I have previously written about the case of Dusten Brown, a Cherokee father fighting to keep custody of his daughter in Oklahoma. The case is still not resolved, and continues much to the horror of those of us in Indian Country. If you are not already initiated, this case has ripped the scab off of a grotesque scar for Indian people, with a history of having our children taken, stolen, sold, and adopted out, all by government fiat. Full disclosure here, this writer is one of those taken. I can speak firsthand of the damage done to children when ripped away from those who would care for us, and raise us as who we were meant to be.
In this case, a Cherokee man serving in the military had a child with a woman he wanted to marry, but she refused. Days before he was to go overseas, he was presented with custody papers. Thinking he was signing custody to the birth mother prior to deployment to a combat zone, he signed only to realize she intended and had already made plans to adopt his daughter out. These plans, by all indications included being paid a handsome sum, according to those in the community in which she lives. Previously in debt, she has now emerged debt free with a nice new vehicle to drive. Concomitantly, the proposed adoptive couple in South Carolina filed for adoption there while the child was still in Oklahoma, another violation of the law. Plus the birth mother has admitted intentionally mis-spelling Dusten’s name and giving a false birth date for him on court documents, to prevent both him and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) from being informed of the adoption, as mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
The case has wound it’s way through courts in South Carolina, Oklahoma, and where jurisdiction should reside, the CNO courts. The adoptive couple have made great fanfare by going to Oklahoma with tabloid tv correspondents in tow, one which got escorted out of Indian Country by Cherokee Marshals after he was caught trolling the schools there. The adoptive couple have also violated the court issued gag orders repeatedly, seemingly calling press conferences every time they have some new emotion. As it stands now, several appeals to the adoption are still in limbo, and a recent stay of the transfer of custody of the girl to South Carolina was just lifted. Of course the Cherokee courts still have their say and the child will remain on Cherokee land pending the adoption appeals, minus any order from a federal court.
Along the way, we have learned that the attorney and so-called Christian adoption agency that advised the South Carolina couple and filed the adoption paperwork, has also handled other illegal adoptions of Indian children in Oklahoma. Clearly this attorney and this agency thought Oklahoma represented a child supermarket where Indian children were for sale. Just drop right in and take your pick. The courts in Oklahoma just ordered the return of another illegally adopted Indian child. This pipeline of Indian children to the highest bidders in South Carolina has been exposed by the Dusten Brown case. Let’s hope it gets shut down altogether with a righteous verdict of him keeping his daughter. Then we can seek a federal investigation into this attorney and this agency’s actions.
As this case continues to unfold, we look to another corner of Indian Country, specifically to South Dakota. There we find the state has been acting in violation of ICWA by taking hundreds of Indian children from their homes and placing them in non-Indian households and state run facilities. Of course the state gets compensated for every child they place, and they seem to have a financial interest in continually violating ICWA until they get stopped. The state of South Dakota has gone so far as to declare poverty as neglect, and neglect grounds for removing Indian children from their families and communities. Long the poorest people in South Dakota and other states, often by design, this declaration seems to have the primary purpose of removing Indian children from their homes. Imagine white or black babies taken wholesale from their homes purely because the state says you’re poor. Welcome to Indian Country.
We thought these battles had ended in the 1970’s. We thought we had ended thehuman trafficking of American Indian children. Apparently these battles never ended and we’re still under the gun. What would you do to keep your children with you? How would you respond if the state came to your door and said that because you’re white, or black or for whatever reason, you’ve lost your parental rights and we’ve decided to send your children to be raised by someone else? It’s every parent’s nightmare. It’s a nightmare hundreds, perhaps thousands of Indian parents and children are living through right now. The Indian Wars are not over.
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