Tribal Leaders Summit panel talks child welfare


By Karee Magee, The Bismark Tribune

Sandra Bercier, interim director of the Native American Training Institute, said there is an acute need for Native American foster homes in both North and South Dakota.
Sandra Bercier, interim director of the Native American Training Institute, said there is an acute need for Native American foster homes in both North and South Dakota.

BISMARCK, N.D. — A panel at the Tribal Leaders Summit on Thursday addressed problems facing the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The mission of ICWA, first founded in 1978, is to keep or reunite Indian children with their families.

According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s description, the act was created in “response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies.”

According to panelists, the numbers of Indian children put in foster homes remains high.

The consensus among the panelists is that the obstacle facing implementation of child welfare programs on reservations is lack of funding.

Sandra Bercier, interim director of the Native American Training Institute, said that because the programs are underfunded, they also are understaffed.

It is also hard to find permanent employees, said Leander McDonald, chairman of the Spirit Lake Tribe.

Child welfare programs are the hardest place to work, Bercier said, because staff sometimes take children out of homes.

Another significant problem is the lack of foster homes and families on the reservations, she said. Indian children who are taken from their families will often end up in a non-native family instead.

“If you have room in your home, hook up wth Indian Child Welfare,” Bercier said. “If we want ICWA to work, we have to be the ones to drive that process.”

The tribal leaders from South Dakota, though, emphasized an issue specific to that state.

“The problem is that there was this systemic institution that incentivized the removal of Indian children,” said Chase Iron Eyes, tribal judge of Lakota People Law Project.

According to Iron Eyes, the state of South Dakota earns $60 million from the federal government for the placement of Indian children into foster care.

South Dakota has a system of 48 hour hearings. The parents are required to go to court within 48 hours after their children were taken away, according to Tom Disselhorst, attorney for United Tribes Technical College.

The timespan doesn’t give them a chance to find a lawyer, he said, and they often don’t know why their children have been removed.

B.J. Jones said that the majority of these situations in South Dakota have nothing to do with abuse or neglect, but more often it is because the parent committed a misdemeanor like forgetting their license while driving.

He said society criminalizes poverty and Indian mothers are now afraid to drive because, if they are stopped by the police, their child could be taken away.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have filed a class action lawsuit against the state of South Dakota, and hope it will be part of the solution. They are accusing state officials of violating the Fifth Amendment by not providing opportunities for due process.

Due process includes that an attorney is required in court, which many Indian parents don’t have in the 48-hour hearings.

If the lawsuit reaches the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, it may require other states to change their policies as well, said Disselhorst.

Judge orders transcripts produced in ICWA case

Dana Fast Horse carries posters at the American Civil Liberties Union press conference in Rapid City on March 21, 2013. Families and tribes claim that temporary custody hearings were too short and violated rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Court reporters who produced the transcripts during the hearings have until June 1 to produce the files. Photo/ Rapid City Journal
Dana Fast Horse carries posters at the American Civil Liberties Union press conference in Rapid City on March 21, 2013. Families and tribes claim that temporary custody hearings were too short and violated rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Court reporters who produced the transcripts during the hearings have until June 1 to produce the files.
Photo/ Rapid City Journal
By Andrea J. Cook, Rapid City Journal
By the end of the month, attorneys representing Native American families and two tribes in a federal child welfare case will know more about what happened during hearings that gave the Department of Social Services temporary custody of children.The Oglala Sioux and Rosebud tribes took the lead for three parents in a class action lawsuit challenging the practices of the 7th Circuit Court, the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office and the Department of Social Services during temporary custody hearings that must take place within 48 hours of removing a child from a home. The parents claim the Indian Child Welfare Act hearings are too brief, sometimes as short as two minutes, and violate parental rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.

In mid-March, U.S. Chief District Judge Jeffrey Viken granted the tribe’s request for transcripts of more than 100 of the hearings, which are referred to as 48-hour hearings. He gave the judges who presided over the hearings two weeks to order transcripts of the hearings.

Those confidential hearings are at the heart of the plantiffs’ case, which contends that children are frequently taken from their homes for 60 days after hearings that often last no more than two minutes.

