in the job environment and to do that they had to be able to communicate in the dominant society.”

Further, some parents wanted the boarding schools. The NPR article itself relates one story, saying;

“She had been sent away when she was 5-years-old. Her mother couldn’t afford to provide for her or her sister. So, she enrolled them at Saint Paul’s Indian Mission”

The mother enrolled the children. Neither the state nor the mission stole them, yet, the article goes on to intimate that the mission had done something wrong in taking the two children in.

Finally, a NPR statement which I would like to see their documentation for:

“…NPR’s investigation shows that even Native American children who grow up to become foster care success stories, living happy, productive lives, say the loss of their culture and identities leaves a deep hole they spend years trying hopelessly to fill.”

Hopelessly. Meaning – no hope. For years wandering, disabled, half a person… yet, living happy, productive lives. Make up your mind, NPR.

How many people did they interview in order to draw that conclusion? Yes, adoptive children of all heritages have a sense of loss in relation to birth family. A couple of the children I raised felt this as well. It is natural. Yet, we never saw any of the children we raised pine for a heritage, whether it be their Native heritage, or Jewish, German or Irish heritage.

Suffice it to say that every human on earth has nostalgia in their heart to one extent or another, some more than others. People of every heritage have amongst them those who grieve for what was, others who yearn for what might be, and still others who are simply content with what is That’s life. Let’s move on.

Next, there’s the bonus money:

“…according to federal records, if the child has ‘special needs,’ a state can get as much as $12,000,” and “…A decade ago, South Dakota designated all Native American children ‘special needs,’ which means Native American children who are permanently removed from their homes are worth more financially to the state than other children.”

If this is true, it is just plain sick and wrong and needs to be one of the first things the South Dakota legislature changes this next session. I am not saying “maybe.” I am saying CHANGE IT. It is pure racism – plain and simple. Excuse me? Labeling a child as ‘special needs’ just because of their heritage? Nothing could be more degrading and despicable. This is the appalling outcome of the nauseating notion that persons of tribal heritage are somehow different from other people.

Further, if that was truly a factor in the foster care/adoption rate in South Dakota, throw the book at all those responsible and put an end to the sick game.

But while it is quite provocative to point out the money per head that the state gets for the children, NPR totally left out the fact that Tribal government itself gets more money per head for our children. Sometimes, tribal governments need members to be living on the reservation in order for them to receive the funds; other times they are able to use families in their head count of enrolled members whether or not the family lives on the reservation or uses tribal entitlement programs.

According to the “Tribal Complete Count Committee Handbook” published by United States Census 2000, D-3289 (4-99):

“The programs serving tribal residents …which use Federal funding based on population statistics—[include]: Johnson O’Malley, Headstart, Home Energy Assistance, Housing and Urban Development programs, etc…”The Federal government uses census data to allocate funds to tribal, state, and local governments for a wide range of programs.”

According to Jack C. Jackson, Jr., Director of Governmental Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, Statement on the importance of an accurate census to American Indians and Alaska Natives, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 1999:

“….A significant portion of this federal aid is based on the information collected in the census. Federal programs that distribute aid to American Indians and Alaska Natives based in whole or in part on census data include the Job Training Partnership Act, Grants to Local Education Agencies for Indian Education, Special Programs for the Aging, and Family Violence Prevention and Services.”

According to Administration For Children and Families, (ACF) U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, May 9, 2007, Child Care Bureau, Office of Family Assistance:

“Tribal Child Counts …For funds that become available in FY 2008, ACF will calculate grant awards based on the number of children under age 13. A Tribe must submit a self-certified Child Count Declaration for children under age 13 (not age 13 and under), in order to receive FY 2008 CCDF funds.”

How much money are we talking about? Billions.

From Indianz.com, “House panel boosts funds for Indian Programs”, Monday, June 11, 2007. Accessed Aug. 30, 2007 –

At a markup on Thursday, the committee approved 5.7 billion for Indian programs at the Interior Department and related agencies, including the Indian Health Service…. The bill “honors our obligations to Native American communities, making investments into better education and healthcare,” the committee said of the overall $27.6 billion package, an increase of 4.3 percent over current levels.”

And that was 2007. Yet NPR quotes a tribal social worker for the Pine Ridge reservation, Juanita Sherick, saying, in reference to State Social Workers,

“They make a living off of our children…”

…while failing to note that she, herself, is also making a living off of enrollable children.

What to do then?

Tribal social worker, Juanita Sherick, is further quoted saying,

“Give the children back to their relatives, because the creator gave those children to those families…Who has any right to take them away from those families?”

I agree with Juanita. The birth families, if they are fit, should have more authority than either government. That is why ICWA is unconstitutional. Tribal government does not own our children. As Juanita said – “give the children back” to their families.

