Protect the Sacred

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Loss and Connection (film)





Sofie and Cris worked together to making this film which tells Sofie’s story of being adopted as a baby from her Aboriginal family. Sofie shares how she is crafting connection and breaking the silence of Loss and Grief.

Our group consists of members who have diverse experiences, including people adopted at birth, or after institutionalisation or foster care; people who knew they were adopted from an early age and others who were ‘late discoverers’.
 


The founders of the group are from the ‘Forced Adoption’ era, and cover a broad range of life experiences.

Last week I did a radio interview with Fiona from ACH, about making the film.  My interview starts at 11.20mins.  And Ross Womersley from SACOSS spoke about it after some music at 32.29mins.
https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/program-guide/listen-online/?sh=small-change&d=201702141800&q=h


Elders Can Experience Domestic Violence #ViolenceAwarenessMonth

 


StrongHearts Native Helpline:  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month


Native American Elders

A Native American is usually considered an elder when they are above the age of 60 to 65, although it varies from tribe to tribe.

In our Native communities, we are taught to respect our elders. We honor them at ceremony, community gatherings, and pow wows. Their presence is considered to be an honor. We depend on them for wisdom and guidance gleaned from their years of experience. They are invaluable to us. Yet, they can still be victims of domestic violence.

Abuse can happen to anyone. It is not limited to a specific age, class, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Abuse can happen in relationships where couples are married, living together, dating or have children together. Violent behavior can appear at any time in a relationship, though possessive, controlling and other alarming behavior often reveals itself as the relationship becomes more serious.

Domestic violence happens when an intimate partner uses a repetitive pattern of abuse to maintain power and control over their partner. The abuse can physically harm, intimidate, prevent a person from acting freely, or force them to behave in ways they do not want.

Types of Abuse

What can domestic violence look like in elder relationships? Domestic violence can look similar in elder relationships as it does in their younger counterparts, but some elders may be more vulnerable to the impacts of abuse and less able to get support. 

      Physical abuse includes inflicting physical pain or injury upon the victim like pushing, holding or pinching. It can also include prohibiting one to get medical help, withholding medicine, or not allowing one time to heal after illness or surgery. 

      Emotional abuse includes verbal assaults, threats of abuse, and intimidation. It also includes isolation, where the abusive partner will not let the victim visit with their relatives. Isolation can be particularly harmful to elders as they may already have limited mobility or relationships.   

      Gaslighting is also a form of emotional abuse. This can occur when the abusive partner blames the victim for their behavior in such a way that the victim begins to question their own version of events or reality. In this situation, it can be very difficult for the victim to recognize that abuse is happening. 

      Spiritual and cultural abuse happens when the abusive partners uses hurtful stereotypes to criticize the victim, uses tribal membership against them, won’t allow them to participate in traditions, or restricts them from honoring their beliefs.

      Sexual abuse includes grabbing and hurting the sexual parts of the victim’s body, pressuring the victim for sex and becoming angry or violent when refused sex.

      Financial abuse happens when an abusive partner keeps money, accounts or financial information hidden from the victim. The abusive partner may also give an allowance to the victim or keep the victim’s social security or per capita checks. They may also use gaslighting as a tactic of control here. They may say things like, “I’ve always controlled the money.” or “You aren’t good with money.”; or “You have everything you need, don’t you?”

      Digital abuse happens when the abusive partner takes away phones, iPads, or computers in a bid to control who the victim can contact. 

A Stay Together Era

Elders can be more traditional. They came of age when families stayed together even during abuse. Some elders have endured a lifetime of domestic violence. To understand why elder-survivors of domestic violence stay, consider the following.

      Love: They have a long history of loving their partner and believe the abuse will someday end.

      Family: They want to maintain harmony within the family.

      Normalization: Elders may feel they have lived through the violence their whole life and there is no need or way to change it now. 

      Community: They fear having to leave the community in order to escape the abuse or are embarrassed about what other members of the community would think about the abuse.

      Manipulation and Low Self-Esteem: They blame themselves for the abuse, or feel hopeless. 

      No Money/Resources: They don’t have the resources to leave their situation, or feel a responsibility to financially support their abusive partner.

