Monday about 25 people from this area drove 5-6 hours each way through freezing rain, heavy winds, blowing snow, and glare ice in order to try to influence an American Indian court to allow a half-Indian 2 year old to return to his foster parents and their family. It was the only family he knew. He was traumatized when strangers came and took him away. Since that time he has been terrified of a black person, although he had no such reaction before being taken from his loving home.
The judge said he had to follow the law; he had no choice. The Indian Child Welfare Act states that any Indian children, who are taken from their own parents, must be raised by a relative, by another member of their tribe, by someone of another tribe, or as a last resort by a non-Indian family.
My sister and her family had the child since his birth, but it wasn’t until he was nearly a year old that the tribe got involved. They allowed him to stay with my sister’s family for more than a year, since they could not find an Indian home for him. The Indian social worker said my sister and her husband could become legal guardians, but they could not adopt him. She brought petition papers for them to fill out and sign, but didn’t leave a copy for them. It appears the papers never got to a judge.
1-2 months later, she called to tell them the judge had ordered the child was to be removed from their home in 10 days. Talk about having the rug jerked out from under one’s feet! It turns out the judge made the ruling at the social worker's urging.
Although we prayed, fasted, and trusted, they came on November 23rd and took him away. They put him with an Indian woman who already had 2 two-year olds, 1 one year old, an eight year old, and who lived at least 2 hours away from the reservation. Why they thought a woman who was already overwhelmed with toddlers should have another to care for is beyond me. As I suspected, the placement with her is temporary. The child I consider to be my nephew will be shuffled from home to home, never having anyone to call his parents, and never having a place to call home. He begged “home, please,” to his new foster mom. My heart aches for him. I hope he knows how badly he is wanted, that my sister’s family did not choose to send him away.
My brother-in-law appealed, and was granted a court date. Both the judge and the man who was advocating for the tribe, indicated they knew the boy would be better off with my sister’s family, but they had no choice but to keep him with the tribe. It was the law.
What are citizens to do when a law, which was intended to preserve a people and a way of life, ends up harming its own people?
Some folks may dismiss this; after all, the child was only 2 years and 4 months. He’ll forget about it.
Really? When I was 2 years and 4 months my parents left me with neighbors while they went on an out-of-state trip to attend a family wedding. Being left with strangers was so traumatic to me that I remembered it.
Years later I became aware that that traumatic event had colored my whole life. I never quite felt safe after that, and was an angry child, who felt she had no way to stop bad things from happening to her.
I suspect this Indian child will suffer from the same things. The difference, however, is that he will be raised in an environment where a high percentage of his tribe turn to drugs, alcohol and violence in an effort to deal with life’s problems. If he is raised there, he is likely to become a wife beater.
After the hearing, a woman who worked in that area informed me that in a town of 900 people, around half of them had fetal alcohol syndrome, and many were so mentally affected that they could not advance beyond a fifth grade reading level. Few made it all the way through high school.
But the Indian Child Welfare Act requires that this bright, loving child, who does not have fetal alcohol syndrome, be taken from a loving, vice-free, two-parent family, so that he can be raised to maintain his Indian heritage.
In trying to right a wrong that they did to the Indian tribes, the US granted the tribes the right to raise any child who has a small percentage of Indian blood. So the tribes tyrannize any child whose parent isn’t fit to raise him, by yanking him out of a kind and loving non-Indian family and forcing him to grow up in a culture of drugs, alcohol and violence.
It sounds like tyranny to me.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit www.wanetadawn.com
Chronically Self-Centered Spouse Series - Nope, I'm not doing this series. Nope, Visionary Womanhood is not doing this series. But I do thank Natalie for linking to it over there a couple years back...
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