Presiding 7th Circuit Judge Judge Jeff Davis ordered transcripts of his hearings. Judges Wally Eklund, Thomas Trimble, Craig Pfeifle and Robert Mandel did not order transcripts.

The judges claimed Viken’s order threatens the distribution of authority between state and federal courts.

Transcripts were also not forthcoming from hearings held in front of former Judge Mary Thorstenson.

Last week, Viken chose to circumvent the judges’ reluctance to order the transcripts by ordering the court reporters who recorded the hearings to produce the transcripts. They have until June 1 to produce the transcripts.

The plaintiffs will have to pay for the transcripts that will be treated as confidential.

“Production of the 48-hour ICWA hearing transcripts is critical to the resolution of the issues in this case,” Viken said in his order.

South Carolina officers in Oklahoma for Indian custody case


Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon sends deputies, SLED agent to Oklahoma in Veronica case


Glenn Smith The Post and Courier

August 29, 2013


Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon confirmed today that he has sent two of his deputies and a State Law Enforcement Division agent to Oklahoma in connection with the contentious custody case concerning 3-year-old Veronica.

Cannon confirmed the information in response to questions from The Post and Courier. He said the team, which left this morning, was dispatched as a precautionary measure in the event their assistance was needed in connection with upcoming court proceedings in the case.

The sheriff stressed that he has not been informed of any major development or action in the case. Rather, his office has been in ongoing contact with a variety of law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and felt a responsibility to have some presence on hand to provide assistance, he said.

Cannon would not say when hearings in the case have been scheduled or what specific proceedings deputies planned to attend.

On Aug. 16, an Oklahoma judge barred attorneys and their clients from discussing the dispute pitting Veronica’s adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, against her biological father, Dusten Brown of Nowata, Okla. A mediation agreement was reached during a three-hour hearing that day, but the details have remained under seal.

The Capobiancos flew to Oklahoma earlier this month and have remained there ever since. It appears they have been allowed to visit with the girl who lived with them for 27 months, but it’s unclear when or how often that has occurred, The Tulsa World reported this week.

The newspaper also reported that an attorney appointed to represent Veronica’s interests has asked a Cherokee County court to suspend those visits until further hearings can be held.

Adding to the confusion, Holli Wells, the judge who brought the two sides together for the April 16 hearing and imposed the gag order, recently filed an “order of recusal,” removing herself from the case, The Tulsa World reported.

Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, used the heritage he shares with Veronica to get custody in late 2011 through the Indian Child Welfare Act. The 1978 law was meant to keep Indian children connected to their native cultures.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the ICWA didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t been in Veronica’s life. He has argued that the child’s mother had refused his attempts to get involved when she brushed off his marriage wishes.

Courts in South Carolina later finalized the Capobiancos’ adoption of Veronica, but Brown has refused to give up the girl. His attorneys said he should be allowed to challenge the decree’s enforcement in Oklahoma, where Veronica has lived for the past 19 months.

Brown is wanted on a Charleston County custodial interference warrant for failing to turn over Veronica to the Capobiancos. His attorney has said he plans to challenge the legality of that warrant.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said she would speed along Brown’s extradition to Charleston if he didn’t let the Capobiancos see the girl.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or

In challenging tribal court, Alaska state goes to bat for man convicted of beating his wife

August 25, 2013 Anchorage Daily News



Earlier this month, when Edward Parks was convicted in Fairbanks of the kidnapping and brutal assault of his girlfriend, the prosecutor told a Fairbanks reporter it was a victory in the “state’s larger war against domestic violence.”

But three months earlier, with Parks sitting in jail awaiting trial for beating Bessie Stearman so badly he broke three of her ribs and collapsed one of her lungs, the Parnell administration intervened on his behalf before the Alaska Supreme Court. In a case that’s still pending, the state government is seeking to void a tribal court order declaring him an unfit parent.

For Natalie Landreth, a Native-rights attorney representing the adoptive parents of one of Parks’ children, the state’s move was an outrageous example of attaching greater importance to its political fight against tribal rights than the protection of the child, who is now 5.

“Why on earth would you step in to defend someone’s right to access a child when he has just been convicted of almost murdering the mother?” Landreth said.

