For nearly three and a half years, Dusten Brown had been operating virtually alone in his fight to raise the daughter who had been spirited away without his knowledge or consent. Quiet, polite and soft-spoken, he never talked ill about his ex-fiancee or the Capobiancos to anyone. He had no “media strategy” and did not post comments on social sites or send out press releases; he never called a press conference to refute the prevaricated fabrications and holes in their story; he never held a fundraiser or sold tchotchkes to pay his legal fees. Having long since given up even going on the Internet because of the rage directed at him, he had no idea that anyone one outside of his legal team, his immediate family and his tribe were supporting and advocating on his behalf.
So when he arrived at the Supreme Court in April, Brown was shocked when he got out of the vehicle to a large number of Indian people and supporters on the steps of the Supreme Court. They were quietly waiting to begin a prayer ceremony in his honor.
For centuries, the theft and displacement of Indian children has historically been the most direct route by which Native cultures were destroyed. Often, as a matter of colonial and then governmental policy, they were rounded up against their parents' will and forced into missions and later boarding schools. Many times, they were also adopted under illegal circumstances, literally taken out of hospital nurseries and sent to live with white families because it was determined that it was in their “best interest” to be raised in a white family. Sometimes, the children were taken from their parents' homes simply because they could not speak English or did not wear shoes. The passage of ICWA in 1978 was a Congressional attempt to halt the illegal and systematic abduction of Indian children by giving their parents extra protections under the law to reinforce the fragile fabric of tribal culture in the United States. Within only one generation, a language was lost, a family connection was broken and a tribe disintegrated piece by piece as their children were scattered across the country.
Today as Indian Country awaits the ruling in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, in places like South Dakota, American Indian children continue to live under constant threat of being taken from their homes and forced into a foster system that has willfully failed to comply with federal standards for the foster placement and termination of parental rights. In May, the American Civil Liberties Union, headed by Stephen Pevar, filed suit in federal court against the state of South Dakota on behalf of the tribes. So the battle continues.
There is no victory until Dusten Brown and Rachel Brugier can take their children home again.
The way Mr. Brown has been vilified by the media as the "Bad Injun Man" trying to split up a happy family is absolutely disgusting. He had his daughter taken away with him, for no reason, against federal law, without being told. And he is only one of thousands of Indian parents who must endure the mass kidnapping of their children every single year, despite having done nothing to warrant the termination of custodial rights.
And he's the bad guy?
The tribes will continue to support Mr. Brown. That is what I know. That is what community means. There is no stronger community in America than its Native community.
Congress, you showed up to Rapid City and swore you'd do everything to help reunite families wrongfully and illegally torn apart. Now it's your turn to make good on your words.