Native American child welfare bills return to legislature after federal ICWA upheld

Pourier’s bills would create a two-year task force to study Native American child welfare as well as codify and expand a piece of ICWA in state law.  Republican Rep. Tamara St. John, from Sisseton and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, is the prime sponsor of a bill that would establish an Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council in the state … Read more

Where the money goes: Foster families get paid, relatives caring for children get nothing

A quarter of all foster children in 2021 were placed in kinship care, with Native American children accounting for 53% of the kinship placements, according to the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. Bruner and other kinship families say the lack of support is a massive barrier preventing others from accepting a kinship placement. Foster … Read more

Seeking Native American foster parents for the first-of-its-kind “Simply Smiles Children’s Village” on the Cheyenne River Reservation

Simply Smiles, Inc. is seeking Native American foster parents for the Simply Smiles Children’s Village on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation (South Dakota). … Native foster parents at the Simply Smiles Children’s Village will ensure that Native children who have been removed from their homes on Cheyenne River can remain with their “kin and … Read more

US Supreme Court declines to hear Oglala, Rosebud case against South Dakota officials

The Supreme Court didn’t give a reason it declined to hear the case that began in 2013, when the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three parents in Pennington County brought a class action lawsuit against state Department of Social Services and Pennington County officials.The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the tribes and parents, alleged that Native American … Read more

Court Strikes Down Landmark Indian Child Welfare Act Ruling

A federal appeals court has delivered a major blow to tribes and parents who have been seeking stronger enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota.The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and three Indian parents went to court more than five years ago, alarmed by the large numbers of Indian children being taken from their families. They … Read more

Court Hears Tribal Challenge to South Dakota Child Removals

A lawyer representing two American Indian tribes urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to keep in place the changes a judge ordered for a South Dakota county’s system of removing children from homes in endangerment cases. Read the full article at the ABC News website. Read related coverage at the Indianz website.

South Dakota’s Federal ICWA Ruling Heads To 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Indian Child Welfare Act lawsuit filed in Rapid City’s federal court almost five years ago is going to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel is hearing oral arguments in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, Feb. 12. In March 2013, the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, as well as tribal parents, brought … Read more

Butte County (SD) sees upsurge in Indian Child Welfare Act cases

Butte County State’s Attorney Cassie Wendt presented to the Butte County Commission during its March 21 meeting, delineating to the commission the county’s rise in Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) cases and the added expense the county has shouldered in recent months. Read the full article at the Black Hills Pioneer website.

In South Dakota, Officials Defied a Federal Judge and Took Indian Kids Away From Their Parents in Rigged Proceedings

In March 2015, Chief Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken confirmed what our complaint had alleged: State employees were removing children from their homes and then holding hearings in state court within 48 hours, in which parents were not assigned counsel to represent them, were not given a copy of the petition accusing them … Read more

State, County Officials Appeal Ruling on Native Children Case

South Dakota and Pennington County officials filed an appeal Friday challenging U.S. District Court rulings that ordered changes in their handling of temporary custody hearings involving Native American children. Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website. Read a related article at the Native Sun News website.

Judge in South Dakota Sanctioned in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

A judge in South Dakota has agreed to pay $50,000 in sanctions in an Indian Child Welfare Act case. Judge Jeff Davis did not admit to “concealing” information sought by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, two of the plaintiffs in the case. But he agreed to pay attorney’s fees for failing … Read more

ICWA: Victory for Tribes as Judge Reaffirms South Dakota Decision

The class action case is now in its third year, having been filed in March 2013 by three Indian mothers and the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes in South Dakota to address ongoing violations in that state. According to tribal officials and advocacy groups, approximately 750 Indian children a year are swept into foster care, … Read more

New Report on South Dakota Corruption in Foster Care

May 13th, 2015. The Lakota People’s Law Project released a 35-page report today that reveals how private institutions and their cozy relationships with those in the highest seats of power in South Dakota are responsible for the daily violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the systemic human rights abuses against the Lakota population … Read more

Judge in Indian Child Welfare Case Asks Court to Reconsider

A South Dakota state judge and other defendants have filed motions requesting a federal judge reconsider his ruling in which he found state officials in Rapid City set policies that violate the federal Indian Child Act Welfare Act. Read the full article at the Seattle PI website. See related article, “Circuit judge and others claim federal … Read more