      Denial/Shame: Denial or shame happens when a survivor is embarrassed and wants to protect themselves, their children and/or families from being associated with the stigma of abuse.

Help is Available

At StrongHearts Native Helpline, we know that Native American elders are humble and it can be difficult for them to ask for help. Native Americans and Alaska Natives experience domestic violence at higher rates than any other ethnic group and that elders still suffer intimate partner violence.

 Domestic violence and dating violence are not Native American traditions, and neither is ever okay. 

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a free, culturally-appropriate, and anonymous helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives impacted by domestic violence and dating violence. We acknowledge and support all victims regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or relationship status. If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, help is available.

Contact StrongHearts at 1-844-7NATIVE or click on the Chat Now icon to connect one-on-one with and advocate daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. As a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, after-hour callers can connect with The Hotline by choosing option one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

BIA to review Sisseton Wahpeton Child Protection Program

J.T. Fey  | Watertown Public Opinion

Lorraine Rousseau still has concerns.

Myrna Thompson, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate secretary, said in a news release issued by the tribe Friday that protection of tribal children is a duty that’s taken very seriously.

“We are consistent in our efforts to support the Child Protection Program in their mission to protect children, and to reunify and strengthen families. I can assure you that we have been revising our policies and procedures, and updating Chapter 38 — Juvenile Code, to ensure that it is still relevant and effective to meet our community needs,” she said in the release.

That is on the heels of a late August protest in Sisseton during which Rousseau and others expressed concerns about what they see as inconsistent procedures for cases in which children are removed from parental custody.

Rousseau is one of the leaders of the grassroots citizens group that organized the protest, accused the Child Protection Program of mismanagement and is calling for changes to the staff. She said she directed the program for more than seven years before being fired over a dispute in her job description.

Earlier:Sisseton Wahpeton protestors demand changes to tribe's Child Protection Program

Tribal officials heard the group’s complaints during a council meeting, according to the release, and there have since been more meetings to determine the validity of the concerns, according to the statement.

“I would know the proper protocol. I would know how to correct the problems that are there,” said Rousseau, who added that she recently spoke with Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Attorney Kimberley Craven. “She asked me what my proposed solutions would be, and I said the program manager needs to be terminated. I asked her (Craven), ‘How are you going to shape up the program when the program manager doesn’t have the requisite experience to run this type of program?’”

In the release, Thompson said tribal executives have requested that the Bureau of Indian Affairs conduct an updated review.

“The program review began on September 23 and is currently in progress,” Thompson said. “All components of the CPP will be reviewed, including case files to ensure all documentation is done according to the Code of Federal Regulations and all policies and procedures are complied with.”

Rousseau said if the Bureau of Indian Affairs reviews only case files it won’t understand the problem.

“That isn’t going to tell them anything about the underlying reasons why the complaints have been filed,” she said.

“We feel the workers are putting our children in jeopardy because they (Child Protection Program staff members) don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not social workers. They don’t have the necessary qualifications nor do they have the necessary experience,” Rousseau said.

Tribal officials said they are in the process of hiring an Indian Child Welfare Act attorney to ensure that all ICWA cases are handled “efficiently and effectively,” according to the release.

Rousseau said she doesn’t get involved in political practices but added, “I’m involved in this because of our children and how our Child Protection is not protecting them. As a matter of fact, they’re putting them in situations where they can be harmed.”

Rousseau said her organization will meet later this week and will decide how to respond to the statement from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate executive offices.


Cree adoptee Buffy Sainte-Marie: What We Have to Thank Her For

 

Another significant interest—her roots—was less accessible. She knew she was Cree and that her adoptive mother was part Mi’kmaq, but she was also aware that Winifred had never had the chance to learn about that side of her ancestry. In their city, the most prominent Native face was the scowling Wakefield Warrior, a local high-school mascot. Sainte-Marie knew there was more to her culture than the racist caricature glaring at her during sports games. If no one in Wakefield could teach her about it, she’d find someone who could. (Celebrities, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, reveal the great Canadians who inspired them.)

