George F. Will’s Sept. 3 op-ed column on the Indian Child Welfare Act, “Kids pay the price for tribes,” highlighted our country’s long, shameful history of mistreatment of the First Americans.
Nothing in the act says that children in dangerous homes must stay. The “best interest of the child” standard is applied in all cases under the act. To insinuate that a tribal government isn’t concerned about the best interest of native children is insulting.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to help keep native children safe and connected to their tribal nations. Before the act passed in 1978, generations of babies were forcibly removed from native families and communities. It was racism, paternalism and colonialism at their core.
Mr. Will cherry-picked tragic cases that, sadly, aren’t unique to tribes. So many U.S. children have died in foster care or after being returned to their families that a federal commission was created in 2013 to investigate child abuse and neglect fatalities in the child welfare system. Native children aren’t overrepresented in these deaths.
When we talk about “blood-stained” laws, we should talk about the history of the treatment of Native Americans: laws of genocide, sterilization, forced removal and assimilation; compulsory boarding schools; underfunding of critical health care; and a trail of broken promises.
I don’t know what’s the second or third priority in people’s lives, but I know what is first: their children. And that is just as true for Native American parents as it is for any of us.
Byron L. Dorgan, Washington
The writer, a Democrat, a former U.S. senator from North Dakota and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, created the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute.