Tribes File Brief with Supreme Court in Defense of Indian Child Welfare Act

WASHINGTON, DC (Aug. 12, 2022) – Today, five tribes filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Brackeen v. Haaland defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Charles Martin, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill, and Quinault Indian Nation President Guy Capoeman issued the following statement: 

“The United States Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act nearly 45 years ago. In the decades since, ICWA has continued to receive strong, bipartisan support while being repeatedly upheld in both state and federal courts. Our brief filed today outlines not only the tremendous benefits that ICWA has brought to the health and safety of children, but also demonstrates how the law adheres to the Constitution and the principles of tribal citizenship dating back to America’s founding.

National child welfare experts and advocates regard ICWA to be the gold standard of child welfare laws because, when properly followed, it delivers better outcomes for children and their families. But if those attacking ICWA are successful, they would not only dismantle a law that is central to our sovereign interests in protecting our children but also create chaos and instability throughout the country by overturning the basic framework of Indian law and the political nature of tribal citizenship.

On Nov. 9, the Supreme Court will hear arguments and then decide the future of ICWA. We are confident that the court will rule on the side of ICWA, of the Constitution, of history, of child welfare experts, of states, and of children and families. To do otherwise, the court would be ignoring decades of precedent, overriding congressional authority, and putting our tribal children’s safety at risk. We stand with hundreds of tribes across the nation in defending ICWA in court and look forward to once again seeing its constitutionality upheld.”

In the brief, the tribes explain why ICWA remains critical and relevant today, noting that a “mountain of evidence—from 1978 to today—shows that ICWA provides an essential buffer against practices that continue to yield the unwarranted removal of Indian children” and that “ICWA is based on a simple idea: When Indian children can stay with their families and communities, Tribes and children alike are better off.”

The full brief from the tribes can be found here.