How Foster Care Has Stripped Native American Kids of Their Personal Cultures


is a Teen Vogue sequence in regards to the foster care system in america, produced in partnership with Juvenile Legislation Heart and printed all through Nationwide Foster Care Month. On this op-ed, author Ruth Hopkins explains how the foster care system in South Dakota fails Native youth.

For Natives, foster care is a delicate topic, and with good purpose.

Eradicating Native kids from their households and tribes of origin was as soon as federal authorities coverage in america. Because the Indian Wars drew to a detailed within the late 1800s, punctuated by massacres and the institution of the prisoner-of-war camps that will change into generally known as reservations, the assimilation era started.

One of many key points of assimilation is discovered within the phrase “kill the Indian, save the man,” which was uttered in 1892 by Capt. Richard Henry Pratt, a military officer greatest generally known as the founder and superintendent of Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school served because the mannequin for boarding faculties across the U.S. and Canada. Pratt preached that training — with a curriculum decided by white individuals — could possibly be used to “civilize” the Natives.

Assimilationists sought to strip Natives of their language, tradition, kinship, and perception system. Hundreds of Native kids had been taken to boarding faculties, the place many had been abused. They had been given English names. Their braided hair, which possesses cultural and religious significance, was shorn. As soon as stripped of their Native identification, the youngsters had been forced to talk English and convert to Christianity. My uncle, of Spirit Lake Tribe, stated that he was crushed frequently in boarding faculty in the course of the 1930s as a result of he wouldn’t cease talking the Dakota language. (As an grownup, he turned a Dakota language instructor.)

Elimination didn’t simply occur by means of boarding faculties. Native kids had been additionally taken from their households and communities and placed with non-Natives. Lost Bird was among the many first. She was discovered as an toddler beneath her mom’s frozen physique after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, when greater than 150 unarmed Lakota had been slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry. She was adopted by Gen. Leonard Colby. Her life was tough and marred with rejection and abuse: Her adoptive father was detached to her existence, and her adoptive mom tried to boost her as white, however society wouldn’t settle for her. Nobody might erase her need to learn about her Lakota roots, both.

By the 1970s, analysis discovered that roughly 25% to 35% of all Native kids within the U.S. had been being positioned in foster properties, adoptive properties, or establishments, and 85% of those kids had been being positioned exterior of their households and communities, even when match and keen relations had been out there to look after them. Analysis has proven that Native kids in foster care who stayed related to their tradition did better, and people who weren’t had been at higher threat for behavioral and psychological well being issues.

In 1978, Congress handed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to fight the cultural genocide that was going down due to the systematic elimination of Native kids. An effort designed to assist protect households and tribal communities, ICWA nonetheless requires state courts to position Native kids who’ve been eliminated with relations, members of their tribe, or Natives from different tribes earlier than inserting them with non-Natives.

Regardless of ICWA, and this historical past, severe disparities proceed to happen. American Indian kids in foster care are represented at practically two times the extent of white kids, in keeping with a 2007 report by the Nationwide Indian Baby Welfare Affiliation (NICWA).

The statistics for Native kids in foster care in South Dakota, house to 9 Oceti Sakowin (Nice Sioux Nation) tribes, are a lot worse.

In South Dakota, a Native little one is 11 times extra more likely to be positioned in foster care than a white little one, in keeping with statistics from the South Dakota Division of Social Companies, as reported by the ACLU final yr. These statistics additionally confirmed that Natives comprise lower than 9% of state’s inhabitants, however 52% of the youngsters in South Dakota’s foster care system are Native. Though the ICWA mandates that Native kids be positioned in Native properties first, the ACLU reported that since 2010 greater than 1,000 Native youngsters have been faraway from their households and positioned in non-Native properties at a disproportionate fee in Pennington County, which incorporates Speedy Metropolis. Additionally, South Dakota doesn’t lengthen foster care past the age of 18, that means Native youngsters might be dropped off and abandoned by foster mother and father actually on the day that they attain the authorized age of maturity.

ICWA can also be nonetheless beneath assault by non-Native individuals who wish to undertake their very own Native child or little one. Some envision themselves as saviors, sustaining that Native kids are better off rising up in white properties. Some solely see greenback indicators. Even these with good intentions fail to know or disregard the significance of defending the bond Native kids have with their very own kin and the birthright they possess that’s their Native ancestry and tradition.

Some of the latest outstanding instances the place ICWA was challenged was Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (Baby Veronica), the place the Supreme Court dominated in 2013 that three-year-old Veronica’s Cherokee father didn’t have the parental rights essential to set off implementation of ICWA, as a result of he had “abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody.” In February, the Supreme Court docket turned down one other ICWA case that conservatives were hoping would overturn the law.

For now, ICWA stands. Invaders of Indigenous territories have tried to take everything from us — our lands, assets, cultures, languages, identities, spirit, dignity, freedom, lives, and even our youngsters. We can not tolerate that theft any longer. To the spirit eater, nothing is sacred and the whole lot has a price ticket. However our youngsters should not on the market. They’re our future.

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