I join South Dakota’s American Indian tribes and the Lakota People’s Law Project in calling on you to conduct a field hearing on Native foster care in South Dakota at the earliest possible opportunity. We are encouraged by the upcoming BIA-sponsored Summit, but we want to ensure that the Summit investigates the roots of the problem and proposes real, lasting solutions.
I am appalled at the treatment of Lakota families and children by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services. The recent report submitted to Congress by the Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families confirms the worst of the findings in NPR’s 2011 series Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families. The Indian Child Welfare Act, signed in 1978, was supposed to end the centuries-old pattern of governments destroying tribal culture and family structure by seizing Indian children and placing them into non-Native environments to “assimilate” them. But I have no doubt that an agenda of assimilation is alive and well in South Dakota today.
The ICWA is not working. The state of South Dakota is violating federal law, and their abuses are longstanding and egregious. It’s time for members of Congress to hear first-hand from the state’s lost children and shattered families. It’s time to go to South Dakota.
(Names of Petition Signers will Appear here)