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Two bills related to the Indian Child Welfare Act move forward

The U.S. Supreme Court
Jose Luis Magana
The U.S. Supreme Court

A bill moving through the Wyoming legislature wouldcreate a state law protecting the tenets of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act(ICWA). The bill came about because the U.S. Supreme Court may potentially repeal the federal law this summer.

ICWA was passed in 1978. It keeps tribes of Indigenous children in the know of family court proceedings to maintain families and communities. Before ICWA, a high percentage of Indigenous children were being removed from their tribal affiliations and placed in families outside their culture.

Karen Returns to War, who is northern Arapaho, addressed the Senate Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee Wed. Jan 18. She said both of her older sisters had children who were adopted outside of the tribe.

“Both of them have said that they regret making that decision,” Returns to War told committee members. “They are no longer exposed to the language, our ceremonies, our real life, our traditions…everything that makes us as Araphoes…you know who we are.”

This bill was drafted during the interim and hopes to get ahead of a potential repeal of the federal law so that Indigenous children don’t fall through the cracks once more. The entire committee voted in favor of the bill. It now goes to the senate floor.

In conjunction with this, the house is considering another bill that would create a task force to look into how to make ICWA more state specific.

The House Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee voted to move forward on creating a State Indian Child Welfare Act task force. This bill was also drafted during the interim by the select committee on tribal relations. Representative Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) said the task force would look at how ICWA could better serve Wyoming.

“There are some anomalies and gaps in the federal [law] that could be strengthened on the state side. And to have a task force to look at those and identify those and to determine if we do indeed want to adopt those on the state side is still a worthy discussion,” Larsen said.

Larsen said the task force would be beneficial no matter whether the federal act is repealed or not since there are some nuances in the way the act currently functions in the state. The bill passed the committee and now moves to the house floor.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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