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Protest at U of MN against legal threat to Indian Child Welfare Act

By Jasper Nordin |
December 12, 2022
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Minneapolis, MN - On Friday, December 9, over 50 students and community members gathered in front of the student union on the University of Minnesota Twin Cites campus to demand that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) be protected and upheld in the face of efforts from reactionary, anti-native forces to undo it. 

The crowd, composed of both native and non-native students and members of the surrounding community, rallied outside of the student union before marching through campus to the administrative building.

The event was organized by the university’s American Indian Student Cultural Center (AISCC) as well as the UMN chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). 

ICWA was signed into law in 1978 and is a vital piece of legislation upholding tribal sovereignty and indigenous control of the future of their own children. AISCC member Carmen Pitt, a third-year student at the university’s American Indian Studies department, explained the legal background of ICWA, which ensures that matters of adoption and foster care of native children are under the jurisdiction of tribal governments. 

Before ICWA was signed into law, the vast majority of native children in the foster system were placed into non-native families, against the wishes of indigenous communities and the children themselves, who were removed from their own culture. 

The future of ICWA is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court, which may rule against it. ICWA being overturned would be disastrous for indigenous communities across the United States, which would no longer have control over the futures of their own children

Pitt described the effort by reactionaries to eliminate the ICWA as an effort to “to renew colonialism and warfare against native peoples.” She went on to point out that the repeal of ICWA “would further weaken - if not potentially eradicate the legal jurisdictions that tribal nations hold not over citizens, but the land.”

Melanie Yazzie, a faculty member of the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies department, stated, “It’s simply another commodification, another theft, of everything. Have you not taken enough from indigenous people?” 

The potential repeal of ICWA also has numerous consequences for other areas of the peoples’ struggles. CJ McCormick, a member of the Climate Justice Committee, explained the connections between climate justice and the struggle for indigenous sovereignty, and how the attacks on indigenous sovereignty will exacerbate the climate crisis and bring out ecological disaster. 

McCormick further confirmed the solidarity shared by progressive organizations in the struggle for indigenous liberation: “We stand here in solidarity with all of you and we firmly believe that defending native lives means defending every human life as climate change becomes more and more of a growing crisis.”

Other speakers included Delaney Anderson from the Circle of Indigenous Nations, and Perry Fernands, who both denounced the injustice of eliminating the ICWA and the importance of solidarity with indigenous people.

Sorcha Lona, a member of SDS, also confirmed SDS’s stand in solidarity in this struggle, stating, “There is hope for the future, there is revolutionary action that will build a better future.” 

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