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Feb-03-2014 20:32printcomments

Hearts On The Ground: Free the Lakota Children

"A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground."
- Native American Proverb - Please Help Spread the Word!

Free Lakota children
Photo: Read the Full Petition Here

(NAIROBI, Kenya ECOTERRA) - Read the Full Petition Here
To be delivered to US American President Barack Obama
We urge President Obama to stop state kidnapping of indigenous children done by the Federal State officials from South Dakota!
The time has come to empower the Lakota people to have their own child and family service programs.
(N.B.: Please note that the imperialist and fascist expression "tribe" is deeply embedded in the U.S. American legislation - and even in the minds of of some indigenous peoples, who are still oppressed, themselves as well as in the thoughts of their supporters. Likewise the false term "Indian" has still not been rooted out from the hearts and minds of the overlords.)

PLEASE SIGN ON - Petition by Lakota People's Law Project

As clearly documented in the new short web video “Hearts on the Ground,” by Sundance award-winning director Kalyanee Mam (just released at, the epidemic of child taking by the State of South Dakota is tearing thousands of Lakota Sioux families apart.  

Every day, Lakota grandmothers are illegally denied their right to foster their own grandchildren. The South Dakota Dept. of Social Services rejects grandmothers for such trivial reasons as too few rooms in a home, too small of a home, too old, decades old crimes, and even rumors.

South Dakota continues to violate the federal law by placing 90% of the 750 Lakota foster children it seizes each year into non-Native homes and facilities, instead of with relatives or tribal homes. Both federal law and the United Nations define this behavior as genocide. Only tribal programs are placing foster children with their relatives.

President Obama has the authority to order three federal agencies (the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services), to provide resources to train and develop Lakota family service programs and foster care systems for the nine Lakota Sioux tribal Councils. Within a short time, the $60 million in federal funds that currently go to the State of South Dakota’s Department of Social Services to illegally remove Native American children and force them into foster care can instead be spent and managed by the indigenous communities themselves, as they work to keep children with relatives, while restoring First Nation sovereignty.

Lakota children are more than ten times more likely to be forcibly removed from their parents than Caucasian children, and now comprise about 60% of all foster children in the state. In more than 90% of the cases, simply alleged “neglect,” as opposed to sexual or physical abuse, is given as the reason for the forced taking, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes while at school, or in the middle of the night. Poverty equals “neglect' in the mind of the State workers.

What is happening to Lakota children and families in South Dakota today is precisely the sort of activity that Congress intended to stop when it passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) of 1978. The Act mandates that when states remove Native American children from their parents, they must be placed with relatives from their extended family, or with other members of their community, or with members of other Lakota communities. Only when an active effort for such placements fail are states allowed to place Native Americans in White foster homes, or state run foster care facilities.

The Department of Social Services in South Dakota continues to deny child placements to willing and capable relatives, while “stripping” parents of all parental rights to ever see their children again, for “violations” as trivial as failing to show up at parenting classes.

South Dakota designates every Native child in its foster care system as “special needs,” receiving up to $79,000 from the federal government for their care annually, and then forcing many to take mind-altering drugs, even some as young as 18 months of age. Medicare spending for foster care child prescriptions in South Dakota increased more than 1,000 percent in the recent decade, while suicide rates for young Lakota children are 12 times the national average, and among the highest in the world. Some of the suicides are clearly related to the forced medications.

More than a century after being forced from their ancestral lands onto reservations, the 70,000 members of the Lakota Sioux nation remain the poorest, most oppressed people in the United States.

Let's turn around 150 years of cruel abuse to Lakota families. Please sign this petition ! Tell President Obama to instruct his agencies to help the indigenous peoples and bring the Lakota children home!



TANNEKIA: As a mom, you want to be able to protect your kids from everything, and when you're stripped of that. I didn't know how to be without my kids. I still don't.

LEONARD: This is South Dakota, so they have warehouses full of Indian kids, and they're still there today. I mean Indian kid after Indian kid was taken away from their parents and uh put up for adoption.

WILMA: The state can come in and take kids anytime of the day any time of the night. So they'll be more children going to the foster home. That's how it works that how abusive these foster homes are.

