(Portland, Ore., August 23, 2022)—This week, we are seeing the true breadth of those who champion the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In an outpouring of support, 497 Tribal Nations, 62 Native organizations, 23 states and DC, 87 congresspeople, 27 child welfare and adoption organizations, and many others signed on to 21 briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of upholding ICWA. This large, bipartisan coalition of tribal leaders, policymakers, and organizations understand that the far-reaching consequences of challenging ICWA’s constitutionality in Haaland v. Brackeen will be felt for generations.
Both Native and non-Native people and organizations have authored briefs, ranging from legal perspectives affirming ICWA’s constitutionality to first-person perspectives from those whose lives are most impacted by ICWA—children and families navigating the child welfare system. The child development expertise provided in these briefs show us and the Court that ICWA serves children’s and families’ best interests. Additionally, tribal leadership, legal experts, and policymakers make the case that ICWA is not only constitutional but also upholds and respects tribal sovereignty.
Those who signed on to these briefs stand with Native kids. Adoption is one of the most influential events that can happen in a child’s life; it has the power to shape their entire future. ICWA ensures that this decision is given careful consideration so that the unique needs of Native children are met. ICWA places kids with their extended families or communities when possible, which is considered best practice by child welfare experts. Research shows that when kids are connected to their identity and culture it leads to positive outcomes, including higher self-esteem and academic achievement.
On the opposing side, those who seek to dismantle ICWA have shown that they do not care about what is best for Native kids. ICWA opponents have two things in common: deep pockets and minimal contact with Tribal Nations, Native organizations, tribal leaders, or Native peoples. They say they want the best for Native children, but not a single Tribal Nation, not a single independent Native organization, and not a single independent child welfare organization supports their cause. They are motivated by self interests and want to grow their control of Native land, Native industry, and Native futures.
This case has huge implications for Native children and their families, and also has the potential to impact the future of Tribal Nations. If the protections of ICWA are dismantled, opponents could set legal precedent that has serious consequences for other issues like tribal economic development and land rights. A threat to ICWA is a threat to tribal sovereignty. The Protect ICWA Campaign and its supporters understand the importance of this law and urge everyone to stand with ICWA and stand with Native kids.
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The Protect ICWA Campaign (the Campaign) was established by four national Native organizations: the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund. Together, the Campaign works to serve and support Native children, youth, and families through upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Campaign works to inform policy, legal, and communications strategies with the mission to uphold and protect ICWA.