‘A Great Triumph for Our Indian Children’: Tribes Win Landmark Child Welfare Case

On Monday, March 30 a federal judge issued a landmark decision affirming that officials in South Dakota violated numerous provisions in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and denied Indian parents their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. Referencing widespread and systemic failure to protect the integrity of Indian families, Judge Jeffrey … Read more

Native Sun News: Lakota Children in ‘Imminent Danger’ in State

The class action lawsuit, which involves the first 48 hours after an Indian child is taken from his or her family, alleges the State of South Dakota regularly violates the Constitutional Rights of Indian parents and provision 1922 of the Indian Child Welfare Act during the “show cause” hearing. The case, OST et. al vs … Read more

Two Sioux Tribes Receive Federal Funds to Build Tribal Foster Care

Two tribes of the Lakota Sioux Nation in South Dakota Indian Country have been awarded planning grants by the Department of Health and Human Services, marking a historic moment in the ongoing effort to stop the illegal State seizure of Lakota children by creating an independent tribal-run family services program administered for Lakota, by Lakota. … Read more

Judge Accepts Feds’ Comments on Indian Child Welfare Case (South Dakota)

August 18, 2014. In what is being called a rare move, the Department of Justice last week threw its support behind two South Dakota tribes and two Native American mothers that have accused state officials of violating the Indian Child Welfare Act by taking custody of their children for 60 days after only a brief hearing. … Read more

Why Are These Indian Children Being Torn Away From Their Homes?

Imagine entering family court and knowing that what’s at stake is the person you hold most dear – your child. Now imagine having a judge tell you that he’s removing your child from your custody, from your home. When you ask him why, the judge’s replies, “I honestly can’t tell you.” The judge then signs … Read more

S.D. tribes look to establish foster care services on reservations

Five South Dakota tribes have asked the federal government for financial assistance to help operate their own foster care services. … The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton, Oglala and Crow Creek Sioux tribes submitted applications Monday seeking federal planning dollars to develop and operate their own programs. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe received one of the … Read more

Letter from Chase Iron Eyes: S.D. Foster Facilities are the New Indian Boarding Schools

The state of South Dakota has forcibly removed our Lakota children from their tribes for 150 years. The Indian Child Welfare Act continues to be violated daily. Lakota leaders agree on the best permanent solution to this crisis: a Lakota-run foster care and family service system. I am writing here today to urgently request that … Read more

Swept Away: An In-Depth Look at Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik

This on-going series from the Indian Country Today Media Network examines Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, which charges South Dakota State and local Pennington County officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in child custody proceedings. Although the State of South Dakota appeared to be flagrantly operating outside the scope of the … Read more

SD Panel Approves Child Sex Abuse Task Force

The task force would meet to study child sexual abuse in South Dakota and suggest ways the state could improve its policies for dealing with the problem. … The task force would include a victim, law enforcement, medical and mental health experts, child advocates and a tribal representative with experience on the issue. Read the … Read more

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 … Read more

Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court Orders Children Returned to Father

His two girls had been taken by their mother, Heather Shepard, to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in October in violation of McNutt’s legal custody of the children. Despite a warrant issued for Shepard’s arrest, state law enforcement officers could not intervene since the children were on reservation land. But, sovereignty issues were swept aside by … Read more

Dana Hanna: Courts Continue to Violate ICWA in South Dakota (Native Sun News)

Earlier this year, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three Indian mothers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Rapid City on behalf of all parents of minor Indian children in Pennington County. That lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, charges that the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS), the Pennington County … Read more

SD Tribal Leaders Seek Federal Foster Care Help

Leaders of South Dakota’s nine Sioux tribes will spend time in Washington, D.C., this week seeking federal help in a long-running dispute over state government’s handling of foster care for Native American children. Read the full article at the SFGate website.

