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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

Originally posted to Chase Iron Eyes on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 09:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by Native American Netroots, Invisible People, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, and South Dakota Kos.

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