#1539 Stolen Children is Stolen History, Heritage, and Culture (Transcript)

Air Date 1/25/2022

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the long global history of invaders stealing the children of Native families to be acculturated into the population of the invading force. Reasons can range from a tactic of war and an intention to commit genocide, usually based on an ideology of racial superiority, to concerns over shifting national demographics, simple economic dispossession, or all of the above. Clips today are from a DW documentary, ABC News - that's the Australian ABC - History's Stories, Behind the News, Democracy Now!, TRT World, Vox, CounterSpin, and Amicus, with an additional members only clip from Amicus. And stay tuned to the end where I'll attempt to explain the differing worldviews on apologies.

The kidnapping campaign of Nazi Germany - DW Documentary - Air Date 3-11-2020

September, 1939, Nazi Germany [00:01:00] invaded po. And for more than five years, Brock terror too much of Europe with its ideology of a master race. A central figure in that campaign was res fur ss Heinrich Himmler. The leading Nazi was obsessed with racial purity and came up with a plan to bolster the so-called Aryan race.

The between 1941 and 1945, children were kidnapped from all over Eastern Europe and forcibly German.

Historians estimate that 20,000 of those children came from Poland alone

The Refu SS visited, occupied Poland in 1941 and traveled through the Vertigo district in 1939. Poland had been carved up between the Soviets and the German.

Sections of the western part of the country, including the so-called riceland were [00:02:00] incorporated into the German rice. Other regions were placed under German civil administration. Hamer's vision was to make Germany the mightiest nation in the world by bolstering the population with new progeny from abroad, mainly from Eastern Europe.

In the Bundes, Sahi in Berlin are hundreds of documents that show the gradual development of Himmler's strategy for the organized abduction of children.

After his trip through Vaal Himmler wrote to the gal Liter Reiser. I believe it is right, that small children of especially good race from Polish families be collected and brought up by us in special, not too large children's nurseries and orphanages. I would advise starting with two or three such institutions so as to gather experie.

There are many myths about the forest journalization of [00:03:00] foreign children. One account is that they were ethnic Germans, that is children of German ancestry who lived outside the German Reich, and that only very few children were brought to Germany at. But Himmler's Plan did have a system as the Reich Commissioner for the consolidation of German nationhood.

He helped to issue Directive 67 1. It's stated first, all children and formerly published orphanages are to be taken and placed in accommodations. After that operation is concluded. Children living with Polish foster parents will be examin.

The directive was signed by Ulrich Krefeld, Himmler's direct subordinate.

Later at the Nuremberg Trials, he claimed that there had never been a concrete plan

directive. 67 [00:04:00] 1 went to all high ranking leaders. Of the SS and the police and the corresponding SS leaders concerned with race and settlement policy so that the SS apparatus would be aware of how it worked. It was a part of a supposedly rational occupation and journalization policy that was imposed mainly on occupied Poland, but also on other occupied and annexed regions of Europe.

Today, experts believe that around 50,000 children were abducted from across Europe. Cases are known from today's Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, but the largest group was from Poland because the machinery of the abduction started in the Vertigo district.

First orphanages were. Then child welfare officials summoned all children living with foster parents for inspection. There were [00:05:00] precise guidelines on how a racially suitable child was supposed to look. 21 characteristics were examined, including growth patterns. The back of the head, the bridge of the nose and body hair, the officials were looking for, so-called arian types, classified as pure Nordic pian or Nordic.

What the Nazis couldn't use were unbalanced hybrid types.

In the southwestern German city of Frei Borg Hartmann, Lud King is paying a visit to Christoff Schwartz. Schwartz is a teacher, but for years he has been helping Hartmann the two. Want the German government to recognize the kidnapped children as victims of the Nazi regime so that they can receive compensation.

Schwartz founded and association representing the children's. And he and Herman have filed lawsuits together so far with no success as a last resort. They've approached Germany's highest court, the [00:06:00] constitutional court.

This is the letter I received.

Yeah, they're processing it. And now I have to wait for a date.

Yes, Herman. I'd suggest that we write another letter to the constitutional court saying they should speed things up a little in consideration of your age.

Lets finish our, I think it's great that at his age he's still prepared to fight for justice, even though it's only about the symbolic sum of 2,500 Euros. Really, it's a joke. According to Germany's Act, regulating compensation for national socialist injustice, that is the sum to which non-Jewish victims are entitled.

Lukin considers himself a part of that group. For me, it's not about the money, but about the [00:07:00] recognition that this was a crime. That's what gets me mad. Their strategy is to wait until nature takes care of it and it's over. The German government argues that the kidnappings can be seen as general collateral damage of war, and that therefore there can be no claim to compensation.

And it's often argued that the kidnapped children were well treated in contrast to other victims. That was true in Herman's case. His German foster parents were wealthy. His mother was a teacher and head of the Regional Association of German girls. The father was a high ranking teacher. Both were Nazi party members.

Herman graduated from school, studied at university, and became a mechanical.

But the parents never spoke to him about his background. [00:08:00] Even in his mid eighties, not knowing who his parents were is a source of unease that Herman says, we'll never leave.

Claims of Russia kidnapping Ukrainian children throughout the region - ABC News - Air Date 11-22-22

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: This is what the Putin regime wants you to see. Helpless, Ukrainian orphans greeted with teddy bears by loving Russian couples ready to take them in. In reality, Russia is deporting thousands of children out of Ukraine from areas it invaded and raising them as Russian. According to the Ukrainian government, more than 11,000 children have been taken so far. Only around 100 have made it back.

