Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA Tribal officials from nine American Indian tribes and federal officials, including Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, attended the first day of a three day of the "Great Plains ICWA Summit: Bringing Our Children Home and Keeping Our Families Strong."
However, state officials from the State of South Dakota were no shows.
Webster Two Hawk, former Rosebud Sioux Tribal President and
grandfather of child taken unlawfully by SD DSS
There no representatives from the State of South Dakota's Department of Social Services on day one of the summit at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.
“I don't know and can't tell you,”
commented Joe Kafka, press secretary for South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard's administration when asked why there were no officials in attendance by the Native News Network Wednesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the South Dakota Department of Social Services told Native News Network that no one from the organization was in attendance because they were not invited to participate in the summit, and they were only notified last week Thursday of the details of the meeting.
Perhaps the reason South Dakota state officials were no-shows is they did not want to hear what was being said at the summit by American Indian parents, grandparents and tribal officials about the mishandling and gross mistreatment of American Indian children in the child welfare system in their state.
Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn
Testimony after testimony was delivered detailing the failure of the Department of Social Services to provide adequate foster care to Indian children living in South Dakota.
Some of the testimony discussed physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by foster care parents within the Department of Social Services foster care system.
“At one point, I thought they thought they took out children because they thought they were going to assimilate us,”
testified Aileen Brown, Standing Rock Sioux.
“Then I realized it was about the money they make from having our kids in the foster care system.”
The State of South Dakota takes in approximately $70,000 per child when an Indian child is in the state's foster care system.
Great Plains ICWA Summit: Bringing Our Children Home and Keeping Our Families Strong
“My great-granddaughter saw me and said, "Great grandmother, they told me you died. You didn’t,"”
testified a grandmother from the Rosebud Indian Reservation about how a foster parent attempted to completely alienate her great-granddaughter from her natural family.
The summit is an attempt by the Great Plains American Indian tribes to bring focus to an ongoing problem with alleged violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The summit has been in the works for over a year and garnered support, in part, by National Public Radio running a story about the disproportionate number of Indian children being removed from their homes and placed in foster care in South Dakota.
The State of South Dakota did respond with a seven page rebuttal of the accusations made in the National Public Radio report.
The summit, at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center, is open to the public and runs through Friday.
posted May 16, 2013 1:30 pm edt