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.
WASHINGTON — Faith Spotted Eagle figures that building a crude oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast would bring little to Indian Country besides more crime and dirty water, but she doubts that Native Americans will ever get the U.S. government to block the $7 billion project.
“There is no way for Native people to say no – there never has been,” said Spotted Eagle, 65, a Yankton Sioux tribal elder from Lake Andes, S.D. “Our history has caused us not to be optimistic. . . . When you have capitalism, you have to have an underclass – and we’re the underclass.”
Opponents may be down after a State Department study found that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not contribute to global warming. But they haven’t abandoned their goal of killing what some call “the black snake.”
In South Dakota, home to some of the nation’s poorest American Indians, tribes are busy preparing for nonviolent battle with “resistance training” aimed at TransCanada, the company that wants to develop the 1,700-mile pipeline.
While organizers said they want to keep their strategy a secret, they’re considering everything from vigils to civil disobedience to blockades to thwart the moving of construction equipment and the delivery of materials.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can,” said Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who attended a two-day conference and training session in Rapid City last week sponsored by the Oglala Sioux Tribe called “Help Save Mother Earth from the Keystone Pipeline.” He said tribes are considering setting up encampments to follow the construction, but he stressed that any actions would be peaceful. “We’re not going to damage anything or riot or anything like that,” he said.
Like much of the country, however, tribal members are divided over the pipeline. In South Dakota, the battle pits those who fear irreversible effects on the environment and public safety against those who trumpet the economic payoff and a chance to cash in on a kind of big development project that rarely comes along.
In Winner, S.D., where the population numbers fewer than 3,000, Mayor Jess Keesis is eager to welcome construction workers from a 600-member “man camp” that would open just 10 miles from town if President Barack Obama approves the pipeline.
“Out here on the prairie, you know, we’re a tough people,” said Keesis, who’s also a member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation in Kansas. “We deal with drought and eight-foot blizzards and all kinds of stuff all the time, so anytime we can get something like this to give us a shot, it’s a good thing.”
Opponents say the risks are too great.
Two weeks ago, an alliance of Native American groups approved a statement saying emphatically that no pipeline would be allowed in South Dakota and that tribes stand ready to protect their “sacred water” and other natural resources.
That includes Native women, who opponents of the pipeline say would become easy prey for thousands of temporary construction workers housed in work camps. According to the federal government, one of every three Indian women are either raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, with the majority of attacks done by non-Native men.
“If you like to drink water, if you like your children not being harmed, if you don’t want your women being harmed, then say no to the pipeline,” Grey Cloud said. “Because once it comes, it’s going to destruct everything.”
Opponents said they don’t want to have to follow through on their plans. They hope that they have the ultimate trump card with a president who just happens to be an adopted Indian. That would be Barack Black Eagle, who was formally adopted by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle of Montana’s Crow Indian Tribe in 2008, when he visited the tribal reservation during his first presidential run.
“They didn’t do that by accident – they saw something in him, and I hope he recognizes that within himself,” Spotted Eagle said.
Grey Cloud said Obama would be “going against his word” if he approves the pipeline: “His main promise was to not allow pollution in our area.”
Keesis said the project carries risks but ultimately would be a winner for the region. He said the city of Winner and surrounding Tripp County would get a windfall of roughly $900,000 a year from construction workers patronizing the town’s restaurants, bars and its recently upgraded digital theater. Even the city would make money, hauling liquid waste from the nearby construction camp to its municipal facilities.
After spending 20 years working in oilfields and boomtowns, he’s convinced that much has changed, with construction workers “under the gun to behave.”
“I’ve been in boomtowns all my life: Wyoming, Texas, California, Colorado, Alaska, everywhere,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be near as bad as what people have in their minds. The oilfield, as with any other occupation like this, has really mellowed over the last 20 years. It’s not the Wild West like it used to be. . . . But you’ve got to take a little bad with the good.”
Obama, who has not said when he’ll make a final decision, is under heavy pressure to approve the project. Just last week, all 45 Republican senators sent a letter to the president, saying thousands of jobs are at stake and reminding him that he had promised them to make a decision by the end of 2013.
Nationally, project backers appear to be riding the momentum, armed with a State Department report on Jan. 31 that minimized the climate change impact of building the pipeline. Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said the report shows Americans that there is “no reason, scientific or otherwise, to block this project any longer.”
While Obama has kept mum, his administration has been offering hope to tribal officials.
“If we’re developing an area that runs through Indian Country, it’s very important that we reach an agreement that makes sense to tribes,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told tribal officials during a visit to Oklahoma in November, according to a story published in the Native American Times. “If not, that might mean the pipeline or transmission line goes somewhere else.”
In South Dakota, the proposed line would not go through any of the state’s nine reservations, but opponents say its close proximity would still pose a hazard.
TransCanada officials say they’ve worked closely with the tribes, even halting work in northeast Texas last year as a team of archaeological contractors dug for Indian artifacts at a sacred site.
