Native American Injustice

Take Their Children, Then Their Land

Private interests intend to destroy 44 years of Native American child welfare policy

Maggie Hagen

May 10, 2022

This summer, the Supreme Court is hearing Brackeen v. Haaland, a case that will decide the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA is a 44-year-old law passed designed to prevent the long-standing practice of forced and coerced removal of Native American children from their families. Defenders of the law include more than 450 federally recognized tribes, the nation’s leading child welfare organizations, and the federal government. The challengers to the law, who have brought this issue to the Supreme Court after decades of trying, include the private adoption industry, conservative think tanks, and an army of corporate and private adoption attorneys.

The goal of ICWA’s challengers is clear: destroy ICWA and open a pathway to realizing extraordinary profits. For the private adoption industry, these profits come amidst a decline in foreign children available for adoption. Increased access to Native American children would come with the lucrative fees associated with the adoption process. For the conservative entities, the end of ICWA marks the beginning of the end of tribal sovereignty in the United States. Tribes will lose their ability to fend off private interests keen on destroying tribal land and accessing the wealth of natural resources beneath them. If the Supreme Court upholds the challenge to ICWA this summer, it could spell the end of tribal sovereignty in the United States and create and pipeline of profits to these private entities.