July 18, 2023

Quarterly Newsletter


 2023 Summer NICWA News

“Protecting Seven Generations”

NICWA News is the quarterly newsletter for members and donors of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Donate or become a member today to subscribe.

A Message from NICWA’s Executive Director

Dear NICWA Members, Sponsors, Donors, and Friends,

This issue embraces the theme Protecting Seven Generations by focusing on NICWA’s advocacy. Last month’s Supreme Court decision in Haaland v. Brackeen, an overwhelming victory for Native children and families and tribal nations, affirmed the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). So much was at stake—for children, parents, communities, and tribal nations. We advocated relentlessly, educated allies, and worked in coalitions. We stood in solidarity for our children and in prayer.

On June 15th, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their decision, my family and I were at the Leech Lake Reservation for the Day Family Big Drum Ceremony. This ceremony, like so many of our tribal ceremonies, is for the community to live a good life. It felt so appropriate to be able be in community celebrating life when the ruling came down. When the decision was published, the Protect ICWA Campaign partners jumped into action. We discussed the implications and messaging with our attorneys, released press statements, took interviews with media across the world, and worked with the National Congress of American Indians to coordinate a panel discussion with tribal leaders early the following week.

We heard from many of you. By email, text, and phone call, you reached out to celebrate this unexpected and full-throated defense of ICWA. While we joyously exchanged messages about the Court “getting the decision right,” I was reminded about the necessity of ICWA in the first place.

In the Leech Lake community, I had several opportunities to talk with individuals and small groups about the decision we’d just received. We’ve all learned that these celebrations are also linked with other feelings. The relief and exuberance were tempered by relatives recounting their experiences—sometimes publicly and sometimes privately—with the removal of children from their own families and the ongoing loss and grief we feel for our relatives who were taken and never made it back to us. We know we have to keep working for the well-being of our relatives.

In anticipation of the decision, we prepared ourselves to fight to gain back portions of ICWA that the Court may not have ruled favorably on. In the wake of a decision that unequivocally affirms the constitutionality of ICWA, we can’t lose momentum. The law is clear, and now is the time to push for better implementation and compliance.

As you’ll read about in this issue, our multi-pronged strategy is to

  1. Lift up and strengthen best practices in tribal child welfare.
  2. Enhance tribal-state relationships and the infrastructure that supports them.
  3. Implore the federal government to continue to set clear standards in child welfare, including supporting effective tribal-state partnerships for ICWA implementation and the well-being of Native children.

We look forward to working with you on this agenda!

With gratitude for your partnership in advocacy,
Sarah L. Kastelic, PhD (Alutiiq)

Share this article