With the southern section of the pipeline already open, company spokesman Terry Cunha said TransCanada is now working with 17 tribes in South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska, where the company needs Obama’s approval to build. He said the company hopes to begin work in those states in 2015.
Cunha said the company expects the pipeline to have a “limited impact” on the environment and that its work camps will be provided with around-the-clock security.
“We see it as a positive benefit,” he said.
Besides the short-term construction work, Keesis said his city would gain another 30 to 40 permanent residents who would work on pipeline-related jobs. He said Winner needs a lift, noting that since the city shut down its strip clubs a few years back, fewer pheasant hunters are visiting, opting to stay in big hunting lodges nearby.
“When I moved here, during the first three weeks of pheasant season, you couldn’t find a parking space,” he said. “Now you can park anywhere.”
But the economic argument is a hard sell for many tribal members in South Dakota, where history is still raw. It’s the scene of the some of the bloodiest battles between Indians and the federal government, including the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee Creek by the U.S. 7th Cavalry that killed nearly 300 Sioux.
Spotted Eagle said she feels obligated to try to stop the pipeline, both to provide toxic-free land and water for her grandchildren and to protect women from attacks.
“This is a form of militarism, bringing in these man camps,” said Spotted Eagle. “For those of us who have the history, it smacks of repetitive economics, when they put us in forts and they wanted our land. . . . All we’re willing to do here is sell our soul, just for the economy. That’s the dark side.”
A mother from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe faces arrest for protecting her children from an abusive couple:
The emergency room doctor was furious at what he had seen, recalled Audre’y Eby, who is Rosebud Sioux and the mother of disabled 16-year-old twins. One of her sons, who is blind and autistic, squirmed on the examination-room table, screaming, “Ow, ow, it hurts!” The doctor had found livid red and purple bruises covering his penis and scrotum, according to the Nebraska hospital’s records. Those injuries would soon lead to an arrest warrant for the mother—not because she had caused the harm, but because she did not return her son, along with his wheelchair-bound twin, to their abusers.
Indian child welfare expert Frank LaMere called the twins’ situation more extreme than any he’d seen in his many years of work in the field. “These boys are suffering,” said LaMere, who is Winnebago and the director of Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, Iowa.
The day before the ER visit, Eby, who is 45, drove from the Nebraska farm where she lives with her husband, Faron, to pick up her boys from their father in Iowa. It was early August of 2013, and she was going to have them for the once-a-month weekend visit the courts allow her. The boys’ father is Eby’s ex-husband; he has physical custody of the kids, and his live-in girlfriend is their primary caretaker. Eby and the boys are Native, and the father and his girlfriend are white—facts that LaMere says overshadow decisions that social-services professionals and the courts make on the children’s behalf.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota has banished a non-Indian man for a domestic violence incident. Steven Nichols was convicted in federal court in June 2011 for assaulting his girlfriend, who is a tribal member. The tribe’s court issued a banishment order and the tribal council voted to exclude him that same month but he was just arrested last week for coming back to the reservation. This is the fourth time he’s been arrested for violating the banishment order. In March, Nichols pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of criminal trespass, the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota said in a press release. Nichols, who lives in Illinois, was sentenced to 30 days and one year of probation and was again ordered not to re-enter the reservation.
Wellness Center and Mobile Medical Unit Boost Education and Screening Efforts through Partnership with Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk, Aug 23, 2013
ROSEBUD, SD, August 23, 2013 – Addressing one of the biggest health problems facing Native American communities everywhere, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe today unveiled a new, state-of-the-art wellness center and a first-of-its kind mobile diabetes medical unit. These resources will allow the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Diabetes Prevention Program (RSTDPP) to improve screening and intervention in children, as well as promote healthy lifestyles for people of all ages on the reservation. The center and mobile unit were made possible through funding from global healthcare company Novo Nordisk as part of its Native American Health Initiative.
“Diabetes is a serious problem for my tribe, but we know we can turn it around,” said RSTDPP Director Connie Brushbreaker. “Education and screening can help raise awareness about diabetes. The wellness center and mobile unit are smart ways to help us reach more people on our reservation and provide valuable disease education.”
Overall, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are more than twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites. In some American Indian/Alaska Native communities, diabetes prevalence among adults is as high as 60%.
The new wellness center will house exercise facilities, diabetes education and nutrition training space, and exam rooms. The facility will also provide secure storage for the mobile medical unit, which can travel to the remote corners of the reservation to promote diabetes education, screening and prevention to residents that have limited access to care.
The enhanced diabetes prevention and screening efforts were recommended as part of a thorough, four-month assessment of the diabetes care and educational programs currently available to residents of Rosebud by the internationally-recognized Park Nicollet International Diabetes Center, a nonprofit diabetes care, education, and clinical research facility based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“This program has several important components to addressing diabetes in Indian country,” said Donald K. Warne, MD, MPH, professor at North Dakota State University and advisor to the project. “One of the most important issues is making an early diagnosis before complications start to occur. Too often, once a diagnosis is made there are barriers to accessing medical care, so bringing professional medical services to people through a mobile unit is both innovative and essential to improving quality of care.”
