Native American tribes issue statement following arguments in Brackeen v. Bernhardt rehearing

Photo: Vincent Schilling, Associate Editor Indian Country Today)

Tribes say legal challenges against the Indian Child Welfare Act only further harms Native American children, families, and communities

News Release

Protect Indian Kids

Following the en banc hearing yesterday before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Brackeen v. Bernhardt, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Martin, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill, and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp issued the following statement:

“The last time we appeared before this court, the Fifth Circuit ruled once again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is constitutional, as courts have repeatedly done for decades. 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 the Indian Child Welfare Act’s key role in protecting the safety and well-being of Indian children. The Indian Child Welfare Act is supported far and wide, including by the Trump administration and the majority of U.S. states. The legal challenges against the law only further harm Native American children, families and communities. We are confident the court will once again reject this misguided effort and rule on the side of protecting families and children for years to come.”

The Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation and Quinault Nation are co-defendants in the case, defending the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) against unwarranted attacks on the law’s constitutionality.

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 the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Morongo, Quinault, Oneida, and Cherokee tribes intervened as defendants in the case, and their brief can be found here. 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 in Brackeen v. Bernhardt chose to continue their attacks on Indian children and tribal families and requested an en banc rehearing before the Fifth Circuit, which the court granted.

There is broad, bipartisan support against this misguided attack on a law that is crucial for protecting the well-being of Indian children and Indian sovereignty. In addition to states and members of Congress, the Trump administration has strongly defended the Indian Child Welfare Act and its protections for Indian children, explaining that the Indian Child Welfare Act is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection laws.

A photo at the court following today’s arguments with Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, Morongo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council Member Teresa Sanchez, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., is also available for use. For additional information on this case and the Indian Child Welfare Act please visit: www.ProtectIndianKids.com

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