Thursday, June 15, 2023

NCCPR statement on the ICWA decision: A joyful surprise: The Supreme Court refuses to give family police the green light to revert to policies that fit the UN definition of genocide.

Now, let’s get serious about enforcement

The United Nations defines genocide as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.”  In the decades, indeed in the centuries before passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, U.S. “child welfare” policy toward Native Americans fit that definition.  

It’s not as if anyone tried to hide it.  From the superintendent of a notorious 19th Century “boarding school” – more like a prison – who said the purpose was to “kill the Indian in him and save the man” to the Child Welfare League of America’s Indian Adoption Project which had as its explicit aim  “to stimulate adoption of American Indian children by Caucasian families on a nationwide basis,” they said the quiet part out loud.  (CWLA’s subsequent apology rings hollow, since they continue to support racist laws like the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.)

 The Indian Child Welfare Act is a recognition that it’s not too much to ask of America’s “child welfare” agencies that they not commit acts that fit the definition of genocide in international law.  We are thrilled that the United States Supreme Court agrees.  

ICWA is often described as the “gold standard” for “child welfare” law and policy.  As such its biggest flaw is not in the law itself but the failure to enforce it – indeed, ProPublica reminded us of that failure in a story published just today (June 15)..  The story focuses on the atrocious record of South Dakota, the same state exposed by NPR more than a decade ago

Other nations are doing better.

 In Australia, there is a National Sorry Day, to apologize to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for what Australia calls “the stolen generations.”  In Canada, governments are paying reparations to First Nations for what was done to them.  While other nations slowly move forward, we must build on today’s Supreme Court decision to force America’s family police agencies (a more accurate term than “child welfare” agencies) to do the same.  And we must provide tribal nations with the resources they need to enforce their families’ rights under ICWA.