Attorney General Michael Geraghty said the state is intervening on Parks’ side to protect Parks’ constitutional rights, not get his child back.

“I guess I can understand to a lay person how it might appear that we’re supporting Mr. Parks, but I don’t think that’s the case. We’re supporting his due process rights as we would with any other Alaskan,” Geraghty said. “That doesn’t mean we think he’s a good guy, that he should be a parent or that he’s entitled to custody of his kids.”

Parks has his own attorney to defend his rights and the state’s entry into the case on his behalf was optional, Geraghty acknowledged, but he said the state chose to file its own brief in the Alaska Supreme Court because the case was bigger than Parks.

At issue is whether a small tribal court in the village of Minto, 130 road miles west of Fairbanks, could strip Parks of his parental rights to one of his daughters, named “S.P.” in legal filings, and approve her adoption by Jeff Simmonds, the cousin of the child’s mother, and Simmonds’ wife Rozella. According to court filings, S.P. is a member of the Minto tribe, as is her mother, Stearman, the victim of Parks’ rage. Jeff Simmonds is also a Minto tribe member, while Rozella Simmonds is a Zuni Pueblo Indian from the Southwest.

One of Parks’ parents is Alaska Native and Parks himself is an enrolled member of the tribe at Stevens Village, about 60 miles north of Minto on the Yukon River, according to the court filings.

To the state, that meant that the Minto court was trying to enforce its order against a nonmember of its tribe. The Minto court’s declaration on May 7, 2009, that Parks was an unfit parent was improperly reached, the state said in its brief to the Alaska Supreme Court, filed in April.

The proper venue for that question is before a state judge in Fairbanks, not the elders of the Minto court, the state said.

Landreth, from the Native American Rights Fund office in Anchorage, said the state is overreaching and ignoring the years of legal precedent since Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978.


‘sovereignty issues are current issues’


Alaska, like other Western states with significant Native American populations, has had a contentious history with tribal rights. The federal government recognizes more than 200 tribes in Alaska — most of them small, rural villages — and they form parallel governments to the municipalities under state law, and the state itself — at least for duties and rights granted by Congress. Native rights are based in the U.S. Constitution and in aboriginal-rights doctrine subscribed to by the United States. Tensions over tribal sovereignty have grown or subsided, depending on who was governor and what issues were hot at the time.

“Certainly tribal sovereignty issues are current issues, they’re topical issues, I agree with that,” Geraghty said. But the decision to intervene on Parks’ behalf against the Minto tribal court was about Parks’ legal rights, not an effort by the state to restrict tribes.

Landreth doesn’t see it that way. By declaring that Parks shouldn’t be bound by the tribal court even though his daughter, his daughter’s mother, and one of the adopted parents are tribal members, the state is trying to make new, impractical law, she said.

“The legal term for that kind of argument is ‘Just Silly,'” Landreth said. “Tribes, especially in Alaska, are so small that nobody’s going to marry someone in their own tribe because they’re mostly related within two degrees of blood.”

If both parents have to be members of the same tribe for a tribal court to have jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act, that would foreclose a decision in almost every case except those involving the largest tribes in the state, like the Tlingit-Haida people, she said.




S.P. was born in Fairbanks in 2007. At the time, Bessie Stearman, her mother, was on probation for drug charges, according to the filings with the Supreme Court. By the following January, Parks had been jailed on an assault charge for breaking Stearman’s finger “in a dispute relating to the trimming of S.P.’s fingernails.” The attack came to the attention of a tribal social worker.

In May 2008, with Parks working on the North Slope, Stearman was jailed for probation violations. She asked Rozella Simmonds to care for S.P.

Parks found out, quit his job, and returned to Fairbanks. He learned that the Minto tribal court had granted temporary, emergency custody to the Simmondses, and agreed to that arrangement at least for the time being, though he preferred placing the baby with his mother instead.

Over the course of the next year, the tribe held more hearings and set up a visitation schedule for S.P. with Parks and Stearman. The couple continued in their relationship and eventually had three more children, including a set of twins.

“Yeah, she went back to him,” said assistant District Attorney Andrew Baldock. “As domestic violence cases go, it’s not unusual for that sort of thing to happen.”

