Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown plays with his daughter Veronica, center, with two unidentified children in this undated photo. After a lengthy legal battle, Brown handed over Veronica in September to a non-Native South Carolina couple after their adoption of the girl was declared legal. Four national Native American organizations on Feb. 3 called for the federal government to take a stronger role in enforcing compliance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. COURTESY PHOTO

Native American groups seek child welfare probe

Supporters of Dusten Brown gather on Aug. 12 at the Cherokee Nation Courthouse in Tahlequah, Okla., to protest the adoption of CN citizen Veronica Brown, Dusten’s daughter, by a non-Indian couple in South Carolina. Four national Native American organizations on Feb. 3 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children in the private adoption and public child welfare systems, saying civil rights violations there are rampant. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Supporters of Dusten Brown gather on Aug. 12 at the Cherokee Nation Courthouse in Tahlequah, Okla., to protest the adoption of CN citizen Veronica Brown, Dusten’s daughter, by a non-Indian couple in South Carolina. Four national Native American organizations on Feb. 3 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children in the private adoption and public child welfare systems, saying civil rights violations there are rampant. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/20/2014 07:52 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Four national Native American organizations on Feb. 3 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children in the private adoption and public child welfare systems, saying civil rights violations there are rampant.

The groups also called for the federal government to take a stronger role in enforcing compliance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. They stated in a letter to Jocelyn Samuels, the Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, that there is “minimal federal oversight” over implementation of the law.

The letter follows a recent high-profile custody battle over a Cherokee girl known as Baby Veronica who eventually was adopted by a white South Carolina couple. It also comes amid lawsuits alleging violations of federal law governing foster care and adoptions in some states.

The organizations, which include the Portland-based National Indian Child Welfare Association, alleged in their letter that some guardians appointed by the court mock Native American culture; some state workers put down traditional Native ways of parenting; and some children are placed in white homes when Indian relatives and Native foster care homes are available.

“These stories highlight patterns of behavior that are, at best, unethical and, at worst, unlawful,” the letter states. “Although these civil rights violations are well-known and commonplace, they continue to go unchecked and unexamined.”

The federal government had no an immediate response regarding the allegations.

“We have received the letter and are reviewing the request,” Justice Department spokeswoman Dena W. Iverson said in an email.

Native children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system nationwide, especially in foster care.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 after finding high numbers of Indian children being removed from their homes by public and private agencies and placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.

Federal law now requires that additional services be provided to Native families to prevent unwarranted removal. And it requires that Indian children who are removed be placed whenever possible with relatives or with other Native Americans, in a way that preserves their connection with their tribe, community and relatives.

While Native groups agree that the ICWA has been effective in slowing the removal of Indian children from their families, major challenges remain. And Baby Veronica’s plight has highlighted the matter.

Veronica was born to a non-Cherokee mother, who put her up for adoption. Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a white couple, gained custody of the child in 2009. The baby’s father, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, pressed claims under the ICWA and won custody when the girl was 27 months old.
But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the act didn’t apply because the father, Dusten Brown, had been absent from Veronica’s life before her birth and never had custody of her. In September, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court dissolved an order keeping the girl in the state, and Brown handed her over to the Capobiancos.

In addition to that case, the letter cites problems such as adoption agencies disregarding children’s tribal affiliation and failing to provide notice to a tribe when a child is taken into custody. The groups also contend Indian children are transported across state lines to sidestep the law; adoption attorneys encourage circumvention of the law; and judges deny tribes a presence during child custody proceedings.

Another problem, according to Craig Dorsay, an Oregon lawyer who works on many Native child welfare cases, is inconsistencies in identifying who is an Indian child and who is not – and whether the law applies to families who are deemed not Indian enough in the eyes of a court.

In Oregon, Dorsay said, the overall relationship between tribes and counties is good when it comes to applying the law. But statistics continue to show the disproportionate removal of Native children from their families.

Native American children in Oregon are more likely to be placed in foster care than white children, according to research from Portland State University. And they’re more likely to exit care by adoption. That, despite the fact that the abuse rate among Natives is the same as for white families.

Researchers found that suspected abuse or neglect involving Native American families was reported to child protective services at a higher rate than the group’s representation in the general population.

