'Stand up, fight back!'
The Tlingit and Haida Tribes reaffirmed their opposition to Kavanaugh last week, after his nomination advanced by a narrow, party-line vote. They specifically asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has been an advocate for Native issues, and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), whose wife and children are Native, to vote against Kavanaugh. "Tlingit & Haida continues to oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation based on his threat to tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and the rights of Alaska Natives and all indigenous peoples of this country," a September 28 statement read. But while Sullivan joined his Republican colleagues in voting to advance Kavanaugh's nomination on Friday morning, Murkowski did not. She was the only member of her party to vote "NAY" on the procedural motion, whose outcome was a close 51 to 49. “I believe Brett Kavanaugh is a good man,” Murkowski told reporters after the initial vote on Friday. "It just may be that, in my view, he is not the right man for the court at this time.” Only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in favor of advancing the nomination. The Senate can now proceed to a final vote on Kavanaugh, a vote that's expected to take place on Saturday. Republican leaders are confident he will be confirmed and seated on the court in time for activities next week.
In the meantime, the tribes involved in Brackeen plan to ask judge O'Connor to put a hold on his decision while they take the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, a step below the Supreme Court. "We intend to seek a stay and we will appeal," attorney Keith Harper, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation whose law and policy firm is representing the four tribes, told Indianz.Com on Friday. "We strongly disagree with the decision and think ICWA - a law that has been to the Supreme Court on multiple occasions - is plainly constitutional." Though Adoptive Couple, the 2013 case, went against tribal interests and resulted in the adoption of a Cherokee girl against her biological father's wishes, the Supreme Court at the time did not strike down any provisions of ICWA. The plaintiffs in Brackeen named Secretary Ryan Zinke and other officials at the Department of the Interior as defendants. The Trump administration has been backing the law as part of the case. In passing ICWA, government attorneys wrote in a brief, "Congress arrived at a statutory solution to this crisis that protects, first and foremost, the best interests of Indian children, but also the rights of their parents and families and the interests of states and tribes." A spokesperson for Interior referred request for comment to the Department of Justice A spokesperson there responded on Friday: "The Department is reviewing the court’s ruling and considering next steps."
Tribal StatementPrincipal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation, Chairman Robert Martin of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Chairman Tehassi Hill of the Oneida Nation and President Fawn Sharp of Quinault Nation issued the following joint statement in reaction to the October 4, 2018, ruling:
“We strongly disagree and are deeply disappointed with Judge O’Connor’s decision striking down the Indian Child Welfare Act, four decades after it was enacted. We remain steadfast in our commitment to defend the constitutionality of ICWA by all available means for one simple reason: If ICWA is struck down in whole or in part, the victims will be our children and our families, Native children and Native families. The apparent goal of Plaintiffs’ litigation is an extreme one -- to separate children from their parents. Before ICWA, as many as one-third of all tribal children were forcibly removed from their families and their communities by state governments. Thorough and objective analysis of the systematic removal of Indian children from Indian homes found many removals were wholly unjustified. These policies devastated tribal communities and we refuse to go back to those darker days. We are heartened by the support of so many states that stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this litigation to protect families. We are in consultation with our legal counsel and exploring all available options. Rest assured, we consider the trial level decision today as one part of a long process. In the interim, we will seek a stay of the decision until higher courts have an opportunity to review it. We will continue to work in state courts throughout the country to ensure the protections of ICWA for Native children, families, and tribes. We strongly believe that, in the end, our rights protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act will be affirmed and reinforced.”
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