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ACLU of Wyoming urges Supreme Court to uphold Indian Child Welfare Act

 Group of Omaha boys in cadet uniforms, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, ca. 1880. (National Archives Identifier 519136)
National Archives
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Group of Omaha boys in cadet uniforms, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, ca. 1880. (National Archives Identifier 519136)

The ACLU of Wyoming is weighing in on a U.S. Supreme Court case that could overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law that protects Indigenous children from forced removal from their families and tribes.

The court will start reviewing the act in November, and the Wyoming ACLU branch recently sent the justices a brief, along with 13 other states, urging them to uphold the act.

"It basically ensures that all efforts are made to maintain those ties and connections between Indian children and their heritage," said Stephanie Amiotte, legal director of the Wyoming ACLU, and an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota.

She says Indigenous children have been disproportionately removed from their families by state welfare agencies. Congress created the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, in 1978 to tackle the problem and give tribes jurisdiction over their own children.

If ICWA is overturned, Amiotte says more and more Indigenous youth could lose ties to their culture.

"And, over time, as we see this progress, it will dwindle the future existence of Indian tribes within the United States," she said.

Amiotte says the future of tribes in Wyoming and throughout the nation depend on ICWA being upheld.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation has also joined 325 tribes nationwide in urging the Supreme Court to support the legislation, while the Northern Arapaho Tribe is asking the Wyoming State Legislature to enshrine the same rights in state law.

This story from KHOL was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations including KDNK in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.