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Native American Legislative Caucus statement on US Supreme Court decision to uphold ICWA

Thursday, June 15, 2023

St. Paul, MN - Today, the United States Supreme Court upheld the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and dismissed the legal arguments against it as baseless and without merit in a decisive 7-2 ruling. The ICWA has provided federal protections for Native children and families since 1978, including minimum standards for removing Native children from their families and priority placement with extended family, other members of the tribe, or a different tribal family if a child was removed from their home.

The Minnesota Legislature’s Native American Legislative Caucus releases the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling:

“After months under threat by this legal challenge, we are relieved that the Indian Child Welfare Act will continue to shelter Native children from unjust separation from their families and protect tribes from the devastation of losing connection to the next generation. This decision reinforces the critical protections that preserve tribal sovereignty after centuries of explicitly genocidal federal and state policies against Native American tribes, communities and families.

“As Minnesota sits on 100 percent ceded treaty territory with 11 sovereign Nations, it is a high priority of the Native American Legislative Caucus to support and protect our next generations.

“Our children are the lifeline to the revitalization of our culture and build strength in our communities. The Minnesota House and Senate both passed state level protections to ensure our Indigenous children would have the right to their culture. This effort was extremely bipartisan, with only one red vote in both chambers. We, the elected leaders of Minnesota, made the clear statement that our children deserve these protections.

“It is a good day for Minnesota. It is a good day for our Indigenous communities. It is a good day for the decades of ancestors that came before us in this fight. And it is a good day for future generations.”

The case that resulted in this Supreme Court decision, Haaland v. Brackeen, was brought by white foster parents of Native American children who questioned whether ICWA discriminated on the basis of race and imposed a federal mandate on state-regulated areas of power. The forceful 7-2 Supreme Court decision upholds the fact that a person’s tribal status is a political affiliation, not a racial identity, and maintains the sovereignty of tribes that exist in and alongside the United States.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that will protect Native families and tribal sovereignty in Minnesota regardless of federal statutes. The Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), authored by Rep. Heather Keeler in the House and Sen. Mary Kunesh in the Senate, codified ICWA into Minnesota law and clarified several terms that were undefined in the federal statute. This legislation protects Native families from unnecessary separation and is a result of recommendations from the Tribal MIFPA working group, with input from Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Association of County Social Services Administrators, and more.

The updated MIFPA legislation passed 66-1 in the Senate and 128-0 in the House, and is effective Aug. 1 of this year.

Representative Heather Keeler, Enrolled Member Yankton Sioux Tribe with lineage to Eastern Shoshone (DFL - Moorhead)

Representative Jamie Becker-Finn, Leech Lake Ojibwe (DFL - Roseville)

Representative Alicia Kozlowski, Ojibwe-Latine (DFL - Duluth)

Senator Mary Kunesh, Standing Rock Lakota descendant (DFL - New Brighton)


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