South Dakota commits shocking genocide against Native Americans


Genocide is not too strong a term for what is now happening in South Dakota. The huge, shocking violation of legal and human rights being carried out by the state is tantamount to genocide against the Native American nations, the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux, residing within its borders. It is the abduction and kidnapping by state officials, under the cover of law, of American Indian children.

This is a gross violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978. Further, these abominable kidnappings are being upheld by the courts of that state.

The best approach to this crime against humanity is by the following initial checklist:

1. Over 700 American Indian children are removed by South Dakota state officials from their homes every year.

2. These hundreds are sent to white foster homes or group homes.

3. Many are adopted by white families.

4. Indian children account for 13.8 percent of the state's child population, yet they represent 56.3 percent of the foster care population.

5. Of the hundreds of Native children in foster care in 2011, 87 percent were placed in non-Indian homes while Native foster homes went empty.

6. Because of its targeting Native children, South Dakota is currently removing children from their families at a higher rate than the vast majority of other states in the U.S.

7. Once removed, the state's courts routinely keep Indian children from even seeing their families for at least 60 days.

8. The state's Department of Social Services (DSS) workers warn Native children that if they become emotional during a visit with their parents, the visits will be discontinued (this is incredible!).                   

This is genocide as defined by the United Nations General Assembly's Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This Convention (Article 2) defines genocide as follows :

"... any of the following acts commit with intent  to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

South Dakota is committing blatant and flagrant genocide against the Sioux people in violation of subsection (e) of Article 2 by transferring Indian children to white homes, and also of subsection (b) amid allegations of sexual abuse and drugging of Native children in DSS foster care. Those responsible need to be brought to justice in an international court of law in addition to the lawsuit already filed in U.S courts (see below). This is a most serious case of ethnic cleansing.

One Indian mother had 62 hearings and was never allowed to present any witness testimony, never even allowed to see the petition filed against her.  This is a huge violation of long established U.S. due process. Also, the Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that Native children shall first be placed with tribal relatives, non-related tribal members, or members of other tribes before non-Indian families can be considered.

South Dakota has taken a step back into the late 19th century, when thousands of Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes by U.S. soldiers and sent to boarding schools - allegedly for education, where the motto was "Kill the Indian, Save the Man." In some of these schools the motto was more akin to simply "Kill the Indian."

This journalist has heard numerous accounts from families across Indian Country who had lost at least one child to the boarding school system in the 19th century. They were told that their child or children had run away from the school and could not be found. In other cases they were informed that their child had died from illness.

For the Lakota people this has been a continuation of a 100-year history of child abduction. This began in the 1880s under the U.S. government policy of forced assimilation (genocide); children as young as 5 years old were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to boarding schools hundreds of miles away. Now it is happening again, this time under the mask of state-run foster care. Over the past decade over 5,000 Sioux children have been removed from their homes. According to a recent report by the Indian Child Welfare Act directors in South Dakota, 740 Lakota children are removed to foster care each year and 90 percent are placed in white homes and institutions.

A vigorous campaign is currently being waged by the Lakota People's Law Project to secure the return of over 2,200 Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children illegally taken from their homes by DSS.

Among the results of the LPLP efforts was the recent Great Plains Indian Child Welfare Act Summit held May 15-17 in Rapid City, South Dakota. The summit was held in an atmosphere that has been characterized by the Oglala Sioux Tribe as a "child welfare emergency."

The summit also had as a backdrop a federal class action lawsuit that was filed on March 21 by the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and tribal members, challenging the continued removal of Native children in Pennington County, South Dakota, from their homes.

South Dakota DSS has asserted that it had authority to remove children by tribal court order or tribal council agreement. The states have no authority over such youngsters; the tribes have exclusive jurisdiction over Indian children residing on reservations.

However, investigations by LPLP found that South Dakota's assertions are blatantly false.

Typically, DSS would receive a false report of child neglect on a given reservation and without any legal authority would snatch the child in question without any notification to the child's relatives. In one such instance DSS abducted a young boy when he left his relatives to use the restroom while family members were attending a high school graduation ceremony. It was weeks before his family found where he had been taken.

