Wyoming ACLU will help advise the Indian Child Welfare Act in frot of the U.S. Supreme Court

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 10:54 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -The Wyoming American Civil Liberties Union weighs in on a U.S. Supreme Court case that could determine if the Indian Child Welfare Act/ICWA is racially biased and unconstitutional.

A case pending in front of the U.S. Supreme Court could affect Native American tribes across the U.S., including the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes here in Wyoming.

Legal advocates from the ACLU Wyoming branch say they are helping to write an “amicus brief” to advise the court on protecting Indigenous children and families.

“What this case really stands for, in the broader sense, is that when individuals are trying to threaten the existence of certain groups because they have different religious beliefs or they have different political or ideological beliefs, then its really a threat to everybody’s existence and freedoms,” said Legal Director, Stephanie Amiotte of ACLU Wyoming.

In the Brackeens vs. Haaland case, which involves a non-native family, the Brackeens wanted to adopt a Native American boy, but so did a native family member of the boy, along with an Indigenous tribe he was eligible to join.

In court proceedings, the defense used the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is a federal law that requires preferential placements for native children to tribes and family members.

Plaintiff lawyers for the Brackeens argued that the federal law favored native placement and, in doing so violated the “Equal Protection Clause” under the U.S. Constitution.

The Wyoming ACLU, along with several other states, says the Indian Child Welfare Act is not based on race but rather on political tribal sovereignty, which is why they are writing the brief.

“Based on what 200 years of Supreme Court cases have said, which is that tribes are recognized as political entities, not racial groups. And if the Supreme Court were to overturn ICWA, it would be disastrous for 574 federally recognized Indian tribes that rely upon ICWA to keep Indian families together.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Nov. on this case.