What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Further, what is being hidden on some reservations is that scores of children are suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a result of the accepted behavior on those reservations, and the ICWA is trapping more and more children into this unacceptable system.
While many tribal governments continue to fund congressional candidates who promise to increase tribal sovereignty, the voices of the children who are at the mercy of corrupt government continue to go unheard. The truth that must be revealed is that some tribal governments are not protecting the children in their “custody.” Some have said that there are children actually being traded and sold by the very people who are being paid to “foster” them. The Spirit Lake tribal government in North Dakota is not isolated in the mistreatment of children.
Though tribal governments claim there are accountability measures in place, in reality many children within the foster system never receive adequate care or any follow-up at all. Some tribal members report that extended family members, social workers, judges, lawyers, teachers, and other “mandated reporters” all seem to participate in this broken system where, as long as a child remains in foster care, the tribe and the custodian(s) receive a check. There is no incentive to permanently place an Indian child in an adoptive home, and no incentive to report abuse. The adults in charge simply turn a blind eye and pretend that the system works, and children are denied the most basic of human needs…real love and a safe place to call home.
Dying in Indian Country, by Elizabeth Sharon Morris, provides a real glimpse into some of these unacceptable conditions. Dying in Indian Country tells a compelling true story of one family who comes to realize that corrupt tribal government, dishonest Federal Indian Policy, welfare policy, and the controlling reservation system has more to do with the current despair than tragedies that occurred 150 years ago.