The Recent ICWA Case Reveals Inherent Bigotry Towards American Indians

Susan Shelley, a Daily News columnist recently compared the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to Incan child sacrifice:

Five hundred years ago, the Incas sacrificed children.

They removed children as young as six from their families, transported them with great ceremony to a mountain location, and left them to die of exposure.

Did they have the moral right to do it?

Some people think so. “To their credit,” wrote Kim MacQuarrie, an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, anthropologist and author, “the Incas did their best to ensure the survival of their people and empire by paying close attention to nature and doing their best to use every means at their disposal, including human sacrifice, to gain control over it.”

There’s something seriously wrong with any kind of reasoning that places human sacrifice in the category of “doing their best.”

And there is something seriously wrong with what happened in Santa Clarita this week to a 6-year-old girl named Lexi and the foster family that has cared for her since she was 2.

The column went on to further reveal the inherent bigotry that exists towards American Indians today in America. The recent ICWA case involves a young Choctaw girl being taken out of foster care and placed with family in Utah. A family which includes two of the young girl’s sisters. A family which has had constant interaction with the young girl for the past three years.

“The girl has visited the Utah family regularly over the past three years, she said. They have come to Santa Clarita about once a month and they Skype about once a week.”

“She has a loving relationship with them,” Heimov said. “They are not strangers in any way, shape or form. ...The law defines family based on marriage, affinity or blood.”

Several news articles seem to be portraying this as an injustice, that the girl shouldn’t be removed from her foster home and placed with family members in Utah. 

As the previous column from Shelley implies, the prevailing idea is that this child is better off with white foster parents than with her Indian family and that ICWA makes, “it harder to protect Indian children from abuse and neglect, and forcing longer waits for permanent homes.”

The anger at ICWA in this situation is that many don’t want the girl going to Indian parents. 

My wife and I have fostered 12 children. The goal of the state is to always return the children to their family, not to find new ones. Parents who have lost their children to the state have the opportunity to earn their children back. If those parents cannot or will not fight for their children, then the state looks for other family to place the child with. This is common practice. There’s a profound sense of entitlement on any foster family’s part to claim ownership of a child in foster care. 

If there is no family to place the children with, then the state looks for adoptive parents which may or may not be the foster parents. Since this young girl appears to have family in Utah who have been in continuous contact with her, it’s completely logical to place the girl with them. And to reiterate, the girl’s sister’s are with that family too. 

Yet bigotry and anger towards laws fighting for Indian survival are expressed in the majority of media today. 

The Choctaw Nation responded to the furor in Indian Country Today

It appears the foster family and their counsel are attempting to turn Lexi’s case into a political call to arms to dismantle ICWA. For the Choctaw Nation this case is not about politics. This case is about one of our children, one of our tribal members.