MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Native American parents John and Jane Doe — as their lawyer calls them — want a better life for their child.
Attorney Mark Fiddler says the child is already living with the soon-to-be adoptive white parents, but the adoption is no guarantee.
“It was gut-wrenching and agonizing for them,” Fiddler said. “[They said] ‘How can anybody else come in and tell me who I can place my children with?'”
Fiddler, who is also a Native American, is questioning the constitutionality of the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act.
It’s based on a federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which called for Native American children removed from their parents by the courts to be placed with a Native American family.
But Minnesota’s state law, which was passed almost a decade later, goes one step further — saying even parents who give up children for adoption need to inform their tribe, which then places the child with a Native American family.
Native American family attorney Terry Yellowhammer says while it may appear the law violates peoples’ individual rights, it is critical in preserving Native American culture.
“It was genocide what happened to the American Indian people,” Yellowhammer said. “We need every protection we can get because of the disparities in out-of-home-placement rates for American Indian children.”
She says these laws were passed because of a history of Native American children being taken from their homes and placed with white families.
But Fiddler maintains the U.S. government’s rules should apply equally to everyone – with no exceptions.
Fiddler hopes to learn if the court will allow the adoption to go through by July 8. Then the court can begin looking at the constitutionality of the state law.
That is a process that could take years, and it would most likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.