Allow the families, if they are fit, to decide who they want to adopt their children, and what type of lifestyle they want their children to have. We have seen tribal governments fight for children with less than 1-2% heritage – children with absolutely no connection to the reservation. We can think of no other reason for tribal governments to be doing this than for money. Although most everyone will admit that it is wrong to treat children this way, under the ICWA, it is currently legal.

Sherick went on,

“Why send a private agency onto our reservation? [Children’s Home] is not calling us to request permission to come onto the reservation to do these home studies.”

NPR then states,

“Mendoza says her agency would do the work for free. They know the families, they know the homes.”

If it is true tribal agencies are interested in doing contractible work for free, this is a wonderful idea. While in our own family’s case tribal social workers weren’t willing to come and do proper home studies, the willingness of other tribal agencies to do so is wonderful.

The NPR writers add,

“across the state, grandmothers, aunts and uncles, family and tribal members would have cared for Brianna — and hundreds of other Native American children like her. They would have done so for free, keeping them close to their tribes and culture like federal law intended.”

If what NPR states is true – and I pray that it is – I am all for developing a program to do just that. Willing families would, of course, sign statements that they will not apply for or accept any welfare or entitlement funding for these children, whether through the federal or tribal government (which is still federal funds). But…NPR wouldn’t be trying to bluff us with that statement, right? There truly are enough homes willing to take in hundreds of children for free, right?

Now I have a story of my own to tell about an adoptive mother and her little girl. On Saturday, Nov. 19, the mother posted to Facebook,

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we got her back.”

My Lord! She wrote this EXACTLY A YEAR from when she had first written us on Saturday, Nov. 20 – saying,

“They just took my baby after 3 years…her sobbing is forever etched in my soul.”

The courts had determined that because the little girl had some Indian heritage, ICWA applied and she had to go stay with a family she had knew nothing about.

For five months this mother suffered the loss daily, until April 13th, when they got a call from Social Services to come and get their little girl right away. There was a problem and she had to be moved immediately from the home she had been placed in. It was only supposed to be for a couple days, until Social Services could find another placement, but these parents were just glad to be able to see her and hold her for as long as they were allowed.

They left right away, driving a couple hours to get her. When she saw them, she ran into their arms and said she was ready to go “home” – “Can I go home?” she asked – Adoptive mom wept – but daughter held her tears until after they had left the building, then wept freely. The people she had been with had told there were monsters in the closet who would come eat her if she cried.

Fortunately, she wasn’t physically hurt during the five months. But she was, indeed, emotionally traumatized. She was NOT okay. She had been told her that her adoptive parents were wolves and would eat her, and she reported that she had been locked in a storage shed. She was only three so it’s still hard to say what actually happened, but it is known that things were not well – as evidenced by the emergency request by social services for the adoptive parents to go after her.

Social Services never took her back, and on Friday, Nov. 18, this family finalized the adoption of their little girl after having lost her exactly a year earlier to ICWA. They are now a permanent family.

The point? Let’s start to recognize that the Indian Child Welfare Act does NOT ensure the best interest of every child with heritage – nor protect them. While some families prefer and need to stay together on the reservation, others do not. Let us recognize that we must not be so prejudice as to assume that all children and families want the same things, simply because they have a certain heritage. Even children and families with 100% blood quantum are not always interested in remaining within the reservation system. Let us start to recognize that all citizens of the United States are guaranteed certain rights under the constitution. Let us also recognize that the safety of children, no matter what their heritage, is the first and most important consideration. If there is no safe home amongst relatives, they should not be placed in a relative’s home.

A commenter to the online article, Slandering the Red States, Part I, by John Hinderaker in Media Bias Nov. 6, 2011, wrote; …

“The whole premise of indians being kidnapped and ‘ruined’ because they are placed with white parents is racist to the core. Can you imagine a similar story about white kids that have a black or Latino dark skinned foster parent being robbed of their “cultural heritage”? Racism is racism and the NPR piece is noting but anti-white racism.”

So True.

Read real life stories in the Rez:  dyinginindiancountry.com

– We need help bringing attention to this issue. Indian Kids need protection EQUAL to any other child – 

To Those who Love an Indian Child hurt by ICWA –

 Comments Off on To Those who Love an Indian Child hurt by ICWA –
Jun 072010
 

 – I am one of those –

 – that person you are afraid of.  That person with whom children were placed, not because I could handle them, not because I even knew them …

In fact, my abilities, emotional stability, and character were never a factor at all. My husband was their grandfather. That’s all that mattered. No one from the tribe or the court ever talked to me about whether I could handle four more kids on top of my own five.  No Guardian Ad Litem called to chat.  No one seemed to care whether I could do this or not.

