Timothy Davis: Indian Child Welfare Act protects sovereignty

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker discusses an Indian Child Welfare Act case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. Dusten Brown, in sunglasses, was forced to give up his daughter after the justices ruled against him. Photo from National Congress of American Indians / Flickr

Timothy Davis, a member of the Cherokee Nation, addresses conservative criticism of the Indian Child Welfare Act:
Race is ugly business. The business of race can be seen in the higher rates of incarceration of black Americans. It is in the higher rates black Americans and Native Americans are killed by law enforcement. It is an aspect of our existence that we created, and one that has no basis in fact. George F. Will attempts to attack the issue of racial separation by targeting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). He fails.

Mr. Will first attempts to attack the concept of sovereignty in his statement. “The 1978 act’s advocates say it is not about race but about the rights of sovereign tribes, as though that distinction is meaningful.” This attack on Indian Tribal sovereignty is strange when coupled with the call for natural rights. “This is discordant with the inherent individualism of the nation’s foundational natural rights tradition…” This statement of natural relies upon the consent of the governed and the understanding of sovereignty. The sovereignty of the government itself, built off of the American tradition, rests within the rights of the people. Native Americans are no exception. Neither are we an exception to the rule of consent of the governed, and such consent was never granted. It was forced.

Such was the practice of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” policy within America. That through barbaric practices of “civilizing” the Indian would naturally choose American Society to guide it. So too was the practice of ripping Native children from their culture and heritage. This practice is ongoing. Dwayne Stenstrom was taken from his family at the age of 8. He attests to the loss sense of belonging and sense of self. He would be able to confirm such acts can be violent and disparaging. Not necessarily an act of physical violence, but one of emotional and mental harm. A violent act nonetheless. Violence itself precludes the idea of consent. No consent can ever be truly given through violence.

Get the Story:
Timothy Davis: George Will Gets It All Wrong in His Attack on ICWA (Indian Country Today 9/13)

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