Supreme Court declines to review Cherokee Nation ICWA case

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined a petition in Nielson v. Ketchum, an Indian Child Welfare Act case.

A non-Indian couple adopted a boy who was automatically enrolled in the Cherokee Nation under the tribe's temporary citizenship law. But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the child was not an "Indian" because his mother wasn't enrolled at the time of his birth.

"The ICWA explicitly defines 'Indian child' as 'any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is . . . a member of an Indian tribe,'" the court said, quoting from the law.

"We find that Congress did not intend the ICWA to authorize this sort of gamesmanship on the part of a tribe—e.g. to authorize a temporary and nonjurisdictional citizenship upon a nonconsenting person in order to invoke ICWA protections," the unanimous decision from April 2011 stated.

The Cherokee Nation appealed to the Supreme Court but the justices declined to review the case in an order today.

10th Circuit Decision:
Nielson v. Ketchum (April 5, 2011)

Related Stories:
Utah couple 'thrilled' with 10th Circuit decision in ICWA dispute (04/06)
Court rebuffs Cherokee Nation in Indian Child Welfare Act ruling (4/5)

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