indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Appeals court won't invalidate Indian child adoption
TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2003

Two tribes seeking to invalidate the adoption of an Indian child were rejected by a federal appeals court on Monday.

The Navajo Nation and the Yakama Nation sued to stop the adoption of a baby, now 12, of Navajo and Yakama heritage. Citing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the tribes asserted jurisdiction over adoption proceedings.

But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous ruling, rejected the tribes' claims. A three-judge panel said the child, although conceived on the Yakama Reservation in Washington, was not "domiciled" on tribal land, and that the birth parents didn't want their Indian heritage known.

"[I]n this case, the birth parents were domiciled off-reservation and voluntarily repudiated application of ICWA and tribal court jurisdiction," wrote Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson in the 11-page decision.

According to court documents, Theodora and David Becenti, while living on the Yakama Reservation, conceived a child. Theodora Becenti is a member of the Yakama Nation while David Becenti is a member of the Navajo Nation.

Theodora Becenti kept her pregnancy from her husband and her parents, according to court documents. She informed David Becenti in her eighth month of pregnancy, and the couple moved off the reservation "in part to conceal the pregnancy and in part to attend community college," U.S. District Judge Edward F. Shea wrote in a March 1999 decision.

While living off the reservation, the Becentis arranged for an adoption. They agreed to sever all parental rights and reject tribal court jurisdiction over the proceedings. No notice was given to the Navajo Nation, the Yakama Nation or Theodora Becenti's parents. A state court approved the adoption.

But a few months after the child, identified in court records as K.H., was born, the Becentis moved back to the Yakama Reservation. Theodora Becenti finally told her parents, setting in motion attempts by the Navajo and Yakama tribes to invalidate the state court proceedings.

Under ICWA, tribes have exclusive jurisdiction over adoption proceedings but only in cases involving children "domiciled" on the reservation. Otherwise, tribes share jurisdiction with state courts.

A child doesn't have to be born on a reservation to be considered "domiciled." A Supreme Court precedent involving the Mississippi Band of Choctaws ruled that the domicile of the birth parents must be taken into account, otherwise "the tribe's exclusive jurisdiction [would be defeated] by the simple expedient of giving birth and placing the child for adoption off the reservation."

The Becenti's case would appear to fit that holding. But the 9th Circuit said the couple took several steps to declare their off-reservation status. The state court adoption, therefore, was ruled valid.

"The state court considered the provisions of ICWA and made a reasoned determination that the Becentis' off-reservation domicile conferred concurrent jurisdiction upon the state court," Rawlinson wrote.

James and Gayle Norris, a Washington couple, have kept custody of K.H. since birth.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 to correct for what Congress called an "alarmingly high percentage" of Indian children being placed for adoption and foster care in non-Indian homes and institutions. In the decades preceding the law, the adoption rate for Indian children was 8.4 times greater than that of non-Indian children, according to the American Indian Child Resource Center.

Get the Decision:
Navajo Nation v. Norris (June 9, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Yakama Nation - http://www.yakamanation.com
National Indian Child Welfare Association - http://www.nicwa.org

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Film company aims to bring Native stories to life (9/2)
Walt Lamar: Tribes face problems dealing with legalized marijuana (9/2)
Jennie Stockle: Fans mock Cherokee people with Trail of Tears sign (9/2)
DaShanne Stokes: State-recognized tribes need eagle feathers too (9/2)
Indian studies professor denied position over remarks about Israel (9/2)
Tim Giago: Oglala Sioux people aren't afraid to say no to easy cash (9/1)
Native Sun News: Release of secret uranium mining data ordered (9/1)
Mark Trahant: It's past time for tribal leaders to govern the nation (9/1)
Jennie Stockle: A safe space for opponents of offensive mascotry (9/1)
John Christian Hopkins: A big thank you to the friend I never met (9/1)
National Museum of the American Indian celebrates 10th birthday (9/1)
Mother arrested in connection with child's death on Navajo Nation (9/1)
Opinion: Energy development can help secure tribal independence (9/1)
Cherokee Nation announces $170M casino and retail development (9/1)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe won't be sharing gaming revenues this quarter (9/1)
Seminole Tribe on track to see gaming revenues increase to $2.1B (9/1)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to reopen gaming facility in February 2015 (9/1)
Editorial: Tohono O'odham Nation didn't play by 'rules' with casino (9/1)
Opinion: Gaming good for Eastern Cherokees but not for fellow tribe (9/1)
Opinion: Federal recognition only means more casinos in California (9/1)
Native Sun News: Tribes walk out of contract support cost meeting (8/29)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe spends $2.4M on property (8/29)
Mike Johanns: Retracing steps of great Ponca Chief Standing Bear (8/29)
Steven Newcomb: Racist mascot a sign of deeper problems in US (8/29)
Lauren Jones: Affordable Care Act benefits Native Americans too (8/29)
Gila River Indian Community to see $77.6M from Cobell buy-back (8/29)
Energy boom linked to rise in human trafficking in Indian Country (8/29)
Navajo man heads up Native American Homelessness Task Force (8/29)
9th Circuit hears case over Yakama Nation tobacco manufacturer (8/29)
WAER: ICWA matters handled in 'kangaroo courts' in South Dakota (8/29)
MPR: Red Lake Nation opposes liquor license near dry reservation (8/29)
Tule River Tribe helps remove marijuana operation on reservation (8/29)
Omaha Tribe signs agreement with EPA to improve utility services (8/29)
Las Vegas Paiute Tribe rejected 'gift' from NFL team's foundation (8/29)
KPLU: Spokane Tribe maintains close ties with baseball franchise (8/29)
Opinion: HUD loan program a small step to boost Indian housing (8/29)
DNA study finds distinct population of Native people in Arctic area (8/29)
Tribes closely watching Big Lagoon Rancheria casino land dispute (8/29)
Tohono O'odham Nation to build off-reservation casino in phases (8/29)
State questions Forest County Powatatomi Tribe's slot machines (8/29)
Quapaw Tribe eyes local support for commercial casino in Kansas (8/29)
Native Sun News: Police officers who shot Indian teen get medals (8/28)
Cara Cowan Watts: Laying the groundwork for college scholarship (8/28)
Rudolph Ryser: Indigenous nations need leverage to bring change (8/28)
DOI extends $100M in Cobell buy-back offers on two reservations (8/28)
Cobell buy-backs could return over 38K acres to tribe in Montana (8/28)
Five-year-old Navajo boy sent home from school for his long hair (8/28)
Three charged with murder for death of Mississippi Choctaw man (8/28)
Lummi Nation seeks cooperation after ruling in treaty rights case (8/28)
Artist Gregg Deal takes on Indian mascots for performance piece (8/28)
Sports announcer won't use Washington NFL team's name on air (8/28)
Recruiter from Spokane Tribe's college selected for Peirone Prize (8/28)
California tribes support release of water to benefit salmon runs (8/28)
Southern Ute Tribe invests $2B in big energy production system (8/28)
County hires lobbying firm to oppose federal recognition reforms (8/28)
Tohono O'odham Nation breaks ground for off-reservation casino (8/28)
Cherokee Nation starts construction on casino at Indian allotment (8/28)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.