NDN Collective Hosts ICWA Conversation with Rebecca Nagle Ahead of Major Supreme Court Case that Threatens Tribal Sovereignty

Brandi Douglas · November 7, 2022

NDN Collective Hosts ICWA Conversation with Rebecca Nagle Ahead of Major Supreme Court Case that Threatens Tribal Sovereignty

Brackeen v. Haaland (2021) is a case whose ruling could shake the entire foundation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), impacting Native American children, families, land and Tribal sovereignty as we know it.

This Wednesday, November 9th, the United States Supreme Court will hear Brackeen v. Haaland (2021), a case whose ruling could shake the entire foundation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), impacting Native American children, families, land and Tribal sovereignty as we know it.

One person who has been following this case diligently is Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee journalist, host, producer, and writer of This Land Podcast. On Thursday, October 27th, NDN Collective’s Director of Tactical Media, Lorenzo Serna, sat down with Rebecca for an NDN LIVE discussion on what the Indian Child Welfare Act is, how it is under attack, who is organizing these efforts, and what this means for ICWA and the sovereign rights of Tribal Nations across the so-called United States. 

Lorenzo Serna, NDN Collective Director of Tactical Media, sits down with Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee journalist, host, producer, and writer of This Land Podcast, during the October 27th NDN Live discussion on ICWA and the Brackeen case.

Enacted in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was established with a purpose “to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” ICWA would achieve this by establishing minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children that ensures they are placed in the homes of Native families. 

During the NDN Live discussion, Nagle describes ICWA as, “a set of guardrails. So when a native child is up for adoption or enters the foster care system, it’s a set of guardrails to try and keep that child first with their family, with their tribe and then also connected to native communities.”

In the Brackeen v. Haaland (2021) case, which originated as a custody dispute of a Native American child, these guardrails are being challenged, and the Federal standards which were established 44 years ago to protect “Indian” children, are at stake.

Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee journalist, host, producer, and writer of This Land Podcast.

For Native communities across North America, these efforts are reflective of the removal of Native children during the Indian Boarding School Era, which began in the late 19th and early 20th century wherein Native children were forcibly removed from their families and communities as a part of assimilative efforts to strip them of their culture and communal ties.

Brackeen is challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, as it places preference for the placement of Indian children to the tribes themselves.  Gibson Dunn, the legal team backing this effort on the side of the Brackeens, are attempting to challenge not only ICWA, but other areas where the sovereign powers granted to Native Tribes and Nations are exercised. 

A chart identifying the anti-Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) organizations and key players. Credit: Crooked Media.

In prior years, Gibson Dunn has supported major oil and gas companies like that of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other companies who have contributed to worldwide environmental crises. Gibson Dunn also played a part in representation of companies in another area where sovereignty has been continuously challenged – Indian gaming. Their legal tactics in the gaming arena are reflective of the same argument in the Brackeen case.

“So Gibson Dunn has a really big casino and gaming portfolio,” said Nagle in the livestream conversation “They represent two of the three largest casino companies in the world. And this past January, Gibson Dunn filed a federal complaint saying that actually the legal structure of Indian gaming that allows tribes to operate casinos on Tribal lands where non-native casino developers can’t have casinos is unconstitutional. And the legal arguments that Gibson Dunn is using in that case are the exact same legal arguments that they’re using in Brackeen.” 

A timeline documenting anti-ICWA efforts beginning in the 2000’s up until present day. Credit: Crooked Media.

But what about the Indian Child Welfare Act is Gibson Dunn deeming discriminatory and unconstitutional? Depriving non-native families of the right to adopt Native children?

“They’re saying, the way that ICWA defines who is an Indian child and who is an Indian family is treating people differently based on race,” said Nagle. “And according to the 14th amendment of the Equal Protection Clause, we can’t treat people differently based on race in the United States. That’s discrimination and therefore it was unconstitutional.”

On season 2 of the This Land podcast, Rebecca Nagle does a deep dive into not only the Brackeen case, but the history of the Indian Child Welfare Act, starting with the boarding school era, speaking to survivors and unveiling the decades worth of effort by non-native families, legal teams and courts to unravel the sovereign protections afforded to Tribes and Nations in protecting their children.

On November 9th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Brackeen v. Haaland (2021). Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash.

This Wednesday, November 9th, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments for the Brackeen v. Haaland (2021) case. NDN Collective will be streaming LIVE on the ground in Washington, D.C. to hear from ICWA advocates, attorneys and more on this groundbreaking case.

