Patsy Fercho

Grandmother sues after Bureau of Indian Affairs took kids from reservation

A non-Indian woman is suing the federal government after her grandchildren were taken from her by Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers.

Patsy Fercho, 64, claims two BIA officers violated her civil rights when they "raided a church" on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana in November 2015. She was placed under arrest while the two boys -- whose birth mother is a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe -- were transferred to the custody of their non-Indian father.

"She has not seen her grandsons since that day," a complaint filed in federal court on May 23 reads.

Fercho asserts custody of the children under the Northern Cheyenne court system. Their father claims custody under a court order issued in Minnesota, where the boys were living at the time.

Fearing that authorities in Minnesota would "illegally seize" the boys, the complaint reads, Fercho admits she took her grandchildren to the reservation, possibly in hopes of avoiding state jursidiction. But she wasn't able to avoid the Minnesota order because a judge there issued an arrest warrant, which was then sent to the BIA for enforcement.

"The BIA agents illegally executed an invalid Minnesota warrant as a pretext to seize Ms. Fercho’s grandsons and did so to circumvent the tribal court’s order granting her custody of the boys. The BIA’s actions were an affront to the tribal court," the complaint states.

The boys are the biological children of Fercho's adopted Northern Cheyenne daughter, who had trouble with the law, as has the birth father. Both parents have struggled with substance abuse, according to Fercho.

Read More on the Story:
Glendive woman sues over child custody dispute that put tribal, Minnesota courts at odds (The Billings Gazette May 25, 2018)
Grandma sues government for $1M for taking grandsons 'BIA gave tribal council the middle finger,' attorney says (The Great Falls Tribune May 23, 2018)

Related Stories:
BIA officers take children from Northern Cheyenne Reservation (December 2, 2015)
Northern Cheyenne Tribe caught in middle of child custody case (October 12, 2015)