Law | National

NCAI remains hopeful after ruling in Supreme Court ICWA case

The National Congress of American Indians remains hopeful that a Cherokee Nation citizen can retain custody of his daughter despite a negative ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court today.

In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the Supreme Court ruled that two sections of Indian Child Welfare Act can't be used to protect the parental rights of Dusten Brown. But the case will be returned to South Carolina for further proceedings so the dispute isn't over.

"We are confident that his parental rights will be upheld, and that Veronica will stay with her family," NCAI President Jefferson Keel said in a press release from Reno, Nevada, where the organization is holding its mid-year conference.

Keel pointed out that the majority's decision upheld the legality of ICWA. Some observers were worried that the court might eviscerate the law, which was passed in 1978 to keep Indian children in Indian families.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message that there is no question of ICWA’s role as the most important law to protect Native children and families. The decision also affirms Congressional authority to protect Indian children," Keel noted.

Through their joint Tribal Supreme Court project, NCAI and the Native American Rights Fund lined up a staggering number of briefs in support of Brown and of the goals of ICWA. Keel said that support will continue as the case returns to South Carolina.

"We remain committed to Native families and we will continue to support Dusten Brown’s fight for his rights as a father and for Veronica to remain with her loving father, grandparents, and community. Dusten loves his daughter and has never given up in this process, and neither will we," Keel said.

Supreme Court Decision:
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (June 25, 2013)

Oral Argument Transcript:
Adoptive Couple v. Cherokee Nation (April 16, 2013)

South Carolina Supreme Court Decision:
Adoptive Couple v. Cherokee Nation (July 26, 2012)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court set to rule in Indian Child Welfare Act case (6/24)
NPR: Supreme Court to rule in Indian Child Welfare Act case (6/24)

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