NEXSTAR (WASHINGTON) – The Supreme Court has a decision to make about whether Native American families should be given preference in the adoptions of Native children.
This week the court heard challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Right now the law gives preference to Native American families when it comes to fostering and adopting Native American children.
Tribal leaders and advocates rallied at the court on Wednesday as the justices listened to hours of arguments. Sarah Kastelic, the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, explained their concern that the justices will damage ICWA.
“We know that this law is in the best interest of kids. So I think people are fighting to protect that,” Kastelic said.
Lawyers on the other side of the argument claim the law relied on racial preference and is unconsistional. Chad and Jennifer Brackeen are the lead plantiffs at the center of this case.
“All children, regardless of race, should be placed in loving forever homes,” Chad Brackeen said.
In 2018, the couple adopted a Native American child and are now fighting with Navajo Nation to adopt his half-sister.
“There is a direct conflict between their best interests and potentially the interests of the tribes,” Chad Brackeen said.
But in a country with a dark history of separating Native American families, tribal leaders say it’s in the children’s best interest to keep Native communities together and protect their cultures.
“We will not go back to a time when our children were stolen and taken away from their homes. We will not go back to a time when we lost our voice and our power to protect our families,” Morongo Band of Mission Indians chairman Charles Martin said.
Some justices expressed skepticism about the way the existing law prioritizes adoptions.
“Congress couldn’t give a preference for white families for white children, for Black families for Black children, for Latino families for Latino children, for Asian families for Asian children,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh said.
Supporters argue the law recognizes that tribes are a political entity, instead of just a racial group. They worry a ruling against ICWA could damage tribes’ right to govern themselves.
“This is a direct attack on sovereignty. If they rule that we are not political, but we are racial, that just wipes out 200 years of precedent,” Quinault Indian Nation Vice President Fawn Sharp said.