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
01/25/2015 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Jack C. Montgomery Veteran Affairs Medical Center will hold its annual creative arts competition on Feb. 2-3 for enrolled veterans. The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama, and creative writing. Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Each year, veterans treated at VA facilities compete in a local creative arts competition. A national selection committee chooses first, second and third place winners among all of the entries. Select winners will be invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which will be held Oct. 12-19 at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. For registration information, call Deborah Moreno at 918-577-4014. For information about the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and other VA special events, visit VA’s Adaptive Sports website: <a href="http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/" target="_blank">http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/25/2015 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The new 114th Congress counts more minorities and women than ever, although lawmakers remain overwhelmingly white and male in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. A record 104 women are in the new Congress, and for the first time, African-American members of both genders and representing both parties are among the ranks on Capitol Hill. The number of female lawmakers is up slightly from 100 at the close of the last Congress, but represents about 20 percent of the total in Congress. It's far less than the nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population. A total of 96 racial minorities will serve in Congress, about 18 percent. There are 100 senators and 435 seats in the House. The House will have 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats. One seat is vacant following the resignation on Monday of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who pleaded guilty to a felony tax evasion charge. The Senate will have 54 Republicans and 44 Democrats, plus two independents - Maine's Angus King and Vermont's Bernie Sanders. Both caucus with Democrats. <strong>HOUSE</strong> A total of 84 women will serve in the House, compared with 80 in the last Congress. The new lawmakers include Elise Stefanik, a 30-year-old New York Republican who is the youngest woman ever elected to the House. Also making history is Mia Love, 38, whose election to a suburban Salt Lake City district made her the first black female Republican to win a seat in Congress. Forty-four African-Americans are in the House, including Love and another black Republican freshman, Will Hurd of Texas. Hurd made news last month as he was named chairman of an Information Technology subcommittee on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, an unusual distinction for a freshman. There are 34 Hispanic lawmakers, including 10 Republicans, as well as 10 Asian-Americans and two Native Americans, both Oklahoma Republicans. <strong>SENATE</strong> The number of women in the Senate remains at 20, following the election of Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and the defeat of Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. (Re-elected were Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.) Two African-Americans serve as senators - Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey. There are three Hispanic senators: Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is the only Asian-American in the Senate. <strong>FRESHMEN</strong> Fifty-eight House freshmen join the ranks - 43 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Three other members are new to Congress but are considered veterans of a few weeks. Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., Donald Norcross, D-N.J., and Alma Adams, D-N.C., took the oath shortly after November's elections to fill the seats of lawmakers who had left Congress. The Senate welcomes 13 new members - 12 Republicans and one Democrat, Gary Peters of Michigan.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/24/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration is considering improvements on Highway 82 in Cherokee County that would begin near East Allen Road in Tahlequah and go north to near Gideon, according to reports. The meeting will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 27 in the University Center Ballroom at Northeastern State University. ODOT held a meeting in 2013 regarding the highway, and following that meeting the state performed studies on the corridor. ODOT officials said within that study they evaluated upgrading the existing highway. They plan to discuss their findings from the studies during the meeting. The meeting is open to the public and will be an open-house format. It will allow for some discussion with engineers and planners for the potential project. For more information, call Frank Roesler III at 405-521-2350 or email <a href="mailto: m-coordinator@odot.org">m-coordinator@odot.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/24/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation NAHASDA Annual Performance Reports are readily available for the public to view and to make comments upon. The reports are available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Jan. 27 at the Cherokee FIRST department located in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and in the lobby of the HACN office located at 1500 Hensley Drive in Tahlequah. <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=7G5FQptSBvE%3d&tabid=5274&portalid=0&mid=5878" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the report.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/24/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said before work on any site to be developed can begin they must do due diligence with regards to pre-development steps. Currently, that is where CNB officials area at on the Cherokee Springs Plaza project. Since the project’s September announcement, CNB officials said they have done several “behind the scenes” tasks in preparation for construction. From September to December, CNB officials said they met with Tahlequah officials to review city permit requirements, located all existing utilities and completed some infrastructure planning. They also they developed and posted a request for proposal for civil engineering work, completed the land survey for the site, as well as competed an aerial topography of the site for elevations and civil engineering design work. CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said CNB officials selected a civil engineer in November for master planning and design and are conducting a traffic impact study that’s required prior to roads being designed or built. CNB officials said they also began civil engineering design of utilities, roads and temporary storm water, as well as identified what parts of the land would be submitted for a trust application. “(CNB) Developed, posted and selected a geotechnical firm to do a soils investigation report that is required by civil engineering for the design of foundations, utility and roads,” Garrett said. “In January we will be drilling 56 borings throughout the site. With the soil borings taking place, we will have the information required to develop a grading plan and start turning dirt to develop Phase I of the site.” In September, Garret said the first phase was establishing the infrastructure that creates access and provides the necessary utilities and the “civil engineering” portion of the project that would consist of road construction and pad sites where potential businesses will be developed. The continuation of the project will include two other phases, one being the construction of a new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah that will include a resort hotel, convention center and golf clubhouse. The third phase will create a retail strip, centering along Grand Boulevard, which will enhance the pedestrian and shopper experience. Overall, it is anticipated 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use space will be developed at an estimated cost of $170 million, officials said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/23/2015 04:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, February 6, 2015. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is here. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082 <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/1/8864_150205_EditorialBoard_Agenda.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the meeting agenda.