Senate To Take Up Bills On The Fate Of American Indian Children

Elizabeth Morris contacted me late last night to alert me that the Senate is going to be taking up two bills that could decide the fate of Native American children in the US. Here’s a primer on the background of this serious situation. She gave me permission to post her email in its entirety. Unfortunately, the federal government’s abetting of child abuse is something the main stream media takes no interest in.

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Below is contact information for the Senate and House Committees on Indian Affairs.

On April 2nd, two bills will be heard in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

I don’t mean to appear picky – but these are children.  Way too many children have been ignored, neglected and abused in Indian Country.  We can’t afford to be feeble or inefficient with this issue any longer.     

- Personally, it could potentially be my own grandchildren or great-great grandchildren in this position one day.  We have a duty to question the wording and intentions. 

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SB (Number not given yet?)  – “Native American Children’s Safety Act” – 

This bill will amend the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act (25 U.S.C. 3207) by adding to the end a section (d) – “By Tribal Social Services Agency for Foster Care Placements in Tribal Court Proceedings.”

 – It covers individuals 18 years of age or older who an Indian tribe determines is subject to a character investigation.

(Question: Is it again left to potentially corrupt entities to determine which individuals will or will not be investigated?  Are our children mere political toys?  Where is the decisive protection we need from federal authorities?) DEFINITIONS:

– Foster care placement in this bill means any action removing an Indian child from a parent or Indian custodian for temporary placement in a foster home of institution or the home of a guardian or conservator – if the parent or Indian custodian cannot have the child returned on demand and parental rights have not been terminated.   

(I need clarification as to whether relative care is included here. MOST Indian children, per ICWA, are placed with relatives – NOT in non-relative foster care on the reservations.)

– An Indian Custodian means any Indian who has legal custody of an Indian child under tribal law or custom or state law, or to whom temporary custody has been transferred by the parent.

(Again, clarification as to what tribal law or custom includes.  Lots of things are claimed to be custom. Some of them are unsafe. I don’t want my child included in unsafe customs – no matter what tribal government says.   

Further – in a different scenario – what if a child is taken from a non-Indian custodian? (Such as myself.  I had custody of Indian children – not my own – for years.) Will background checks be mandated for the new home – or not, because they weren’t removed from a tribal member?   

Would background checks have been mandated in Lauryann’s case, since she was not removed from the situation described above, but was moved from a non-Indian foster home to a grandparents home?)

– No foster care placement shall be ordered in any proceeding where an Indian tribe has exclusive jurisdiction until tribal social services has completed an investigation of the character of each covered individual (ie, an individual that the tribe has decided needs to be investigated.)  AND – concludes that the individual has met their standards of character.

– The standards of character will include requirements for a criminal records check, finger-print based checks of National crime databases, and any child abuse and neglect registries maintained by the states – and anything the tribe deems is necessary.  They have 14 days to do this.  No foster care placement will be made if it has been found that this person has committed child abuse or neglect in any federal, state or tribal court.

(Emergency placements can be made at the tribe’s discretion.  I do not see a definition of an emergency placement or how long an emergency placement can last.)

– The tribe will have 180 days to recertify foster homes currently housing children.  There are to be periodic recerts after that, but it doesn’t define the period of time that can pass.  It also does not give a time period for how soon a home needs to inform authorities that someone new has moved in.

It says that no later than 180 days after enactment, after consultation with the tribes, the Secretary will promulgate regulations regarding timelines and procedures.

In other words – again –  ‘pass the bill and we will find out details later’ – after federal officials have held private, “government to government” meetings with tribal officials who claim rights over our children.

My complaint is that, again, federal officials are consulting with tribal governments ALONE concerning what these regulations should be – presuming they speak for everyone who has a child of heritage and overlooking the high number of parents who are NOT tribal members, as well as the high number of enrolled parents who have left the reservation system on purpose and do NOT want their children to be under jurisdiction of tribal governments (remember, the ICWA lays claim to children who are eligible, even if their parents have chosen not to enroll them)

Further, federal officials continue to ignore the overwhelming matter of tribal government corruption – the very reason so many parents do not want tribal government involved with their children.

Again – federal officials assume that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over any child of a certain amount of heritage (sometimes even less than 1% heritage), despite the fact that 75% of persons of heritage do not live within reservation boundaries – and many have turned away from tribal governments purposefully.