GOOD READ: Buffy Sainte-Marie: What We Have to Thank Her For

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tens of thousands of adoptees live in fear of deportation

LINK https://www.nbcwashington.com/local/adoptee-says-learning-she-isnt-us-citizen-was-like-trauma-car-crash_washington-dc/2094/

 

The News4 I-Team found tens of thousands of people who were brought to the United States when they were adopted later learned they aren’t U.S. citizens.

Imagine growing up in the United States, with American parents, only to find out decades later that you're not an American citizen. The News4 I-Team found it's happened to tens of thousands of people.

"It's frustrating and it's devastating," said Joy Kim-Alessi who, at age 25, found out she wasn't an American citizen when she applied for a passport.

Her American parents, who brought her to the U.S. as a 7-month-old baby, failed to fill out the right form, even though her adoption was legal.

"It's hard to wrap your head around that," she said. "To live your entire life believing just concrete truths about who you are ... all of that means I don't have an identity."

Kim-Alessi is in the U.S. legally, with a green card, but she's been fighting for 27 years for her citizenship. Now she's also fighting on behalf of others, like a Virginia man who asked the I-Team only to identify him as "Tom."

WATCH AND READ: Tens of Thousands of Adoptees Learn They Aren’t US Citizens, Even After Decades Living Here – NBC4 Washington

 

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Indigenous Peoples’ Day | History vs. Christopher Columbus

Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been touted as a replacement for Columbus Day for decades, but the movement never got much traction on a nationwide scale. Now, however, with increased awareness of colonizers’ atrocities against Native American and indigenous people of what eventually became the United States, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has seen a groundbreaking amount of support. Here’s what you need to know about Indigenous Peoples’ Day and why it’s so important—and why many feel that the man credited with discovering America may well deserve to be stripped of his celebratory day.



Columbus’ true history, added to the fact that Italian Americans are no longer marginalized—but native and indigenous peoples are—it’s no wonder why many are seeking to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.



via

Monday, September 21, 2020

1,6000 Orphanages Insitutions = Big Money

Millions of American children were placed in orphanages. Some didn’t make it out alive.
It’s likely that more than 5 million Americans passed through orphanages in the 20th century alone. At its peak in the 1930s, the American orphanage system included more than 1,600 institutions, partly supported with public funding but usually run by religious orders, including the Catholic Church.
Outside the United States, the orphanage system and the wreckage it produced has undergone substantial official scrutiny over the last two decades. In Canada, the UK, Germany, Ireland, and Australia, multiple formal government inquiries have subpoenaed records, taken witness testimony, and found, time and again, that children consigned to orphanages — in many cases, Catholic orphanages — were victims of severe abuse.

BIG READ: Nuns Killed Children, Say Former Residents Of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage
**

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Plan To Train Child Welfare Workers on American Indian Rights

 

Farrah Mina interviews the women developing Minnesota's new effort to train all child welfare workers on American Indian rights in the system.

Less than 2% of Minnesota’s population is Native American, according to Census data. But the most recent federal child welfare data shows more than one-third of children in the state’s foster care system were identified as being at least part American Indian in 2019. The state dwarfs all others in terms of disproportionality when it comes to involving Native families in child welfare cases. 

GREAT NEWS: A Plan To Train Child Welfare Workers on American Indian Rights

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Washington Supreme Court says Indian Child Welfare Act should be more broadly applied

source

A Washington Supreme Court decision saying the Indian Child Welfare Act should be more broadly applied is being called a big win for Native American rights.

Congress passed the Act in 1978. Washington state has its own version as well, called the Washington Indian Child Welfare Act. What the welfare acts do is require that tribes be notified and allowed to intercede in child custody or loss of parental rights cases if the family has any tribal relationships.

The unanimous opinion was written by Washington’s first Native American justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, who cited the long history of Native American children being taken from their communities.

The case before the court involved the removal of two toddlers from their Kent home in June 2018. Police cited "neglect and unsanitary conditions" as the reason for placing them in protective custody. During the hearing to see if they would be returned to their parents pending review of the case, both parents mentioned they had tribal heritage. The mother indicated she had a grandmother who was a Tlingit-Haida and the father said he had connections to the Umatilla band in Oregon. 

