OPED: The Battle Over Native American Kids Has More Colors to It Than the Wind

Alina Reynbakh / shutterstock.com
Alina Reynbakh / shutterstock.com

For years now, America has tangoed with a massive problem with what to do with orphans, foster programs, and adoptable Native American children. In 1978, the US enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act to tackle concerns about native kids being separated from their families to be placed in non-native homes. Given the cultural differences, this makes sense.

So when three white families, the state of Texas, and other states took the law to court, claiming that the law should be overturned, so white families could adopt Natives easily, it had quite a challenge ahead of it. With nearly ¾ of the 574 Federally recognized tribes on board, as well as two dozen state attorneys pressing the high court to support the 45-year-old law, they were victorious.

This isn’t an easy decision to make. Justice Brett Kavanaugh supported the idea of keeping Natives with Natives, even if in different tribes, and he wrote his own piece about the ruling. “In my view, the equal protection issue is serious,” he wrote while discussing how the race of prospective parents could play a massive factor, “even if the placement is otherwise determined to be in the child’s best interests.”

Given the past aggressions committed by Americans who ripped away Native babes from their parent’s clutches as lands were taken over (as was customary at the time), the reinforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act simply makes sense.

Surrounding the lifestyle of the Native Americans is their culture. A culture of prideful people who once covered most of this continent. Now their numbers are being reduced at an alarming rate, with many dying off in poverty and without the resources to live a full and happy life. Try as they might through casinos, smoke shops, and other resources, these tribes have watched it all wash away as their members are unable to keep up with the world around them.

That’s what makes the idea of placing children for Natives so difficult.

While the claims of racism have some validity in the idea of preventing non-Natives from adopting or caring for Native children, this isn’t discriminatory against the child or serving against their best interests. Sure, there is a case to be made for giving the child the best shot at life by providing them with the most financially stable and safe home possible. That makes sense on the surface.

However, in Native culture, there is much to say about the health of the spirit of a young child. A simple and easily manipulated thing, tribes worry about keeping them as pure and of the earth as possible. Even when a child and their guardians are from differing tribes, they keep much of the same beliefs and customs for rearing a child. A fellow Native will also understand the need to preserve traditions and the way of life in a manner non-Natives will never understand.

The racism side of the argument isn’t invalid either. To discriminate against a person or group for taking care of a child because they aren’t Native, yet they can provide an amazing shot at life cannot be ignored. The high rates of obesity, alcoholism, illiteracy, and poverty that perpetuate along the reservations cannot be ignored, and it isn’t a leg up in life for sure.

Weighing the option of allowing Native children to lose what little remains of their already dissolving history against giving them what could be their best shot at a successful life is not easy for anyone to do. This is a delicate issue, and unlike other races, the Natives have a stronger claim to their lost culture and for taking care of their own.

The decision to allow other Natives to have first attempts at taking in other Native children is just smart parenting. It can easily be the difference between knowing their roots and traditions firsthand and only learning the watered-down and whitewashed bs version of their history our schools offer.

If you ask me, I’ll take the real deal all day, every day, and twice on Sunday. Even if it means growing up in the struggle.