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A Child Dies and Dozens More Remain in Abusive Homes, Ignored by the BIA

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June 23, 2013 –

A charge has been made in the death of a 3-year-old girl who died last week after she and her twin sister were sent to live on the Spirit Lake Reservation, a community known for widespread violence, crime, tribal government corruption and sexual abuse against children. A member of the family has been arrested and accused of physically abusing the twins as well encouraging her children to beat and kick them.

The Grand Forks article states that the step grandmother allowed her own children to hit and kick those babies, but she isn’t being charged with murder. She’s only being charged with “abuse or neglect of a child resulting in serious bodily injury.”

Further – the tribal govt has issued a news release late Thursday decrying that “some are using this tragedy to attack the tribe” and said it has “a demonstrated record of its commitment to improving social services programs.”

The Spirit Lake Tribal Govt does NOT have a demonstrated record of commitment” – two children died last year, and that is why the BIA went in last fall to take over the social services. Further, the Spirit Lake community and elders attempted to oust the tribal council just two months ago!

Not that the BIA is doing any better in protecting the children. They have been confronted on several occasions for ignoring ongoing abuse, and now a child is dead under the BIA’s watch. Another child is dead.

Countess children have been abused while under the care of the BIA and Spirit Lake Tribal Services. Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration of Children and Families, has documented 40 children living with sex offenders at Spirit Lake after they were removed from safe homes off of the reservation. His mandated report was given to federal officials overseeing Spirit Lake tribal social services as well as DC officials and U.S. Senators. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) started overseeing tribal services last year to stop the crime and abuse. Yet, little has been done. Today most of these young children are still living with sex offenders.

One month ago, the twins were healthy and happily living with a foster family in Bismarck, ND, but were moved solely due to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Until this Act is significantly altered, many more children will needlessly suffer and even die. Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is calling for immediate action by Congress to ensure that the lives of children be elevated to higher importance than the demands of tribal government leaders. The Spirit Lake Tribe is not an anomaly. CAICW is frequently contacted by families being hurt by ICWA across the nation.

Betty Jo Krenz – the biggest advocate for the Spirit Lake kids that I know of – is correct that there is so much that needs to be done to help these kids. Spirit Lake is just one Reservation. Severe abuse and neglect of children is happening on many reservations, with the claim that it is “ok” because they are “Native Kids.” No it’s not. Don’t believe that spin for a moment. What kind of racism is that to claim that kids of heritage don’t mind being abused and neglected?

I once heard an attorney tell a family court that even though the home he wanted to move the kids to didn’t have enough beds for them, beds are a “European” standard and Indian kids don’t mind sleeping on the floor. Seriously – this was said in court. Now…how is that not racism? I know for a fact that every child of heritage that I have had in my home – more than two dozen – has greatly preferred beds to the floor.

But the rhetoric concerning kids with heritage is entrenched. Many Americans really believe the spin that kids with any amount of heritage are “different” from other children. People believe it – until they stop and think about what is really being said. No – there is no difference in the blood. We can all get blood transfusions without questioning the racial heritage of the blood donor. There is no inherent little microbe denoting a difference between the blood of one race or the blood of another. There is nothing “inherent” about kids with native heritage. I have raised nine enrolled children – five of whom are my birth children – all of whom are average American kids.

All genetic differences are “familial” – not “racial.” Our genes, handed down from our parents, map the shape of our cheekbones, the color of our eyes, the melatonin in our skin… but those are all family traits, not racial traits. There is no gene for race. The mapping is complete. It is all family to family – and they have traced all genes back to one single family.

But to the present concern: Despite all the documented evidence Betty Jo Krenz and her friends have gathered of the abuse of children at Spirit Lake over the last couple years, officials have still been taking kids from safe homes and putting them into dangerous ones at Spirit Lake – even with the BIA there supposedly watching.

We know this same stuff is happening on other reservations, but it isn’t as openly documented. If we can’t get through and see changes at Spirit Lake, how will we see it elsewhere?

Sexual abuse of children on several reservations is rampant. I myself have chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl at Red Lake twenty years ago, and have heard from nieces about things that happened to them since then. About being taught to prostitute. Now we are hearing about it more and more frequently from individuals and families who write to us.

In some corners, sexual abuse is becoming increasingly acceptable in the rez community. Young girls and boys are seen by some as mere possessions for the purpose of self-gratification. Or income. This isn’t in every home. There are homes that are safe. But sexual abuse is happening in way too many homes.

I was told another young child might have been gang-raped in the last few days. Waiting to hear some confirmation.

And now we are hearing the words “trafficking” more and more often in relation to certain reservations. I heard the word used in reference to Spirit Lake yesterday.

It can not be denied that a large number of citizens living within Indian Country are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violence. Our current reservation system rewards dependence on federal government rather than on an individual’s strength and God. It encourages strong people to embrace anger and hide under the mantle of victimhood. The prevalence of alcoholism results in a percentage of Fetal Alcohol adults now raising Fetal Alcohol children.

While many healthy tribal members move off the reservation to get away from crime, many of the neediest remain. Those who remain submit to a life amid a criminal element that retreats to the reservations to stay out of reach of state law enforcement. Sometimes the criminal element influences, or even becomes, the tribal government. Shockingly, this displays a similar sociological pattern to third world countries or small dictatorships around the globe.

Six months ago, in January 2013, our entire Senate unanimously voted on a resolution calling on Russia to put the best interest of children ahead of politics. The House followed suit with their own resolution. Why can’t we do the same thing for children who are citizens of the United States?

We are asking our Congress to no longer be taken in by the claims of tribal government that they are only demanding the right to their “own” children. My children and grandchildren are NOT owned by tribal government. Tribal overreach has been affecting multi-racial children and families across the nation.

Just one example: the current case, awaiting ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, involves a child of 1.12% Cherokee heritage. Her Hispanic mother had made a decision as to the best interest of her daughter, and our government turned around and robbed her of that decision.

But even parents of 100% tribal heritage – such as my husband – have a right to decide to raise their children apart from Indian Country and tribal government. The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.

We need to be proactive and put an end to this continuing violence against both children and adults.

Do you want to help? Please – tell others. Talking about these things with friends and sharing the family stories with them. This is the best way you can help. The more people that know about it, the more pressure there will be on Congress to do something.

Please share the stories of these children with others. We have some family letters posted on our website. It’s been a long time since I have been able to post additional letters, but there are many there – http://caicw.org/ (lots of work that continues to need to be done on the site – very little time to do it.)



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