South Dakota's Forced Taking of Lakota Children

Every year, the Department of Social Services of South Dakota removes about 750 Lakota children from their families.

Source → Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Outcome Report 2008-2011, page 311 

While Lakota children make up only 13% of the child population of South Dakota, nearly 60% of the children in foster care are Lakota.

source → Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Outcome Report 2008-2011, page 310

LISA: They took, the boys exactly one week after Aden's first birthday. That was the hardest thing. Thinking about them waking up the next morning not knowing where they're at, crying.

TELLY: Everything was happening so fast, they took my boys, they took my old lady, they took me. They... they stun gunned me that night, I had scars up and down my legs, I was beaten, I was thrown in a cell. And when I got up and my whole life was turned upside down.

Telly and Lisa's sons were removed from their home after a neighbor reported drinking and fighting.

TELLY: What was really surprising that night, wasn't so much what I was going through, you know, it was what didn't happen that was supposed to happen, I mean, according to the laws that are…that are in place today. Whereas if a family member is present, they can take the child.

According to the Indian child welfare act (ICWA) passed by Congress in 1978, Native American children are legally required to be placed with relatives or tribal members.
source → 25 U.S.C. 21 §1915

A Native American child cannot be placed in non-native foster care facilities unless there are no relatives, tribal members or members of other tribes willing to take the child.
source → 25 U.S.C. 21 §1915

TELLY: Well, there wasn't one, two, there was like three or four older native American adults that weren't even a part of the situation that we were in, that could have taken the children. The police immediately told them no, these kids are going to DSS.

ILENE: When they took my grandsons I came to see what was going on and I went to see the two boys at the social services with my son. Well when I told the court I was their grandmother and that I was there to get my grandsons to take them home, they told me I had to adopt my grandsons and before I could see them I had to take fostering and adopting classes. I did everything they said, I complied with them I did their classes I did the home visits I got uh a house, I rented a house, So you know what they can pull all these little strings and we are the puppets and what we do doesn’t matter anyway, you know they can give us a hoop we can jump through that but it doesn’t do us any good. No matter what we do its never going to work.

Although the Indian Child Welfare Act legally requires that all Native American children are placed with relatives, South Dakota ignored all of Ilene's attempts to gain custody of her grandchildren.

Telly and Lisa lost their parental rights.

LISA: That day in court they severed our rights. And then I was expected to go and say goodbye. I was told I had an hour to say goodbye to my kids. And tell them that you love them, and its not their fault, I have an hour with my kids and you want me to tell them that I'm sorry.

ILENE: I just wish they’d give my grandsons back. You know? ..If ...if if there was guns if there was big drugs if there was prostitution or all that yucky stuff going on in my sons home, I could see that you know taking the children away but over just some argument and fighting? To break up this family?

In complete violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, nearly 90% of Lakota children are placed in non-native foster care homes or facilities instead of with their relatives or in Native American homes.
source →

TANEKIA: The goal of Social Services, of DSS, is not to tear families apart-- it's for reunification of families, and keeping that family unit whole. So why aren't they doing that here in South Dakota?

ARLEN: If if if ICWA is being followed no native child should be placed with a non-native family not that they're bad, but they should be with their own with people. With their to learn their culture, to learn their history, um of who they came from, hopefully where they're going to, and they should be always around their Tiyospaye, their family.

LEONARD: A child believes that his father and mother are the strongest people in the world. Their parents take care of them and you know uh nurture them. That makes them respect them and appreciate them. Whenever they think their parents are the strongest people in the world then DSS comes and slaps them aside you know and says um your doing that wrong and you have to do this and you need to straighten up or I'm gonna take these kids away and put you in jail, and uh all the respect all the appreciation; its all gone.

Not only are Lakota children removed from their families, a majority of them are placed in foster care homes and psychiatric facilities and prescribed medication without their parents consent.
source →

ZANE: they were giving me these uh drugs like you know Prozac and two other ones I didn’t know the names of, which scared me because I didn’t even know what I was taking, and they just basically said, “Take this,” and if you didn’t take it they would physically restrain me and throw me in my room and not let me out you know for an extended period of time, until I wanted to take the meditation.

