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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  • I am a 60s scoop survivor...and I have to say....being raised in a community where I was though to be dirty, stupid, lazy, lying, and violent....that stole about 30 years from me. 18 years of torture and then another 12 to get my feet on the ground. turns out I have above average intelligence and am hard working, honest and kind. huh. go figure. being raised in a community where your own biological community is looked down upon, pitied or not a good nurturing hopeful place to grow up. in that circumstance the best you can do is not be your self and not be your self well...otherwise you are a failure and become what you always were...and aboriginal. sheesh.

    Posted by rhiannon edge, 06/04/2013 10:07pm (2 years ago)

  • Profit-driven initiatives like this really make me wonder why I support the government at all.

    Posted by Jeremy, 06/04/2013 10:06pm (2 years ago)

  • can't believe this is hapenning again this is not the first time the native americans have been done this way

    Posted by Diana Trejo , 06/04/2013 9:55pm (2 years ago)

  • Why are we so sick? And how do we stop it? Heart breaking.

    Posted by Ria Swift, 06/04/2013 9:25pm (2 years ago)

  • This may be TRUE, but I for ONE being LAKOTA, and having in my Custody 2 Great neice/nephew. likes THE whole TRUTH. Its a Money issue isn't it? {on both sides} We don't want either side 2 get/have the $$$$ and still NO ONE cares about the CHILDREN. Where was TRIBAL ICWA in the case of my 2? I saw and read where "our TRIBE was notified" and no response was given.... I went 2 S.Dak. 2 see these 2 and refused 2 come home without them. Now they R in my Custody.
    The other half of truth I want 2 see/hear is WHY R the PARENTs not held responsible 4 the "neglect and abandonment " THEY inflict on these Children? U just take the kids and the "parents," pop out another one. So from MY point of view of the "picture," neither one side nor the OTHER really UNDERSTANDs their job or doesn't give a DAMN about the JOB, just "THEIR" paycheck. Am I right? PROVE me wrong. U see " I am talking for the CHILDREN.

    Posted by Sherry L. Flyinghorse-SINYON, 06/04/2013 8:48pm (2 years ago)

  • This is going to be a stupid question. Let's assert that a Native youth has been unlawfully taken by a local government agency and "placed" into "foster care," and the location of the "foster parents" can be determined.

    What is to prevent the lawful parents, escorted by tribal police and/or FBI agents, from lawfully recovering their child and then leaving South Dakota jurisdiction?

    Posted by Anonymous, 06/04/2013 7:36pm (2 years ago)

  • This is outrageous! How did the thought process go back over a century to the ethnic cleansing actions of the late nineteenth century? These abductions need to be stopped; children returned to their rightful parents; the blatant money-grubbing obviously needs to end and the families well-compensated for their emotional pain. The caucasian population of the country has for too long persecuted the Native population. Obviously, this practice is still alive and well in South Dakota.

    Posted by Sharyn, 06/04/2013 7:31pm (2 years ago)

  • This is just so horrific words fail to express my distress and sorrow that this has always happened to our world's Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, and is STILL happening!

    I will keep visioning a healed humanity where there is only peace, love , tolerance, cooperation, and compassion between all nations.

    BUT! in the meantime WE MUST SPEAK UP! ACT UP! and bring down governments that promote genocide.

    WAKE UP WORLD!!! what we do to others we do to ourselves and to our earth.

    Posted by Jaqi Mudge, 06/04/2013 7:06pm (2 years ago)

  • This is awful & South Dakota has absolutely no legal right what so Ever to practice this illegal removal of our Native Children at all. That ICWA has Not Changed to Date Therefore South Dakota is in Non Compliance with the Federal Law!! They Need to be Reported to Washington DC!! And all those involved of such a removal should be Jailed & Fined For Violation of the ICWA!! WORD!!!! Report Them Now!! Makes me angry of all the hard word my Mother in Law fought for Nation wide-then to have some brainless ppl lie to these Tribes of that State. Report every single damn one of them.

    Posted by Eileen B John, 06/04/2013 7:02pm (2 years ago)

  • God! The SNEAKY nerve of the people responsible for this second round of genocide! Can't tht just leave the native America people alone? EVERYONE should be angered by this. What is being done to end this injustice? Is it working? Ill share this with everyone I can and I hope others do too. What else can be done??

    Posted by Ceemee, 06/04/2013 6:45pm (2 years ago)

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