The below article was originally published on February 28, 2022 by Indian Country Today.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Texas v. Haaland, a case seeking to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The high court said Monday morning it would take the case reviewing the 1978 federal law. Many call the Indian Child Welfare Act a gold standard for child welfare policy.
A federal appeals court in April upheld the law and Congress’ authority to enact it. But the judges also found some of the law’s provisions unconstitutional, including preferences for placing Native American children with Native adoptive families and in Native foster homes.
“The far-reaching consequences of this case will be felt for generations,” stated the National Indian Child Welfare Association in a statement. “In a coordinated, well-financed, direct attack, Texas and other opponents aim to simultaneously exploit Native children and undermine tribal rights.”
ICWA has long been championed by tribal leaders to preserve Native families and cultures involving Native children, and it places reporting and other requirements on states.
“In keeping (Native children) connected to their extended family and cultural identity, the positive outcomes are far-reaching and include higher self-esteem and academic achievement. Further, they recognize that collaboration between sovereign Tribal Nations and state child welfare systems is effective and just governance,” the national organization stated.
Tribal leaders from Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation and Quinault Indian Nation issued a joint statement that read in part:
“We are glad to hear that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert to reexamine these aspects of the decision and look forward to once again seeing ICWA fully upheld, as courts have repeatedly done for over four decades.
“As leaders of our respective tribes, we know the importance of keeping our children connected with their families, communities, and heritage. ICWA has proven itself as the gold standard of child welfare law, which is why both Republican and Democratic administrations, tribes and tribal organizations, and child welfare experts continue to defend it. We will never accept a return to a time when our children were forcibly removed from our communities and look forward to fighting for ICWA before the Court.”
There’s a long legal and constitutional precedent favoring ICWA.
The Native American Rights Fund says the 44-year-old law is widely supported by an “impressive array of stakeholders within and outside of Indian Country” who recognize the importance of keeping children connected to family and cultural identity.
Those positive outcomes are far-reaching and include higher self-esteem and academic achievement, according to NARF.
The case will be argued during the court’s new term that begins in October.
Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and seven individuals had sued over provisions in the law, and a federal district court initially sided with the group and struck down much of the law. But in 2019, a three-judge federal appeals court panel voted 2-1 to reverse the district court and uphold the law. The full court then agreed to hear the case and struck some provisions.