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”.
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.
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