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The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act known as ICWA.
As the Mountain West News Bureau’s Will Walkey reports, some states, including Wyoming, are preparing their own laws if the courts deem ICWA unconstitutional.
ICWA requires state courts to prioritize placing Native American children in foster or adoption care within their tribal communities.
It was passed in 1978 in response to the large number of Indigenous children who were being separated from their cultural affiliations.
Those against ICWA say it’s unfair discrimination against non-indigenous people. But others, like State Rep. Landon Brown (R-WY), disagree.
He testified at the legislature in early March.
“I want to make sure that we step back just for a half a second and realize that these are sovereign tribes. This isn’t necessarily about the race issue. This is about granting those rights to the sovereign tribes.”
The Wyoming legislature recently voted to codify ICWA protections for Native families.
The state’s governor signed that bill into law this week.
Utah and Montana lawmakers have pushed to do the same.
At least 11 other states, including New Mexico, have already done so.
The court could make a ruling on ICWA as early as this spring.
The nation’s fentanyl crisis is hitting American Indian and Alaska Native people harder than others, according to federal officials.
Matt Laslo reports from Washington on efforts to stem the tragic tide of overdoses in Indian Country.
American Indian and Alaska Natives saw a 39% spike in overdoses between 2019-2020, according to the CDC.
That’s because of the flood of fentanyl pouring into America.
Things only got worse during COVID lockdowns, as tribal leaders from coast to coast know all too well.
That’s Mark Macarro, tribal chair of southern California’s Pechanga Band of Indians.
Overdose rates among American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25-44 were “nearly two times that of White women” of the same age, according to the CDC.
Macarro says it’s a travesty.
“What we see is fentanyl being put into other products that are unwittingly being used and unwittingly causing death. It’s insidious. It’s sickening now that that kind of sociopathic activity is being used there because people are making money off it. Cartels and others.”
Native Americans and Alaska Natives have historically suffered higher rates of substance use disorder than their non-Native peers, but Macarro says fentanyl has made everything worse.
“It makes everything more acute, because maybe folks weren’t going to die of casual, recreational use of whatever the substance was, but death is near certain when it comes to fentanyl. So it is more dangerous. It’s gone to next level.”
The National Congress of American Indians continues lobbying Congress for more resources to fight the overdose epidemic, but with Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, steep budget cuts may be on the horizon.
This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota descent) as the Commissioner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Native Americans – promoting tribal self-sufficiency and cultural preservation.
The commissioner is one of the most senior, Senate-confirmed, federal officials in Native policy at HHS.
The commissioner advises the HHS Secretary on Indian Affairs.
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