Here is a summary of Native American-related news around the U.S. this week:
Supreme Court to Consider ICWA in Biggest American Indian Case in Decades
The newly released U.S. Supreme Court schedule shows that the justices will begin hearing arguments November 9 in Haaland vs. Brackeen, a consolidation of three cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, Texas v. Haaland and Brackeen v. Haaland.
Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 to discourage states from placing Native American children in non-Native American homes. Before the ICWA, between 25% and 35% of all American Indian children had been placed in adoptive homes, foster homes or institutions; the vast majority were raised by non-Natives.
The ICWA sets guidelines for how states should handle child welfare cases involving Native American children.
“Before you can place an Indian child in a non-Indian home, you have to first look for another member of the immediate family, then another member of the tribe, then another Indian family before you can place that child in a non-Indian home,” Stephen Pevar, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, told VOA in 2018.
A Texas federal court in 2018 struck down the ICWA as “unconstitutional,” saying the law discriminates against non-Native couples looking to adopt Native children. The case worked its way through several lower courts, and in September 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Native Americans worry that if a conservative majority of justices rule against the ICWA, other federal Indian laws, including tribal sovereignty itself, could be threatened.
Affirmative action cases up first in November argument calendar
A Look at Supreme Chief Justice Neil Gorsuch’s record on tribal sovereignty
This week, Insider looks at the record of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on matters involving U.S. treaty obligations to tribes.
Gorsuch broke from the conservative majority in his June 29 opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, which considered whether the state could prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes against Native victims on tribal land. That case revisited a 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remained an Indian reservation and that only tribal and federal governments had criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed on reservations.
Insider examines Gorsuch’s career to shed light on how his experience in a Western appellate court informs his opinions today.
“Gorsuch would have seen many Native law cases under various contexts, helping him gain a deep understanding of the historic precedents,” the article states.
Justice Neil Gorsuch’s background primed him to break from the other conservatives on Native law and defend tribal sovereignty
Michigan Next Stop on Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s ‘Road to Healing’ Tour
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland will visit Pellston, Michigan, as part of a year-long tour aimed at giving Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and their descendants an opportunity to speak about their experiences in Indian boarding schools. An outgrowth of the 2021 Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, the “Road to Healing” tour also gathers permanent oral histories. The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa of Harbor Springs, Michigan, will host the August 13 event with 35 Tribal Nations invited to participate. There will be trauma support available at the site, as there was at the first listening session July 9 in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Haaland and Newland will hold further listening sessions in Arizona and Hawaii later this year.
Road to Healing set for Pellston, Michigan
SUV Driver Plows Through New Mexico Ceremonial Parade
Citizens of the Navajo Nation are expressing shock and sorrow after the driver of an SUV plowed through a parade in downtown Gallup, New Mexico, Thursday evening. Several people were injured, including two police officers. The driver was taken into police custody.
The parade was part of the 100th annual Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial, one of the oldest continuous celebrations of Native American culture and heritage in the U.S. and a major tourist attraction.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and fellow tribal officials were among those caught in the path of the vehicle but were unharmed.
In a video statement he made at the scene, Nez expressed shock and anger.
“You would see [events like] this on television. You would think it will never happen here. I’m sorry to say it happened here in Gallup, New Mexico,” he said, adding, “This is just evil creeping into our communities.”
SUV plows through 100th annual Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial parade
Archaeologists find ancient ‘ghost footprints’ in Utah
Archaeologists working for the U.S. Air Force at a missile test site in Utah have discovered a set of 88 footprints made 12,000 years ago when the Great Salt Lake Desert was a vast wetland.
Archaeologist Daron Duke explained that thousands of years ago, a group of adults and children walked through shallow water. Wet sand rushed in to fill their footprints, but impressions of their feet remained in a layer of mud beneath the sand.
Today, scientists call these tracks “ghost footprints” because they show up only after it rains and then disappear after the ground dries.
Back in 2016, scientists working a half-mile from the footprints discovered a fire pit, tools and charred tobacco seeds dating back 12,300 years, the earliest documented use of tobacco ever found.
‘Ghost footprints’ left by ancient hunter-gatherers discovered in Utah desert
National Science Foundation Awards Haskell University Major Scientific Grant
Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, was awarded a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support an Indigenous science hub project.
It is the largest NSF grant ever for a Tribal College or University.
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland called the award “a tremendous step forward in supporting tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate.”
The project, “Rising Voices, Changing Coasts” will bring together scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers from various coastal regions to study and develop ways to manage coastal hazards in indigenous communities.
Haskell Indian Nations University Receives $20 Million for Indigenous Science Hub