Some are orphans, some of them orphaned because of this war, while others have parents back in Ukraine anxiously waiting for their return. Wayne Jordash is a Kyiv based humanitarian lawyer investigating war crimes in Ukraine.

WAYNE JORDASH: The removal of children is one of the specified acts [00:09:00] which are necessary to be established in order to prove genocidal intent. The transferring of children from one group to another, and this is a very clear example of that.

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: Signs point towards a systematic strategy aimed at absorbing the stolen children into Russia. Now based in Latvia, Matvii's father Yevhen shows us evidence of his kids' abduction. It's marked with an official stamp from the Russian backed self-proclaimed Donetsk's People's Republic.

He's showing me a list of 31 kids, an official list, of 31 kids taken from Mariupol to Russia, including Matvii. Yevhen was separated from his children at a border checkpoint, just as the family were trying to flee the besieged Mariupol.

Imprisoned on suspicion of military links, Yevhen finally released [00:10:00] after 45 days to the shock of his life, his children gone.

YEVHEN MEZHEVYI: They said, "your birth certificates have been sent to Moscow with your children." as far as I knew, I wouldn't see them again for however many days. Of course, I was hysterical.

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: After a frantic search, Yevhen made headway with the help of a secretive network of volunteers from within Russia. Communicating via the app Telegram, the volunteers sorting his paperwork, booking his transport, and taking him in along the way.

YEVHEN MEZHEVYI: The car took me to Novoazovs'k on the border. Local KGB officers interrogated me, strip searched me, and eventually allowed me to pass.

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: At the same time, the children say boarding house staff [00:11:00] were pressuring them to make a decision—choose foster care or an orphanage.

YEVHEN MEZHEVYI: They were telling the children, your father can't make it, you have to decide.

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: But after 90 days of separation, Yevhen finally made it to his children.

YEVHEN MEZHEVYI: I can't explain it in words, it's just something you have to feel. You go through all the circles of hell to finally reach your child.

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: Kyiv's Chief of Police, Andriy Nebytov, says the task of getting all the kids home is overwhelming.

ANDRIY NEBYTOV - KYIV CHIEF OF POLICE: It's truly an enormous job. We still have 4 kids in the Kyiv region whose parents say were taken to Russia. We have some evidence, but it's impossible to reach the children and talk to them now.

WAYNE JORDASH: "Why?" is the big question. [00:12:00] Is it because they fear their population demographics are against them? They need more people, more families? Do they need more White families to satisfy the idea of Russian purity? That's another possibility. Or do they just want to destroy the Ukrainian people?

BRITT CLENNETT - REPORTER, ABC: For Yehven and his kids, now settled into a new life in Latvia, the recovery process has begun. But thousands remain displaced and more cases of abduction are arising almost each week. And so for many Ukrainian families, the nightmare is far from over.

Eliminating An Entire Race: Australia's Dark History of The Stolen Generation - History's Stories - Air Date 12-29-22

NARRATOR: Imagine being a child and you've just been taken from your family, ripped out of the arms of your mother, father, or parental guardian, and placed into an unfamiliar environment under the care of unfamiliar faces who do not speak the same [00:13:00] language as you. Well, for countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia, that was the case.

This is the story of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families during the late 1800s up to the late 1900s. They are known as the stolen generation.

Removing indigenous children from their families was a practice that started from the early years of European colonization in Australia. Early colonial officials and missionaries thought it would be best for indigenous children to move away from their families and culture and take on European values and teachings.

The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act, 1869, was one of Australia's earliest legislations put into place for the so-called protection of Aboriginal people. The legislation gave the Australian Protection Board extensive power and control over Aboriginal people, along with the authority to remove Aboriginal [00:14:00] children from their families, based on their belief that the child was subject to neglect.

By 1937, assimilation became a national policy for all Australia that forced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into White society, with one of the key strategies involving the removal of indigenous children from their families, granting them with the provision of education and training that would prepare the children to live and work within White communities.

The end goal for the assimilation was to eventually eliminate the culture, beliefs, and traditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Once the children entered White society, they were forced to take on new names and identities, and were also prohibited from talking in their Native language or performing any cultural practices or activities. The children were also told that their families had either given them away or had already passed away.

Even though the Australian government had promised an [00:15:00] education for the children, this was not the case. Instead, the children were forced into domestic services or cheap labor at various institutions. For some children, they were placed into caring White families. But in most cases, many of the children were neglected and abused within their institutions or within their foster families.

10th Anniversary since the Apology to the Stolen Generations - Behind the News - Air Date 2-12-18

ANNOUNCER: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program contains images and voices of people who have died.

PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: For the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants, and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and [00:16:00] degradation, thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

JACK EVANS, AUSTRALIA BROADCASTING COMPANY: Ten years ago, on this day, the nation stopped to watch Kevin Rudd, Australia's Prime Minister at the time, apologize to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the Stolen Generations.

PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry.

JACK EVANS, AUSTRALIA BROADCASTING COMPANY: In the nineties, there was a big investigation into the forced removals. It became known as the "Bringing Them Home Report." And that report included a recommendation that the current government apologize for the laws and policies that were put in place by previous governments.

[Music clip] It doesn't take that much to say you're [00:17:00] sorry. Sorry.

But it wasn't until 2008 when Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister, that indigenous people heard these words.

PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.

JACK EVANS, AUSTRALIA BROADCASTING COMPANY: After the speech, there was a huge reaction. [long applause]

Ten years on, the impacts of the stolen generation are still being felt. Indigenous kids still face a lot of problems and inequality. There are families still grieving for their losses. And there are people who still haven't been able to reconnect with their parents.

