If overturned, the repeal of ICWA could upend a law in place for more than 40 years. And the legal case has much broader implications than just child welfare — it cuts at the heart of tribal sovereignty in this country. The 573 federally recognized tribes could be left open to legal challenges on many fronts if the basis of ICWA is found unconstitutional.
“The core of their argument is that it’s an unfair racial preference and that we should have a colorblind system,” Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, told Vox. “What that misses is what’s a bedrock of federal Indian law in this country, which is that tribes are sovereign, not distinguished as a race but as a special political designation. That’s a critical underpinning of not just ICWA, but many laws that relate to housing and healthcare and education and employment. For that to be eroded by a successful attack on ICWA — that would have broad implications on all of these.”