South Dakota's long history of racism is again under the media microscope.
And in an ongoing class action suit in South Dakota, a federal court recently ordered state officials to stop violating the due process rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings. In some cases, children were taken from their parents in hearings that lasted less than 5 minutes, without any opportunity to present evidence. Forcible removal of indigenous children from their families dates back to colonial times, when missionaries set out to “Christianize” and “civilize” Indian children under the guise of educating them. Rather than legal challenges, perhaps what we need in the United States is our own national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (using the UN Declaration as a guiding document). [If truth be told]The Lakota People's Law Project is seeking funding for foster families and homes after SD Department of Social Services employees in Rapid City committed abuses of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The state seizes about 750 American Indian kids every year reaping nearly a billion federal dollars since ICWA was enacted.
From South Dakota Public Broadcasting:
In the early 20th century, hundreds of Native Americans from tribes around the country were sent the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians. Located in Canton, South Dakota, the institution wasn’t so much a place to treat people with mental health problems as a place for Native Americans who refused to assimilate in white society. [Karl Gehrke]The Guardian published a long piece on the thousands of American Indian children who haved been seized by South Dakota's Department of Social Services especially in Pennington County:
Janice Howe’s tiny home, nested in a sparse enclave of houses, is a warm haven against the winter chill. “They take children away [from families] because there’s no food in the house so I find a way to help them get food, keep their lights on, get their rent paid,” she says. “I remember that heartache. I don’t want any other families to go through that.” n South Dakota, where Howe lives, 51% of children in foster care are Native American. A majority of them were removed from their families on charges of neglect. It is hard for the families to keep fighting. Often it takes years to get children back once the state takes custody. [excerpt, Laura Rena Murray]Pennington County's behavior has been called shocking. With state officials sitting in the audience and not on the dais, former US Senator James Abourezk urged the federal government to sue the State of South Dakota.
The court finds that Judge Davis, States Attorney Vargo, Secretary Valenti and Ms. Van Hunnick developed and implemented policies and procedures for the removal of Indian children from their parents’ custody in violation of the mandates of the Indian Child Welfare Act and in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [ILPC Turtle Talk]This blogger has direct knowledge of abuses visited upon families by employees of the state from 1994 to 2000 and is all too close to this story.
South Dakota's experiment with a GOP-dominated congressional delegation and Statehouse has failed so many generations that suicide looks like the only way out of lives twisted by a special kind of torture.