Native American Rights Fund: Stop the Forced Removal of Baby Veronica

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

Echoing the loud thunder of voices from Native communities and organizations across the U.S. and Canada in outcry over yesterday’s decision to return Veronica Brown to South Carolina, the Native American Rights Fund yesterday issued the strongest statement yet in a call to action to join the fight in protecting the girl’s right to be raised by her biological father, Dusten Brown.

“The Native American Rights Fund joins with the Brown family, the Cherokee Nation, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and many others inside and outside of Indian country who are expressing their outrage over the South Carolina Supreme Court’s imprudent order effectively granting the adoption of Veronica without due process of law or a hearing to determine what is in her best interest,” said the statement from the country’s oldest Native legal rights organization.

The Native American Rights Fund encourages all of the state attorneys general, adoption and child welfare organizations, past and present members of Congress, religious organizations, and others who submitted briefs in the case to express their concern and join with Indian country to take all necessary steps to stop the forced removal of this Indian child from her Indian father, her Indian family, and her Indian community.”

As rage over the decision began to take shape on Thursday, Native leaders, community members and legal experts were unanimous in their solidarity toward what they feel is a rubber stamp of approval from the court by taking Veronica from her home. In short, they feel that the Capobiancos “won ugly,” and have been rewarded by removing the child from a fit parent and a community in which she has thrived.

“This is Indian country’s Trayvon Martin moment; we cannot pass on this,” said a Native legal scholar in Washington, D.C., who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing litigation. “The message is clear: They are continuing to take our land, they’re taking our children, they’re taking our identity and now the courts have endorsed this whole pattern of white settler mentality.

This man and his daughter have been denied due process all the way down and he did not even get a hearing to determine what’s in his own daughter’s best interest, which in itself represents the destruction of tribes. He needs to have a fair hearing and we in Indian country support him 100 percent in retaining a child that never should have been put up for adoption in the first place.”

National native organizations and tribes have begun gathering and collaborating in mobilizing support for a case that has struck at the heart of tribal existence perhaps more so than any time since the Termination Era of the 1950s. Advocates say that the course this case has taken has forced many in Indian country from the sidelines to take a public stand and who are willing to take to the streets, if necessary.

“They don’t get it,” says A. Gay Kingman, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. “Who is thinking and representing the best interests of this child? Like many of our American Indian children in South Dakota, she is being removed from her birth father, her Indian family and her tribe. Shouldn’t the child have due process?”

Whatever shape this case takes over the coming days, grassroots activism and legal mobilization are gaining momentum by the minute.

“This is not over,” said the legal scholar. “It’s not over by a longshot.”