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Native Sun News: Supreme Court goes against Indian father

The following story was written and reported by Christina Rose, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Now that Veronica has fully adjusted to living with her biological father, Dusten Brown, many believe it is unlikely the custody arrangement would change. Courtesy/Cherokee Nation

Supreme Court rules against Cherokee father
Decision could have profound impact upon Indian country
By Christina Rose
Native Sun News Correspondent

WASHINTON — In a shocking turn of events, an unexpected ruling by the US Supreme Court has decided that because biological father Dusten Brown did not originally have custody of the child identified in the case as Baby Girl, the court is returning the case to the South Carolina State Supreme Court.

The decision is an upset for tribes because it is based somewhat on Baby Veronica’s 1.2% Cherokee blood quantum. Federal law allows tribes to determine who is an enrolled Indian, and this decision challenges that law.

The court also ruled against Brown stating that Veronica’s removal, at 27 months from her adoptive family who brought the lawsuit, from the only parents she had ever known should not have been allowed when Brown had not made an effort to maintain his parental rights until after well after the birth of the baby. Brown has had custody of the little girl for the last 17 months.

The opinion states, “Contrary to the State Supreme Court’s ruling, we hold that 25 U. S. C. §1912(f)—which bars involuntary termination of a parent’s rights in the absence of” evidence that “serious harm to the Indian child is likely to result from the parent’s “continued custody” of the child—does not apply when, as here, the relevant parent never had custody of the child.”

ICWA was also said not to apply because the father was the cause of the breakup of the family, with the court stating, “The parent abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.”

The court also ruled that preferential placement does not bar a non-Indian family from adopting an Indian child when no other eligible candidates have sought to adopt the child.

“We accordingly reverse the South Carolina Supreme Court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings,” the opinion reads.

Only time will tell the degree this ruling will have on ICWA cases in the future, but the ruling has upset many Native Americans. Christy Tibbitts, the Business Manager at the Native Sun News, said the ruling actually made her feel sick. Denise Giago, graphics artist at NSN said, “The Justices on the Supreme Court who made this ruling clearly do not understand why ICWA was even enacted. It was to protect Indian families from losing their children.”

(Contact Christina Rose at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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