Press Release

NDN Collective Breathes Sigh of Relief Re: ICWA Decision

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2023

Rapid City, SD – Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the Haaland vs Brackeen case. This decision is in line with the views of at least 486 tribal nations, 59 national and regional Tribal Organizations, countless Indigenous people, and many people who work within the social services system who recognize the importance of raising children within their own cultural backgrounds and communities.

Members of NDN Collective gathered in front of the Supreme Court last November, bringing live coverage of the much-anticipated oral arguments in Brackeen v. Haaland. Photo by Steph Viera for NDN Collective.

This ruling not only protects the cultural health of Indigenous youth and families – it reaffirms the rights of tribal nations to be involved in decisions concerning the wellbeing of their own citizens.

“ICWA’s enactment was a legal response to the mass removal of Indigenous children created by Federal Indian Policy for over a century,” said Brandy Calabaza, Communications Associate for NDN Collective. “The Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold ICWA is not only a win for tribal sovereignty, but also for those families and children who reconnected with their Indigenous roots because of the legal protections established through ICWA. We celebrate this monumental win, acknowledging the continued advocacy by tribal leaders, lawyers, and organizers who hold government entities like SCOTUS accountable to their legal trust responsibility to act in the best interests of all Indigenous Peoples across the so-called United States.”

“ICWA is one tool to prevent the continued cultural genocide of Indigenous people in the so-called United States, and is critical to the wellbeing of our youth and people as a whole,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective. “Ensuring Native children can be held and raised by their own communities is an important way to heal our people from the colonization and brutalization waged by the US government for hundreds of years. We must go further, by continuing to address the root causes of Indigenous children still being taken from their families — deeply entrenched trauma and poverty fueled by systemic racism, lack of Indigenous sovereignty, and governmental neglect.” 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold protections under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) respects the rights of sovereign nations to make decisions about the well-being and care of their youngest Tribal citizens,” said Judith LeBlanc, Board Chair of NDN Collective. “After decades of the forced removal of our Native children from their homes, this is a small win in the larger fight to maintain Tribal sovereignty and cultural continuity for generations to come. While today’s victory is to be celebrated, this will not be the last time a case against Tribal rights will be brought to the courts. Haaland V. Brackeen is part of a larger campaign to undermine Tribal sovereignty and gut the legal infrastructure that codifies Tribal sovereignty.”


NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms. 

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