Farmworker Association of Florida Supports Constitutional Standing of ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act)

The constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has come into question, threatening the sovereignty of Native American tribes and communities throughout the country. The Farmworker Association of Florida stands strongly against the possible overturning of ICWA, which stands to protect Native American children, their families, and tribal autonomy.

Before the implementation of ICWA, about a third of Native American youth were taken out of their homes by state and federal welfare departments under the guise of protecting these children. However, it was extremely common for children to be removed from the home for situations not indicative of abuse. A child living with their grandparents, for example, reasons related to poverty, a state experienced by most Native Americans, especially those living on reservations, were all used as excuses to separate children from their families. Under ICWA, children removed from their homes are placed with other Native families, where they can learn and maintain their cultures and traditions. ICWA protects indigenous families from the centuries-old systemic oppressions designed to assimilate and destroy indigenous, Native societies. Now that ICWA is being threatened, all tribal sovereignty is at stake.

U.S. treaties and laws relating to Native American tribes are different than other laws. The idea that laws like ICWA are “racist” directly violates the fact that Native American tribes stand as political, self-governing entities. This is precisely why the overturning of ICWA threatens tribal sovereignty. If ICWA is overturned, a domino effect will follow, and other aspects of tribal sovereignty will come into question. The broader implications include native lands being in danger of U.S. development, a further breakdown of the few political protections that indigenous communities have, and a step toward the assimilation and erasure of these sovereign nations.

The idea that the U.S. government is in a better position than Native Americans to define the needs of Native American children is deeply cynical and a perpetuation of this nation’s ugly colonialist roots. It is abhorrent to disrupt the social cohesion of Indigenous peoples by attacking their ability to share cultural information intergenerationally and weaken other protections to Native Americans and their lands in the process. The overturning of ICWA threatens all Indigenous sovereignty in the U.S. and can have far-reaching ramifications that are extremely dangerous. The overturning of ICWA would serve as an attempt at destroying the younger generation of Native children, who have been among those leading protests – especially against DAPL and other pipelines.

ICWA must stand in the interests of Indigenous sovereignty. ICWA must stand for the preservation and defense of the rights of individuals and of nations who have existed on this continent for countless generations, and who have been continuously attacked and discriminated against by the U.S. ICWA must stand to protect children, recognizing the trauma that comes from removing children from their culture and identities as Native American peoples. Upholding ICWA is imperative for the well-being of indigenous children and their communities.

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