But despite that, most still look back on the apology as the first step in a very long journey of forgiveness.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We [00:18:00] waited, you know, for someone to say sorry from government. And I say what's really, you know, made me feel different altogether. I'm really thankful about that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I love what's happened today. It took a long time, but it's finally -- finally got what we wanted.

Nick Estes: Indian Boarding Schools Were Part of Horrific Genocidal Process by the U.S. - Democracy Now! - Air Date 5-13-22

AMY GOODMAN: A new report by the Interior Department has documented the deaths of 500 Indigenous children at Indian boarding schools run or supported by the federal government in the United States, but the actual death toll is believed to be far higher. The report also located 53 burial sites at former schools, which were run for over a century. The report marks the first time the Department of Interior has documented some of the horrific history at the schools, known for their brutal assimilation practices [00:19:00] forcing students to change their clothing, language and culture.

The report was ordered by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo. Her grandparents were forced to attend boarding school at the age of 8. She spoke on Wednesday.

INTERIOR SECRETARY DEB HAALAND: For more than a century, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into boarding schools run by the U.S. government, specifically the Department of the Interior, and religious institutions.

When my maternal grandparents were only 8 years old, they were stolen from their parents’ culture and communities and forced to live in boarding schools until the age of 13. Many children like them never made it back to their homes.

The federal policies that attempted to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continue to manifest in the pain tribal communities face today, including cycles of violence and abuse, [00:20:00] disappearance of Indigenous people, premature deaths, poverty and loss of wealth, mental health disorders and substance abuse. Recognizing the impacts of the Federal Indian Boarding School System cannot just be a historical reckoning. We must also chart a path forward to deal with these legacy issues.

The fact that I am standing here today as the first Indigenous cabinet secretary is testament to the strength and determination of Native people. I am here because my ancestors persevered. I stand on the shoulders of my grandmother and my mother. And the work we will do with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative will have a transformational impact on the generations who follow.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. On Thursday, Matthew War Bonnet, who was brought to a boarding [00:21:00] school on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota at the age of 6, testified about his experience before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples.

MATTHEW WAR BONNET: My boarding school experience is very painful and traumatic. I remember when I first got to school. The priests took us to this big room which had six or eight bathtubs in it. The priest took all us little guys and put us in one tub, and he scrubbed us hard with a big brush. The brush made our skins and our backsides all raw. And we had to have our hair cut. The school then put all the little guys in the same dormitory. We were together, the first through fourth grades. At nighttime you could hear all the children crying.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the history of Indian boarding schools run or supported by the U.S. government, we’re joined by Nick Estes in Minneapolis, writer, historian, [00:22:00] author of the book Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. He’s co-founder of the Indigenous resistance group The Red Nation and a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

Nick, welcome back to Democracy Now!. Talk about the significance of this new Interior Department report.

NICK ESTES: Thanks so much for having me, Amy.

And as you could hear in the voices of the people, Secretary Haaland, this is a very emotional experience for a lot of Indigenous people in this country. And it should be an emotional experience for non-Indigenous people in this country. This is quite a historic moment in time. Although it’s not new news to Indigenous people, it might be new news to those who are hearing this horrific genocidal process that has taken place.

I think there’s a reason why the forcibly transferring of [00:23:00] children from one group to another group is an international legal definition of genocide, that’s what we’re talking about, because taking children, or the process of Indian child removal, has been one strategy for terrorizing Native families for centuries. From the mass removal of Native children from their communities into boarding schools, as this new report lays out, from their communities into their widespread adoption and fostering out to mostly white families, which happened primarily in the 20th century.

This is a historic report in that regard, because it documents, I think for the first time, the federal government admitting to this genocidal process. Of course they don’t use that language in this report, but many of the researchers, most of whom were Indigenous, who did the legwork on this first volume—I think it’s going to be the first volume of several volumes—to say that this was a widespread, systematic destruction, not just [00:24:00] of our culture but of our nations, as well as an open theft of land.

And I think that’s important to talk about here, that settler colonialism isn’t just about targeting Native people because they hate our culture, our language or our religion, but this boarding school system came at a time when the United States government, at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th century, was looking to consolidate its western frontier through the Dawes Allotment Act, which resulted in hundreds of millions of acres of Indian territory being opened up for White settlement and using Indian children as hostages. And that’s the language of the policy reformers at the time. That’s the language that they were using. They were saying, “We are going to use these children as hostages” for the “good behavior” of their people.

Canadian government announces $2B in compensation settlement - TRT World - Air Date 1-24-23

ANNOUNCER: Thousands of unmarked graves under pink [00:25:00] flags. They were discovered over the past two years near former residential schools in Canada. Each represent one of the many indigenous children that were taken away from their families and forced into those schools. Now, Canada has announced it will pay more than $2 billion to hundreds of indigenous communities.

The class action lawsuit by 325 indigenous groups ended with the settlement, which will be placed in a trust fund independent of the government.

UNKNOWN: This is the first time Canada is compensating bands and communities as a collective for this type of harm in regards to residential schools, one that places language and culture at the center of healing to address the legacy of institutions that were aimed at destroying indigenous heritage, indigenous culture, indigenous languages, and indigenous identity.[00:26:00]

ANNOUNCER: For over a century, 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their parents and placed in these so-called education centers. Many were physically and sexually abused. A National Commission of Inquiry in 2015 called the residential school system "a cultural genocide," and hundreds of people protested, demanding an independent investigation.

The settlement comes after hundreds of graves were found near former residential schools, which piled pressure on the government. Today, less than 8% of children under 14 are indigenous. But more than 52% of them are in foster care. And while many activists call this settlement a historic victory, they say it is only the beginning of a long road to justice.

