On June 15, 2023, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Haaland v. Brackeen, and in a 7-2 opinion resoundingly affirmed the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Executive Director John Echohawk said: “Today’s decision affirming the constitutionality of ICWA is a major victory for Tribes, tribal families, and tribal children and it should put an end to the challenges to ICWA and the broader challenges to tribal sovereignty. NARF is honored to have worked alongside all who stood to defend ICWA―including over 500 Tribes, dozens of states, current and former members of Congress, the nation’s leading child welfare experts, former foster youth, medical experts, and legal experts. I hope Indian Country takes time today to pause and celebrate this victory, hug our children, and give thanks to our ancestors who have walked with us during each stage of the case. No matter what ICWA’s opponents might try next, Tribes will never stop working to protect and care for their children, and NARF will always show up to the fight.”

The Protect ICWA Campaign—made up of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Fund, and the Association on American Indian Affairs—released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Haaland v. Brackeen case:

“Today’s decision is a massive victory for Native children, Native families, and the future of Native peoples. The Court’s decision affirmed that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is constitutional, puts the best interests of Native kids first, and is grounded in tribal sovereignty. This ruling respects the work that Tribal Nations have done for millennia to ensure Native kids stay connected to their families, communities, and cultures whenever possible.

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

For too long, ICWA’s opponents have used cases like Haaland v. Brackeen to try to undermine tribal sovereignty. Today, the Justices have sent a clear message that these biased, ahistorical attacks have no legal foundation and will not be tolerated. We hope this decision will lay to rest the political attacks, but let this case show that Indian Country and its many bipartisan allies are united in defense of Native children and of tribal sovereignty. Today’s ruling is a ringing endorsement of the protections that ICWA requires. The ruling reinforces that ICWA is binding federal law. The court’s opinion adds momentum to collective efforts to increase ICWA compliance, enact state-based ICWA laws that build on ICWA’s strong foundation, and continue to support tribal child welfare and justice systems

Indian Country stands together in joy with the countless allies who have supported us throughout this case.”

logos of the four organizations in the Protect ICWA Coalition

Learn more about the Brackeen case →

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