Last Real Indians

Letter to the Mitchell Daily Republic in Response to “State Wrongly Demonized in ICWA Debate” Editorial, By Natalie Stites

Reply to article available at: http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/event/article/id/80091/

June 3, 2013

Dear Mitchell Daily Republic Editorial Board,

Your editorial is absurdly insensitive, and yes, racist against Native Americans living in the state of South Dakota. The State is not being demonized, the Indian children suffering institutional racism, poverty, abuse and neglect from their loved ones and the failure of legal systems to protect them are the ones being demonized.

I covered the ICWA event for the Lakota Country Times, and I also have worked on such issues in my professional life.  I have also been published on the website, Last Real Indians, for my thoughts on ICWA and the protection and care of American Indian children. The facts are that the system of social services for all of South Dakota’s children does not work for their safety or well-being. If one of your editors had even attended the ICWA Summit, they may have learned the fact that safety is simply NOT ENOUGH to care for and ensure a child’s well-being. The fact is that the sitting Governor of South Dakota made a fortune off foster care children in South Dakota, mostly with federal dollars. The fact is that at least 3 initial family assessments by the local social services office are conducted on the Rosebud Indian Reservation every day (what population faces this level of scrutiny from the government in regards to its own children?). The facts are that there are several cases of negligence, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public funds and gross professional incompetence on the part of the SD Social Services agency, in Mette County, Mellette County, Corson County and Buffalo County. The Mette County case involves a conspiracy to not only cover up sexual abuse against 3 Lakota children in a white foster home but also, maliciously prosecute the two individuals in the state systems who were attempting to come to the aid of these children and punish the pedophiles and his enabler foster care parent. The Mellette County case also involves a pedophile child rapist foster care father who was convicted of sex crimes against children, and whose enabling wife continues to foster Indian children today. The Corson County case involves a former state legislator convicted of sex crimes against his Lakota foster care children.  The Buffalo County case involves what appears to be a kidnapping of Indian children from parent for matters that do not involve child protection and for false criminal allegations against a parent that were never charged. 

These cases implicate local law enforcement agencies as well as local prosecutors, social workers, tribes and others.  I wish it were different, but please do not enable the State’s absurdly feckless support for institutional racism and one-on-one racism I have personally witnessed on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and at a meeting with state officials from Social Services in Rapid City last year. I have never been so patronized as I was by a high-ranking official in the Department of Social Services for asking basic questions that she should have been prepared answer for tribal leaders and tribal government managers.  I doubt that white children in foster care are doing any better in white foster care homes than our American Indian children. Yet, the continuation of governmental policies aimed to impoverish our tribes of land and other resources, eradicate our Indian identities and destroy our families in order to annihilate our people altogether are the reasons why our children face going into foster care.  The history of whites and European Americans and their treatment of children and the poor is far different, but worthy of some fact gathering and critical analysis from your publication.

The system doesn’t work for ANY child, and few adults are trying to fix it and instead, blame the people suffering from its effects like your editorial board has done. The State of South Dakota runs the Department of Social Services and must be held accountable not only for failing to comply with ICWA on a basic level, but for the outcomes our former foster care children face.  Are any children in South Dakota better off after foster care and the inevitable juvenile justice detention and then, perhaps, mental health stay or treatment before they’re 18? Most foster care children are dead, addicted or incarcerated by age 20. Who is responsible for that?  The children? I am disgusted by the lack of facts and sense of social responsibility that your editorial demonstrates regarding the recent conflicts around ICWA in the state of South Dakota. The ignorance of the Editorial Board is profound. Your editorial represents the sad state of affairs in the Deep North. The demons are not poor Indian families, the demons are the pedophiles and rapists granted access to our children and protected by the State of South Dakota. Thank you for your time.