Parks got a lawyer, Don Mitchell, an Anchorage attorney who has written extensively about Native law — and who has a problem with tribes as legal entities in Alaska.

Parks demanded that S.P. be returned to him. He accused the tribe of kidnapping her. On May 5, 2009, he “abducted” S.P. from the Simmondses, according to Landreth’s petition. The Alaska Office of Children’s Services, with the help of Fairbanks police, returned S.P. “to her tribal foster home,” Landreth wrote.

Two days later, the tribal court convened again, this time in a hearing to terminate the parental rights of Stearman and Parks. The court met in Minto. Stearman, Parks, Parks’ mother and Mitchell participated over a speakerphone in the Tanana Chiefs Conference office in Fairbanks.

Parks told the court it had no jurisdiction over him. Mitchell wanted to speak on Parks’ behalf, but was told by a “court facilitator” — a clerk of sorts — that lawyers are only allowed to advise their clients and submit written documents, not make oral arguments.

The court allowed the interested parties to speak, went into closed session, and returned with its verdict: S.P.’s parents were unable to provide a “violence-free environment” and were not fit as parents. The child would continue to live with Stearman’s cousin and his wife.




Parks and Stearman filed suit in Superior Court in Fairbanks on Sept. 17, 2009, trying to get S.P. back. Mitchell originally represented him. The judge, Paul Lyle, refused Landreth’s request to dismiss the case, ruling that Parks was denied due process by the Minto court.

While the case was kicking back and forth between Lyle’s court and the Alaska Supreme Court, Parks lost control again, this time apparently worse than at any other time.

On Dec. 18, 2011, according to the Fairbanks News-Miner, Parks took Stearman to an area near South Cushman Street in Fairbanks and began beating her. He brought her home, tied her with a belt, and kicked and choked her some more. Parks held her for two days, refusing to take her to the hospital until she promised not to call police.

“There were some very small children that were in the residence,” Baldock, the prosecutor, said in a telephone interview. “She was not physically able to go to the hospital — she had a collapsed lung and a couple broken ribs and the children were just kept in the other room away from her.”

But not S.P. She was safe with Jeff and Rozella Simmonds.

Parks was arrested. On Feb. 9, 2012, a Fairbanks grand jury handed up a seven-count indictment that included two kidnapping charges. Another count was for witness tampering. From his jail cell, Parks continued to try to get Stearman to not testify against him, Baldock said. Parks also used delaying tactics to put off the trial, apparently believing Stearman would change her mind, Baldock said.

It didn’t happen. She testified against him. After a one-week trial, the News-Miner reported, he was convicted Aug. 12 on all counts.

Baldock said he was carrying out state policy to aggressively pursue domestic violence cases under Gov. Sean Parnell and Attorney General Geraghty’s “Choose Respect” campaign.

“I can’t speak anything about the civil stuff,” Baldock said, referring to the state’s role in the Minto tribal case, “but certainly from the attorney general on down, there’s a real impetus in making sure that these kind of cases are handled appropriately.”

The civil lawsuit had ground along as Parks waited for trial in his jail cell in Fairbanks. The state intervened on his behalf April 26.

“Having the government in your corner is certainly a useful situation for any litigant,” said Mitchell, Parks’ attorney. “I viewed it as a helpful development.”

Mitchell had to drop out of the case because he had represented both Stearman and Parks, and they had become adversaries in the criminal case. Each now has their own attorney in the civil case. He still believes it was right to pursue the lawsuit.

“At the heart of this problem is the fact that every single person who lives in a village is a citizen of the state of Alaska who is entitled to have access to the same procedural and substantive protections as any other citizen of Alaska, and that has been thrown out the window in the political enthusiasm for the invention of Indian tribes in Alaska and the further invention of tribal courts,” Mitchell said.

But Landreth said the tribal court got it right years before.

“Respondent now has 43 criminal entries on Court View,” she wrote in 2012 in her second petition to the Alaska Supreme Court, referring to Parks’ record in the state’s on-line court database. “As this case has progressed, the wisdom of the Minto Tribal Court’s decision to place S.P. in the Petitioners’ (Simmondses) stable home has become even more apparent.”

