Separate-But-Equal Is Not Equality
The Resource Sentinel
26 St. Albans Road
Hopkins, MN 55305
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
We recognize a bitter irony in the fact that even as we celebrate the birthday of a man whose courage in the face of bigotry helped reshape a nation, our government continues to promote evil, cruelty, depravity and death in the name of protecting
the bloated, archaic, “sovereign” bureaucracy that protects Tribal interests while continuing the abuse and death of Tribal members and especially our children.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, whose population of only 6,200 includes more than 40 registered sex offenders with ready access to children, many of whom were placed in their homes by Tribal Social Services workers.
Tom Sullivan, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, filed a series of blistering reports in 2012 and 2013 alleging “on average 50 reported, investigated and confirmed cases of sexual abuse or statutory rape annually in each of the last several years”, but none of the offenders were prosecuted. His reports also alleged “the placement of children in the full time care and custody of known sex offenders.”
Michael R. Tilus, director of behavioral health at the Spirit Lake Health Center, sent a “Letter of Grave Concern” to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April 2012, in which he outlined numerous failures and professional misconduct in the reservation’s Tribal Social Services that placed children at serious risk.
Some of the horrors catalogued by Sullivan, Tilus and media reports about the reservation include:
• The Tribal Court returned three children to the full time care and custody of their biological father who just a few months previously had beaten them with electrical cords, choked them, raped them and made them available to his friends for their sexual pleasure.
• A child sex abuse victim placed in a successful foster home off the reservation was brought back to her reservation home where she was raped again, a case that was never investigated by police.
• A 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were killed after they were raped and sodomized.
• A 5-year-old girl was placed in a foster home with a sex offender after her mother tried to burn down the house with the girl inside. When the foster parent’s criminal record was discovered, the girl was returned to her mother, who then sold her back to the sex offender for $50 and a car ride.
Horrendous child abuse is so flagrant and so tolerated by tribal officials that it is rarely reported and many reservation residents fear for their own safety if they speak up. Despite their best efforts, Tilus was ignored and Sullivan was hushed up by his federal government superiors and media reports are glossed over by the Tribe, the BIA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office which took over the Tribe’s social services division in 2012. But the Feds are more interested in appeasing the Tribe than protecting the children.
In the 18 months since they stepped in:
• The Tribal Court awarded custody of 2-year-old twin girls to their 32-year-old grandmother who had a history of abuse. In July, the woman pleaded guilty to killing one of the girls by throwing her down an embankment, then bathing and dressing the child’s lifeless body.
• In December, the Tribal Court placed a 13-year-old child with a known child molester, denying custody to her non-Indian birth father. The child reportedly is bed-wetting and no longer showers.
If Martin Luther King Jr. Had Been Born on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation, He May Never Have Lived Long Enough to Have His Dream
So far, the only answer Congress is proposing is a 3-year study into health and safety risks to children in Indian Country.
We must insist they act IMMEDIATELY to save these children by:
1. ABOLISHING THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT: Separate rules concerning the placement and adoption of children just because they are tribal members or even just eligible for tribal membership is completely contrary to our Nation’s concept of equality, placing children at risk and depriving their parents of their rights.
2. END ING TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY: All U.S. Citizens should be entitled to the same rights and be subject to the same laws administered under the authority of the same court system. Maintaining separate governments means reservations can continue as safe havens for child abusers, rapists and murderers.
3. REDIRECTING GOVERNMENT RESOURCES: The Bureau of Indian Affairs MUST be abolished, then its personnel, clinics and hospitals must be transferred back to the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to improve medical services for our active troops and veterans.
“Separate-But-Equal” Is Not Equality: Let’s End It
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