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Holder: DOJ Will Work Harder to Enforce Indian Child Welfare Act

Attorney General Eric Holder offers South Dakota this parting gift—a redoubled commitment to enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act:

...[T]he Department of Justice is reinforcing and increasing staff for the Office of Tribal Justice—including experts with a deep understanding of the laws impacting Indian Country—to make certain that Indian men, women, and children will always have a voice in the policies and priorities of the Justice Department. And we are redoubling our support of the Indian Child Welfare Act, to protect Indian children from being illegally removed from their families; to prevent the further destruction of Native traditions through forced and unnecessary assimilation; and to preserve a vital link between Native children and their community that has too frequently been severed – sometimes by those acting in bad faith.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is launching a new initiative to promote compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Under this important effort, we are working to actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities. We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law. And we will join with those departments, and with tribes and Indian child-welfare organizations across the country, to explore training for state judges and agencies; to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children; to gather information about where the Indian Child Welfare Act is being systematically violated; and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.

Ultimately, these children – and all those of future generations – represent the single greatest promise of our partnership, because they will reap the benefits of our ongoing work for change [Attorney General Eric Holder, remarks, White House Tribal Nations Conference, Washington, DC, 2014.12.03].

South Dakota's least favorite NPR reporter, Laura Sullivan, notes that this commitment to heightened enforcement of ICWA is already evident in the Department of Justice's historic intervention in the ongoing lawsuit over Pennington County's allegedly discriminatory child custody practices against American Indian parents.


  1. Troy 2014.12.09

    When Kuwait allowed the US to intervene and protect Kuwait against Iraq, US intervention wasn't a threat to Kuwait's culture or sovereignty.

    When Tribal Governments can't or won't act to protect their most vulnerable, State of SD action isn't a threat to their culture or sovereignty.

    When Tribal Governments oppose action that removes the vulnerable from even potential abuse in the name of culture and sovreignty, they impugn their very legitimacy.

    In most things, I am on the side of honoring treaties and sovreignty. In this instance, I only care about child safety and I am repulsed child safety isn't the only consideration and acting preemtively is legitimate because failure to act too often is irreversible. If the tribes can't/wont act or provide for child safety, as dual citizens, failure of the State or Feds to act is dereliction of its obligations to these vulnerable citizens.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.12.09

    and the SD legislature shat on justice for these kids.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.12.09

    The Rounds and Daugaard administrations sold thousands of kids to foster homes.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.12.09

    Once again Troy gets it wrong. George Hitler Weasel Bush baited Iraq into attacking Kuwait as a pretense for an American war and to clean up the mess Bush and Raygun made by supplying arms to both Iran and Iraq-which we are still dealing with today.

    Whitey wingnuts violated state and probably federal laws to illegally take Indian kids from parents. The Justice Dept should sue South Dakota in Federal Court for relief and damages and then restrict the state from intervening in Indian affairs w/o federal permission. Just like voting rights,you have to babysit wingnut states and force them to do the right things.

  5. bearcreekbat 2014.12.09

    Why doesn't the obligation to enforce ICWA's 48 hour requirements and other protections for children fall squarely upon our South Dakota Circuit Court judges? Aren't they empowered to reject the state's arguments or positions that are inconsistent with ICWA? And aren't they empowered to grant relief when a litigant parent or tribe or child shows a violation of ICWA?

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.09

    I remember hearing from Mr. Cornelius I believe, that there are foster homes available on the res but the child welfare department doesn't use them. White culture has had awfully dirty hands when it comes to children, so I think we should not be too quick to point fingers at any culture.

    Racism against Indians is especially pernicious in SD. That directly affects Indian children. I'm all for greater care, and budgetary support for every child welfare agency.

    The numbers of people in the field of child protection still have not recovered from the Republican cuts. Their efforts to shrink government have had devastating effects on vulnerable populations, children first among them.

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