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A bill that would codify provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act has been approved by the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee on a vote of 9 to 3.
The bill requires the Department of Social Services to make active efforts to prevent removal of children from families.
ICWA currently requires that measure, but the federal law has been challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, with an opinion pending.
According to online reports, 10 states have already enacted their own Indian Child Welfare statutes, and five states, including South Dakota, are considering bills this year.
Victoria Wicks has this report.
State Rep. Peri Pourier (D-SD/Oglala Sioux) introduced House Bill 1168.
She told the House committee that poverty underlies many of tribes’ challenges, and the vast majority of Native children removed from their homes are removed for neglect.
“Neglect can often look like poverty to some people.”
She said ICWA requires “active efforts” from states to keep indigenous families together, but South Dakota law is largely silent.
“There’s nothing in code that outlines ‘active efforts.’ All it says is that the state must have due regard to ICWA.”
The Department of Social Services was represented at the hearing by General Counsel Jeremy Lippert.
He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deliberating the constitutionality of ICWA and when its opinion comes out, the state might have to recalibrate.
“We may very well have a complex array of specific portions of the federal statute that stand or fall, to which the state’s courts, legislature, and agencies will have to respond.”
After witnesses testified, State Rep. Tim Reisch (R-SD) spoke in favor of the bill.
The former and longtime Secretary of Corrections said South Dakota’s prison population, both male and female, is disproportionately Native.
“I’m not convinced that passage of this bill is going to change anything in a huge way, but I think we’ve got to try everything we can.”
The committee approved the bill and it now goes to the full House.
Listen to live testimony on State House Bill 1229 until 12pm CT
It was a fast and furious finale for Team Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alberta.
As Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA reports, over the course of seven days, Alaska athletes amassed 145 medals – 58 gold, 44 silver, and 43 bronze – in the shape of the iconic curved knife of the North, the ulu.
Alaska was second in the overall standings, behind the Yukon Territories, which finished with 169 medals.
Two 18-year-old Alaska Natives were in a tie for racking up the most gold medals on Team Alaska.
Colton James Paul from Kipnuk and Parker Benjamin Kenick of Nome each won five medals.
Both competed in Arctic Sports, a competition that features Native games, traditionally used to sharpen survival skills.
Kenick says this was his first Arctic Winter Games, so he didn’t expect to do very well. But he says, the high level of international competition, plus encouragement from his competitors, inspired him to do his best.
“With old friends, new friends, an audience, it’ll lift you up — and you’ll typically break your own records, surprise yourself, put on a show for everybody and have fun all around. It’s nice to see everybody do their best and break their own records.”
Closing ceremonies were on Saturday.
The games will take place in Alaska next year.
The Yurok Tribe is sponsoring a day at the state Capitol on Tuesday to help reduce violence against Native Americans in California.
Tribal leaders, advocates, families, and state law makers are gathering in Sacramento for the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Day of Action.
They’ll address MMIP, including advocating for bills involving public safety and protections for foster youth.