Shingle Springs Band asserts jurisdiction in child welfare dispute

Matthew Cuellar, a member of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, and his wife, Sharne Cuellar, were killed in a December 17, 2015, accident in California. Family photo

Another Indian Child Welfare Act battle is brewing in California.

The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians asserted jurisdiction in a case involving three girls whose parents were killed in a December 2015 crash. The girls' father, Matthew Cuellar, was a tribal member, The Fresno Bee reports.

But relatives of the girls' mother don't want the children living with their Shingle Springs family. They filed a lawsuit in federal court and were able to stop the enforcement of a tribal court order.

"This challenge of Tribal Court authority is a significant national issue for the country’s tribal courts," Chairman Nicholas Fonseca told The Bee in response to the case.

The relatives are also taking a page from the anti-ICWA movement and have set up a website that seeks to associate the tribe with violence and crime. They even took DNA tests that they say proves they are Indian, The Bee reports.

“We have American Indian blood, too,” Efrim Renteria, whose sister was the mother of the girls, told the paper. “So why are they doing this to our children.”

The tribe was removed as as defendant in the lawsuit due to sovereign immunity. Regina Cuellar, the girls' aunt, remains as a defendant and is asking a federal judge to reconsider a recent decision in the case, The Bee reports.

Read More on the Story:
Girls caught in custody battle after parents are killed in head-on collision (The Fresno Bee 10/19)

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