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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  • Doing evil is a mirror on the evil doers.

    Posted by Ned Rollins, 06/07/2013 9:14am (2 years ago)

  • There was a conference between the state, ICWA and Tribes held in Rapid City SD with all 9 tribes of the state of SD the State of South Dakota did not show up their excuse they used was, we were not invited. Instead they sent the XL Pipeline speakers, so all the Tribes got up and left. How disrespectul the state of SD showed our Native people. The Govenor of South Dakota was responsible for the disrespect and not making anyone from the state of sd come to the conference. Living here in south dakota is like the deep south for the blacks prior to the uprising of 1060s. I have personally left the state and lived in Europe on the East Coast and spent 30 years in Alaska. In 2005 I returned to south dakota to be closer to my family. I realize now, nothing has changed in the state, the indians are treated like second class and they are taken advantage of economically, it is so terrible.

    Posted by Marcella Dion, 06/07/2013 7:04am (2 years ago)

  • This is unconscionable. And not very nice either.. Feel for the Families involved.

    Posted by MelHaun Sr, 06/07/2013 5:17am (2 years ago)

  • Enough is enough.

    Posted by Apache Mystic, 06/07/2013 3:35am (2 years ago)

  • Child welfare has never just been about the welfare of the child. There has long been a movement to curb the populations of undesirable classes of people whether they are poor and white, uneducated, disabled, or people of color including Native Americans, blacks, Hispanics, etc. I am intolerant of public welfare policies that target, dehumanize and essentially attempt to eradicate groups of people. The current child welfare laws have this effect due to the timeline/deadline that starts a child is removed from a home to the time that the state moves to terminate parental rights and pursue adoption or other permanent placement of the child. Poverty or even mediocrity of funding AKA the class standing of the family can prevent access to services that would prevent a child from being placed. Many states also do not offer preventative services to children who are at risk even when such services are requested and available through state agencies. The entire welfare system needs overhaul. This is just one huge, tragic and currently catastrophic example with a holocaust quality history.

    Also, in response to an earlier post: there is a really good documentary on The History Channel about the introduction of cocaine into American society and it started with the Sears Catalog marketing the powder to middle class white women as a cure for pain. In addition, people with careers in medicine, the elderly, and middle and upper class white people currently have the highest incidence of serious drug abuse in the country, although methamphetamine use among lower and middle class whites is right up there.

    Posted by Anna-Marie Rhodes, 06/07/2013 3:20am (2 years ago)

  • "Since we are bashing South Dakota, I am wondering how many of you that commented here, actually live in South Dakota, live on an Indian reservation here, or have even visited one of the 9 reservations here?

    This article is extremely one-sided.
    As any BIA, or state police officer, that patrols the Indian reservations can attest, Native children are not "sacred", they are not treated any better than the children in foster care this article portrays.
    The system here on the rez' is overrun with problems stemming from Native parents that abandon, abuse, and generally don't care about their children. What this article also does not address is the rampant sexual abuse that goes on here in Indian country, and this at the hand of Native perpetrators, such as a relative or a step-father.

    When this sort of abuse, abandonment and neglect is often overlooked here on the rez', off the rez' can bring swift retribution, and unending legal troubles. Having been through the system myself: abused, abandoned, and starved because my Native father would rather drink, my brother and I went into foster care, then adoption which dragged out for years since they could not find my parents.

    Every one that lives here on the rez' knows that Native children are often fed cough syrup to keep them sleeping while the party rages in the other parts of the house.

    Every Native person here on the rez' knows that Native kids are routinely left alone to fend for themselves while one or both of the parents obey their addictions: alcohol, prescription drugs, gambling at casinos, and are witness to all sorts of abuses because their mother seems in constant need of having/keeping a mate, usually at the bar, and no matter how worthless he is.

    Every Native that lives on the rez' knows that the new style EBT card is often sold for the money. 50$ cash can buy 100$ worth of groceries. Where does this cash go?TO feed the addictions of the custodial parent, usually one of the addictions I have already mentioned.

    Every Native that lives on the rez' knows that teen suicide is a direct result of problems in the home. Native youth here don't commit suicide because of some historical atrocity, or because racism, or colonization, or genocide. Native youth feel a sense of hopelessness, abandonment, and a lack of love or affirmation from one or both of their parents. So, in an effort to end their pain, and possible gain attention, they commit suicide. Native youth are literally dying for attention.

    Every Native social worker, past or present, knows there is an extreme shortage of qualified, safe houses to take Native kids in the middle of the night, because their parents' drinking/drug parties erupted in a fight and while the parents went to jail, the kids needed someplace safe to go.
    There is even a greater shortage of safe, stable, and alcohol/drug free Native foster homes. Having visited with tribal social workers over the years, I can tell you that many Native relatives are unwilling to take their own relatives, especially multiple children, and the first question that usually arises is this, "are we getting paid to take them in"?
    So, in desperation, and lack of options, the tribe turns to outside sources.

    Sound outrageous? Preposterous? Maybe so. But, this day of believing every news story, every accusation of colonization and genocide is over. It is long past time to stop feeling sorry for parents that refuse to be parents, and deflect attention away from the very real problems that exist here, on the rez'."

    Posted by Native Lakota Minister living in ND, 06/07/2013 1:41am (2 years ago)

  • This must stop.

    Posted by Chrystal Smith, 06/07/2013 1:21am (2 years ago)

  • South Dakota should be ashamed and they should be shamed into making things right and give those poor children back to their parents.

    They had NO RIGHT taking those children away from their parents, from their community!! How dare they think it would be ok to do this to ANY child!!

    These actions by the State have created insurmountable emotional scars in those children!!

    WHAT IS HAPPENING to change this???

    Posted by JoB, 06/07/2013 1:15am (2 years ago)

  • so this means our Federal Government is Evil. who the hell are they to even appeal such evil acts. who does this? do they have a name. with all the policies in the way people become blind and do not see what our hatred does, but evil stretches it's arm out to make these policies right underneath our noses and we simply just need to stand up individually for what is right.

    Posted by Somebody that shouldnt say who they are., 06/07/2013 1:10am (2 years ago)

  • I grew up near the Cheyenne Reservation and as a child I remember seeing the desperate poverty, children sleeping in abandoned cars, horses and dogs wandering the roads and many sad memories of drunks asleep on the streets. One of our family friends ran a theater with his wife (she in a wheelchair) for the kids on the reservation. He would drive from his ranch every weekend to show a Saturday film, and after the show had children who's parents just left them and did not come back for them. Our friends would take the kids to their ranch, feed them, help them get cleaned up for bed and the next day he would drive them all back to the rez and find the parents (usually with hangovers). He would slaughter a cow and bring it out to certain families if he knew they had no food. I know there are bigots in the world and this region has a history of tolerating bigots. But to take a native child from it's home for safety is one thing. The state of South Dakota needs to be sued into a higher court to force the state to make every effort to find Indian homes for Indian children with special consideration towards placement into homes where the girls will not be molested (as there is a huge problem with this). They need to learn about their culture and history and language and find pride in how their families have survived almost 300 years of collective purging by white cultures. Until the tribes actively confront the damage done by drugs and alchohol addiction on their tribes, the authorities will have to step up to save these children from abuse. But in doing so, they may be perpetrating "cultural disintegration" and that is just another wrong these kids have to survive from.

    Posted by cindy rock, 06/07/2013 12:04am (2 years ago)

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