But the judge determined there was not enough evidence presented of those connections and decided the Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply. King County Public Defender Tara Urs says not applying the act at that point was harmful, as the children ended up being placed in foster care.

“It actually made a difference in the lives of these children, the failure to apply the law,” Urs said.

Eventually, the 2-year-old and 21-month-old did go live with a Tlingit-Haida relative in Alaska. 

In overturning the lower court, the state Supreme Court said the Child Welfare Act should have been applied early on in the case, saying the bar for applying it needs to be very low when determining a family’s relationship to a tribe. Justice Raquel  Montoya-Lewis began the opinion by harking back to the past. She wrote:

"In Native American communities across the country, many families tell stories of family members they have lost to the systems of child welfare, adoption, boarding schools, and other institutions that separated Native children from their families and tribes. This history is a living part of tribal communities, with scars that stretch from the earliest days of this country to its most recent ones."

This history is a living part of tribal communities, with scars that stretch from the earliest days of this country to its most recent ones.

In her conclusion, Montoya-Lewis wrote:

“Decisions to remove children from the care of their parents are some of the most consequential decisions judicial officers make. When those decisions impact a Native American tribe, those decisions reach beyond the individual family, affecting the continuation of a culture. We recognize that our rulings addressing dependency cases have far-reaching effects on children, their parents, the out-of-home placements in which dependent children reside, and the manner in which courts and judicial officers manage these complex cases. But, as the United States Supreme Court stated recently, ‘[T]he magnitude of a legal wrong is no reason to perpetuate it.’”

Decisions to remove children from the care of their parents are some of the most consequential decisions judicial officers make. When those decisions impact a Native American tribe, those decisions reach beyond the individual family, affecting the continuation of a culture.

Tara Urs, who argued that the trial court and Court of Appeals’ decision should be overturned by the Supreme Court, was pleased by the ruling. Not only did she prevail, she said, but the framing of the opinion by Montoya-Lewis made it “one of the most persuasive cases of judicial writing I’ve ever read.”

For too long, Urs said, the spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act has been ignored by the courts. As recently as 2015, American Indian and Alaskan Native children in Washington were represented in foster care at a rate 3.6 times greater than in the general child population.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Transmitting PTSD

Childhood Trauma…

The role of childhood trauma was also examined in this group. The adult children of Holocaust survivors reported high levels of childhood trauma, particularly emotional abuse and neglect.17
Their cortisol levels were lower than in those without a history of emotional abuse.
It was also found that traumatized parents are more likely to express improper (abusive or neglecting) behavior toward their offspring during a critical developmental window, and that such behavior may have long-lived effects on cortisol regulation in the offspring.18
Hence, the experience of childhood trauma could be a key factor in the biological transmission of PTSD vulnerability from parent to child.19

READ: Transmitting PTSD From Generation to Generation – The Art of Healing Trauma

Monday, September 14, 2020

Strangers in Their Own Land


As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9 percent alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1 percent of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Source: DNA Tests Make Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land | The Nation

Friday, September 11, 2020

Taking Children - Public Seminar/ Laura Briggs

Chapter 2 investigates the taking of Native children, beginning in the closing decade of the Indian Wars, designed to quiet further revolt. Child taking continued through the emergence of movements for sovereignty and against tribal termination in the middle of the twentieth century. Again, states responded with an aggressive discourse about welfare and illegitimacy, resulting in removal of one in three Native kids from their homes. In response, from 1969 to 1978, tribal councils, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and Native newspapers, newsletters, and radio shows began a campaign for an Indian Child Welfare Act, calling the taking of children the latest episode in centuries of settler colonialism — and they won.

READ Excerp from Taking Children: A History of American Terror by Laura Briggs, published by the University of California Press. © 2020.