Smay Jalon, TRT World.[00:27:00]

How the US stole thousands of Native American children - VOX - Air Date 10-14-19

SANDY WHITE HAWK: I was adopted by a White missionary couple.

JANE HARSTAD: I was adopted...

ANN HAINES: Immediately placed for adoption.

DANIEL FOX: I was in foster care with one family for 18 years. They were White.

JANE HARSTAD: My parents loved us, and I understand that, but at the same time...

ANN HAINES: They took the idea that they were saving me...

JANE HARSTAD: Saving us from ourselves.

SANDY WHITE HAWK: Being saved and I should be grateful for the life that I've been given because any child on the reservation would give anything to live as I was living.

DANIEL FOX: They took us away from our mom. They came marching right in and literally took us and thousands of other children from their home.

SANDY WHITE HAWK: It's a way to eradicate us. And to go to a nation's children is one of the sure ways to do [00:28:00] that.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: The US has a long and brutal legacy of attempting to eradicate Native Americans. It all started with an experiment and a man named Richard Henry Pratt. In 1879, the government funded Pratt's project, the first ever off-reservation boarding school for Native American children. His motto was to "kill the Indian and save the man." what started there at the Carlisle Indian Industrial was nothing short of genocide disguised as American education. Children were forcibly taken from reservations and placed into the school, hundreds—even thousands—of miles away from their families. They were stripped of their traditional clothing. Their hair was cut short. They were given new names, and forbidden from speaking their native languages.

CHRISTINE DIINDIISI MCCLEAVE: To take our [00:29:00] children and to indoctrinate them into Western society to take away their identity as indigenous peoples, their tribal identity, I think it's one of the most effective and insidious ways that the US did do harm to Indigenous peoples here, because it targeted our children, our most vulnerable, and they tried to make us ashamed for being Indian, and they tried to make us something other than Indian.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: By stripping the children of their Native American identities, the US government had found a way to disconnect them from their lands, and that was part of the US strategy. During the same era in which thousands of children were sent away to boarding schools, a number of US policies infringed on their tribal lands back home. In less than five decades, two thirds of Native American lands had been taken away.

CHRISTINE DIINDIISI MCCLEAVE: The whole thing was purposeful, [00:30:00] and the fact that it has been buried in the history books and not acknowledged is also intentional. And in fact, the same tactics were used in New Zealand, Australia, Canada. All of these countries have acknowledged, apologized, or reconciled in some way except for the United States.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: Just as the boarding school era started fading, another assimilation project took shape, adoption.

The main goal of this pilot project was to stimulate the adoption of American Indian children to primarily non-Indian adoptive homes. They claimed it was to promote the adoption of the forgotten child, but it was essentially a continuation of the boarding school assimilation tactics, and the strategy came with a financial advantage for the government too. Adoption was cheaper than running boarding schools.

But first, adoption officials had to sell White America on the idea of adopting Native American [00:31:00] children. Feature stories like this one in Good Housekeeping marketed them to White families. They were described as unwanted and adoption gave them a chance at new lives. In the end, their media campaign worked. White families wanted Indian adoption, but the problem was many of these children were not orphans that nobody wanted. They were kids often ripped apart from families that wanted to keep them.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: You still will hear stories today of people my age, older, saying, I remember as a child the social worker was coming and people would hide their children.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: On reservations, social workers used catch-all phrases like "child neglect" or "unfit parenting" as evidence for removal, but their criteria was often questionable. Some accounts describe children being taken away for living with too many family members in the same household.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: An extended family is a big thing for native people, and that [00:32:00] means being judged for being in a house that's overcrowded. So it's always, Whiteness is the standard for success and everything else is judged by that standard.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: By the 1960s, about one in four native children were living apart from their families. The official Indian Adoption Project placed 395 Native American children into mostly White homes, but it was just one of many in an era of Native American adoptions. Other state agencies and private religious organizations began increasingly making placements for Native American children too.

JANE HARSTAD: My mother, giving me up was a White person telling her if she didn't, she would never see her other kids again. When you're adopted, you know you're missing something. I think I've likened it when someone has like a 500 piece puzzle and they have all the pieces to [00:33:00] make this pretty picture, except one.

SANDY WHITE HAWK: My adoptive mother was not well. Verbally, physically, and sexually and spiritually abusive. So by the time I was 14, I started drinking. 15, drugs were added and I became an addict to numb. I didn't realize I was numbing pain.

DANIEL FOX: I tried suicide, tried slicing my wrist one time.

JANE HARSTAD: Children were taken and believed like I believed, for a long time, that there was something wrong with me versus something wrong with the system.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: The Indian adoption project was considered a success by the people who set it in motion. Officials claimed, "generally speaking, we believe the Indian people have accepted the adoption of their children by Caucasian families, and have been pleased to learn the protection afforded these children." [00:34:00] But the truth was unsettling.


SENATOR JAMES ABOUREZK: These hearings on Indian children's welfare is now in session.

CHERYL DECOTEAU: When I was pregnant with Bobby and the welfare kept coming over there and asked me if I gave him up for adoption.

SENATOR JAMES ABOUREZK: Before he was even born?


MARGARET TOWNSEND: They've picked up my children and placed them in a foster home. And I think that they were abused in a foster home.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: Four years after native people organized in this Senate hearing, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, known as ICWA.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: It gives tribes a place at the table in court.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: States would be required to provide services to families to prevent removal of an Indian child, and in case removal was necessary, they would have to try to keep the child with extended family or another Native American family.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: Without our relatives, we cease to exist. So with native people, part of our wealth is in our family, it's in [00:35:00] who we're connected to.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: But the legacy of family separation in native communities has been difficult to fully undo. Today, Native American children are four times more likely to be placed in foster care than White children, even when their families have similar presenting problems. In these cases, ICWA is often the best legal protection they have, and it's been under attack repeatedly.

