Q&A with Frank LaMere, Winnebago, on Indian Child Welfare

"We went to Frank LaMere, member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and executive director of the Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, Iowa, for a reading on how perceptions of ICWA are changing and what still needs to happen to ensure state social-services departments and courts nationwide understand and fulfill its requirements. LaMere is a longtime advocate for Indian child welfare who works on a daily basis with Native families.

Has recent coverage of ICWA adversely affected the attitude toward Indian child welfare?

LaMere: The exposure brought attention to the plight of our children, and I am glad of that. As a result of the NPR coverage, members of Congress were inspired to ask for an investigation of South Dakota. I wrote to the legislators involved and told them, “Don’t stop there.” South Dakota has problems, but so does the rest of the country. They should investigate every jurisdiction in every state. Here in Iowa, the social services department of Woodbury County [surrounding Sioux City] has made progress, but it’s just one of our 99 counties. Many in Iowa would still do an end run around ICWA.

What did you think of CNN’s take on ICWA?

CNN and Campbell Brown need a reality check! Brown, as a mother, said she could not imagine the hurt a white family felt when their Indian child was returned to his people. Why could she not also imagine the hurt thousands of Native families feel right now, knowing their children will cry themselves to sleep tonight because someone did an end run of ICWA and stole their children under the “color of law”? Over the generations, hundreds of thousands of Indian families have endured this pain. That’s the grim reality. We must engage and educate ICWA detractors, and we must remind them that the Indian Child Welfare Act is the law of the land—whether they like it or not. And we must applaud the tribes and parents in these recent cases for persevering and those in the courts for reuniting them with the children."

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Advocate Frank LaMere Talks About Battles Shaping Indian Child Welfare (Indian Country Today 2/14)

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