SCOTUS Adoption Ruling Delivers Win for Tribal Sovereignty
Monday, June 19, 2023
Native Americans, tribal leaders and other supporters of last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding adoption say it affirms their status as a sovereign nation and having a unique cultural identity.
The court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act in Haaland v. Brackeen. The lawsuit was brought by a Texas couple who challenged the federal law requiring Native American kids up for adoption be placed with Native families whenever possible.
Judith LeBlanc, executive director of the Native Organizers Alliance, said too often a patchwork of decisions has been allowed despite the law applying nationwide.
"The truth is that on a state level and on a local, community level -- even though that's the law of the land -- because it's a law that's not funded, sometimes it was not followed and sometimes we have to fight," LeBlanc explained.
Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a president's Cabinet, praised the decision, noting for centuries U.S. policies have inflicted trauma still felt by Native children, families and communities. In the 7-2 ruling, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented, with Alito arguing cases considered under the Indian Child Welfare Act have often omitted what is in a child's best interest.
With another case involving Native water rights yet to be decided by the high court, LeBlanc pointed out last week's victory was a small win in the larger fight to maintain tribal sovereignty and cultural continuity for generations to come.
"This decision gives us a peek into what a truly robust, multiracial, multinational democracy could look like," LeBlanc contended.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham agreed with the court's decision, noting the critical importance of sustaining a child's connection to their cultural identity.
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