Linda Sacks in Native Challenges. Discussion »
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA Last evening as the sun set behind the Jack Brown House which is situated on tribal land, a long shadow dark shadow was cast over the Cherokee Nation. The bright warming light of day faded into a cool dreary night for the tribe as supporters stood in wait, filling the air with tension and anticipation.
Abundant rumors of federal marshals coming to take four year old Veronica Brown from her family circle soon turned to sad reality. The gathering resembled that of a wake as though they were paying their respects for the last time.
US Marshall Vehicles decorated the lawn setting the tone for what seemed to be the inevitable: the handing over of Veronica Brown to the non-Native South Carolina adoptive couple.
The transfer was almost immediate.
“I don't want to go. I don't want to go,”
screamed the four-year innocent child, according to sources close to the situation.
Dusten Brown and his wife, Robin, had packed two suitcases: One filled with her clothes the other with her toys.
In the midst of the chaotic event, Tommy Brown Dusten's father and Veronica's grandfather suffered an apparent heart attack and remains hospitalized this morning in stable condition and waits medical test results.
After the US marshals sped away forming a 15 vehicle caravan, the Cherokee Nation attorney general met with the media.
Cherokee Nation Attorney Todd Hembree expressed the battle is far from over as
“we will continue to fight It is not just about Veronica but all Indian children. The future of any people is its children and we have to protect our children to protect our culture.”
Just what legal options are left after proceedings in two states and in Washington DC remain to be seen relating to Veronica.
“There are still appeals to be made,”
“It is important that she knows her culture and her heritage. She deserves to have a relationship with her father.”
“The failure of the legal system to look into the 'best interest' of Veronica the human, the child is inexcusable,”
said Angel Smith, Cherokee, an attorney who has represented Veronica Brown told the Native News Network this morning.
“As unfortunate as this ruling was, it really was about the rights of her father. It does not speak to rights of an Indian child. The child has rights herself,”
continued Smith, who as a child was part of an Indian Child Welfare Act case and is currently an adoptive parent.
Last night, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, based in Portland, Oregon, released this statement from Executive Director Terry Cross regarding the custodial transfer of Veronica:
“Our hearts are heavy at this course of events. Any other child would have had her or his best interest considered in a court of law. The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”
“It is a bad day for Cherokee Nation and it is a bad day for native children everywhere; a bad day for the Brown family and a bad day for Veronica,”
The Dusten Brown family declined comment this morning due to ongoing litigation.
The night was somber, ending in tears for many who stood outside the Jack Brown home on Cherokee Nation tribal land.
Levi Rickert contributed to this story.
posted September 24, 2013 1:10 pm edt