STUART VARNEY - HOST, FOX NEWS: A young girl ripped from her foster family because of the Indian Children Welfare Act.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - VOX: White adoptive families intent on keeping Native American children have tried to do away with the act, and they're often backed by conservative organizations.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The Indian Child Welfare Act was dealt to blow earlier this month.

REPORTER: The subject of a lawsuit issued on Tuesday by the Goldwater Institute, arguing that preferences given to American Indian families to adopt Indian children is unconstitutional and discriminates based on race.

TARA HOUSKA: It's a way for these industries, these very powerful industries, to try to attack what [00:36:00] Indian identity is.

SANDY WHITE HAWK: Wanting to overturn ICWA is connected to everything about who we are as a nation. So if we don't have any protections for our families, and if we don't have protections for our treaties, then we have no more Indians.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: We've been under attack, we're gonna continue to be under attack, and we have to keep, just keep fighting.

DANIEL FOX: It's in our DNA to survive.

TERRI YELLOWHAMMER: We are nations that preexist European contact, and we are still here.

Jen Deerinwater on Indian Child Welfare Act - Counterspin - 12-9-22

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: On November 9th, the Supreme Court heard the case Haaland versus Brackeen. You might not have seen much about it. Media coverage has been spotty. I will drop us into the center of it with the lead of our guest's recent piece for TruthOut.org. "Anywhere colonizers have invaded, indigenous children have been separated from their communities, whether through boarding or residential schools, child protective services [00:37:00] or outright murder. The theft of indigenous children destroys tribal nations, which is what's at stake in the US Supreme Court case, Haaland versus Brackeen." Nominal plaintiffs in the case, Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, fostered a native child whom they subsequently adopted, but were upset that they might not be able to as easily adopt his half sister.

But as with many Supreme Court cases, their story is not the story, which extends far beyond them. It requires critical, thoughtful, human rights-centered storytelling to untangle an intentionally snarled story to explain what and who, really, are truly at stake. Jen Deerinwater writes, as I note, for TruthOut. She's also founding Executive Director of Crushing Colonialism. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jen Deerinwater.

JEN DEERINWATER: Hi, thank you for having me on.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Let me ask you to begin with why [00:38:00] ICWA, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1970, why was it demanded and passed? What does it do?

JEN DEERINWATER: So this nonpartisan act was passed because it was found prior to ICWA that 25 to 35% of all Native children were being removed from their homes by state welfare and private adoption agencies. And of those, 85% of those children were being placed with non-Native families, overwhelmingly White Christian families, even when there were good homes with relatives and tribal members available. So the point of ICWA, this nonpartisan act, is to help keep Native children with our tribal communities.

You know, as you read in the intro, a crucial part of colonization of, the genocide of indigenous people is taking our children. You know, if you take away our future generations, then we cease to exist as indigenous people and as sovereign [00:39:00] nations, which is really a lot of what this case is about. Even with ICWA in place -- which is called the gold standard of child welfare policy, just so listeners know that -- we're still finding that Native children are still being removed at a rate of two to three times that of White children. And they're rarely placed with relatives and Native and tribal families and community members. Native families are the most likely to have children removed from their home as a first resort and are the least likely to be offered any sort of family support interventions to help keep their children.

So that's the importance of ICWA, where it's coming from and and why it's so important. But now the way that works is also different than how one might think. So this doesn't apply to all Native American children. It applies to Native children who are either enrolled in a federally-recognized tribe [00:40:00] or are eligible for enrollment in a federally-recognized tribe.

So that's really important and that is something that non-Native crowd has often gotten wrong about this. They have not used that distinction, which is very important because what so much at the heart of this, beyond just the genocide issue, is tribal sovereignty, and the potential overturning of "tribes are sovereign nations" and really trying to turn us into nothing more than a race of people.

And if you say that we are just a race of people, then something like ICWA becomes illegal under race-based discrimination laws in the country. But really what the other side wants is the overturning of tribal sovereignty. They say that this is about protecting Native children, but that's not what it is. It's about overturning our sovereignty so that non-Native interests like casinos and oil and gas can [00:41:00] take our resources. And they're just willing to use our children as the fodder in order to do that.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Well, as you say, the repercussions are huge and I don't know that folks just sort of skimming the issue would understand that this isn't Chad and Jennifer, this is Gibson Dunn, right? The law firm.


JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Gibson Dunn and their clientele have a much bigger picture in mind than Chad and Jennifer, which is what you're telling us. But if we could start at the epicenter, which you've started to say, what could be unleashed by the dismantling of ICWA, first of all on Native people and Native rights. Just talk a little more about that.

JEN DEERINWATER: Yeah, so I see this as an ushering in of the termination era, which I wrote a bit about in my piece with TruthOut.

So just a bit of a brief background: In the 1950s, the federal government[00:42:00] -- Congress is the only one who has any legal authority over federally-recognized tribes, which is also part of what at stake, the argument within this case -- but the termination era of the 1950s, the US government came in and basically terminated its sovereign nation-to-nation relationship with many tribes.