Aside from the genocidal racism involved there is a financial motive on the part of the state. South Dakota receives $79,000 from the federal government per year per child for every Native youngster it removes, but provides only $9,000 to a white foster home. The remaining $70,000 is deposited in state coffers.

The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and other Natives feel that the ICWA lawsuit is for greater fairness for all families, regardless of race, including whites. But, it must be remembered that white youngsters are not being sent to non-white homes; for whites, genocide is obviously not an issue. The humanity of Indian people, particularly in the face of the racism they have endured is truly poignant and moving. This becomes a movement not just for Indian people, but for all, led by long-suffering, grieving Native families.

Update: The Lakota People's Law Project website has petitions that people can sign and also a place to sign up to receive updates on developments as they happen.

Photo: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation child. Pamela Cook, Flickr, CC BY NC SA 2.0


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  • Yet another treaty broken . Demand Equality and Human Rights now.

    Posted by Red, Black & Queer, 06/11/2013 11:29am (2 years ago)

  • This has got to stop! It's not bad enough that we were part of the invasion of this country. And then, as decades pass, pride ourselves on human rights? Nothing has changed. We haven't grown up at all! Why is this allowed to continue?!

    Posted by Amy Beale, 06/11/2013 11:18am (2 years ago)

  • This is appalling, but Americans are too busy caring about other things than to care about American Indian children, or South Dakota. Most people wouldn't believe this practice is occurring because it's unchristian, but actually it's exactly what christian missionaries do overseas in Africa and South American - take the children of the indigenous people and shuffle them off to good while christian families, in order than they be indoctrinated. No wonder the media is ignoring this offensive practice.

    Posted by MaryJane Rissberger, 06/11/2013 10:57am (2 years ago)

  • I am appalled. How dare these hypocrites deem that their way is better than the way and traditions of the Native Americans. The pure arrogance of their actions sickens me.

    Our Native American brethren have suffered greatly since the first Caucasians set foot on the America's soil. This history does not need to be retold here, we all know it. But they have endured. And in the end, when the white man and the black man are facing extinction; unable to cloth, house and feed themselves, the Native Americans will still endure because they will pass along the "old" ways and traditions.

    Sadly there are many children born of Native American and Caucasian alliances, who may never have had the opportunity to learn the old ways. I am a fourth generation grandchild of a Choctaw princess. We have very little information about our ancestor, but we are very proud of her and our connection to her. But my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts & uncles have never had the chance to share or learn the customs of her people.

    In the end... the Indian will have the last laugh. Considering how they were treated the first time around, when they taught the white settlers how to survive, I seriously doubt that they will repeat that mistake again.

    Posted by Carla Padgett-Morris, 06/11/2013 10:46am (2 years ago)

  • This is horrific and must stop. The Mormon "church" is heavily involved in this genocide in Utah, Nevada envirens.

    Posted by Ron Gilbertson, 06/11/2013 9:35am (2 years ago)

  • This is horrible yet not surprising. The injustice against people of color has been systematically set up up in complex ways that will blow your mind, if you do research. This have been going on for years. African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians have been racially down played in many ways in society; and I wouldn't say the government is the culprit. Furthermore, it's certain politicians within the government that have made it an agenda to wipe out the culture, identity or rights of people that are different from them.

    Posted by travi, 06/11/2013 6:32am (2 years ago)

  • DDS, CPS, DHR...whatever letters each state chooses -
    Have far too much unregulated power! It is wrong. The
    workers often make decisions based on their own biasrs
    without any regard to the emotional consequences to the children and family members involved. It's hard to believe until
    it happens to you or someone you know. All of us are
    at risk. Something has to stop!

    Posted by janese Carrigan , 06/11/2013 6:15am (2 years ago)

  • We should not judge other countries about human right issues if we are behaving badly in South Dakota!

    Posted by Nora Choi, 06/11/2013 3:30am (2 years ago)

  • State of S. Dakota better look out...gonna see the tables turned on these "officials " and its not going to be pretty. GIVE BACK THOSE CHILDREN!

    Posted by Lynda Duke, 06/11/2013 2:33am (2 years ago)

  • And these children are just being removed from homes without legitimage legal cause? Why are these state officials not facing hundreds of loaded guns when they come to these communities? Something here doesn't jive.

    Posted by R, 06/11/2013 1:44am (2 years ago)

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