News

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/08/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the United States, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies claiming the federal government mismanaged the tribe’s trust funds. According to a CN Communications release, the suit asks the U.S. to give an “accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources.” The lawsuit states the intent is to “resolve accounting and related equitable claims” that the CN brings against the federal government and some of its agencies and bureaus relating to the government’s management of the CN’s trust fund, including money generating obligations owed by the government to the CN. “Within the Trust Fund, the United States held and managed vast resources for the Nation including inter alia, money; proceeds from the sale of land or profits from the land; money from surface leases for agriculture, surface, oil and gas mining leases, coal leases, sand and gravel leases, businesses, and town lots; income from property owned by the Nation’ buildings; the Nation’s records; and money resulting from treaties or other agreements,” the lawsuit states. During an April 28 Rules Committee meeting, prior to the Tribal Council’s approval of the litigation, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the lawsuit’s purpose was to have a proper accounting of and to rectify any and all trust violations or trust responsibilities that were not fulfilled by the U.S. to the CN. “This is a monumental lawsuit. We discussed the details of the arrangement…This does involve treaty rights. So therefore, in accordance with the Consent to Litigation Act, before going forward we must have a council resolution,” Hembree said. “ This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of suit, and we hope to be very judicious in its prosecution and to be a game changer for the Cherokee Nation when it’s all complete.” When the Tribal Council discussed the lawsuit on April 28, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay asked if there was any kind of waiver of sovereign immunity included with the legislation. Hembree said “no” and that the lawsuit wouldn’t require a waiver either. “It is very advantageous for the Cherokee Nation. The way it’s structured, if I was the plaintiff in this lawsuit I’d be comfortable with it,” Hembree said. According to the suit, outside attorneys representing the tribe are from the Indian and Environmental Law Group in Tulsa, Hunsucker Goodstein PC in Washington, D.C., and Askman Law Firm in Denver. The Cherokee Phoenix requested costs for the outside attorney contracts through CN Communications and a Freedom of Information Act request on Dec. 5, but as of press time neither had been received. Some Tribal Councilors during the April 28 meeting said other tribes had seen success with similar lawsuits against the U.S., so in essence the groundwork had already been laid for the CN. Tribal Councilor David Thornton said the case was not expected to be resolved quickly, but over several years. Hembree said he hopes to prosecute the case within three years, but believes both sides would settle at some point. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/12/10841__nws_161205_TrustLitigation.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the complaint document.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/08/2016 10:00 AM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the trial of a woman charged with crashing into spectators at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade and killing four. The Payne County district judge on Tuesday turned down the request by attorneys for 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers. Defense attorneys argued that Chambers couldn't get a fair trial in Payne County because of pretrial publicity. Judge Stephen Kistler also rejected other motions, including one to suppress statements made by Chambers, who witnesses said commented about being suicidal following the October 2015 crash. Other motions denied include one to suppress autopsy photos of victims and to order the families of victims not to show emotion while in court. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
12/08/2016 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Joe Bunch won the Dec. 5 runoff for United Keetoowah Band principal chief against Anile Locust. Unofficial results show Bunch received 58.64 percent of the votes (302 votes) while Locust received 41.36 percent (213 votes). A total of 515 UKB citizens voted in the tribe’s nine districts. Bunch said he thanks the UKB citizens for “overwhelmingly” electing him for his first full term as principal chief. He has served as interim-principal chief since May after the Tribal Council voted to remove former Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office, a decision that the UKB courts later upheld. “I look forward in using my 32 years experience in tribal government moving our tribe forward. It will be an honor and privilege working with federal agencies in resolving our shortage of federal resources provided to all federally recognized tribal governments,” Bunch said. “I plan to move our tribe forward by getting land in trust, re-establish our gaming portfolio and develop our economic status while safeguarding our rich Keetoowah tradition and heritage. Thank you Keetoowah voters for your confidence in me.” In a Facebook post, Locust commented about conceding the race to Bunch. “It was truly a great race for the office of the chief. I had fun. I met a great bunch of people, and I was honored to have so many people support me…Pray for Joe Bunch and the rest of our leaders as this is what we are commanded to do,” she states. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Locust for comment but she declined. Bunch was expected to be sworn into office on Jan. 7. According to the UKB Election Board, results would not be official until five days after the date of the election for any protests, appeals or recounts of election votes.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will close to the public for 16 days beginning Jan. 1 after another season of promoting Cherokee history and culture. “This has been a busy year for the heritage center, and we have welcomed visitors from across the country,” Tonia Hogner-Weavel, interim CHC director, said. “We are thankful for the generous support of all of our sponsors and donors and look forward to bringing a full, fun-filled schedule again in 2017.” As the tourism season winds down, CHC will operate under holiday hours effective Dec. 1. The CHC will be closed to the public Dec. 23-26. From Dec. 27-31, it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. From Jan. 1-16 it will close to the public, and from Jan. 17 to May 27 it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Guided tours through the ancient village Diligwa will be offered twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. While the CHC operates independently from the tribe, it continues to promote tourism within the Cherokee Nation. More than 50,000 guests visited the CHC throughout the year, taking advantage of everything the organization has to offer. In addition to permanent exhibits and archives, CHC featured four exclusive exhibits, four art shows, monthly cultural classes, group tours and various educational events. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on 2017 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 09:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden issued a statement today regarding the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His statement is as follows: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Dec. 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy, and those words ring as true today as when he gave the famous speech 75 years ago. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history for our great country and the lives of those men and women serving at Pearl Harbor and those who served in World War II. As Cherokee Nation citizens and Americans, I encourage you to take a moment today and recognize and honor the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day. Also, remember to keep in your mind and heart those who answer the call to protect our freedoms and country today, especially on this day of remembrance when the United States faced and overcame its greatest challenge.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.