NEW ORLEANS, LA –Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., First Lady January Hoskin and a small delegation from the Cherokee Nation joined tribal leaders from the Oneida, Quinault and Morongo Band of Mission Indians in New Orleans recently to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act.


The Cherokee Nation and three other tribes are co-defendants in the Brackeen v. Bernhardt case, which attacks ICWA’s constitutionality.


The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans held oral arguments in the case January 21.


“Prior to the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act -- which protects Native children by making sure there is a priority to place them with Native families, extended family or another Native American family, and giving the tribe notice that an Indian child is subject to a proceeding – there was a horrible history of taking Indian children out of their homes and tribal lands resulting in tearing families apart, undermining communities and robbing Indian Nations of the very future they were building,” Chief Hoskin said. “The country decided the best way to address that was to put into place a federal law with these priorities and protections, and it’s done a good job.”


“ICWA has kept Indian Nations whole and Native children in tribal homes so that elders and tribal citizens can pass down their ways so that these children can know where they came from,” Chief Hoskin added.


In 2017, individual plaintiffs Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, a couple from Texas, along with the state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge ICWA.


On August 9, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional and serves the best interests of children and families. On October 1, 2019, plaintiffs requested an en banc rehearing before the Fifth Circuit, which Chief Hoskin and the Cherokee Nation delegation attended.


ICWA sets specific rules designed to ensure Native children and families involved in child welfare proceedings receive culturally appropriate services and protections. A coalition of 26 states, the District of Columbia, 77 members of Congress and more than 30 organizations filed amicus briefs in the case in support of ICWA.


“Today our tribes stand together to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act with the support of tribal groups, members of Congress, U.S. states and child welfare organizations who all understand ICWA’s key role in protecting the safety and well-being of Indian children. ... The legal challenges against the law only further harm Native American children, families and communities," the four defending tribes said in a statement after the hearing.


To listen to audio from the oral arguments:


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