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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  • With all of the rhetoric in Washington about the protection and enforcement of human rights this kind of inhumaneness continues. I think the United States Government better wake up to these kinds of violations before an international tribunal does get involved. The State of South Dakota is either acting under the auspices of the federal government or they are no. If they aren't acting under the auspices of the federal government then it would seem to me the federal government would immediately react to this criminal action. If it does not....then we know the rest of the story...Warren Petoskey, Odawa/Lakota

    Posted by Warren Petoskey, 06/06/2013 12:23pm (3 years ago)

  • Our prayer's are sent via our sacred Snoqualmie Fall's.

    Posted by Ray Mullen / Drumbearer, Snoqualmie tribe., 06/06/2013 12:01pm (3 years ago)

  • Once again we screw over our friendly Native American Indians.... :(

    Posted by Big mike, 06/06/2013 11:08am (3 years ago)

  • Why would the State of SD want to protect children? Alcoholism, abuse, neglect, and instability are just some of the to common problems Native children faced with their current families. #1 Alcoholism or drug addiction creates the myraid of problems and the unstable environment that many Native children live in on Reservations. There are good Native families on the reservations and off that adopt children in need. However the need for foster homes for Native children cannot be filled solely by Native families. I taught on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for 3 years and lived on a ranch outside of the Rez my whole life. No one is trying to commit genocide. The state and the adoptive families and in most cases the Native families are trying to find a way to break the cycle of addiction and hopelessness.

    Posted by Bob Hastings, 06/06/2013 9:30am (3 years ago)

  • OMGosh! Genocide for sure. This is the twenty first century. We are supposed to be an advanced race of people. But instead we act like sub- humans with the intelligence of pond scum. Native children should be raised by Native relatives or someone from their own reservation. Not by white man. White man has proven their ways are no good. Leave Native children alone. ** I agree with Pam, who commented on this matter on 6/5/2013.

    Posted by Linda Christie, 06/06/2013 8:18am (3 years ago)

  • I want the names of all the perps in question from judges to social workers.

    Posted by Lucifer, 06/06/2013 7:19am (3 years ago)

  • Is this an article from this year or 100 years ago???? Why is this even possible???

    Posted by Elske, 06/06/2013 4:20am (3 years ago)

  • Another story that should be brought to light is how the Native populations are still being removed from the 'white' cities. Cities such as Sioux Falls or Yankton used to have large numbers of Native Americans living in them but now you would be hard pressed to find any. It would seem that if a Native Dakotan can't fully assimilate then they are removed via the legal system. I know. I used to live there. Under the thin veneer of 'tolerance' the seething racism is still being practiced though they will scoff at the suggestion of it.

    By the way, if the state provided the Native Dakotans with the $79,000 (from the Feds) to raise their children wouldn't that be a better solution? Alas, the state wants to keep the $70Gs because it is the money they care about and not the children.

    Posted by Arahn, 06/06/2013 2:09am (3 years ago)

  • I am...dishearten wth these atrocities. I am in disbelief at how this is allowed. Please, disseminate and make it know to everyone. This horrendous act has to stop immediately. I will post and pass by word of mouth too, please, do more to get this news to everyone...our world is not only the immediate community that we live in. Everything has a "domino" effect whether we realize it or not.

    Posted by Isela Laca, 06/05/2013 11:55pm (3 years ago)

  • It happens in every rez....u can't up and leave because that's home...i know of a child that was raised on rez, took native language all through school and in 5th grade was removed from her home (with just cause) but was placed off rez...and her foster parents are not even allowed to let her visit with her old friends or anything due to's ridiculous what the government gets away with

    Posted by Cheyenne, 06/05/2013 11:37pm (3 years ago)

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