Report: Underlying racism behind seizures of Indian children


“The state does not make a good parent.”

So reads the quote by an anonymous DHHS administrator who works for the state of Maine.

In Maine, a consortium of government and tribal officials formed the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which explored the reasons why Wabanaki children enter Maine’s state foster care program at 5 times the rate of non-Native children during the past 13 years.

They released an 80-page report this week which concluded that Maine must improve Native child welfare in Maine by confronting:

1. Underlying racism still at work in state institutions and the public

2. Ongoing impact of historical trauma, also known as intergenerational trauma, on Wabanaki people

3. Differing interpretations of historical trauma

From the perspective of the Lakota People’s Law Project, the first problem to confront, both in South Dakota and throughout the United States is paramount.

In South Dakota, underlying racism is visible is in how the Department of Social Services rationalizes the seizure of nearly 740 children per year. Of these children, about 95 percent of them are taken due to “neglect”, which is different than abuse.

In other words, rather than children being taken away from families because of proximity to violence or abuse, they are being taken away because the non-Native whites in the state believe the conditions in which the Indian children are living in constitute neglect.

They are confusing poverty with neglect. And in so doing they are committing cultural genocide.

Indeed, Maine’s recent Truth and Reconciliation Report also concluded “disproportionate entry into care can be held within the context of continued clutural genocide as defined by the Convention on the  Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nationals General Assembly in 1948.”

Taking children from their Native tribes and forcing assimilation into the dominant White society leads to an erosion of culture.

A worker with the Maine DHHS said it was only after particpating in a training on the Indian Child Welfare Act and its historical background did he realize that he was unwittingly an instrument of genocide.

This worker slowly grew aware the child was “part of the tribe and for the welfare of that child to have a healthy well-functioning tribal community, I could see that as the presentation evolved, I started realizing, ‘Oh, my God! What this is saying is that I’ve been an agent of genocide.’ And of course, the word ‘genocide’ to me means killing people, but it means more than that: it means killing a culture, and I don’t think I ever thought of any of our practices as killing a culture.”

This comment provides indispensable insight into the thought processes of most state child welfare workers, who do not realize the extent to which they are participating in a system that is racist and an existential threat to the indigenous population of the United States.

Taking children from circumstances wrongly perceived as neglectful isn’t the solution. Instead, this society needs to harness that energy in addressing the underlying trauma that creates the social problems on the reservation that is leading to the systemic genocide of the Native people.


8 thoughts on “Report: Underlying racism behind seizures of Indian children”

  1. To me this is not a surprise at all, this is happening all around the world. By taking away a community’s children you take the community’s future and soul. A community without future and soul is doomed to vanish. This is racism at its worst.

    1. Have you watched 101 Dalmations cartoon. You also need to watch cartoon “sarila” These deal with the issue of being made dirty and misuse of the spirits for self gain.

  2. The state took my grand children and won’t let me see them my grand kids think they just got left the state does not try to get or keep family’s together I was in the system when I was little and I never felt like I belonged anywhere I don’t want my grand boys to feel that feeling the state won’t answer my letters I want to see them I miss them I love them and they should b with family

  3. None of this surprises me given things I found out as a child, and experiences from my past. It seems that each ethnic group believes itself better than the rest with ONE exception: I have never been given that impression by leaders of the Lakota, the Oglala, the Next Perce, the Navajo, or any of the remaining NA nations or tribes within those nations.

    The cry has always been a cry of honor, a cry for respect, a cry for justice, and the desire to live on ancestral lands in accordance with their own laws and customs. My heart has always heard this cry.

    However, NA nations must come together as one to realize that the threats they face are coming from sources other than white America. The threats come from people of other nations who want America’s lands … Originally NA lands, some of them still are … they want our land for housing, for its mineral resources, and because their own lands have been ruined by drought, disease, famine, and in some cases, their own greed and civil wars.

    It is the old belief that things will be better in America. We can get so much for free. No. It’s just a different place with the same problems, more resources, and culture shock. That won’t stop them though. They’ll continue to come and the America we have known most of our lives will be no more.

    Love your children for as long as you have them. Teach them survival skills in the wild. Most of all, teach them to recognize the difference between those who hate and those who do not.

    God grant our world peace. The worst thing for a child is to be torn away from a loving family in which there is no abuse.

  4. i personally have seen the effects of state interference (fostering). My own mother suffered from it until her death. Mu current wife was also a foster child and has issues because of it. Regardless state social workers who usually have no children DO NOT SERVE THE INTERESTS OF THE CHILDREN.

  5. They have been trying, since they landed here to destroy us because we won’t change. We still love each other, Mother Earth and Father Sky and RESPECT the Women, Elders and the Family Unit. We say NO to the Beast of GREED & Share with one another. I remember as a child family coming from distances to stay and look for work and when found the celebration meals later given by those families to thank us. We are now being called Mentally Unstable because we refuse to change and DRUGGED down in hospitals and by doctors every chance they get, REFUSE to be BULLIED and STAND YOUR GROUND. When they get our children the FIRST thing they do is put them on Drugs, I KNOW because I had to decontaminate my nephews after I got them out of the system. WE NEED TO EDUCATE MORE LAWYERS TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s