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Chase Iron Eyes

Hello, my name is Chase Iron Eyes and I represent the Lakota People's Law Project as South Dakota legal counsel.

The state of South Dakota has forcibly removed our Lakota children from their tribes for 150 years. The Indian Child Welfare Act continues to be violated daily. Lakota leaders agree on the best permanent solution to this crisis: a Lakota-run foster care and family service system.

I am writing here today to urgently request that you watch our new video and support us in our campaign to bring the Lakota children home. Time is running out: if we don't act now, we will lose this opportunity to end the crisis.

Learn more, watch the video at donate at

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Chase Iron Eyes
Hello my relatives. My name is Chase Iron Eyes and I represent the Lakota Peoples Law Project as South Dakota legal counsel. I am also the appointed Eyapaha (messenger) of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council and co-creator of I wrote to the Daily Kos community two weeks ago (thank you for your strong response), and now I write again, this time to urgently ask you to put your pen to work on behalf of our Lakota children and families…

As you may know, since 2011, National Public Radio has reported on egregious, systematic violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services (see here for Meteor Blades’ important coverage of this reporting). This journalism reached tens of millions of people and won a Peabody Award. Most importantly, it helped nurture a movement among our Lakota people: recently our tribal leaders signed letters to Washington D.C. urging federal officials to help us fund our own foster care and adoption programs so we can reclaim our lost children. We know unequivocally that federal money for this purpose should ultimately be going directly to the tribes, rather than to a state that fails to respect both our culture and the laws of this land. Our sovereignty demands this.

But an obstacle has arisen. In August of this year, a rogue ombudsman—a “watchdog”—at National Public Radio attacked his own news organization for airing our story. Based on his talks with DSS officials and the inaccurate figures and claims they provided to him, he asserted that NPR’s original story unfairly denigrated South Dakota. NPR’s editors rejected the ombudsman’s attack from within, saying, “We find this unprecedented effort to ‘re-report’ parts of the [South Dakota Native foster care] story to be deeply flawed”.

NPR in the Cross Hairs
The ombudsman has circulated his report widely, attempting to discredit the NPR journalists who reported so intelligently on the ICWA crisis in my state. This is unconscionable. (Thank you Aji for posting briefly about this previously on D Kos). Today I humbly ask you to investigate the real story, to draw your own conclusions, and ultimately to help us continue to alert the public about the true situation in South Dakota.

As a community of first-rate researchers and writers, I ask you to leverage your intellectual talents to push back against South Dakota and its crony, the NPR ombudsman. Many of the resources you will need to do so are below, and if you keep reading you will see precisely what we hope you will do. Our Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) has joined with Richard Wexler, former executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR), to respond to the ombudsman’s polemic. LPLP’s report reveals that the ombudsman—who is the former founding editor of the Wall Street Journal Americas—essentially ignored Native American people and perspectives in writing his document, choosing to rely instead almost entirely on South Dakota Department of Social Services officials for his information. Our report proves that the ombudsman misinterpreted important distinctions, used inaccurate statistics, and came to the wrong conclusions.

Please take time to:

1. Read our report, “Who’s Watching the Watchdog?”, and also review Richard Wexler’s “A Case Study in an Ombudsman Gone Awry.”

2. Then, register with NPR if you haven’t already (it takes a few minutes), and login to NPR’s comment stream to lend your voice to the debate.

3. You may also wish to publish diaries or articles of your own. We are of course here to support your efforts if you choose to do so.

Lila Wophila Ichichapelo (thank you all for your time)

Chase Iron Eyes

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Chase Iron Eyes
Hello my relatives. My name is Chase Iron Eyes. I am South Dakota counsel for the Lakota Peoples Law Project, the appointed Eyapaha (messenger) of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, board member of HonorTheTreaties.Org, and co-creator of I write to you today to introduce myself to the Kos community, to tell you of the important work we are doing in South Dakota on Indian Child Welfare and treaty issues, and to ask you to support us.  

For far too long our people have been ignored by the United States. Many who are willing to learn of our struggles are kept in the dark by corporate-controlled media and other institutions. Genocide has survived in various forms after the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 and after the deliberate kidnapping, haircutting, beatings, sexual-physical abuse, rape, and other crimes against humanity that happened to our grandmothers and grandfathers at the hands of Christian Churches and the United States Government during the boarding school era. Our blood is all over America’s hands. Yet, we don't want to exploit White Guilt; we want modern humans to honor the Treaties and the Covenants that both Native and white American ancestors agreed to uphold before God.

