ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – In response to an invitation from the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, Mennonite Mission Network, at the Mennonite Church USA offices in Elkhart, Indiana, will hold a prayer vigil on Wednesday, Mar. 13, from 9-9:30 a.m. This open-to-the-public vigil is to pray for the continuation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA specifies that when Native children are removed from the care of their families, they will be placed in the care of extended family members, families in their own tribe, or indigenous families from another tribe.
"The Indian Child Welfare Act was created to keep Indian children whole," said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. Featured in an informational video from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Sharp shared of her own experience as a mother of three adopted Native children and the pain that can result when such children are not connected to Native families.
ICWA, passed in 1978, was enacted due to the widespread forced removal of Native children from their families, and ensures that every effort is made to keep Native children with their family, their community, and their culture.
In October 2018, ICWA was struck down by a federal Texas court. Amicus briefs were filed by Jan. 16 and the only faith-based organization to file a brief was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs – those who want to strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, a community of Anabaptist people of faith, has called faith communities and people of faith to stand in solidarity with Native people as the continued fight for their civil rights is manifested through the striking down of ICWA. Mennonite Mission Network is a supporting organization of the coalition.
Sarah Augustine, co-founder of the coalition and current steering committee leader, shared from her own experience, that her father was removed from his mother, extended family, tribe, and homeland when he was an infant. Never knowing his family, he was raised in a foster home 300 miles away under very harsh conditions.
"The abuse and neglect he experienced as a foster child had a devastating impact on his life, and on my life as his daughter," said Augustine.
Oral arguments will be heard in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Mar. 13. In preparation for this hearing, 325 tribal nations, 57 Native organizations, and 21 states joined the United States and four intervenor tribes by filing briefs to urge the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act.
"We do not have to let one vision of Christianity speak for the entire body of Christ," said Augustine. "We can choose to stand with indigenous peoples now for the protection of indigenous families and children."
To learn more, visit the National Indian Child Welfare Association's website at www.nicwa.org and the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition's website at www.dofdmenno.org.