South Dakota commits shocking genocide against Native Americans

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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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  • How could this be happening in this day and age? This is just so horrible, have these people not suffered enough at the hand of the white man. You have done more then enough damage to these people, stop this despicable practice NOW!!! Return these children to their family, were they belong!!!

    Posted by Linda Porter, 10/12/2013 6:37pm (1 year ago)

  • I would say, that not only is there a clear violation of section "E" ......but it appears that there is a potential violation of section "D" as well.

    If young children are being separated from their tribes, doing so would eliminate, or at best, limit their contact with other Native Americans - Thereby making it impossible (or less likely) that they would be having Native American children, themselves, when they reach reproductive age.

    Posted by Cathy Morini, 10/04/2013 7:20pm (1 year ago)

  • I'd say that they are ALSO in violation of section "D" as well.....If the young children are removed from other Native Americans, and have little/no contact with others throughout their lives - as adults, they will be unable to reproduce with OTHER Native Americans......or at least that possibility is GREATLY reduced!!!!!!!

    Posted by Cathy Morini, 10/04/2013 6:07pm (1 year ago)

  • What? Is this Australia? Or is it the US of the 1800's?This is a national scandal! What is becoming of certain parts of this country? It's hard to believe that the citizens of North Dakota are so evil that they would out up with this unconscionable, racist practice. North Dakotans, contact your representatives immediately. Remember, all it takes for evil to flourish is for one good man to do nothing.

    Posted by Carla Barrow, 10/01/2013 9:38pm (1 year ago)

  • I've been on the Crow Creek Rez in South Dakota just this past July of 2013.
    While there is an oppression on the rez the children are the focus. These children are looked after by all people, especially when we first arrived and they got to know us.

    There was plenty of alcohol and probably drugs, I never once seen a child unattended and as a matter of fact all the children were cleaner and better dressed than any of us!

    This is government bringing down more oppression on an already proud but beaten down people. Take their land, put them where they were not expected to survive, hold them prisoner with card board houses and alcohol....Finish them off by taking their future, their reason to keep surviving! I send prayers everyday for their hope in life!
    ~hayley~

    Posted by Hayley Leeper, 10/01/2013 4:03pm (1 year ago)

  • I seen this while working as a young nurse when I lived in NC. I didnt know what was happening then BUT You can bet Im fully aware now.
    Are there meetings being held for action?
    Im in MN

    Posted by Monica, 10/01/2013 3:52pm (1 year ago)

  • I thought this kind of treatment had stopped. This is the same thing that was done to the Indians of Virginia In the 1800's and early 1900. The State of Virginia tried to exterminate the Cherokee Indians of Virginia. Mr Plecker stated that in the census the race was to be changed or else the Natives that refused would be jailed, could not attend schools or go to the hospital.
    To this day the children have been integrated into the mainstream culture and are still trying to find their culture. When Chief Mankiller came and said these are my people, the State of Virginia stated they don' t exist.
    That is also a form or genocide!
    My heart goes out to the people of the Dekota's.

    Posted by Cindy, 09/26/2013 3:36pm (1 year ago)

  • How long do we have to endure these blatant attacks? How long before we can enjoy the protection and enforcement of those laws written for that purpose, such as the Indian Child Welfare Act? What was perpetrated in removing our children and taking them to the boarding schools has taken on a new face under the removal of children now by state social services. How long before these criminals are held accountable before a human rights commission for these violations of human rights and that will hold the government, courts and states to those laws they wrote by our inspiration?

    It appears the only answer and hope we have will come when we gather and appeal to the Creator of the Universe. He never intended any of these attacks to occur. I still believe that if we will call on Him our deliverance will be most impressive on us and on those who are the perpetrators of such crimes and injustices.

    Posted by Warren Petoskey, 09/24/2013 10:05pm (1 year ago)

  • This is a good article, but what it doesn't mention is that, according to the NPR study "Lost Children, Shattered Families," a whopping 97% of the Native American children being removed from their families and put up for adoption are being removed from their homes FOR NO REASON. I'm serious. There's a lengthy PDF file you can download if you look up the article. Only 3% of the time was abuse/maltreatment cited as a reason for removing the child from his/her family. It's clear that South Dakota's social services are snatching Native children at random, just for the money they'll reel in. (Native kids earn foster care more money than white kids do, because of their status as minorities.)

    Imagine this. Imagine if your child could be taken away from you and put up for adoption just because of his or her ethnicity. You can be a hard worker, a loving parent, you can provide an excellent life for your child, but he or she can still be taken away from you just because you happen to be an Indian.

    Guys, this is disgusting and it needs to stop.

    Posted by Rose, 09/24/2013 7:32pm (1 year ago)

  • This is sickening. How could any parent be part of this horrendous act of violence? Those children will never feel truly safe again because of these abductions.

    Posted by Katherine Kegg, 09/24/2013 11:47am (1 year ago)

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