Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Lakota Law

Greetings! If you’ve been with us for some time, you already know I helped found this organization to make sure our Lakota children thrive. Since 2004, we have never stopped working to keep Native kids in Native care, where they can learn our cultural heritage from their elders and kinship circles. 

At our Standing Rock kinship care home, we provide at-risk children a safe space to learn and grow. Here at the Cheyenne River Nation, I’m leading a community-wide effort to create a tribally-run Child Welfare Department. And nationally, our legal team is preparing an amicus brief to protect the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the Supreme Court. All of these things will create a brighter future for our young ones — and we couldn’t do any of it without you. So today, I ask you to fund this important mission and empower us to continue tackling this issue at levels ranging from a single child to the highest court in the land.

Lakota Law

Allow me to share a little more with you about these efforts. First, as we near the deadline to submit our ICWA amicus brief to the Supreme Court, our legal team has been interfacing with other organizations who are also writing briefs for the Brackeen v. Haaland case. By coordinating, we’ll ensure all important arguments are made in the best possible way, and our participation is key because we’re writing in conjunction with former S.D. Sen. James Abouresk, the primary author of the original bill. Our brief will be complete soon, and our public relations team is planning some novel methods to spread the word and put pressure on people in D.C. Powerful lawyers aligned with Big Oil have attacked the constitutionality of ICWA with all they have, and this means the stakes couldn’t be higher for Native kids and tribal sovereignty.
Meanwhile, my own organizing focuses right here in my community at Cheyenne River. As a tangible contribution to defend the spirit of ICWA, our team is moving forward to create a tribal child welfare department. Last week, we hosted more than a dozen tribal members at an official hearing where family members testified about losing children to the system in South Dakota. With no tribally-administered Child Protective Services program on our rez, foster care and adoption is administered by the state, which has an abysmal track record of abiding by ICWA. Right now, 90 percent of Native children taken from their families in South Dakota still end up in non-Native foster care. That’s completely unacceptable, and it’s why we’re working directly with tribal officials to establish an entity that will keep them safe with those who love them.
Finally, some great news from our kinship care home at Standing Rock. It now has a name — Chantewašte House (chon-tay-wash-tay, meaning to be happy, content, cheerful, or joyful) — and it is currently sheltering three children. We had a 1-year-old stay for a while earlier this year, and our foster parent, Vanessa Defender, continues to do wonderful work providing a safe haven for the little ones.

Please stay tuned for more updates on all of the above. Once again, I thank you for being there with us through this journey. It’s incredible stuff we’re accomplishing. Together we’re aiding the renewal of our next generation and those who will follow.

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for all you do!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. Please give what you can today. You’ll make sure we can continue providing housing and care, critical support services, and legal expertise to make a tremendous difference in the lives of our Lakota children in the months and years to come.