Our nation, the Lakota Nation, entered into a Treaty, a contract between nations, with the United States in 1868 at the request of the U.S.A. America wished to establish peace with the Lakota, who were defending land, people, and a way of life that Americans were encroaching upon during the Red Cloud wars of 1866-1868. By signing the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, the U.S.A. did not grant any rights or reservations to us whatsoever; our rights inhere in our own Creator-given sovereignty over ourselves and our futures as an internationally capable people and nation. This treaty is still alive. It is an organic document that evolves with time. But, the U.S. refuses to honor the agreement, causing the United Nations to condemn the U.S. recently. How can the United States respect the Treaty it made with us? It can start by giving back the Black Hills (that’s where Mount Rushmore is) to its rightful owners and protectors, our Sioux Nation. Secondly, the United States can intervene in South Dakota to prevent the ongoing removal of Indian Children from their families in violation of our Treaties, Federal Law, and International law. The rate and manner of removal of Indian children is tantamount to genocide; it accomplishes the same results as forced transferal of our children to boarding schools in the past. It leads to the erasure of our dignity as original peoples of this continent.  
Genocide has survived and been institutionalized in the state of South Dakota's Department of Social Services, under the guidance of a legendary Indian fighter named William J. Janklow, former governor of South Dakota. Janklow once stated that the best way to deal with the American Indian Movement (AIM)—who forced great, necessary social change within and without Indian Nations—was to "put a gun to the heads of the leaders of AIM and pull the trigger." For a full briefing on the ongoing, de facto genocide against Indian people in South Dakota, visit the Lakota People’s Law Project website. But suffice it to say that the South Dakota DSS is removing Indian children from Indian parents in violation of federal and international law and placing them into White institutions and homes while Indian homes sit vacant. Every day two of our kids are taken and placed; 740+ every year are subjected to this fate. Further, the state is receiving $56 million per year (roughly 72k per kid) from the federal government to accomplish this. Some are reunited after years of battling with the state, some are kept track of, some are lost and placed in abusive homes like the home of Richard and Wendy Mette (please read our special report on this terrifying issue). What follows is a quick overview of facts and assertions based on research by the Lakota People’s Law Project.

But before proceeding, I ask that you support our work in South Dakota by donating $50. You’ll receive a free t-shirt with original artwork by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey and photographer Aaron Huey. All proceeds will go to pay Lakota professionals and activists.  

Key Facts and Assertions in re the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA):

- Fact: In South Dakota Indian children comprise approximately 13% of the total child population yet constitute roughly 54% of all children in state custody.

- Fact: In South Dakota approximately 740+ Indian kids are taken out of Indian families every year by the state.

- Fact: A lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes regarding South Dakota's reported violations of ICWA relating to the 48 hour hearing requirements is currently active.

- Fact: When our foster and adoptive children are taken from their families, 90% of the time they are not placed with their kin or another Indian family (as required by ICWA), although eligible Indian foster homes exist and yet sit vacant.

-Assertion: When our children are taken from us and placed in non-Indian residential or institutional care they have arguably zero access to culture or teachings which are vital to their self-esteem/identity.

- Fact: All foster children are classified as “special needs” children by the state of South Dakota, making them four times more profitable and resulting in a 72,000 per year financial incentive per child.

- Fact: the South Dakota economy brings in approximately 56 million dollars per year from the federal government by classifying Indian kids as special needs and removing them from their families.

- Fact: Approximately 21% of our kids who are taken from their families end up in institutions other than foster homes, such as detention centers, group homes, and psychiatric care centers.

- Assertion: Our children are prescribed psychotropic drugs at such institutions, side effects of which include destabilized mental health and suicidal ideations, and sales of these pharmaceuticals are increased significantly at our children’s expense.

- Fact: Within two years of leaving these institutions or turning 18, or otherwise "aging out" of the reach of the DSS, 63% of our kids are on the streets, in prison, or dead.

In a nutshell, that describes the on-going state of affairs in South Dakota with respect to Indian Tribes and the Dept. of Social Services. This writing is to make the reader aware of what has been happening to us. This travesty is going on right now. Justice requires that it be stopped. Bill Janklow’s legacy must die for Lakota kids to live. The Lakota Peoples Law Project is seven years deep investigating and raising awareness of this plague., the Lakota People’s Law Project, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have teamed up and are organizing on every reservation in South Dakota to address this crisis.

Our work is broken into a focus on the problem and a focus on solutions. In terms of the problem, we are keeping pressure on South Dakota. On the solutions side, we are helping to organize a coordinated effort among the nine Tribes in South Dakota to, eventually, take over the tens of millions per year in funding that benefits South Dakota DSS and the state as it pertains to Indian children. Nearly all of the nine Tribal governments that deal directly with South Dakota are working to assess their funding and other needs with the overall goal of establishing a direct funding arrangement between the Tribes and the Federal government to the exclusion of the state. This will take time, but I have faith that it will happen eventually. We are willing to engage the Health and Human Services Department, Interior, and others to ensure proper administrative oversight and monitoring as relates to federal funds. The Governor of South Dakota has recently issued a letter supporting such a transfer of funding and oversight responsibility of Indian Children to Indian Tribes. We are thankful for that.

Again, please donate $50 or more and we’ll send you a free, beautiful t-shirt by Shepard Fairey and Aaron Huey, declaring a phrase Lakota children grow up hearing: The Black Hills Are Not For Sale!

Lila Wophila Ichichapelo (thank you all for your time)

Chase Iron Eyes

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