My children and grandchildren are U.S. citizens.  They are not owned by tribal governments.

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SB 1622 – “To establish the Alyee Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, and for other purposes”  (We are left to wonder what those other purposes are.)

This bill will begin another three year “study” of issues concerning children in Indian Country.  After this commission concludes in three years, it will make recommendations to the Indian Affairs committee, which will then consider new legislation to present to the full Senate.  It could take 4-5 more years for any action to be taken as a result of this study.

Further – this study is designed so that 7 out of the 11 appointees for the commission, if appointed in 2014, will lean toward one political persuasion. The “Native Advisory Committee” will consist of 25 citizens appointed by tribal governments (it is unlikely a tribal member with view points differing from the status quo will be allowed).  The “Native Children Subcommittee” will also consist of children appointed by the tribes and who has “experience serving on the council of a tribal, regional or national youth organization.”  (Again, unlikely that a young person who disagrees with tribal government will serve on this committee.)

The study is take on many, many issues, but doesn’t read as if it is taking rampant sexual and physical abuse seriously.  The wording looks similar to much of the placating generalities we have been used to over the years, and encourages a reduction of the “disproportionate rate at which Native children enter child protective services and the period of time spent in the foster system.”

As we have seen recently, our officials have frequently met their goal of keeping kids out of child protective services and the foster system – by leaving them in dangerous and violent home situations.  This ridiculous word play has to stop.  Enforce the law and protect these kids – NOT pat selves on the back for successfully ignoring the kids and their problems.

While studies are necessary in a decision making process, the DOJ completed a similar study in late 2013, and former Senator Dorgan is currently making the rounds holding hearings on similar issues.  Further, we have a huge amount of documented evidence and testimony concerning child abuse and child neglect within Indian Country that has gone ignored by our federal agencies for years.

We don’t need another placating “study.” We need current laws to be enforced.  These children need to be protected today – not five years from now when it may be too late for many of them.

I know many people want these bills to pass in the hope they will help.  I want a bill to pass that we can be certain will help.  We’ve played with children’s lives too much.   The children are more important to me than the politics.

IMPORTANT: The “FACA” will NOT apply to this commission.

FACA (The Federal Advisory Committee Act) was enacted in 1972 to ensure that advice by the various advisory committees formed over the years is objective and accessible to the public. The Act formalized a process for establishing, operating, overseeing, and terminating these advisory bodies and created the Committee Management Secretariat to monitor compliance with the Act.

 

THIS COMMISSION will NOT be required to be OBJECTIVE OR ACCESSIBLE to the public.

PLEASE CONTACT:

It is most important to contact the first four Senators on this list.   I have provided more if you feel you have the energy.  But the top four do need to be contacted.  

Senator John Hoeven (R-ND)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Chief of Staff Ryan Bernstein

Legislative Aide Elizabeth Frei

202- 224-2551   120 Russell SOB

Washington DC. 20510

(202) 224-2551  (Sen. Office)

Ryan_Bernstein@hoeven.senate.gov

Elizabeth_Frei@hoeven.senate.gov

Honorable Senator Jon Tester

CHAIRMAN – SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

c/o Sierra Howlett    202- 224-2644

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

ALSO - Homeland Security & Government Affairs

111 Russell Senate Building

Washington DC, 20510

202-224-2644  (Sen. Office)

Sierra_Howlett@Tester.senate.gov

Tom_Lopach@Tester.senate.gov 

Honorable Senator John Barrasso

RANKING MEMBER – SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

c/o Travis McNiven  202- 224-6441

Attorney for Ranking member in Indian Affairs office - Mariah Thompson

307 Dirksen SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Travis_McNiven@Barrasso.senate.gov

Mariah_Thompson@indian.senate.gov

 

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Indian Affairs Committee

ALSO - Homeland Security & Government Affairs

Legislative Director Tracy Sutton

Legislative Assistant Alison Grigonis

502 Senate Hart Building

Washington DC, 20510

202- 224-2043  (Sen. Office)

Tracee_Sutton@heitkamp.senate.gov

Alison_Grigonis@heitkamp.senate.gov

Honorable Senator Lisa Murkowski

c/o  Daniel Heckman   202- 224-6665

Honorable Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) – Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, - – CCA

c/o Nathan Bergerbest

709 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Daniel_Heckman@Murkowski.senate.gov