Standing Rock Sioux Move to Rescue Children, Accuse State of Genocide

Standing Rock’s tribal council urged the United States to take action in a September 17 resolution claiming that South Dakota has been taking its children into care and adopting them out of the tribe illegally, in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The resolution was passed the day after a child-welfare advocate informed the … Read more

Head Start 2013 Tribal Consultations

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is holding 2013 Tribal Consultations with leaders of Tribal Governments operating Head Start (including Early Head Start) programs for each of the nine geographic regions where American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start programs are located. Tribal leaders and their designees, including AIAN Head Start directors, are welcome … Read more

NPR Series on South Dakota Indian Foster Care Revisited and Critiqued by Ombudsman

A year and a half after National Public Radio aired damning charges against South Dakota’s handling of foster care for Native American children, the news agency’s ombudsman said Friday that the three-part investigative series was “deeply flawed.” Read more about the ombudsman’s report at the Argus Leader website. Read the ombudsman’s report and the NPR … Read more

Support Grows for Tribal Control in Child Welfare

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying he supports tribal efforts in South Dakota to run their own child welfare and foster care services Read more at the Argus Leader website and the PRWeb website.

Editorial: State Wrongly Demonized in ICWA Debate

Certainly, there are loving, protective and caring foster care providers on South Dakota’s Indian reservations. But are there enough of them to shelter the inordinately high number of children that need such care in those places? We doubt it. In fact, we’ve reported on the trouble one tribe in our area has in getting qualified … Read more

Court Decisions Show ICWA Can Work, for Better or Worse

The decisions of the South Dakota Supreme Court contain many cases involving the federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act.They are always a sad story… Read more at the Black Hills Pioneer website. Research cases and law relating to ICWA in South Dakota at the Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act … Read more

South Dakota Files Motion to Dismiss Tribes’ ICWA Lawsuit

The South Dakota Department of Social Services is seeking the dismissal of an Indian Child Welfare Act lawsuit filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.The lawsuit accuses the state of violating ICWA by removing Indian children from their homes without due process to their families or to tribes… Read more at … Read more

Native Sun News: County’s ICWA abuses called ‘shocking’

RAPID CITY—The alleged abuses of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the Pennington County court system has been called “shocking” by two attorneys. According to Stephen Pevar, attorney for the ACLU, “What happened in the Pennington County Courts is something you would expect in a Third World Country.” Read the full article at

May 15-17, 2013: BIA to Host Summit on Native Foster Care in Rapid City, SD

The Great Plains Indian Child Welfare Act Summit will feature tribal leaders, ICWA experts, lawmakers, BIA officials, and a civil rights attorney from the Department of Justice. The conference will articulate structural solutions to a long-standing crisis in Native foster care in South Dakota, where 740 Lakota children are taken into foster care by the … Read more

Rally in Support of Indian Child Welfare Act (Native Sun News)

RAPID CITY — Rallying supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act carried signs calling for an end of human trafficking of Indian children and waited in the cold for the historic filing of a class action lawsuit against the State of South Dakota. Read the entire article at

South Dakota disputes NPR report on placement (Argus Leader)

More than a year after a controversial National Public Radio investigation into violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota, an ombudsman report judging its accuracy has yet to see the light of day. …From the beginning, though, state officials have called the NPR series misleading. While it’s common for targets of news … Read more

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 … Read more

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. … Read more

Letter: Help keep native families together (Argus Leader)

A South Dakota grandmother comments on the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act in her state: As I read on the newspaper sites in Indian Country that Indian Child Welfare Act Summit is coming to South Dakota, National Public Radio writes of the demise of South Dakota taking all these children. I have to … Read more

Two Reports to Congress from the South Dakota ICWA Directors

From the Lakota People’s Law Project website: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Directors in South Dakota voted 6-0 to submit a report to Congress asserting that the South Dakota Department of Social Service has for over a decade “systematically violated the spirit and the letter of the Indian Child Welfare Act.” ICWA directors are federal … Read more

NPR News Investigations: Native American Children In Foster Care

Beginning in October 2011, NPR has created a series of investigative pieces looking at Native American foster care in South Dakota.  The pieces raise issues about the ethics of the current system, the historical context of Native American foster, and possible violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act. October, 2011 – Native Foster Care: Lost … Read more

A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act

The Guide is intended to answer questions and provide a comprehensive resource of information on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The online version at was created as a complement to the print version of the Guide, which was printed by the Native American Rights Fund in 2007. While the topical sections are identical … Read more