The numbers that I have found vary a bit, but it was over 13,000 tribal members lost their recognition status. Several tribes in Oregon and California lost their status, which was also based in taking the lands in Oregon and California and selling them off to non-Native interests. There were also changes to criminal jurisdiction. Native people were relocated heavily to urban centers. There was a relocation program that came during this era that the federal government came in and said, you know what? You can get good [00:43:00] education, jobs, we'll get you housing, all these things, if you move to cities. And as they have always done to us, they broke their promises. Our people got to cities and were put in the worst neighborhoods, kept in destitution, no good jobs, no good healthcare. But suddenly you're away from your native community, you're away from your tribe. It's very interesting the way it works in this country. My tribal citizenship for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma doesn't end when I leave my reservation any more than my US citizenship ends if I leave the so-called US. But a lot of my trust and treaty rights, they diminish. You know, I live in Washington,, DC, I have a trust and treaty right for the Indian Health Services. However, there are no IHS services anywhere near where I live. So by relocating us, even though we're still citizens and members of sovereign nations, we still have these trust and treaty rights, it was a way of breaking up our communities and taking away our rights to [00:44:00] exercise or our ability to exercise these rights.

Now with this case, Haaland v Brackeen, I really see that as ushering in another termination era. Quinault Nation Vice President and President of the National Congress of American Indians, Fawn Sharp, told me in an interview that she really saw this already being in a termination era, and that this case could just move it along even further.

So I sat in the court. It was an over a three hour hearing and it was, I'm not gonna lie, it was quite difficult to sit through. There was a lot of really insulting things being thrown around in there. But one of the questions that kept coming up is, is tribal citizenship, is it being a for the center of a sovereign nation or is it simply being a race of people?

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Right. That's at the core of it. Yeah. That seems to be at the core of it. Yeah.

JEN DEERINWATER: Right. And what's so infuriating -- which I don't believe I've ever seen this talked about in [00:45:00] any non-Native press, ever -- but you don't have to know anything about Indian law in order to graduate from law school, to pass the bar, to serve as a judge, to serve on the Supreme Court.

And Indian law is part of constitutional law, it's part of federal law. We have people graduating, becoming lawyers, becoming judges that know absolutely nothing about this. And this is very scary for native tribes as so much of our very ability to exist goes through the court.

It was just really scary. The only person on the Supreme Court who has any experience with Indian case law is Justice Gorsuch. The rest of them have no experience. And it was very clear that they knew very little about us. Even the justices that I know will rule on the side of tribes, it's still some of what they said, it was just so clear. They don't even understand [00:46:00] who and what tribes are and how it's different than being a race.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Yeah. Maybe explain that a little bit. Maybe tell folks, it's not the same thing.


So one, I want to say that race is a social construct. Race is something made up. Ethnicity is real. Culture is real. So I want to say that, first of all, I believe that race is just a construct in general for everyone. But for Native people -- I'll use my tribe as an example -- I want to point out, Cherokee Nation is the largest federally-recognized tribe in the country. We have more resources than a lot of other tribes, so not all tribal nations are in the same circumstances. I wanna make that very clear.

But my tribe, for example, just past the $3.5 billion fiscal year budget for 2023. Our principal chief, if you want to have some comparison to the US system, which our US federal government system was actually based on the Haudenosaunee [00:47:00] Confederacy's tribal system. But our principal chief is our president. Our tribal council is our Congress. We have a Supreme Court, we have a marshal service, we have a healthcare service. Forbes just named us one of the top 10 employers in the state of Oklahoma. We are not a race that you just check on a box. I vote in tribal elections. I see this as my citizenship to the Cherokee Nation is no different than my rights as a citizen to the US.

But I think one, there's a level of ignorance on the part of the justices and the lawyers, everyone, that just don't understand what tribal sovereignty is. But I think it's also very intentional. Like Matthew McGill, who argues for the Brackeen family. McGill also argued for Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline, which is very fiercely fought by Native people from around the world.

But McGill actually said during the hearing, "Citizenship [00:48:00] is a proxy for race." Well, citizenship is not race. You know, it was very frustrating. There's a level of ignorance, but there's also a level of intention that it's very clear they know what they're doing, they know what they're arguing, and they know how all of these cases move together.

Gibson Dunn, the law firm representing the Brackeens, who -- they actually went looking for the Brackeen family; the Brackeens didn't go to them. They actually represent, I believe it's two of the world's largest casinos. They just filed a casino-related lawsuit in Washington State.

You know, they know what they're doing. They know. And the states know too.

When You Take Away the Kids, You Take Away the Future - Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick - Air Date 11-19-22

DAHLIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: And I wonder, Rebecca, if you can just help, for people who can't quite figure out whether to think about this as a fight about politics or race, how that got so, so, so muddied at argument.

REBECCA NAGLE: I think it all got muddied argument, because even that quote she's kind of talking about Congress's Article 1 power, and [00:49:00] so they're trying to argue that it's not within Congress' power to pass a law like ICWA because Native children not being removed from their families and tribes is not relevant to the self-governance or self-determination of tribes. And what Justice Jackson was pointing out is that in the legislative history of ICWA the acknowledgement that without children, tribes don't have a future. It was acknowledged that that it is very much explicitly part of that.

But then the other part, where this distinction between the legal status of Native Americans as a racial group or a political group came up with the Equal Protection Challenge. And so the way that ICWA functions is that it only applies to children. An Indian child, under the Indian Child Welfare Act, is only a child who is either enrolled in a federally recognized tribe or eligible for enrollment.

And the placement preferences also work that way too. The first placement preference is any member of that [00:50:00] child's family, which actually can also be non-native members of the family. Then another citizen of that child's tribe, and then a citizen of another federally recognized tribe. And so in no way where the law works is it just about race, it's about tribal citizenship and how the law functions.