Tune into our Facebook | Twitter | Youtube channels at 10am MT/11am CT/12pm ET to be a part of this groundbreaking moment.

Listen to Season 2 of the This Land podcast:

Protect ICWA Campaign graphic developed by National Indian Child Welfare Association, National Congress of American Indians, Association on American Indian Affairs and the Native American Rights Fund.

Resources

Resources for Survivors, provided by Crooked Media

Take action now to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act!

Learn more about the history of Brackeen v. Haaland + the history of ICWA on the following websites:

Brandi Douglas
by   Brandi Douglas

Brandi Douglas (she/they), NDN Collective’s Senior Communications Associate, is a Puyallup Tribal member as well as Black and Mexican, from Washington state. In her role, she provides support to the Communications and Narratives Team as well as all aspects of content production and targeted outreach. Brandi is an avid wordsmith, having uplifted various narratives that speak to the experience of being an Indigenous entrepreneur, woman of color and queer. Brandi holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from the University of Washington as well as a master’s degree in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma.

November 2022 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

NDN Collective Statement on COP27 Negotiation Outcomes Posted 10 hours ago
"We call on nation states to sever their relationships to the fossil fuels industry, fully commit to phasing out of fossil fuels, and utilize the core tenets of a Just Transition. Anything less is a failure to all of humanity.”
NDN Collective Responds to Mass Shooting of 2SLGBTQIA+ Relatives in Colorado Springs Posted 7 days ago
"As 2 spirit and queer individuals we long for spaces that are safe. We long for spaces that we can show up in and be our unapologetic queer selves without the fear of persecution. What happened to our relatives in Colorado is a violation of that sacred space and only triggers a more profound hyper vigilance of our spaces, our communities and of ourselves."
COP27: NDN Collective's Recap of Week One at the United Nations 27th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt Posted 2 weeks ago
"Our delegation has been participating in the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Local Communities Indigenous Peoples Platform, as well as tracking negotiations, meeting with government officials, and more."
COP27: NDN Collective Meets with White House Climate Advisor Posted 2 weeks ago
In their discussion with White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, NDN Collective, alongside frontline Indigenous and Black organizers touched on issue areas including IRA, mining, oil and gas leases.
VIDEO: NDN Collective Streams ICWA Rally on Steps of U.S. Supreme Court as Brackeen v. Haaland Oral Arguments are Heard

Brandy Calabaza

Posted 2 weeks ago
The outcry of support for ICWA, Tribal sovereignty, and the intervening Tribes involved in this case brought relatives together from across Turtle Island. Hundreds  gathered together in prayer, song, and medicine for the conversation about to take place inside the doors of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 9.
NDN Collective Responds to Midterm Election Results, Highlighting Wins for Tribes and Indian Country, Climate Justice and Reproductive Justice Posted 3 weeks ago
“These historic wins show that many believe in the foundation and leadership of Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women. Over the next few years, the fierceness of our communities will come to the forefront of important battles for our collective rights."
COP27: Indigenous Climate Expert Gives Speech at COP27 World Leaders Summit Posted 3 weeks ago
“We have to center rights and community wellbeing if we are really going to develop the holistic solutions and approaches that are necessary to truly enable effective action for a just transition for people and the planet.”
COP27: Indigenous Peoples’ Pavilion Opens   Posted 3 weeks ago
“The Indigenous Peoples Pavilion provides space and resources for Indigenous relatives from across the globe to share knowledge and strategize around getting real solutions in front of decision makers who can – and must – take bold action to save our shared planet.”
NDN Collective Announces 2022 Radical Imagination Artist Cohort Posted 4 weeks ago
“The aspirations of our people, and our movement is amplified and made visible by artists and creatives, we have a lot to say and they speak through their expression – which can come in the form of a painting, a song, a poem, or a performance."
NDN Collective Releases Collective Abundance Report on Redistributing Nearly $50M to Indigenous People in MN, ND, and SD Posted 4 weeks ago
The report includes data from over 5,000 respondents and represents Indigenous people, including those from all 23 tribes in the tri-state area.

United like never before, we rise together—arm in arm—to equip all Indigenous Peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future. Through a holistic approach to infrastructure, funding, advocacy, movement building, and philanthropy we are fostering a world of justice and equity for all people and the planet.