One afternoon in 2008, Janice Howe—a Dakota Indian—waited at the bus stop for her grandchildren to come home from school. They never arrived.
That afternoon, a social worker had taken Janice’s grandchildren. They were driven to a white foster facility hundreds of miles away. The reason stated in the case file: a “rumor” that Janice’s daughter, Erin Yellow Robe, had been using drugs. She hadn’t. To this day, Janice’s daughter hasn’t been charged or arrested for drugs—or anything else.
For the next year and a half, Janice fought to get her grandchildren back. She called the state’s Director of Social Services. She wrote letters to the Governor. Finally, she convinced her tribe’s Council to threaten the state with kidnapping. A few weeks later, her grandchildren were returned…on a “trial basis.”
Since 2005, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been working with hundreds of families who share Janice’s story. But they haven’t all been so lucky. Over the past decade, the State Department of Social Services has taken more than 5,000 Native American children from their homes. It’s easy to see why—for every Lakota child in state-sponsored care, South Dakota receives thousands of dollars a year in federal monies.
What’s the good news? We can do something about it!
The Lakota People’s Law Project is currently compiling court-admissible evidence and preparing a federal civil rights action on behalf of South Dakota’s Native families. Recently, we helped Janice Howe host a forum to teach parents and relatives about their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act. More than 160 Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota attended the meeting.
To be successful in this work, we need to build a chorus of support across the country. We hope that you will add your voice to this effort.
Please forward this email to your friends and share Janice’s story to help us grow a strong network of people who care.
Together, we can help the Lakota reclaim their rights and get their children back!
As we say in Lakota—pilamaya—thank you.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Organizer and Tribal Liaison
Will this genocide ever end……???