And there's a whole host of federal laws that treat tribes and tribal citizens differently based on this political status. And that's where the case gets really scary, because it could have really sweeping and broad implications for the rest of federal Indian law. And so if ICWA discriminates because it treats tribal citizens differently than non-native folks, well, what about the clinic where I go and I get my teeth cleaned? If ICWA is discrimination, what about the fact that tribes can operate casinos in states or in places where non-Native casino developers can't operate [00:51:00] casinos? If Native Americans are just a racial group, and we're not members of sovereign Indigenous nations, what racial group in the United States has its own police force, its own court system, its own elections, its own land, its own water rights, its own environmental regulations?

And so the fear is, is that this case is almost like pulling a thread on a loose sweater, and if they can topple ICWA, then everything else can go with it. And I think a really important thing to point out is that the corporate law firm who is representing the Brakeens and the other plaintiff's pro bono, and their pro bono lawyer, Matthew McGill, filed a lawsuit last January on behalf of a non-native casino developer, arguing that the "tribal monopoly on gaming in the state of Washington violated the non-native casino developers constitutional rights". They're basically making a state's rights argument and an equal protection argument the same that they're making here in the ICWA case.

And so you can see very [00:52:00] obviously where they're porting the legal arguments that they've made here about children and just transporting them over to casinos.

When You Take Away the Kids, You Take Away the Future Part 2 - Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick - Air Date 11-19-22

REBECCA NAGLE: In 2015, the Brackeens, who you mentioned at top, decided that they wanted to adopt. They felt a Christian calling to adopt, and they decided that rather than going through a traditional form of adoption, they would use foster care. Their first foster replacement did not go well, and after five months they actually asked CPS to take the child back. CPS approached them about half a year later with a Cherokee and Navajo baby that they agreed to foster with the explicit understanding that they would not be able to adopt the child because of the Indian Child Welfare Act, but they agreed to the placement because, as Jennifer talked about on her blog, she thought it would be a good opportunity to get her feet wet again and get, like, back into fostering after a difficult first placement to have an easy baby. A year into them fostering the Cherokee and Navajo child, his parents' rights were [00:53:00] terminated, which is a very typical timeline in foster care. Usually parents have about a year to work on their case plan. About a month after his parents' rights were terminated, Navajo Nation found a Navajo home that wanted to adopt the baby. And then a lot happened really quickly. The Brackeens filed a bunch of stuff to try and keep the baby. Their first efforts didn't really work, and then they went back to family court with the law firm, Gibson Dunn, which is a corporate law firm that also represents, like, Walmart and Chevron and Amazon and the Attorney General of Texas, which is extraordinary. Imagine if, you know, you were like divorcing somebody in a custody battle over a kid, and the attorney general of your state took a position in your custody battle. It's unheard of. And with that legal arsenal at their disposal, the Brackeens, um, won custody of ALM, the first child that they sought to adopt, within a few weeks. And the way that that worked is that both Cherokee Nation and Navajo Nation agreed to the adoption. And the same week [00:54:00] that the Brackeens received that information from the tribe, they filed this lawsuit in federal court claiming that ICWA violated their constitutional rights because it wouldn't let them adopt ALM.

The lawsuit is very complicated. There are actually two other foster families that wanted to adopt Native children, the Cliffords from Minnesota and the Librettis from Nevada, and then the Brackeens fought for, and actually were awarded, custody over a blood relative of ALM's younger half-sister, YRJ, and they awarded custody in 2019 over a blood relative. And at the time, they actually had not fostered YRJ and she had not lived in their home.

And so when you look at the three underlying custody cases and also the case of YRJ, what stands out is that these foster parents are claiming that ICWA violated their constitutional rights because it wouldn't allow them to adopt Native children.

Every native child had a native blood relative that [00:55:00] wanted to raise them, and every blood relative was told no. Whether it was from a family court judge, a social worker, they had to fight the actual foster parents in court. They all faced hurdles and only one Native grandmother was able to adopt her grandbaby, and it took her six years of fighting.

And so just objectively, the blood relatives of these children, factually faced more hurdles in trying to keep their children than the non-Native foster parents did in trying to adopt them. But the non-Native foster parents are the parties in the Supreme Court saying that ICWA violated their constitutional rights.

So, the lawsuit is Texas and these three sets of foster parents and the birth mother of Baby O suing the federal government and then defending ICWA is the U.S. federal government and four tribes that intervened in the case pretty early on to make sure that tribal interests were represented in the important litigation.[00:56:00]

Final comments on the opposing world views of apologies

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with a DW documentary on the history of Nazi Germany stealing children for diversification from the lands they invaded. ABC News reported on the claims that Russia, as part of their invasion of Ukraine, has devised a system by which Ukrainian children are being adopted into Russian families. History's Stories explained the history of Australia's stolen generations, and Behind the News highlighted the 10 year anniversary of Australia's official apology for the stolen generations policies. Democracy, Now! explained the genocide of native peoples through residential schools in the U.S. TRT World looked at Canada's similar legacy of residential schools and the news of their recent settlement with First Nations to pay reparations for the loss of culture and heritage they inflicted. Vox told the story of the United States' policies of Native family separation and how it extended beyond residential schools into a campaign of White adoption of Native children, [00:57:00] leading ultimately to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act to stop the practice. CounterSpin discussed the challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act now before the Supreme Court. And Amicus went into more detail on the systemic damage to tribal sovereignty that would be the likely fallout of dismantling ICWA. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from Amicus explaining a bit more of the wonky details of the Supreme Court case, as well as a nuanced explanation of how racism and economics played into each other and led to the widespread, culturally devastating child adoption policy.

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information.

