NICWA Executive Director Terry Cross's Remarks at Portland's National Day of Prayer for Native Children
"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for coming out tonight.
First and foremost, I want to calm any of your fears and clear up any confusion about yesterday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Baby Veronica case. Today, the Indian Child Welfare Act still stands as the law of the land. We need to be clear among ourselves and to the media to debunk any myth that ICWA was overturned yesterday. This decision did not send Veronica back to the Capobiancos; it simply remanded the case back to the lower courts that will now determine Veronica's placement.
This decision affirms ICWA, and a pathway for Veronica to remain at home with her family was laid out in the court opinion. To be clear, the Supreme Court's decision only focused upon the circumstances of one case. It does not diminish tribes' ability to assert their rights in ICWA cases. It may have the potential to affect unwed fathers in other cases. We are also concerned about its impact on placement preferences. So yes, even though there is potential for this to impact segments of our communities, even this "loss" is correctable through legislation.
And that is exactly what NICWA intends to address. The National Indian Child Welfare Association intends to call upon Congress to close the loopholes created by yesterday's decision. Since 1987, NICWA has worked alongside policymakers on Capitol Hill to protect the Indian Child Welfare Act from attacks like this. We have been in constant contact with them on the specifics of this case from day one, and have assurances from our friends and allies in D.C. that they will stand with us to protect ICWA.
I want to call to your attention the consensus among the tribal leaders and legal minds I was with yesterday at the National Congress of American Indian's conference in Reno. Undoubtedly, they said, the reason the Court did not attack ICWA in its entirety was because of the strong assembly of amicus--or supporting--briefs that were filed in this case.
You did that.
Just weeks before the case was heard, we called upon you to ask your tribes and states to sign on to amicus briefs, and you heeded our request. Within days, 18 states and 389 tribes, tribal consortia, and Alaska Native villages and corporations were on board. Soon, the United States of America, members of Congress, and many, many others joined in support.
You did that. You made a difference.
So today I want to calm your worst fears, and thank you for all you have done. But I also want to caution you as well. This is not over. In the upcoming days, weeks, and even years, NICWA will continue to call upon you to support our efforts to protect our children and families from such continued attacks. We need your support. We cannot do it without you.
Just a little while ago, I heard from John Nichols, Dusten's attorney in South Carolina. Dusten knows you're here tonight. And he thanks you. His attorney, John, reminded me that South Carolina's state motto is dum spiro spero, which translates from Latin as 'while I breathe I hope.' John says, 'We are still breathing in this case. Dusten, Robin, Veronica, and the entire family are so grateful for the outpouring of support. And the lawyers are continuing the fight!'
Yesterday, the Court created a pathway for Veronica to remain with her parents.
With your support, as the case goes back to the lower courts to be decided, NICWA will continue to stand with the Brown family in all of their continued efforts to resolve this case once and for all.
Thank you for coming."
-Terry Cross, June 26, 2013