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Court won't disturb placement of Choctaw Nation girl in ICWA dispute

A foster family in California has recently begun claiming to incorporate "Native American culture into their lives" as part of an attempt to keep a Choctaw Nation girl from living with her relatives. Photo from Facebook

A Choctaw Nation girl will remain with her relatives after a court of appeals in California rejected a challenge on Friday.

The court found no "good cause" to remove the six-year-old from the home in Utah. The decision confirms that the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to Lexi, who is living near her siblings and other extended family members who will be able to keep her connected to her Choctaw heritage.

"As Lexi’s relatives, who have been seeking to adopt Lexi for over five years, we are grateful that both state and federal law have placement preferences for family," the family said in a statement posted on Finding Our Way Home. "More than simply sharing a familial relation with us, Lexi has been a real part of our family since the moment her grandmother – our aunt – expressed her desire that we bring Lexi into our home."

The decision goes against Rusty and Summer Page, a foster couple whose attorney has been intent on undermining ICWA. Lori Alvino McGill has since told the news media that she will pursue an appeal to California's highest court.

"The Pages are obviously extremely disappointed with the court's decision, but they believe in our judicial system and remain hopeful that they will ultimately prevail,” McGill said in a statement quoted by The Los Angeles Times.

McGill has been handling the case as far back as an August 2014 ruling that confirmed ICWA applies to the proceedings. Yet she appears to have made claims about Summer Page's alleged Indian heritage for the first time only very recently.

According to the court's decision, Summer Page claims Southern Tuscarora heritage "but the tribe is not enrolling new members and is not a federally recognized tribe." A group calling itself the Southern Band Tuscarora is based in North Carolina, which is part of the historic territory of the Tuscarora people.

Many Tuscarora people moved to New York to join the Iroquois Confederacy in the 1700s and some of their descendants are members of the federally recognized Tuscarora Nation. Others moved to Canada while some stayed in North Carolina, where at least six groups claim to represent the historic tribe.

The Pages also claim to participate in "Native American arts and crafts activities" at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles. The couple lives in Santa Clarita, about 25 miles to the north.

The court ruling finally notes that the couple painted a wall in their home "Navajo Blue" in an apparent attempt to claim they have incorporated "Native American culture into their lives."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, In re Alexandria P.

Get the Story:
Foster parents lose appeals fight for American Indian girl (AP 7/8)
Santa Clarita family wants to take tribal custody case to state Supreme Court (The Los Angeles Times 7/9)
Devastating setback for little 'Indian' girl ripped from family (WND 7/9)

California Court of Appeal Decision:
In re Alexandria P., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law (July 8, 2016)

Earlier California Court of Appeal Decision:
In re Alexandria P., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law (August 15, 2014)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Final Indian Child Welfare Act Rule:
Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings | Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Frequently Asked Questions | Dear Tribal Leader Letter | Dear State Governor Letter

Federal Register Notices for Indian Child Welfare Act:
Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (March 30, 2015)
Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (February 25, 2015)

Related Stories:
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act attorney continues to question law (06/10)
Final Indian Child Welfare Act rule goes into effect this December (6/9)
Bureau of Indian Affairs set to finalize Indian Child Welfare Act rule (6/8)
California court won't upset placement of Choctaw Nation child (03/31)
Conservative website urges readers to contact Choctaw Nation (03/24)
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act lawyer pursues appeal in California (03/23)
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act attorney takes on another dispute (03/22)
Court in California won't let Choctaw girl be placed with relatives (8/19)