The initial investment of $3 million from Novo Nordisk also enables the formation of a diabetes education program for healthcare professionals and patients, the implementation of a community awareness initiative for diabetes prevention, and the creation of scholarships through the support of the American Association of Diabetes Educators that will allow tribe members to be trained as certified diabetes educators.
Curt Oltmans, corporate vice president and general counsel at Novo Nordisk, grew up near the Rosebud Reservation and witnessed the disparities in care facing the Native American population first-hand. He is leading Novo Nordisk’s Native American Health Initiative.
“For more than three years Novo Nordisk has engaged with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to design this initiative,” Oltmans said. “As a leader in diabetes, we believe that diabetes education and prevention are essential. Our Diabetes Educators have trained the community’s health representatives and members of the Diabetes Prevention Program. It has been a privilege for our employees to learn about the tribe’s traditions and culture. We are committed to the program and we want it to become a model for others.”
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, a branch of the Lakota people, is located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south central South Dakota. The federally recognized Indian tribe has more than 31,000 enrolled members and over 11,300 individuals currently residing on the reservation and its lands. The reservation has a total area of 1,442 square miles, while the total land area and trust lands of the reservation cover 5,961 square miles. The reservation includes all of Todd County, S.D. and extensive lands in four adjacent counties. The tribal headquarters is in Rosebud, S.D. For more information, visit www.rosebudsiouxtribe-nsn.gov.
 Source: American Diabetes Association, Native American Complications (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/native-americans.html)
 Source: Special Diabetes Program for Indians Overview, May 2012 (http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/Diabetes/HomeDocs/Resources/FactSheets/2012/Fact_Sheet_SDPI_508c.pdf)
– See more at: http://www.noodls.com/view/559834ED9E32BB3F409145101A8FDB17D6EB63FD#sthash.6L0U3kz4.dpuf
RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA – Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of three American Indian parents, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe for the illegal removal of Indian children from American Indian families in the US District Court in Rapid City, South Dakota.
ACLU and Tribal Leaders at Court House
The 39 page lawsuit pertains to the lack of adequate hearings when American Indian children are removed from their familial home.
In one case cited in the lawsuit, one custodial hearing lasted a mere 60 seconds. American Indian parents were not even allowed or permitted to see the court papers. The judge signed the documents to remove the children within in seconds.
The case has been in the making for months as American Civil Liberties Union attorneys reviewed the circumstances surrounding the procedures used in the Pennington Court system.
“This case is not about numbers, this case is about the procedural fairness,”
stated Stephen Pevar, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney.
“This lawsuit seeks to put an end to disgraceful and unlawful practices that unfortunately have been standard practice in Pennington County, South Dakota, for a long time.”
Signs say it all
Outside of the Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building in Rapid City, American Indians began to gather to protest shortly before 9:00 am. Facing brisk temperatures on the second day of spring that were in the low 20s, some 100 tribal members stood outside the federal building as the attorneys and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan V. Brewer, Sr. went inside to file the lawsuit.
“This is the first step. Our children have been abused for far too long,”
stated President Brewer outside before he went into the federal building to file the lawsuit with American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.
“ This has to stop, we will not tolerate this any longer. Today is a historic day.”
People carried signs that read: “Protect our children from the state” and “No more exploitation of Indian children.”
Several tribal members were visibly upset as they took the microphone to tell their stories of how children were removed from their homes without due process by county or state of South Dakota officials.
Mary Black Bonnet, 38, a tribal citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spoke about being removed from her family when she was only 18 months old and adopted by a non-Indian family and ended up in Niles, Michigan.
“I fought for 22 years to get back to my people. I kept telling myself, “I have to get away from these crazy people.” I wanted to get back to my people,”
referring to her natural, American Indian family. As she spoke, her daughter clung to her.
Mary Black Bonnet – Rosebud Sioux
Some of the attendees discussed how the state of South Dakota and Pennington County officials have ignored the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA, that was passed by Congress in 1978 in response to the large number of American Indian children who removed from their homes in at disproportionate rates.
“This hits the heart of our tribe. With this lawsuit we want to see our rights that ICWA should guarantee to us. Pennington County is violating our rights,”
stated Juanita Scherich, ICWA director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
“I had to witness the actual filing of this lawsuit. This is so historic,”
said Sheris Red Feather, whose son, Patrick, committed suicide while in the custody of the State of South Dakota when he was 15.
She went upstairs of the federal building to watch the filing of the lawsuit at the federal court by the lawyers and President Brewer.
Tribal Councilors Robin LaBeau and Robert Walters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe attended the event to demonstrate the support of their Tribe to the lawsuit.
“We are here to support this lawsuit 100 percent. It comes down to our support of all Lakota children,”