Panel At UWS Discusses The Indian Child Welfare Act As It’s Reviewed By U.S. Supreme Court

SUPERIOR, Wis. — UWS hosted an event on Thursday called “Law & Justice Dialogues: The Indian Child Welfare Act” that focused on a case that is currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case is known as Brackeen v. Haaland, and the issue revolves around the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which the plaintiffs in the case say is unconstitutional.

The law was created to keep indigenous children with family members or guardians of the same tribe or background, instead of moving them into a foster environment with caretakers who are not indigenous.

Here’s what some of the panelists and instructors said:

“I believe that what ICWA law does is we are able to identify indigenous families and the first thing we need to do as child protection social workers is make sure that we’re respecting tribal sovereignty so that means that we’re working collaboratively and transparently with the tribes that the children are members of or descendants of,” Jessica Mantor, a social worker, said.

“As my part of the panel I spoke about the history behind ICWA or the Indian Child Welfare Act, and I just want to say that I think that we may hear about it in the news, and regardless of whether you are of non-indigenous or indigenous background we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves about this and learn about this and so as a non-indigenous professor I see my role as educating students about this,” Chantal Norrgard,  aUW-Superior assistant professor of First Nations studies, said.

“It’s absolutely essential that anybody that wants to be in policing, or corrections, or social work, or victim services or anything in between understands how to better support different cultures and ethnicities especially indigenous people because of part of the country where we live, we have to be able to interact in culturally relevant and meaningful ways with people without coming in and taking over,” Alli Willingham, a UWS assistant teaching professor of legal studies and criminal justice, said.

The plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case argue that the law is not constitutional due to the equal protection clause, and that it’s based on race, making it harder for non-indigenous families to adopt indigenous children.

Those in favor of the law say it’s meant to keep Native children within the indigenous tribes, after many had been removed by agencies in the decades prior to the act being passed.


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