Source: Taking Children - Public Seminar

Thursday, September 10, 2020

“I Need Angels” is a song for hope on September 10th — World Suicide Prevention Day



GUEST POST by Adrian Sutherland (Attawapiskat First Nation)

It was four years ago. I had just gotten back from my month-long annual spring hunt out on the land, during which time I had no contact with the outside world. Upon returning, the first news I heard was that there had been a stream of suicide attempts in my community of Attawapiskat, an isolated Cree village on the coast of the James Bay in Ontario. Everyone was talking about it, and media across the country were covering what was being referred to as a “suicide crisis” in Canada’s north.

I was shocked. Like many others, I just couldn’t understand what had happened. Why were these kids — they were kids, all of them — suddenly trying to take their own lives? It was devastating and it really bothered me. I didn’t know what to do, or how to help.

I recall talking to others, trying to learn about the issue. It was extremely difficult trying to pry information from frontline workers due to the sensitive nature and confidentiality of patients and clients, but one professional did confess there over 30 attempts in the span of one month. Thirty attempts! That’s equal to one attempt per day! That was a truly startling number.

No one has the answers or knows how to deal directly with social issues, especially when it comes to remote places across Turtle Island. Quite often the issues are complex and deep-rooted, stemming from intergenerational trauma that is not easy to heal. A lot of the social challenges quite largely get ignored because people simply don’t know where to start. This is especially true in Canada’s northern Indigenous communities where adequate social and mental health resources are seriously lacking. I also know these same social issues have impacted too many of our relatives in Indigenous communities throughout the U.S.

Even though I didn’t know what to do, I knew I had to do something. Being a musician and songwriter, the only way I could think of to try and help was to use my craft. So I wrote a song called “I Need Angels.” It tackles the topic of depression and suicide, while instilling hope with messaging about not giving up.

We chose “I Need Angels” for Midnight Shine’s debut music video, and a small video crew from Vancouver and Winnipeg travelled to Attawapiskat to shoot it. Being able to make this video in my community meant a lot to me, but I’m not going to lie — it has also taken a toll on my own mental health. I have to contend with my own challenges, because like most families in the north, we’re struggling, too. But I find it’s important and helpful for me to debrief and talk about what I’m feeling, and how all this affects me.

To be honest, I was reluctant to move forward with recording “I Need Angels,” because I felt it was a topic most people were not ready to talk about – especially people who have lost loved ones to suicide. But I’m glad I chose to move ahead with recording it, and including it on our third album, High Road, which was released in 2018.

With the release of the “I Need Angels” in November 2018, and a lot of media interest in the story behind the video, I have had to talk about it many more times than I wanted to. Talking about it and thinking about it so intensely for several months was tough, and often draining. There are times I wondered if I made the right choice to write this song and make this video, taking on such a difficult and sensitive topic.

And then at other times I will receive an email or social media message from someone who has heard the song, or watched the video, and they wanted to write and say thank you. They want to let me know the song brings them hope, or has helped them or their loved ones in some way. At these times, it feels like the right choice, and it makes me proud to know that my music does make a difference.


(Adrian Sutherland is a singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist and the frontman and founder of roots-rockers Midnight Shine, making meaningful music with important messages that resonate across Canada and beyond. “I Need Angels” is approaching nearly 100,000 YouTube views. 


Find out more about Adrian and Midnight Shine at https://midnightshineonline.com/.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A Bridge of Repair

As Americans tussle with the idea of financial and institutional reparations, insight can be gained from other movements that have sought to redress historic injustices. One such injustice was the removal of more than 200,000 skeletons, millions of grave goods, and thousands of sacred objects—stolen from Native Americans.

GOOD READ: A bridge of repair for Native and Black America

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Enforcing A Racial Order

 

Enforcing A Racial Order

Nick Estes, a professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico and author of the book “Our History Is The Future,” remembers listening to the police scanner earlier this summer when the gun-toting militia group New Mexico Civil Guard turned up to harass and attack anti-racist protesters in Albuquerque. 
He said cops could be heard on the scanner referring to this group of vigilantes — founded by a neo-Nazi —  as “heavily armed friendlies.”
A short time later, one of those “friendlies” shot and badly injured an anti-racist protester. 
Estes argues it’s important to remember the history of white vigilantism in the U.S. in order to understand how these fascist groups operate in our society today, and how they’ve often proven an eager partner with law enforcement. 

