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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Comments

  • There is no reason why anyone in this day and age needs to be without drinkable water or food.that is the problem and that is where the critique analyses and change needs to happen. Not by removing children, this only exacerbates and continues those issues. Deal with the root which is still indicative of ongoing racism.

    I do understand your point on the conditions but what created them in the first place.

    Posted by Michele Brown, 06/21/2013 5:27am (2 years ago)

  • my reply to the commentator below, poverty is not neglect. secondly due process is not allowed. this is a shame when US goes around the world teaching about morality, at least they should try and implement in their houses.

    Posted by matta, 06/20/2013 10:30pm (2 years ago)

  • What you fail to realize is this- the living conditions on the rez is deplorable, little to no food, very little clean water (if any!) and the housing is at most fit for a dog. I have family on the rez and know FIRST hand how bad it is, and many many moms sacrifice so much for their kids but its just not enough! The kids that grow up on the rez often times have severe substance abuse problems, violence, uneducated (the education system there is a joke) and more often than not end up in jail or worse.

    The children that are so called taken come from abused homes or surrendered by families who want BETTER for their kids, plain and simple. You tell me how you would feel if every day your child goes to bed hungry and you have no way of providing food for them...what would YOU do? Honestly this is shameful reporting and he should do his research on the conditions and not be so quick to cry genocide when clearly there is more to this story. I could go on and on honestly-but ultimately you have to remember those children that are "taken" will have a choice later on in life whether or not to go and make a difference for their people or turn their backs on them and pretend they are not Lakota. Lets just say the elders have a saying "the blood remembers" and eventually they or their children will return to who they are. AHO!

    Posted by Jeanne, 06/20/2013 8:34am (2 years ago)

  • what is truly shocking is that these families allow their children to be taken from them. if someone came to try to take my kids from me they'd walk into a wall of buckshot.

    Posted by Jerryboy, 06/20/2013 12:46am (2 years ago)

  • This is outrageous, why hasn't the Federal Government do anything about it sooner, they should've been investigating if they see there's alot of natives put in foster homes, what's wrong with this system is they don't really care about their people & if they did they would try to help more. I know there's alot of homeless people out there but no you wanna pay for war like I just think everyone's (some) priority are not right People are worried about the NBA games than what's going things like just show just how the world is going to be in a decade. It's going to be a rotten place because if people are not paying attention to what's around them. Like I just think if South Dakota had any kind of brain/ conscious then we wouldn't be here & people will not be suffering. I seriously thought genocide would not even occur in the United States "the land of the FREE home of the BRAVE" that's bull. Getting worked up because I just don't think other than the kids family's & no effort to help them & bender show awareness.

    Posted by Fatima , 06/18/2013 12:57pm (2 years ago)

  • This same crap was happening in the 90's in Merced California. They weren't particular about ethnicity either. They were concerned with direct deposits of funds into the state and county coffers.

    I was a foster mother who witnessed social workers twisting what parents said to destroy or amend the conversation's context. That is I mean they twisted the responses of the parents to justify what they wanted the response to appear to be. They twisted the parents words to condemn them.

    We adopted 7 children (none full Native American). We stayed in contact with the birth families despite social services objection because it was the right thing to do. The stories of how they lost their children would shock you.

    Of course all the children went back to their biological families once they came of age. They didn't ask to be adopted, they love their biological families. They love us too but not as deeply. Sometimes returning to their bio families works and sometimes it doesn't. There is an old saying, "too much water under the bridge" which describes the reason it doesn't always work well.

    Posted by Dolores B Davis, 06/17/2013 1:49pm (2 years ago)

  • I am a Black-American having recently had to deal with the state of SD and my granddaughter in their foster care system and can tell you from personal experience, something IS rotten in South Dakota. Plus, non-Natives are able to easily get native children in their care with the intent of " keeping them away from their 'Indian' people. I'm living in Minnesota now and don't care to travel back to S.D. something's got to change there!

    Posted by Ms Norma, 06/17/2013 12:44am (2 years ago)

  • If this is true... Why are we not hearing about it? I mean, I have never heard anything remotely close to this type of accusation.

    If 700+ children were removed from Alaska native homes for no reason, you can bet we would be raising all kinds of hell! Why would an entire people put up with such an alleged abuse? Where is they're backbone?

    I am half Inupiaq Eskimo, and I tell you that this type of atrocity was taking place in Alaska, we would shut this state down. Not only the entire United States would hear about it, but our voice would echo around the globe!

    Don't believe everything you read, unless I hear the voice of the entire people crying out in one voice, I say this story is crap.

    Posted by Chuck Belew, 06/14/2013 7:24pm (2 years ago)

  • I'm a Lakota from South Dakota and this article contains NO untruth. I know for a fact that all that is implied in this article is happening even as I write this comment. I applaud the gentleman who wrote this article. It's all true.

    Posted by Linda Thompson-Sewell, 06/12/2013 11:22pm (2 years ago)

  • And this is happening in the USA? How can this be? This is totally worse than criminal action by the state against its citizens! An abomination!!!

    Posted by Vivian, 06/12/2013 7:07pm (2 years ago)

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