by Sarah Augustine
The Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition is committed to working with Indigenous organizations to support efforts to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
This important law, passed in 1978, strengthened the legal rights of Indigenous families and specified that when Native children are removed from the care of their families, priority placement is in the care of extended family members, families in their own tribe, or Indigenous families from another tribe. Most importantly, it gives tribal governments the legal right to be party to child welfare decisions.
The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging ICWA this coming fall. While a federal district court in Texas found ICWA to be unconstitutional in 2018, the 5th Circuit court of appeals upheld it in 2019. An “En Banc” decision at the 5th Circuit followed, where sections of ICWA were found to be unconstitutional in 2020. The challenge, in a case called Brackeen v Haaland, will now be heard by the Supreme Court this fall.
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) filed an “amicus brief” in support of ICWA, which asserts, “Declaring ICWA to be unconstitutional would significantly impede the ability of Tribal Nations to protect women and children and would result in increased levels of violence against the population whose safety Congress intended for ICWA to serve.”
Our Coalition joined the NIWRC brief and organized for the participation of thirty-three congregations and faith organizations to join as well! This is especially meaningful to me because my father was removed from his mother, people, and lands, at birth, in 1943 before ICWA was in place. His removal defined not just his life, but mine as well.
Since the faith community has not shown up formally in support of ICWA throughout the Brackeen case until now, I am so thankful for the opportunity to seek repair by joining with Indigenous-led organizations, including the NIWRC.
Our Coalition has formed an ICWA campaign committee, so stay tuned! Throughout the summer and fall, we will be engaged in multiple activities to bring light and focus to ICWA. If you are interested in joining the committee, please reach out!
We have multiple sets of talking points, a lesson plan designed for an adult education hour, and we are producing much more.
Learn more about ICWA at www.nicwa.org/about-icwa/.