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The South Dakota Green Party Calls for Justice for Native Children: Time to Uphold ICWA!


The beautiful landscape of South Dakota is not the only thing that should be preserved in this state. Our Constitutional commitments (Article VI, Section 2) to Native American Tribes demand urgent attention.

The recent Haaland v. Brackeen Supreme Court ruling serves as a stark reminder of South Dakota’s flagrant violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). But the numbers say it all.

The Alarming Numbers

  • 700+ Native children removed from their homes each year.
  • Native American children form just 15% of the child population but constitute over 50% in foster care.
  • A staggering 90% are placed with white families, sidelining tribal foster homes.

This skewed reality eerily echoes the dark days of boarding school abductions from the late 1800s when Indigenous children were ripped away from their families. They were denied their traditions, forced into unfamiliar languages, and re-christened with Christian names. Despite the passage of ICWA in 1978 to halt such transgressions, South Dakota stands out as the most glaring offender.

A 2011 NPR report underscores a grim incentive: South Dakota gets up to $79,000 per child annually (numbers likely much higher 12 years later) for retaining Indigenous children in foster care. Concurrently, an alarming spike in prescribed pharmaceuticals, including adult-only antipsychotics, to Native foster children correlates with a surge in suicides among them.

The Sordid Past of Boarding Schools Historical mandates, like the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, forced Indigenous children into schools to “civilize” them. The ensuing century saw federal Indian boarding schools, spearheaded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, diligently erasing native cultures. Their design: eliminate Indigenous heritage.

The Promise of ICWA and its Current Betrayal The ICWA necessitated states to prioritize placing Indian children with their kin, tribe members, or other Native Americans and bolster family unity. Today, Native American children are almost twice as likely to land in foster care than their counterparts.

South Dakota’s Dubious Foster Care Despite Indigenous children forming only 15% of the child populace, they represent over half in foster care. Subjective interpretations of ‘neglect’ play a significant role, often ignoring cultural nuances and household norms. Perceived neglect from overpopulated households, public consumption of alcohol, or mere rumors often precipitate these forced removals.

Additionally, Native Americans face disproportionate police discrimination. Native women, once arrested, see their children frequently whisked away.

The Unsavory Financial Incentive South Dakota’s social services pocket nearly $100 million annually from federal funding for foster care, with $63 million tethered to retaining Native American children. The overt financial lure paints a grim picture.

Call to Action We, the South Dakota Green Party, implore our fellow citizens, policymakers, and guardians of justice: Uphold ICWA! Our history with the Indigenous community is fraught with pain. Let’s not add another chapter of transgressions.

Stand with us. Let’s ensure Native children are treated with the dignity, love, and respect they deserve. Join our campaign, sign our petition, and raise your voice against this grave injustice. The future of our state, its children, and our shared humanity demands it.

The Indigenous Peoples Movement has Created a Call-to-Action to pressure elected officials in South Dakota to honor the Constitution.