By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The federal district court decision of Brackeen v. Zinke, which ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act was unconstitutional, has prompted a response from Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. He introduced and got passed a Tribal Council resolution to aggressively pursue means to defend the sovereignty of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and all federally-recognized tribes.
Council passed the legislation unanimously by all who were present during an Annual Council session on Thursday, Oct. 18. Painttown Rep. Lisa Taylor was absent due to the death of her mother Charlotte Taylor.
Sneed’s resolution stated that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and other tribes were targeted and threatened through lawsuits that attacked the constitutional basis for the government-to-government relationship that allowed congress to pass laws designed to protect tribes. The Oct. 4 Zinke decision overturned the law stating it was unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Conner, an appointee of President George W. Bush (R), stated that the law is a race-based statute and that the law requires state courts to enforce a federal law. Sneed said the law is one “that protects tribes and Indian people from the devastating effects of what had been decades of unchecked state and private agency removal of more than 30 percent of all native children from their homes and their tribal lands.”
Sneed also noted, “The constitutional threats to the Indian Child Welfare Act also involved some of the same legal principles that protect inherent tribal sovereignty within the American legal framework.” If the case, he said, would be upheld in appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the results would be devastating to the progress of tribal governments, even possibly dissolving tribes’ relationships with the federal government.
Sneed called for “aggressive and active efforts through all diplomatic and legal means necessary to defend the legal precedents from which all Indian nations exercise their inherent sovereignty as tribal nations”.
Mary “Missy” Crowe, an EBCI tribal members from the Yellowhill Community, spoke in support of the resolution, but asked the Tribe to look at past legislation, which she said gave the Tribe’s jurisdiction away. “We really have to look at our tribal laws. How do we get our people licensed to be foster homes? We can do a whole lot more.”