Tahlequah Daily Press

June 25, 2013

SCOTUS rules on CN adoption

By LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Writer

— While claiming a partial victory, Cherokee Nation officials said Tuesday that they will continue to fight for a Nowata tribal citizen’s right to keep his daughter.

“While we are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act and protected a law vital to the survival of Indian Country, we are deeply, deeply disappointed that this case was not fully resolved,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.          

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday morning that the parental rights of Dusten Brown can be terminated despite his tribal citizenship. Brown had been contesting the attempted adoption of his three-year-old daughter Veronica by a non-Native couple from South Carolina.

Citing Brown’s lack of involvement during the birth mother’s pregnancy, the Supreme Court’s decision reverses and remands a ruling by the South Carolina state supreme court that upheld a lower court’s decision to award custody to Brown. It does not automatically transfer custody of the little girl to the pre-adoptive parents.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Cherokee Nation officials vowed to continue supporting Brown in his efforts to keep his daughter.

“We believe it is in Veronica Brown’s best interests to live in a loving homes with her biological father,” Baker said. “Our hearts and the hearts of all of Indian Country go out to Dusten Brown, his wife and his family.”

Baker, who had not read the decision before speaking with reporters, said he did not view the decision as a blow to the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

“It’s disappointing, but I don’t think it weakened ICWA,” he said. “I think this just upholds sovereignty. ICWA is still intact.”

Cherokee Nation representatives did not have a timeline for when the case would be heard again in South Carolina.

“Cherokee Nation remains committed to the protection of Indian children and their families,” Baker said. “Their fight is our fight. We will be there every step of the way.”