The Tribe did finally send a couple women over to do a “home study,” but that was a good year or more after they had already placed the kids with us. That was the first, and last, time anyone checked on our home.

And they didn’t even check the bedrooms. If they had, they would have discovered that not all the kids had their own beds. In fact, not all the kids even had bedrooms. We used two of our shops storage rooms for some of the kids.

No, the two tribal “social workers” who flew in from another state and who we were told would spend two days with us, chatted with my husband for about an hour, then asked how to get to a local attraction. They were anxious to get started with their paid vacation.  We were happy to give them directions and be finished with the faux “home study.”

That was it. Never saw them again.

So…our family knows first hand what it takes to be one of our tribe’s “acceptable” Indian homes.

How did it turn out?  I’d like to say that we became the Brady Bunch. But it’s not that simple.

In some ways, at various points of time, we did great. There was love, laughs, and kindness, along with the stress, sibling rivalry, and melt downs. The four kids, all under 7 when they arrived, started calling us Mom and Dad, just as our first five did, and all the kids, most of whom were the same age, began referring to each other as brothers & sisters.

But our lives were far from story book (Or even TV series). The reality of the effects of alcohol exposure, crack exposure, and neglect on the four wove through all of our lives. It’s one thing if a family is trying to help one child get through this kind of storm. It’s quite another when one is trying to help four without training, support, or resources – while trying to raise your own five young children at the same time.

Yup. The tribe mandated the ICWA thing, and then left us hanging.

Why did I do it? Why didn’t I just say “No?” Again, because of ICWA. I had seen the conditions in which my husband’s nephews, nieces and other grandchildren were being made to live. I knew that even though I was on the edge of losing my mind, our home was still better and safer than any other that the tribe might choose. I couldn’t turn these four away to that kind of life. Believe it or not—as much as I felt like a basket case on my better days and the wicked witch on my worst, our home was truly the best these children would get in an ICWA placement.

And we had Jesus Christ to lean on, and a wonderful, loving, large church family. Without these, I truly might have lost my mind.

Three years after my husband was given custody, he was diagnosed with cancer.  Four years later, he passed away. Through all those hard years, church brothers & sisters practically carried us.

After he passed, though, is when real troubles began. It was as if a dam of emotions, pent up and waiting, suddenly exploded. Some of it was the grief of birth children, some the impulse of teen-agers. The hardest though, was the eruption of FAE angst and the familial predilection to alcoholism as children entered adolescence one by one.

Today the storm is over. Only four of the nine are still minors. At this point in our story, despite years of trying to teach the children the dangers of drugs, all is not well.

Just last week, I gave custody of one of the grandchildren to the county in order that he be able to get the mental health help that he needs, as well as for the protection of the other children still in the home. I did this because the two grandchildren that had thus far reached adulthood have returned to the birth family—as well as the destructive family lifestyle. I now needed to change how I was doing things in order to prevent the same outcome with this child.

I just wish I had fully realized years ago how necessary trained help was, so that the other two might have benefitted as well.  (By the way, through correct interpretation of the law, as we explained it to the judge, this particular custody transfer was deemed non-ICWA.)

Long story short—Contrary to the belief of Congress and one-sided, tribal government testimony, the “best interest of the child” does NOT require a relative placement or even an Indian placement.

As much as many tribal leaders want society to believe that all children of heritage are “theirs” and have a “connection” to tribal culture that will crush them if broken, it’s just not true. To some people such things matter, to others, it doesn’t.

My birth children and grandchildren, for example, would be crushed if forced to live on the reservation.  My Children may be 50% Indian, but they have been raised in much safer, loving communities than the reservation community in which they are enrolled.  Living on the reservation would have destroyed them.

Further, most children aren’t “just” Indian. Ours are also Irish, Scottish, German and even Jewish.  All their heritages are equally important.  Most children of tribal heritage have other, equally important heritages, and they are all US citizens who should be constitutionally given Equal Protection.  Meaning – contrary to common practice today, enrolled children should not be left in conditions that children of any other heritage would be removed from.  They are not mere chattel—a means for additional funding— for tribal governments.

Many children, after suffering abuse and neglect, need real help, and several tribal governments are negligent in that they place them into situations where they can not get it.

Time and again I have seen children placed by their tribe into violent, verbally, physically, and even sexually abusive, drug infested homes.  I have seen little or no attention given to the emotional and mental health issues these children have had. That isn’t to say that no tribal governments care—it’s just to say that I, having lived in this particular extended family for 30 some years, haven’t seen it.

ICWA, in all our family experience, is a crime against children. 

www.caicw.org