If an American child is abused or neglected while living overseas, we expect our government to get involved. If an American couple chooses to adopt a child from another country, it’s no surprise to anyone when that government wants to be engaged in the process to ensure fairness, equity and safety for their children.
The United States’ sovereign tribal nations are no different. Unfortunately, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas upset this principle and limited tribal nations’ abilities to protect Native American children when he declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional last year. This dangerous verdict cannot stand.
For 40 years, the act has protected the best interests of Native children and helped preserve the integrity of tribal nations across the United States. The law was enacted in 1978 in response to the widespread historical practices of removing Native children, often by force or under duress, from their families and placing them with foster or adoptive parents who did not share their heritage — and in the process, detaching them from their Nation, culture, heritage and the communities that cherish them. A report released that year by Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.), who championed the bill, described the number of families subject to this process as “alarmingly high.”