Zane was only twelve years old when he was placed in the Canyon Hills Psychiatric Facility and forced to take psychiatric drugs.

ZANE: I don’t remember any doctor you know sitting down saying this is what you’re taking, or anything they just kind of conveniently come up to me and said this is the new court ordered medication you have to take because of such and such whatever, you know behavioral report or whatever and they’d be like this is what you’re taking now. I didn’t see a doctor I didn’t have consent, my mom didn’t have consent. they basically just said you take this or you’re in trouble.

Between 1999 and 2009, Medicaid spending for prescription drugs for foster children in South Dakota increased by more than 1,000%.
source → The spending & use of prescription drugs rose from 428 claims totaling $110,014 in 1999 to 1,205 claims equaling $1,227,783 in 2009-- a 1016% increase in spending.

Interviewer: So when you were taken when you were little, why were you taken away?

DIANTE: I don’t know they told me... well what they had told me was that was that my parents didn't want me anymore. Pretty much. Or that my mom didn’t want me anymore and that nobody really cared.

Interviewer: Why did they tell you that?

DIANTE: I don’t know

Interviewer: Did you believe them at the time?

DIANTE: At the time yeah.

Diante was placed in the foster care system since he was five. He was returned to his mother when he was 12. He is now 17 years old.

Interviewer: When you were away from your mom from your mom, your family what did you want more than anything?

DIANTE: Well to be honest, when I was in placements and stuff like that I just wanted to die to be honest.

While in foster care, Diante attempted to commit suicide twice, when he was nine and twelve years old.

Suicide rates for young Lakotas in South Dakota are more that 12 times the national average, and reputed to be the worlds highest.

TANNEKIA: There are some kids in Molbridge right now that are living in dire straits... that are Caucasian. They're left there. You put a... a... an Indian or indigenous person, same exact situation, 100% of the time they're gonna get taken, and told they're 'unfit.' Push for parental right termination.

ILENE: I feel like cause I have to go to the hospitals and give these booklets out to these Indian girls telling them this is what you need to do if you ever get your kids taken away. Here you have a manual for learning how to breast-feed and all this kinda stuff well here’s a manual to get your kids back.

TANNEKIA: They make money off of our kids. The more Indian kids they have in the system, the more money they get.

All Lakota children placed in foster care in South Dakota are labeled "Special Needs"
source → South Dakota has defined “Native American” as criteria for being ‘special needs’

South Dakota receives as much as $70,000 annually in federal funds for every “Special Needs” child.

TELLY: Every day I. you know, I go through this every day, you know, I don't cry every day, I don't bust it up every day, but, every day in my heart, you know, I know there's something gone, something that isn’t right. You take a man's first born son away from him, first born son... My pride... and its tough to have pride any more.

ILENE: Look what they have done to that mother, and they’ve done to my son and I cant even see my grandkids, how do you undo blood, how do you undo that? How can you say those are no longer members of your family? How could they undo that?

Preparing for their sons' return Telly and Lisa bought their first home in 2008. They are still waiting for their children to return home.

Ilene's six year effort to “adopt” her grandsons have also failed.

Arlen left the Department of Social Services on November 2007. Six months later, DSS took his son, returning him only after a four months battle in court.

Tinnekia is still fighting to regain custody of her younger son.

TANNEKIA: “There's a saying… "Our nation is not lost until all of the hearts of its women are on the ground." They may be broken, but they're not on the ground yet. And piece by piece we're picking them up and putting them back together. Until then, all we can do is hold it close and hold the babies we have close.

Ilene's six year effort to “adopt” her grandsons have also failed.

Arlen left the Department of Social Services on November 2007. Six months later, DSS took his son, returning him only after a four months battle in court.

Tinnekia is still fighting to regain custody of her younger son.

South Dakota's Forced Taking of Lakota Children

Lakota People’s Law Project

Help Lakota Families Bring Their Children Home

A warm and special thanks to the families for sharing their stories





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Anonymous February 9, 2014 1:36 pm (Pacific time)

I wrote this for everyone. Shared it on google, facebook, blogspot and Daily Kos ♥Lakota Children Taken♥ Petition To Keep Them With Their Families♥

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