“The Second Amendment was created specifically to arm white settlers against runaway slaves, enslaved African people, as well as to kill native people on the frontier,” Estes said. 

Fast forward to the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, Estes said, and you see the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, a white vigilante group that used the Second Amendment to terrorize Black Americans. Decades later, during the Jim Crow era, armed citizens often attacked Black Americans in Sundown Towns — referring to all-white municipalities or neighborhoods across the country — with little to no recourse from law enforcement.

And look at the violence in “border towns” — white majority settlements ringing Native American reservations — where white vigilantes have maimed and murdered Indigenous peoples for generations. Law enforcement has often looked the other way.

“These white vigilantes today don’t misinterpret history,” Estes said. “They’re actually upholding the kind of the original intent of the Second Amendment.”

What’s happening now, he added, is “an intensification of that kind of citizen policing” in response to a growing tide of Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist organizing. 

READ: White Vigilantes Have Always Had A Friend In Police | HuffPost

Our earlier post on the history of the SECOND AMENDMENT :  
Slave patrols, several scholars have traced the genealogy of slave patrols into modern police forces so we still see the controlling of especially young black men by police forces. It’s not just history; it has led up to the exact kind of situation, both militaristic and institutionally violent society that we have now.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Cherokee Tribe sues

Tribe sues Trump HHS for tampering with ICWA on data in foster care cases

  • The Cherokee Nation is among a group that filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration for Children and Families Thursday, in a federal district court in California, regarding data collected on children in foster care.
“The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System is used by HHS to track foster children through foster care,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill in the tribe’s Rules committee meeting on August 27, 2020. “For decades, HHS did not track any statistics that relate to the Indian Child Welfare Act with Indian children. So if children were placed in non-ICWA compliant placements in the state, the proportion of children in foster care in the United States – none of that data was being tracked by HHS.”
In 2016, HHS changed it rules to mandate reporting of how child welfare agencies track American Indian children and included data related to the ICWA. The rule also required reporting the voluntary disclosure of the sexual orientation of foster youth ages 14 and older, and of foster and adoptive parents and legal guardians.
The plaintiffs argue President Donald Trump’s administration and the ACF violated the Administrative Procedure Act by revoking the 2016 rule. The group believes the data would assist welfare agencies and organizations serving foster children, and avoid bad outcomes for children and youth.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Lawsuit seeks more protections | Newsy Video on #ICWA and AFCARS



A lawsuit filed in federal court aims to stop the rollback of rules that monitor American Indian and Alaska Native children foster care.

"I was 12 years-old and there was reoccurring abuse in my house, as well as neglect that resulted in us being taken away," said 22-year-old Natilia Edwards of Anchorage, Alaska.
Edwards and her four sisters, all Alaskan Natives, were placed in foster care outside of their tribal community.

"So, I was in care for a total of seven years and then I was in a total of 14 different placements," said Edwards.

But a change in the way the federal government protects and tracks kids like Natilia and her sisters is worrying some. And there are special reasons why.

Despite making up just 1% of the U.S. juvenile population, American Indian/Alaska Native are disproportionately represented in the foster care system. They make up  2.6% of kids in foster care, according to the most recent government data.

"The institutional racism, some of the bias and also just some of the staff who are working with Native children and families, not having the kind of the relationships you need to have with tribal communities, it leads to children being removed in numbers that are much higher than they should be," said David Simmons, Government Affairs and Advocacy Director at National Indian Child Welfare Association.

For centuries, American Indian children were forcibly taken from their families and tribes; often placed in boarding schools and adopted by white families without consent.
In 1978 Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. It requires, in part, that states first identify family or tribal members who can take a child before placing them in a home outside of the tribal community. And they had to continue to keep track of Native children in their systems. However, that hasn't always happened.
"There has never been data, federally mandated data collected on all elements of the Indian Child Welfare Act," said Professor Kate Fort of the University of Michigan Law School. "So we actually don't have nationwide data at all on ICWA."
So, in 2016, the Obama administration worked to change that. It required states to use the federal, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, or AFCARS, to expand the amount of information states gather about American Indian and Alaska Native children.