Honorable Senator Maria Cantwell

Chair, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

c/o Mr. Paul Wolfe

311 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Paul_Wolfe@Cantwell.senate.gov

Honorable Senator John McCain

c/o Nick Matiella  202- 224-2235

241 Russell SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Nick_Matiella@McCain.senate.gov

 

Honorable Senator Tim Johnson

c/o Kenneth Martin,

Sarah Crawford  202- 224-5842

136 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Sarah_Crawford@Johnston.senate.gov

Honorable Senator Tom Udall

c/o Fern Goodhart  202- 224-6621

110 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Fern_Goodhart@Udall.senate.gov

Honorable Senator Mike Crapo

c/o Jessica Smith,

Casey Attebery  – 202 – 224 – 6142

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

239 Dirksen SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Casey_Attebery@Crapo.senate.gov

Jessica_Smith@Crapo.senate.gov

 

Honorable Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

c/o Legislative Assistant Jake Schwitzer

 

 Lisbeth Kaufman / Amanda Beaumont, 202- 224-5641

Indian Affairs Committee

ALSO - Senate Judiciary Committee

309 Hart Senate Building

Washington DC, 20510

202-224-5641  (Sen. Office)

Jake_Schwitzer@Franken.senate.gov Honorable Senator Brian Schatz

c/o Lenna Aoki

722 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Lenna_Aoki@Schatz.senate.gov 

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

Chair - Homeland Security & Government Affairs
ALSO - Indian Affairs

Legislative Assistant Andrea Sanders

111 Russell Senate Building

Washington DC, 20510

202-224-3004  (Sen. Office)

Andrea_Sanders@begich.senate.gov 

Honorable Senator Deb Fischer

c/o Sharon Warren   202- 224-6551

825 Hart SOB

Washington DC. 20510

Sharon_Warren@Fischer.senate.gov

House:  (they will have to eventually vote on this – and come up with their own version.)

Honorable Representative Kevin Cramer

Mark Gruman – Legislative Director  202-225-2611

Honorable Representative Kevin Cramer (ND) House Indian Affairs

1032 Longworth House Office Building – (202) 225-2611

Mark.Gruman@mail.house.gov 

Honorable Representative Don Young

CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE INDIAN AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE

c/o Mary Hiratsuka, Alex O

2314 Rayburn HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Mary.Hiratsuka@mail.house.gov

Alex.Ortiz@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Doc Hastings

Chair, Natural Resources Committee  (INDIAN AFFAIRS IS BENEATH THE RESOURCE COMMITTEE)

c/o Justin Prosser

Todd Ungerecht

1203 Longworth HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Justin.Prosser@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Colleen Hanabusa

RANKING MEMBER – HOUSE INDIAN AFFAIRS

c/o Josh Dover   202-225-2726

238 Cannon HOB

Washington DC. 20515\

Josh.Dover@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Edward Markey

c/o Jennifer Romero

2108 Rayburn HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Jennifer.Romero@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Steve Daines

c/o  Meghan Marino  202-225-3211

Honorable Representative Steve Daines (MT) House Indian Affairs

2206 Cannon HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Meghan.Marino@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Markwayne Mullin

c/o Michael Stwarka

1113 Longworth HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Michael.Stwarka@mail.house.gov

 

Honorable Representative Dan Benishek

c/o Tad Rupp

514 Cannon HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Tad.Rupp@mail.house.gov

 

Honorable Representative Paul Gosar

c/o Kelly Ferguson

504 Cannon HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Kelly.Ferguson@mail.house.gov

 

Honorable Representative Doug La Malfa

c/o Kevin Eastman 202-225-3076

506 Cannon HOB

Washington DC.20515

Kevin.Eastman@mail.house.gov 

Honorable Representative Raul Grijalva

C/o Chris Kaumo

1511 Longworth HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Chris.Kaumo@mail.house.gov

 

Honorable Representative Raul Ruiz

C/o Melissa Medina

1319 Longworth HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Melissa.Medina@mail.house.gov

 

Honorable Representative Tony Cardenas

C/o Miguel Franco

1508 Longworth HOB

Washington DC. 20515

Miguel.Franco@mail.house.gov

THANK YOU!