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 STAFF REPORTS
09/03/2015 04:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting at 10 a.m. CDT, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in the O-Si-Yo Training Room at the Tsa-La-Gi Annex. The meeting is open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/8/9552_Agenda_Sept_4_2015EditorialBoardMeeting.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/02/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Tribal Film Festival is set to take place on Sept. 4-6 during the Cherokee National Holiday. Those in attendance can expect to watch indigenous films, ranging from children’s films to horror films. There will also be locally filmed features and documentaries. During the festival, 41 films will be screened totaling more than 21 hours of film time. The event kicks off at 11 a.m. Sept. 4 and is expected to go until 11 p.m. There will be a red carpet event, wine and cheese tasting and a silent auction at 5:30 p.m. On Sept. 5, film screenings kick off at 11 a.m. with the last one showing at 7 p.m. After the last film Red Dirt Southern Rock band Badwater will perform at 9:30 p.m. Admission for the live music is $5 and includes two beers for the first 200 people in attendance. On Sept. 6, those in attendance can expect a day featuring “kids flixs” starting at 1 p.m. TFF sponsors include TribalTV, Cherokee Nation, Osage Casino and Acrylic Graphics and Designs. The Dream Theatre is located at 312 N. Muskogee Ave. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.tribalfilmfestival.com" target="_blank">www.tribalfilmfestival.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – Cherokee Nation Foundation is hosting an open house during the 63rd annual CherokeeNational Holiday Sept. 4-6. CNF hopes to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to help Cherokeeyouth succeed academically and achieve their higher education goals. The open house is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 800 S. Muskogee. Students, parents and teachers are encouraged to stop by for goodie bags and to gather information about CNF programs and scholarship opportunities. “Most people do not know that we have programs for students as young as fifth grade,” said Janice Randall, executive director of Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We have so many ways to help prepare Cherokee students, and we are dedicated to helping as many of them as possible. We just have to let them know who we are and how we can help.” CNF also plans to reveal its new branding initiative at the open house. “The Cherokee National Holiday is the perfect time to reintroduce ourselves and remind the Cherokee people that we are here to help,” said Randall. “We want Cherokee students to understand the value of higher education and know it is within reach for each and every one of them. We work diligently with all of our students to help them prepare for their academic journey and keep them informed about resources to help them succeed.” For more information, contact Cherokee Nation Foundation at (918) 207-0950 or Janice Randall at jr@cherokeenationfoundation.org.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 08:35 AM
In this month's issue: • The principal chief, deputy chief and eight Tribal Councilors take their oaths of office on Aug. 14. • CN files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson' • CCO brings Cultural Enlightenment Series to Briggs community • OK tribes approach $1B in state fees ...plus much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/9/9576_2015-09-01(rev).pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 12:00 PM
DURANT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Emalea Hudgens, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a double major in psychology and music, recently spent a semester studying at the Swansea University, a public research university based in Wales of the United Kingdom. Hudgens received the title of Brad Henry International Scholar in 2014 and she studied abroad this past spring. The Jay native is a Cherokee Nation citizen and Harvey Scholar recipient. She is also a Savage Storm Leader and was selected to be in the President’s Leadership Class for 2012-13. Hudgens is a member of the Southeastern Chorale, Sparks Dance Team and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, according to the SOSU Communications Department. “I am very blessed and excited to get this opportunity to study abroad and become immersed in a different culture,’’ Hudgens said to the Southern, the SOSU newspaper. “It has been a life-long dream of mine to travel the world, and I cannot wait to share the stories and experiences with family and friends.” Hudgens said she felt fortunate to have studied overseas. “It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad and to live in Europe for a period of time. I hope to learn about their culture and get opportunities to work there myself, getting the experience that I need to do so. I just think it would be cool to work in a different culture.” She told the Cherokee Phoenix she was nervous to leave Oklahoma and live in a culture different than hers. “To say the least, it turned out to be the most life-changing experience. During my stay in Wales, I travelled to 11 different countries across Europe,” she said. “It was amazing to see the different cultures and the different people. I came to find people were very interested in hearing about the American culture and they found it fascinating to learn that I was a member of the Cherokee Nation.” Hudgens said studying abroad opened her eyes to many ideas about the world. “It is common to think the world is scary, but it is also very beautiful and filled with beautiful things,” she added. “Since travelling, I have created a passion to want to continue to travel and go see more of the world. I encourage everyone to travel if they get the opportunity.”
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 10:00 AM
NEWKIRK, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation, with the approval of five other tribes, negotiated a lease of more than 8,000 acres to Weatherby Energy for oil and gas exploration at the former Chilocco Indian School in Kay County. CN Real Estate Services Director Ginger Reeves said meetings were held between the CN and Kaw, Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missiouria and Tonkawa tribes in 2009. “Public Law 99-283 in the Federal Register grants Cherokee Nation the authority to lease the trust acres,” she said. “The leases are recorded at the Kay County Clerk’s Office in Newkirk, Oklahoma.” According to CN Resolution 134-09, Reeves said then Principal Chief Chad Smith and the Tribal Council approved a resolution to lease the property. “Regarding the referenced lease, the six Chilocco tribes’ trust lease was approved April 4, 2011, and has until April 4, 2016, to drill and produce or expire. Samson Resources Company, the current lessee, is in the process of assigning the lease to a Texas group (MPG Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Weatherby Energy.) Real Estate Services is processing that assignment approval through the BIA,” she said. Weatherby Energy has received Bureau of Indian Affairs approval for this assignment, officials said. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Weatherby Energy but did not receive a response as of publication. The Chilocco properties are trust and fee lands and the lease covers both. “The fee land lease will expire Nov. 5, 2015, unless they drill and produce. This fee lease was also recently assigned by Samson to the Texas group. Real Estate Services is processing the assignment for Cherokee Nation approval,” Reeves said. “Both leases were five-year leases and are filed in Cherokee Nation Title Plant. There is also a smaller acreage lease on fee lands at Chilocco with another oil company, which was in place before the lease started.” When the previous leases ended in the early 1990s, Reeves said it covered 320 acres and leased for $11,520 over a three-year term. She said it lasted longer because of oil and gas being produced in “paying quantities” from the property. Officials said the CN receives $8,736.30 on trust property annually plus $6,985.23 on fee property for a total of $15,721.53. A total of 8,152.61 acres are under lease with more than 5,000 acres being trust land and more than 2,300 acres in fee.