Navajo artwork in Arizona. Photo: Alan English

Church won't apologize for taking Indian children from their homes

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reached settlements with four citizens of the Navajo Nation who said they were sexually abused as part of a program that took them from their homes, The Associated Press reports.

The church agreed to confidential, financial settlements with the plaintiffs, the AP said. The lawsuits had been filed in Navajo court.

But the church won't be issuing any apologies for its role in the Indian Student Placement Program, which placed tens of thousands of Native children in non-Native homes, and won't be making any changes to its policies, an attorney for the plaintiffs told the AP.

The church had disputed the jurisdiction of the Navajo courts to hear the abuse claims. But a tribal judge refused to dismiss the cases in May, Fox13 reported.

The church had filed a lawsuit in federal court in hopes of stopping the tribal court from moving forward with the cases. But a federal judge ordered the church to exhaust its remedies in the tribal system, a common practice in tribal jurisdiction disputes.

Tribal court jurisdiction over non-Indian entities remains an unsettled area of law. The U.S. Supreme Court was unable to provide clear guidance on the issue in a closely-watched case known as Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Instead of reaching a decision, the eight justices deadlocked on whether the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians had jurisdiction to hear a sexual abuse case. The 4-4 tie, however, upheld a lower ruling which subjected the Dollar General, a non-Indian company, to the tribal court's authority.

The Indian Student Placement Program was designed to provide an education for Native children, who were place in homes away from their communities. But it also served as a way to convert Native children to the Mormon faith.

An estimated 50,000 participated in the program between before the last placement in 1996, according to "The Rise and Decline of the LDS Indian Student Placement Program" by The Rise and Decline of the LDS Indian Student Placement Program. That student graduated in 2000, The Atlantic reported.

Read More on the Story
‘No admission of wrongdoing’; Tribal members settle sex abuse cases against LDS church (The Associated Press September 23, 2018)
Judge won’t dismiss lawsuit against LDS Church over sex abuse claims (Fox13 May 31, 2018)

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