Photo of the Week: Federal Marshals Showing Up on Tribal Land Shows How Vulnerable Tribal Sovereignty Is

US Marshal vehicles out in front of the Jack Brown House on Monday evening.

US Marshal vehicles out in front of the Jack Brown House on Monday evening.

Source: Native News Network

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA – In the age of social media, it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction. So much misinformation gets sent out in social media.

So, Monday evening when news began to emerge that federal marshals were on their way to pick up Veronica Brown from her biological father’s care, we at the Native News Network decided to send a photographer to Tahlequah to capture photos of the events.

There were several rumors out there. One was the tribal lands were “locked-down” by Cherokee Nation marshals and no visitors would be allowed on to tribal land. Yet, there went out a call to get as many American Indians up to the filed outside the Jack Brown House, where Dustin Brown and his family, including Veronica, were staying.

By the time our photographer arrived outside the Jack Brown House, there were some US marshal vehicles were already there. Additionally, there were vehicles that belonged to the Cherokee Nation.

By the time the transfer took place some 15 law enforcement vehicles were there.

Our photographer, Linda Sacks, sent some photos from outside the Jack Brown House from her cell phone.

Soon the photo that became our Photo of the Week was posted on our facebook page. Reaction from our readers was swift. One reader posted on our Facebook this comment:

“18 UNITED STATE CODE § 1151 “INDIAN COUNTRY!” and note: there has been NO Federal Court order.”

During the next intervening minutes word came Veronica was taken from her biological father and his family.

The Photo of the Week is a reminder that tribal sovereignty is very vulnerable at best. It would take Indian law scholars to explain how it is federal marshals can come onto tribal land and take an Indian child.

50 Supporters were Standing Their Ground for Veronica Brown on Saturday

Source: Native News Network, August 19, 2013

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Outside of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s office in Tulsa, on Saturday afternoon, some 50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown met with others in a crowd that included child welfare workers, single fathers, and children showing their support.

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Many supporters feel it is not only about native rights but about human rights.

 

The rally consisted of family, friends, and supporters from across the country. Many carried signs reading “Fathers Have Rights Too” and “Stop Exploiting Veronica… ” as they walked up and down the road side chanting “Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown.”

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

“People are missing the parental rights issue. Dad’s should have a say,”

said Larry Shufeldt, a friend and supporter of Dusten and Veronica.

Shufeldt and his wife fostered five children and expressed his empathy for both sides.

“It is hard to give them up when it is time for them to go. But it is not about provision: who can provide what; it is about doing the right thing. Children belong with the biological parents,”

he commented.

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Shufeldt along with many others believe the state has a position it should have upheld in the adoption process and the state is failing its citizens.

 

Supporters are convinced if the Indian Child Welfare Act, most commonly referred to as ICWA, played a part in the adoption process at all, Veronica would be with family right now in Oklahoma and this would not be an issue. Cherokee Nation citizens believe it is not a fight for one Cherokee child but a fight for all native children not just in Oklahoma but across the nation.

“We are not fighting for one Cherokee Child we are fighting for all children,”

said Lorraine Sacks, a member of Cherokee Nation.

“There are too many children that don’t have anyone to fight for them and here is a biological father doing just that and no one seems to respect it.”

A member of Muscogee Creek Nation, Johnnie Diacon relates all too well,

“I know what it is like to be adopted. I am learning things now that I should have learned as a child about my culture. Fortunately, I was adopted by another native, I had a Cherokee Father who taught me what Creek words he knew but it never filled the gap and loss of my culture. I don’t want Veronica to go through that kind of suffering and loss.”

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Many supporters feel it is not only about native rights but about human rights and the right to keep a biological family intact even if the family is native or even Cherokee.

 

“To the Cherokee’s, a Cherokee child is the tribe’s child and we will defend and protect our children. And that is exactly what we are doing even if Oklahoma doesn’t,”

says Sacks.

“We are standing our ground for Veronica Brown.”

Oklahoma governor seeks end to Native American adoption fight

By Heide Brandes, Reuters

(Reuters) – Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on Wednesday stepped up pressure on the biological father of “Baby Veronica,” a 3-year-old Native American girl caught in a protracted adoption custody battle, warning him to cooperate with the girl’s adoptive parents or face charges for interfering.

After initially declining to sign an extradition warrant for biological father Dusten Brown to face felony charges in South Carolina, where the girl’s adoptive parents live, Fallin warned Brown that if he did not meet the adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, in Oklahoma, she might force him to go to South Carolina.

“Mr. and Mrs. Capobianco deserve an opportunity to meet with their adopted daughter. They also deserve the chance to meet with Mr. Brown and put an end to this conflict,” Fallin said on Wednesday. “If Mr. Brown is unwilling to cooperate with these reasonable expectations, then I will be forced to expedite his extradition request and let the issue be settled in court.”

The case has highlighted overlapping parental claims in two states and the clash between a Native American culture seeking to protect children from being adopted outside their tribes and U.S. legal safeguards for adoptive parents.

Veronica’s birth mother, who is not Native American, arranged the adoption with the Capobiancos before the girl was born. Veronica lived with them after her birth in 2009. Brown intervened in 2010 before the adoption process was final, and a South Carolina family court ordered that Veronica be turned over to Brown in December 2011.

Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation who was not married to the birth mother, argued that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 allowed him to have Veronica, who is 3/256th Cherokee.

The law was intended to keep Native American children from being separated from their families.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling, and the adoption was finalized in South Carolina in July.

But Brown refused to give up Veronica and was arrested on August 12 in Oklahoma on a charge of “custodial interference.”

South Carolina is seeking his extradition.

Veronica is believed to be staying with Brown’s relatives in Oklahoma.

The adoptive parents are in Oklahoma this week to try to visit Veronica and resolve the case. After the couple were denied the opportunity to see her, they called on Brown on Wednesday to meet with them and reach a compromise.

“I look forward to when we can restore our private life with Veronica,” Melanie Capobianco said at a news conference Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We want to ensure a lifelong relationship with her Oklahoma family as well. We want to see a resolution for Veronica.”

Cherokee Nation leaders said on Wednesday that Brown has the right to have his arguments heard in court hearings in Oklahoma and asked that he be allowed his “due process.” Brown is scheduled for a hearing September 12 to contest his warrant.

“We will continue to stand by Dusten and his biological daughter, Veronica, and for what is right,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

Troy Dunn, a lawyer who specializes in locating and reuniting birth families and adopted children, joined the Capobiancos in seeking a compromise.

“I think it may be possible to structure an arrangement to allow Veronica to be the most loved girl,” Dunn said. “A resolution can be sculpted if Dusten is willing to participate.”

(Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina; Editing by Karen Brooks and Ken Wills)