This summer, the Trump Administration rolled back that expansion. States no longer needed to gather all the additional data related to American Indian and Alaskan Native children. Also, they will no longer collect information related to youth who identify as LGBTQ+.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, its "streamlined" version came after some states described the data collection as overly burdensome. The administration also said it would be too costly.

A lawsuit filed today in federal court aims to stop the rollback and maintain the 2016 data collection.
"The effect of this rollback, it's going to be to keep these issues in the dark, to keep up, to keep LGBTQ plus children and American Indian and Alaska native children essentially in the shadows so that we're not collecting data on them and thus not doing all that we can to address the problems," said Senior Attorney Jeffrey Dubner of Democracy Forward.

Supporters say it’s all to ensure every effort is made to keep American Indian and Native American foster children protected and connected to their tribes and culture. Something Natalia wishes she would have experienced.

"I mean, how cool could it be, you know. I wouldn't have to have all these thoughts and these wonders," said Edwards. "I would really know and be so secure within my culture, my sense of community."

**

Lawsuit Challenging the Administration’s Withdrawal of the 2016 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

by Kate Fort

Here is the Complaint. Plaintiffs include California Tribal Family Coalition, Cherokee Nation, and Yurok Tribe along with a number of LGBTQ+ organizations. 
Similarly, Defendants eliminated most questions related to how child welfare agencies treat children to whom ICWA applies. Although ACF had in 2016 found these questions essential to guide its allocation of resources to help AI/AN youth, Defendants abandoned them without any discussion of the value of the information being lost for AI/AN youth and the tribes seeking to protect them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mental Health Effects of Historical Trauma



From StrongHearts Native Helpline

The outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year left many mental health professionals concerned that stay-at-home orders and other safety measures designed to protect citizens from the pandemic could cause an increase in mental health issues. Unfortunately, mental health disorders and access to mental health care has been an ongoing struggle for Native Americans. With the additional mental drain resulting from the virus’ spread, it’s important now more than ever to support our relatives by understanding mental health and how it disproportionately impacts our communities.
Education
The first step in supporting people who struggle with their mental health is to educate yourself on how mental health disorders develop and how their development can impact every facet of a person’s life. Experts are not entirely sure what can cause mental health disorders. However, the consensus is that a mixture of genetics, environmental factors, and traumas like war, intimate partner violence, or child sexual abuse can result in lifelong mental health struggles. Native American communities specifically have to contend with historical trauma, which is defined as cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over one’s lifetime and from generation to generation following the loss of lives, land, and vital aspects of culture. According to Mental Health America, over 21% of Native Americans had a diagnosable mental health disorder in the past year, totaling over 830,000.
Effects
The effects of these mental health disorders can be devastating to individuals and the Native American community as a whole. Having a serious mental health disorder can reduce an individual's life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, as depression and high levels of psychological stress may result in increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, and even an increased risk of cancer. Difficulty regulating emotional health can also destroy a person’s ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life, including maintaining friendships and supporting a family.
Impact
The impact of fractured familial bonds on our communities has been and continues to be significant. For decades, our children were removed from their homes and stolen from their families to be re-educated at boarding schools. At these schools, many children were victims of institutional abuse, including regular beatings, sexual abuse, and punishment for practicing any kind of activities that contributed to the survival of their own culture. This complete disruption of Native American family life and culture fostered the same kind of historical trauma that mass violence and persecution caused earlier generations. The separation of children from their families and their culture has lasting effects on the mental health of Native Americans to this day.
Resources
Now in this time of national crisis, these mental health struggles are even more important to highlight. Everyone – including our peoples – should be especially mindful of how the stresses of the pandemic could affect their mental well-being and the well-being of their communities.
These resources are available for anyone struggling with their mental health:(click links)
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1-800-273-8255.
StrongHearts is a safe, anonymous and confidential domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline that offers culturally-appropriate support and advocacy for American Indians and Alaska Natives. If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic, dating or sexual violence or if you have questions about your behavior, help is available. 

For one-on-one advocacy, click on the Chat Now icon at https://www.strongheartshelpline.org/ or call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483). Advocates are available daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.

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