Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA The bitter custody case between Cherokee Dusten Brown and a non-Native adoptive couple who vying for three year old Veronica Brown has all the makings of a made for television movie.
It is about adoption that involves two different states. It has the element of a biological father who has served his country in the Iraq War where he was awarded medals for his service. It involves an adoption agency with the word Christian in its name that did some very questionable practices. It is a case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to lower courts of South Carolina.
To American Indians, the case has special significance because Veronica's father , Dusten, used the Indian Child Welfare Act that was enacted in 1978 because far too many American Indians were being raised by non-Native foster or adoptive parents.
Lost in the court proceedings has been the best interest of Veronica. To its credit, the Cherokee Nation tribal court appointed an attorney to represent Veronica, who turns four on September 15. She is charged with representing the best interests of Veronica in the proceedings. Her name is Angel Smith.
Last night, Smith sent this statement the Native News Network:
O si yo (Greetings),
My name is Angel Smith and I am the attorney for the child commonly referenced as "Baby Veronica."
First, you will never hear me call my client Baby Veronica because she is far from an infant. She is just a month short of her fourth birthday, and her needs of present are not the same as her needs of the past.
Veronica is a bright, beautiful, happy and well-adjusted child. I have no doubt that many people love and care for Veronica, and that many people have touched her life. While I will not comment on ongoing legal matters, I will share that Veronica is due protection of her rights and interest, including her best interest, as both a "child" and as an "Indian child". Protection of her rights and interest is not about Indian blood quantum or percentage of Indian blood. It is about citizenship.
Veronica is a citizen of two sovereigns in a government-to-government relationship which predates even the signing of the Constitution of the United States. Veronica is a citizen of Cherokee Nation, an indigenous native nation, and of the United States. As a citizen of both she holds rights and interests which are independent to her and separate from any other party in these matters.
Veronica did not ask to be at the heart of a case of this magnitude. She did not ask to have her pictures in the media. She did not ask that everyone would know her name, but she is here. Veronica has rights and interests that must be considered in light of the present.
Today Veronica has her own words. Veronica has her own thoughts. Veronica has her own voice. It is time Veronica is heard because it is, after all, Veronica's life.
Wa do (Thank You).
posted August 14, 2013 7:40 am edt