Bureau of Indian Affairs

Realizing ICWA’s promise

Repairing and strengthening Indian Country’s ancestral social safety net

Indian Country Today Opinion by:
-Tara ‘Katuk’ Sweeney, Iñupiat member of the Native Village of Barrow and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
-Jeannie Hovland, Flandreau Santee Sioux Member and Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

DOI Announces Trainings on New ICWA Regulations

Dear Tribal Leader:
We would like to invite you and/or your child welfare designee to trainings on the recently published final regulations governing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The final ICWA rule was published in the Federal Register on June 14, 2016 (see 81 Fed. Reg. 38778), and takes
effect on December 12, 2016.

As many tribes noted in their comments on the rule, training is essential to ensuring that this new rule meets its potential for strengthening implementation of ICWA and reinforcing ICWA’s protections for families and youth. This Department-hosted training will focus on providing information on the new rule’s requirements for State courts and agencies and the role of tribes in the procedural and substantive protections afforded it. …

Read the full letter and training schedule at the U.S. Department of Interior website.

War of Words: ICWA Hearings Reignite Ancient Clash Over Indian Children

Throughout the day, one after the other, witnesses on both sides had pulled back and forth in a tug-of-war regarding perhaps the most seminal issue confronting American Indian tribes in the 21st century: The right to raise their own children in their home communities.

The debates at the public hearings reopened old grievances and unhealed wounds at the core of an ongoing conflict over Indian children that has been raging for more than 500 years. Beginning with the Spaniards, who landed in the West Indies in the late 15th century, Indian tribes have been at war over possession of their children with one power after another—including the British, the French, the Dutch and the United States—ever since.

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

Read the related opinion from Matthew Scraper, “In Response to War of the Words: ICWA Hearings Reignite Ancient Battle Over Indian Children.”

Adoption Attorneys Submits Reply to BIA in Response to Proposed ICWA Amendments

The nation’s largest constituent group of adoption attorneys, law professors and judges submitted a 45-page response to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law established in 1978. The BIA announced earlier this year its attempt to amend the federal law. The AAAA’s formal response outlines a series of concerns the organization has with the BIA’s proposed amendments. The response, submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior, points out constitutional issues, as well as concerns addressing the Department’s possible violation of its statutory authority to develop such regulations.

Read the full article at the Business Wire website.

May 19 Deadline to Comment on Proposed Regulations

“The first week of hearings and consultations demonstrated a tremendous groundswell of support in Indian Country,” said Dr. Sarah Kastelic. “It’s exciting to see the momentum created by such a diverse cross section of our communities. Foster and adoptive parents, Native adoptees, foster youth, attorneys and law professors, child psychologists, families still searching for displaced relatives, and staff from state agencies all stood up to express their support for the proposed regulations. Their message is clear. Our children need these protections.”

Visit the NICWA website to see the above press release as well as the proposed regulations and resources on how to comment on them.

See related news coverage at the Native Times website and at the Indianz.com website.

Comments Sought on New BIA ICWA Rules

The Department of the Interior will be conducting tribal consultations and public meetings on the proposed rule through May 2015 to facilitate input and comment on the proposed rule. Meeting times and dates are listed below.

The proposed regulations can be found at http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/HumanServices/IndianChildWelfareAct/index.htm

Comments can be submitted via any of the following methods:
• By e-mail to comments@bia.gov (please include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message),
• By postal service or hand-delivery to Ms. Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-3642-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240; Phone (202) 273-4680, or
• At www.regulations.gov.

Public Meetings (open to everyone)
Wednesday, April 22, 2015  —  9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  —  Portland, Oregon
BIA Northwest Regional Office
911 NE 11th Ave Portland, OR 97232*
Thursday, April 23, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Rapid City, South Dakota
Best Western Ramkota Hotel
2111 N Lacrosse St Rapid City, SD 57701

Tuesday, May 5, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Albuquerque, New Mexico
National Indian Programs Training Center
1011 Indian School Road, NW Suite 254 Albuquerque, NM 87104*

Thursday, May 7, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Prior Lake, Minnesota
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd Prior Lake, MN 55372

Tuesday, May 12, 2015  —  1 p.m.-4 p.m. Eastern Time
Via teleconference
Passcode: INTERIOR

Thursday, May 14, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills
1902 East 71st Tulsa, OK 74136
Tribal Consultation Sessions
Tribal consultation sessions are for representatives of current federally recognized tribes only, to discuss the rule on a government-to-government basis with the Department. These sessions may be closed to the public.

Monday, April 20, 2015 —  3:30-5:30 p.m. — Portland, Oregon
Hilton Portland & Executive Towers
921 SW Sixth Avenue Portland, OR 97204
(at the same location as NICWA conference)

Thursday, April 23, 2015  —  9 a.m.-12 p.m.  —  Rapid City, South Dakota
Best Western Ramkota Hotel
2111 N Lacrosse St Rapid City, SD 57701

Tuesday, May 5, 2015  —  9 a.m.-12 p.m.  —  Albuquerque, New Mexico
National Indian Programs Training Center
1011 Indian School Road, NW Suite 254

[*Please RSVP for the Portland and Albuquerque meetings via consultation@bia.gov. As these are federal buildings, bring photo identification and arrive early to allow for time to get through security. No RSVP is necessary for the other locations.]

View the full press release at the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.

1979 Bureau of Indian Affairs ICWA Guidelines Updated

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has updated the Guidelines for State Courts and Services in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.

These updated guidelines provide guidance to State courts and child welfare agencies implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) provisions in light of written and
oral comments received during a review of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Guidelines for State Courts in Indian Child Custody Proceedings published in 1979. They also reflect recommendations made by the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence and significant developments in jurisprudence since ICWA’s inception.

See a full copy of the updated guidelines in the Federal Register. 80 FR 10146-02, (PDF).

As Child Abuse Persists at Spirit Lake, Congress Steps In

A congressional committee has begun investigating why child abuse and neglect persists on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake reservation, almost two years after the federal government stepped in to address the problem.

At a hearing on Tuesday, tribal leaders and officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services are expected to be asked about ongoing allegations of abuse and neglect on the reservation, and the lack of visible progress in correcting the problems.

“Clearly the current system is failing our children,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement. “The goal of this hearing is to shine a light on the situation and promote a dialogue about solutions.”

Read the full story at the PBS FRONTLINE website.