Federal Judge Rules Lawsuit over Treatment of South Dakota Indian Parents and Tribes Can Move Forward

A federal court has ruled that a lawsuit charging state and local officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings can go to trial.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in March 2013 along with the ACLU of South Dakota and Dana Hanna of the Hanna Law Office in Rapid City. The lawsuit claims that Indian children are being removed from their homes in hearings that last no more than a few minutes, in which parents fail to receive a copy of the petition against them or have a chance to present evidence.

Learn more about the suit at the ACLU website. See case information on the National Indian Law Library website under Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik. 

Lawsuit Against California Districts Allege Abuse of Native Students

[T]wo federal lawsuits [were] filed December 18 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against two Humboldt County School Districts—Eureka City and Loleta Union—that accuse school officials of perpetuating systemic physical, emotional and sexual abuse of Native American and African-American students.

“This lawsuit was really a last resort,” Nelson said. “It’s been striking that so many parents we’ve talked to have been complaining for years with no results. They’re tired of being stonewalled.”
The Wiyot Tribe of the Table Bluff Rancheria, who are the complainant in the lawsuit against the Loleta schools, had previously sent letters to the district about the harassment and inequitable treatment of Native American students, but saw no effective change in policy, Nelson said.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Hearing of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence

Summary from the Federal Register: This is an announcement of the first hearing of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence (hereafter referred to as the AIAN Advisory Committee). The AIAN Advisory Committee is chartered to provide the Attorney General with valuable advice in the areas of American Indian/Alaska Native children‘s exposure to violence for the purpose of addressing the epidemic levels of exposure to violence faced by tribal youth. Based on the testimony at four public hearings, on comprehensive research, and on extensive input from experts, advocates, and impacted families and tribal communities nationwide, the AIAN Advisory Committee will issue a final report to the Attorney General presenting its findings and comprehensive policy recommendations in the fall of 2014. Read the Federal Register for complete information on this hearing.

See related story in this blog.

Tribes host press conference on alleged violations of Indian Child Welfare Act (Rapid City Journal)

With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes filed a federal class action today in Rapid City against at least two Department of Social Services employees, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and presiding 7th Circuit Judge Jeff Davis.

The tribes and others are challenging what they call a common practice by the state and Circuit Court of not giving Native American parents a proper hearing when children are taken from their homes.

Read more, see a video, and read the complaint at the Rapid City Journal.

South Dakota Parents and Tribes Sue Over Unlawful Separation of Children From Families (ACLU)

Three Indian parents and two tribes in South Dakota filed a class-action lawsuit today over repeated violations of their fundamental rights during the separation process of children from their families by state officials.

The children were removed from their homes without their parents or tribes getting timely, fair and adequate hearings, as required by law. Most parents waited at least two months for the hearing, and some were unfairly coerced into waving their right to such a hearing.

Read more at the American Civil Liberties Union press release.