The matter is pending in the Alaska state courts. Parks is due to be sentenced in February.


Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.

Idle No More event in Seattle for Veronica Brown




The Idle No More Washington Facebook page has arranged a rally for supporters of Veronica Brown, the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 1839 Cherokee Constitution Signing. The rally is set to coincide with these happenings going on within Indian country and other rallies currently happening around the country. The event page states:


In solidarity with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma we are gathering to celebrate the signing of the Cherokee Constitution. The celebration pays homage to the tribe’s strength. It also pays tribute to the past, when the Cherokee’s were driven from the Deep South on the “Trail of Tears.” On this Signing Day, they’ll be saluting Veronica too.


Please join us to take a stand for the Indian Child Welfare Act and why the Supreme Court trying to overstep the sovereign rights of Native peoples must be stopped. Support the Brown family in the return of their daughter. This is a peaceful rally; bring your drums, songs, and prayers.


Idle No More Washington – Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown

Monday September 2, 2013

From 1pm -3pm

Westlake Park
401 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Visit the Facebook event page here for more information-


Deaf, Dumb and Blind Justice: Thomas Is Wrong on Tribal Sovereignty

Mark C. Van Norman

July 14, 2013 ICTMN

In the Baby Veronica case, Associate Supreme Court Justice Thomas writes that the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional because it is not “commerce” in the sense of “trade.” Domestic relations, he says, are left to the states. When it comes to American Indians, Native Nations and the Constitution, Thomas is wrong. The Constitution’s Treaty, Commerce, Supremacy, Apportionment and Property Clauses, the War Powers, and the 14thAmendment are the foundation for the Indian affairs powers and the United States’ nation-to-nation relations with Native Nations.

The starting point for analysis is always: Indian nations and tribes were independent, sovereign nations prior to the formation of the United States. Indian nations managed native justice systems, economies, education, health care, and domestic relations. In the earliest Indian treaties, the United States extended its protection to Indian nations—for example, the Cherokee Nation Treaty of 1785 provides that: “[t]he Indians for themselves and their respective tribes … do acknowledge all the Cherokees to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other sovereign whosoever.” The United States intended this provision to oust the British from North America, yet it must be read as the Cherokee Nation would have understood it—a pledge of protection for the Native Nation, not U.S. dictatorship, tyranny or despotism. Thomas Jefferson recognized that Native Nations were governed by native traditions, customs, and laws.

The Articles of Confederation, America’s original governing document, provides that:


The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of … regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated.

Articles of Confederation, Art. XI (Passed by Continental Congress 1777, ratified 1781–1789). In practice, this allocation of power was not practical because the grant of authority to Congress was too qualified and the states continued to claim concurrent power over Indian affairs. The weakness of the Indian Affairs power was exemplary of the overall problems for the United States under the Articles of Confederation. This provision does not inform the Constitution by reserving state’s rights in the field of Indian affairs.

General George Washington chaired the Constitutional Convention, and contrary to Justice Thomas’s suggestion, he did not carry forward the Articles of Confederation. In partnership with Franklin, Jefferson and others, Washington and his party of Federalists, Jay, Hamilton, and Madison, rewrote the Constitution to ensure the success of the United States of America as one Nation. Washington made sure that the Federal Government had plenary authority—vis-à-vis the states—over Indian affairs (and other areas of Federal authority). Washington sought to forestall brushfire wars along the United States border because he knew that American citizens, who encroached on Indian lands and “endangered” the peace of the Union by violating Indian treaties, started Indian wars.

Accordingly, the Constitution says simply, “Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce … with the Indian Tribes,” and state laws that are contrary to Federal law are preempted by the Supremacy Clause. Thomas’s broadside notwith-standing, this is not the only font of Federal authority concerning government-to-government relations with Indian nations and tribes. The United States negotiated 17 treaties under the Articles of Confederation prior to the Constitution, and 10 of those were treaties with Indian Nations (Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Six Nations). The Constitution affirms those treaties already made, including the treaty pledges of protection for Indian nations. The Constitution also authorizes new treaties. The Constitution, through the Treaty and Supremacy Clauses, recognizes Indian nations and tribes as prior sovereigns, with authority to enter treaties and those treaties reserved tribal self-governance over Indian lands and tribal citizens. Over 370 Indian treaties were entered under the Treaty Clause. The Apportionment Clause expressly excludes tribal citizens from direct taxation and congressional apportionment as “Indians not taxed.” Our people were citizens of our own Native Nations, not the United States.

As Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, Washington is a reliable guide to the Constitution’s meaning. In 1790, one year after its ratification, President Washington entered the Treaty with the Creek Nation, guaranteeing Creek territory, pledging protection, promoting justice, agriculture, and civilization. With regard to the “beloved” Cherokee Nation, President Washington exhorted them to undertake agriculture, sell their surplus to their white neighbors, gather in national council and send delegates to Congress, expressing their priorities and concerns.

Jefferson’s legacy is the Louisiana Purchase. In the 1803 Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the United States pledged to honor the international treaties with Indian nations, until such time as the United States by “mutual consent” entered its own treaties. Under Jefferson’s leadership, the United States passed laws for Indian traders, Indian education, and restricted liquor sales. Later, Indian treaties included provisions for tribal territorial integrity, self-government, agriculture, allotment of lands, education, health care, “civilization.” Domestic relations were addressed through treaties, when non-Indian husbands of Indian women were included in allotment of tribal lands and crimes between Indians were reserved to tribal self-government. Indian children were often sent far from home to military boarding schools, like Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, or educated in government boarding schools on Indian reservations. InUnited States v. Quiver(1916), the Supreme Court explained that:


At an early period it became the settled policy of Congress to permit the personal and domestic relations of the Indians with each other to be regulated, and offenses by one Indian against the person or property of another Indian to be dealt with, according to their tribal customs and laws. Thus the Indian intercourse acts of 1796 and 1802 provided for the punishment of various offenses by white persons against Indians and by Indians against white persons, but left untouched those by Indians against each other.


After 90 years of Indian treaty-making, Congress promulgated, and the states ratified, the 14thAmendment. Congress intended to make freed slaves citizens through the Citizenship Clause, but intentionally excluded the citizens of Indian nations from U.S. Citizenship. Native people were not “subject to” the jurisdiction of the United States, as required by the new Clause. Our people were subject to tribal government jurisdiction.

When the 14thAmendment removed the constitutional reference to slavery (3/5s of other persons) and counted “All persons, excluding Indians not taxed,” the political status of tribal citizens was affirmed. Under the Indian Peace Policy of the post-Civil War era, the United States entered into over 70 Indian treaties while the 14thAmendment was considered and ratified. By repeating the original language of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment should be read to affirm the original Indian affairs powers of the United States. In this way, the Nation approved an expansive view of the Indian affairs power and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian nations.

The Supreme Court has found that the War Powers are also among the Indian affairs powers because the United States, having made war on Indian nations, also had the power to make peace. Indeed, President Washington put Secretary of War Knox in charge of treaty-making with the Cherokee Nation in 1790. The Department of War was the original home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The United States destroyed traditional tribal economies and disrupted our Indian communities by warfare, so the United States has the power to assist Indian nations in restoring tribal economies and Indian communities. (Think of the Marshall Plan.) And, under the Constitution’s Property Clause, the United States, having taken original Indian lands as “surplus” and having claimed title over remaining Indian lands to protect them against alienation, also had the power to restore Indian lands.

In his Baby Veronica opinion, Thomas would have us believe that because no furs, beads or kettles, hatchets or guns were traded, the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional. His view ignores the history of the United States relations with Indian nations, the Constitution’s text, treaties, statutes, and a rich body of Supreme Court precedent. As Chief Justice Marshall said in the 1830s Cherokee Nation cases, the duty to protect is not a license to destroy. Where the United States pledged through treaties (affirmed by the 14thAmendment) to protect Indian nations, Congress now has the power to protect our Indian children so they, as our future citizens, are not stripped away from our Indian nations.

Under the Constitution, it is well within Congress’s power to protect Indian families and children through the Indian Child Welfare Act. Justice Thomas is just plain wrong when he says otherwise.

Mark C. Van Norman is the Executive Director for the National Indian Gaming Association.