Feb 8, 2023 | By: Lakeland News

MN Lawmakers Working to Codify Language from Indian Child Welfare Act into Law

Minnesota legislators are currently working to codify language from the national Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into state law in light of a future U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could see the act overturned.

Last November, the Supreme Court heard the case Brakeen v. Haaland, which challenges the legality of ICWA. The 1978 act prioritizes the placement of Native American children in foster care or adoption with relatives, other tribal members, or in other Native homes. It was enacted in response to the alarming rate at which Native American and Alaska Native children were taken from their homes by public and private agencies.

A decision on the case is due this summer. If the Supreme Court does overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, the status of the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) would be unclear. That’s why some Minnesota lawmakers are working to codify language from ICWA into state law.

At a state Senate hearing on Tuesday, legislators heard testimony on the plan to modify the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act through SF 667.

“I was born in 1955 and I come a family of eight children, and we were living in our tribal homelands. And my two younger brothers were removed at the age of four and five from our home in the ’60s before the ICWA or MIFPA laws were established,” said Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe chairman Faron Jackson Sr. at the hearing. “And it caused a lot of trauma in our family, and we can still feel it today.”

Tribal advocates are also concerned that if the Supreme Court overturns the Indian Child Welfare Act based on a racial discrimination argument, the decision and rationale could weaken other areas of tribal sovereignty in the future.

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