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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  • This is beyond heartbreaking. My granny was sent to one of those re-education schools.
    What can we do to stop this? Have the number of children being kidnapped increased since this pipeline crap has started? I honestly would not put it past the government to use the children to force allowing the pipeline thru.

    Posted by cyndy Tyler, 06/08/2013 1:36am (2 years ago)

  • Unbelievable that the clock has been turned back to a time before the civil rights movement when prejudice held sway. End the genocide!

    Posted by Janus Blume, 06/07/2013 9:10pm (2 years ago)

  • I was not aware that the state had any authority over Native Americans on the reservation. Is this happening off the reservation? Clearly the federal gov't has a voice in this matter.

    Posted by Jim Konst, 06/07/2013 8:47pm (2 years ago)

  • There are many people in the tribal communities who are drug and alcohol free. There is also dysfunction in the communities.

    Keep things in perspective. The Lakota were a functional society, culture and economy for 1000s of years. The People of the Seven Council Fires were a kinship system... and child rearing, education, government and all aspects of life were based on the kinship system. Spirituality and respect for nature and the web of life pervaded their lives.

    The invaders came and for 150 years have been issuing federal and state policies that shatter the kinship system, degrade and oppress the Lakota people, and create agonizing trauma and dysfunction.

    Their current condition is the result of cruel, selfish, ignorant and failed state and federal policies, and shocking, brutal racism towards them by white people.

    The taking of the children at the age of 5 to boarding schools exposed them to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional trauma and self degradation. They lost the experience of learning how to raise Lakota children from their own people.

    The food commodities provided to them in the apartheid reservation arrangement had no vegetables but coca cola, hershey bars, red nitrate filled hotdogs, and white flour....setting the stage for sugar habits, alcohol and diabetes.

    They were never allowed to use their land for collateral to start a business or do normal economic transactions. They were killed and imprisoned and beaten on the street by people who never went to jail for their crimes against the Indians.

    It is a testament to their incredible strength and hearts that they are still here. The solution is for all federal programs to go directly to the tribes, bypassing the state of South Dakota which is comparable only to Mississippi in its backward, illegal, thinking, behavior and racism.

    The Lakota are the poorest, most oppressed people in the United States. Leaders of the state of South Dakota openly call them animals and less than human. In the meantime, the state lives off of their children and their income. More than 50% of the state economy is federal money coming into the Department of Social Services, and most of that is supposed to be for Native people. In fact, it creates lots of white jobs and lots of brutality, oppression and trauma for the Lakota.

    If the federal programs and funding are directed to the tribes....cutting out the state scam.....the Lakota will begin to recover, raise their children and have a future.

    Many of the heartless slugs in the dominant culture like to run around calling themselves "Christians". THAT is preposterous.

    Posted by Holy Rage, 06/07/2013 3:32pm (2 years ago)

  • OH MY GOD! This is unconscionable! I am ashamed that this is happening in my country. What are we becoming? I shall send up prayer smoke in hopes that these atrocities cease and that all peoples can live in peace and safety.

    Posted by Sunbringer, 06/07/2013 12:02pm (2 years ago)

  • genocide if carried out in any other country is decried by everyone, how come the USA gets away with it in their own country?

    Posted by mel sewell, 06/07/2013 11:57am (2 years ago)

  • The United States does not stand apart from the other countries from ethnic cleansing. They practice this under the radar to our bothers and sisters who were here first before the white man/woman. It saddens me that still today the Native American Indians have to suffer from higher authoritarians and their ignorance towards families that deserve to live under their own ethnic religious beliefs. Not the historically wrong white man's cultures beliefs.

    Posted by Patricia Descafano RN, CLNC, 06/07/2013 11:15am (2 years ago)

  • What can we do? I am contacting my Senator and Representative immediately.

    Posted by Catherine Simmons, 06/07/2013 10:47am (2 years ago)

  • This atrocity must end - the SD Child welfare adminstration is drunk of the narcotic of refusing to recognize the human rights of all of its citizens and at the same time treats First Nation people as a commodity to be traded as merchandise without consideration of the consequences. I stand with my blood sisters and brothers against the tyranny of toxic power being rent upon them at this time.

    I know the Divine Mother and Father are marshaling a circle of celestial elders to hold each hand that has worked to destroy fracture and maim the family structure of First Nations people, will ea h suffer a karmanic event in their own sick twisted perverted life.

    Posted by Mata Elder Edalisiwe, 06/07/2013 10:44am (2 years ago)

  • wow america is reverting to back to 1800s america whats next trail of tear removing the lakota out of south dakota when will this rascism and bigotry conme to an end in america those human beings deserve to betreated with dignity and respect not treated like the cambodian people with the destruction of the khmer we go around the world fighting for others folks freedom and liberty yet the lakota souix and mexican americans and blacks have none

    Posted by bit tur, 06/07/2013 10:34am (2 years ago)

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