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Supreme Court Upholds Law Protecting Native Children & Communities

On June 15th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision in Brackeen v. Haaland upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. ICWA, which has been federal law for over 40 years, sets requirements for child welfare proceedings involving Native children and outlines procedures that prioritize placement of removed children within their extended family and tribal community.

The majority decision was joined by an opinion by Justice Gorsuch who noted that the ICWA “came as direct response to the mass removal of Indian children from their families...and has had devastating effects on children and parents alike…which frequently lacked justification.”

In October, Lawyers For Children, along with 30 other children’s advocacy organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the protections it grants Native American children and their tribal communities. The brief outlined the positive effects of prioritizing keeping Native children with relatives and communities.

Additionally, the brief emphasized the constitutional importance of allowing parents’ the right to raise children within their customs and values, stating “[t]his right protects children by ensuring their care and connection with their communities. It also provides an important protection for families to impart traditions and values free from state intrusion.”

“The Supreme Court decision is a tremendous victory for children, recognizing the harm that has been done to Native American children in the name of child welfare, the important role that ICWA plays in mitigating that harm, and helping to ensure that children who must be removed from their parents maintain important connections to their families and their communities,” says Betsy Kramer, Director of Policy & Special Litigation at Lawyers For Children.

The Protect ICWA Campaign established for the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund issued a statement applauding the decision, saying, “Not only will this ruling allow Indian Country to continue to advocate for the best interests of Native children, but it also reaffirms what we have said and known all along: Tribal Nations are sovereign nations. Similar to states or foreign countries, Tribal Nations have the inherent powers of self-government and have the right to provide for the social, economic, safety, and cultural needs of their citizens.”

Read the decision (link to

Read our amicus brief (link to:

Image credit: Native News Online