Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
A bill to set up a task force to study Indian Child Welfare in South Dakota has been approved by the state House Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 191 provides for 17 representatives from tribes and state agencies to hold at least eight meetings before November 2024.
Their mission is to look for best practices in strengthening Native families so that children can remain in their homes.
Victoria Wicks has more.
State Sen. Red Dawn Foster (D-SD/Oglala Sioux and Navajo) told the House committee that Native people make up 12% of South Dakota’s population, but more than 60% of the children in custody of the state Department of Social Services.
She said the task force will try to figure out what underlies that inequity and how to fix it.
“Looking at and identifying root causes in where we can put the time [and] resources to address those so that the children don’t end up in DSS.”
She said one key step is to address poverty wherever the child lives.
“If a child is removed, that the adoptive families are receiving the support that they need to care for the children.”
Foster noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments on the constitutionality of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, and if that federal law is weakened, South Dakota needs to join several other states in developing laws to fill the gap.
State Rep. Rebecca Reimer (R-SD) questioned if poverty is the only factor in Native children’s welfare.
“I would think there would be multiple conditions or reasons if you would say that they would be removed.”
Foster said tribes face housing shortages, as well as drug and alcohol abuse and a high prison population, but much of it stems from poverty.
“So looking at all the contributing factors that come along with poverty—Natives are disproportionately affected by that.”
Reimer objected to the bill as having a goal larger than it would be able to meet, but ultimately she voted in favor of it.
Senate Bill 191 now goes to the House floor, and if it passes there, to the governor’s desk.
This week, Alaska leaders are in Washington D.C. to lobby for the Willow oil and gas development project, including a number of Alaska Native organizations, as Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA reports.
This comes as the Biden administration is poised to make a record of decision on the $8 billion prospect, that would be developed by ConocoPhillips in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska.
Nagruk Harcharek is president of the Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, which represents about two dozen North Slope organizations.
Harchareck says the Willow project is key to the region’s self-determination.
“So that we’re forging that path and we’re not having it forged for us, because without the development, without the economy, we’re relying on the state and federal government for what we can and cannot do.”
The Biden Administration has sent out mixed messages about Willow, with the Bureau of Land Management, signaling it would approve the project with limits on drilling, while the Interior Department has raised concerns about environmental and subsistence impacts.
Environmental groups have said it would escalate climate change, while Nuiqsut, the North Slope community closest to Willow, has raised objections.
There are worries the development would affect migrating caribou and cause health problems.
The Alaska Senate has passed a resolution in support of the Willow project. The House passed a similar measure.
Those resolutions will be presented to the Alaska Congressional Delegation in a show of support.
Full disclosure: ConocoPhillips is an underwriter of KNBA.
The Interior and Justice Departments announced Tuesday field hearings will begin this spring to implement the Not Invisible Act to address missing and murdered Indigenous people.
The Not Invisible Act Commission is developing recommendations.
Members of the commission include tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and survivors.
Public field hearings begin in April and will be held in Oklahoma and Alaska. They’ll continue through July, in Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, California, and Montana.
A virtual hearing will also be held later this summer.
Get National Native News delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up for our newsletter today.