And now that you're informed and angry, here's what you can do about it to [00:58:00] help protect ICWA. Of course, as you've heard today, the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA is under threat. The Supreme Court already heard oral arguments in November, but you can help amplify the stakes of this important case and join the efforts to mount public pressure on the court to protect ICWA right now. The ACLU has filed an amicus brief for this case and has explainers on their site and personal stories from formally adopted Native people. You can stay up to date on the latest by following @ProtectICWA on Twitter and share their resources and articles to help others understand why this case is so important. And of course, we've included links to these resources and much more in the show notes.

And finally, today I wanted to highlight a bit more about the process of apologizing as a nation. Of course, that depends on who's in charge at any given time and the thoughts behind what apologizing means. So going back, you know, just a little ways, Obama's [00:59:00] "apology tour" was a disproven talking point on the right during most of the early years of his presidency, and maybe beyond. The claim was that Obama basically traveled around the world apologizing for America's past misdeeds. The reality was not that, but sort of close. It was just that he simply acknowledged some of America's past misdeeds and problems that we have at home. Basically, he was willing to admit that the United States has problems and even though he didn't go as far as to apologize for any of those problems or past misdeeds, he was accused of doing so, and it became a rallying cry against him because he was weakening the country, they said. I mean, the Heritage Foundation wrote an article titled "Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated A Superpower". And then Mitt Romney, his opponent in the presidential election in 2012, actually went [01:00:00] as far as to title his campaign book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. And then going back to slightly further, uh, George H.W. Bush famously used the right-wing talking point while running for president in 1988.

GEORGE HW BUSH: I'll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are. I will lead her. I will do my level best to stand up for freedom and democracy around the world by keeping the United States of America strong and by keeping our eyes wide open as we welcome change in the world by keeping our eyes wide open.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So, I was thinking to myself about the disconnect here because to me, a refusal to apologize when an apology is warranted is a major sign of weakness, not strength. Refusing to apologize is so easy a child can do it, and they usually do. I mean, think about trying to get a child to apologize for something. [01:01:00] But apologizing, on the other hand is hard, and so doing it is generally seen or thought of as a show of personal strength. All that seems so obvious to me that I got wondering, what does the other side actually think? No matter how wrong you think a person is, there's usually an internal consistency to their logic and somewhere, way deep down, if you dig far enough, you'll find the source of their logic that explains why they've diverged so far from your perspective. So, there's this very consistent pattern of right-wing thinking that holds up a refusal to apologize no matter how legitimate the complaint, no matter the facts, as Bush said, and sees that as a sign of strength.

For instance, even though the never-apologize theme surely didn't start with George H.W. Bush, the recent news at the time when he made that famous quote was that the U.S. Navy had just accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger airline, Iran Air Flight [01:02:00] 655, killing all 290 people on board. Now if practically anyone were to accidentally murder 290 people, I think the natural instinct would be to apologize. Whoops, my bad. Sorry. So, who would think at a show of strength to refuse to apologize regardless of the facts? My take is that it comes down to a differing worldview on the nature of strength itself and where it comes from, that is strength can either be based on leadership, cooperation, mutual respect, you know, those types of personality traits that make people actually want to follow and respect you; or there's the other view of strength that's based on domination, intimidation, and the threat of or actual use of violence, those types of traits that bully others into following your lead. In other words, it's the classic breakdown of preferring to be either feared or respected.

Now, the Obama model of being willing to [01:03:00] acknowledge the existence of American fallibility strikes me as a classic use of communication tools intended to build cooperation and mutual respect with other nations. I mean, admitting fault on your own side is a great way of getting other people to let their own guard down so that progress can be made that benefits you both. But that is the exact thing that the right sees as humiliating weakness.

So what's the flip side? Again, if you murder 290 people by accident and refuse to apologize, why is that seen as a sign of strength? Well, first, I guess, I would kind of say that it takes a certain amount of personal strength to suppress our own most basic human instincts to that degree, that the instinct to make amends when we inflict harm. But the real strength in question, of course, is our national strength. So whether we're bombing innocent people by mistake overseas or killing children that we have [01:04:00] kidnapped from their families and put in a residential school, the strength we show in not apologizing for that is the strength of domination, intimidation, and the use of violence.

And if you're in that domination mindset, showing any degree of humanity, is thought of as weak because admitting fault or apologizing isn't something that can help build respect for yourself. It's something that can be exploited and taken advantage of by others, which then threatens our status as leaders on the international stage.

So that's my best guess as to the rationale behind the doctrine of the refusal to apologize. As I said, it's no surprise to me that it's internally consistent, but when you dig deep enough, you will find the point of real divergence where it becomes clear what the real difference of opinion is. And to me, I still conclude that a belief in strength and leadership through domination, [01:05:00] intimidation, and violence comes from a place of weakness and fear. Whether you're raising a family, interacting with your peers, or leading a nation, if the respect others show to you is based on fear, Then you should be afraid that they will always be on the lookout for any weakness to exploit in an attempt to get out from underneath your thumb. But if you're raising your kids, comporting yourself in a workplace, or conducting your international relations based on mutual respect, you won't have to consistently fear retribution, because you'll have earned real respect. And I think it takes confidence to be able to conduct yourself that way. Whereas feeling the need to rule by domination is a sure sign that you lack the ability to earn genuine respect, the respect that you are so desperate for and so you resort to intimidation in the hopes that your physical [01:06:00] strength or verbal bluster can make up for your moral and intellectual weakness.

As always, keep the comments coming in. You can leave a voicemail as always, or you can now send us a text message through SMS, WhatsApp, or Signal, all on the same number, 202-999-3991, or email us to [email protected]. That is gonna be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Brian, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our [01:07:00] incredibly good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. If you wanna continue the discussion, join our Best of the Left Discord community to discuss the show or the news or anything you like. A link to join is in the show notes.

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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  • Jay Tomlinson
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