NARF Testimony Strengthens the Indian Child Welfare Act in the State of Wisconsin


In September, NARF Staff Attorney Mark Tilden represented the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and provided testimony for the Wisconsin Legislature on a LRB 0150/3, which would enact a state Indian Child Welfare Act into law.

To begin, Tilden testified that the bill is designed to remedy the continuing problem of Native American children being disproportionately over-represented in the substitute care system. Tilden discussed the history of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), stating that Congress intended to give the ICWA a broad scope because of the massive problem it meant to remedy. Tilden pointed out that the ICWA's enactment stemmed from a growing tribal and federal concern in the late 1960s and early 1970s regarding the intentional and unintentional practices of non-tribal public and private child welfare agencies leading to the disproportionate and often unwarranted separation of Indian children from their families. The testimony maintained that through the ICWA, Congress has made a determination that tribes be given every opportunity to maintain their membership, that Indian children have a right to their heritage, and that tribal rights to determine the future of their children be protected and fostered. The ICWA and its history plainly show Congress’ intent to protect the existence and integrity of tribes and to protect and foster the best interest of Indian children. As such, the State of Wisconsin, through its bill, would help remedy an existing and persistent problem and act to serve the best interest of Indian children in the State of Wisconsin.

Tilden concluded that the bill articulates a cooperative and collaborative approach between the sovereign Indian nations located in Wisconsin and the State, demonstrating the State of Wisconsin’s intent to clearly recognize and reinforce tribal sovereignty as an essential means of achieving the federal ICWA’s objectives, which are echoed in the bill, and also to provide an even greater possibility for improving services and outcomes for Indian children in the State.

On October 20, 2009, both the Senate and Assembly of the State of Wisconsin Legislature approved and passed the bills. The legislation will help make certain that the State complies with the requirements of the ICWA.


John Echohawk honored with Mary G. Ross Award

John E. Echohawk was honored with the Mary G. Ross Award from the Council of Energy Resources Tribes at the American Spirit Award Dinner on November 4th in Tulsa, OK. John was flattered to be acknowledged for his 40 years of dedication to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.

The Mary G. Ross Award, named for the Cherokee woman who became the first Indian and the first woman engineer at Lockheed, is presented to an American of indigenous heritage who has brought notable attention to the contributions by American Indians to the development of American society, and whose life reflects credibility upon and brings honor to all Americans.

John Echohawk was unable to attend the event because of the National Tribal Leaders Summit with the Obama Administration on November 5th, to see his acceptance speech click here.


Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, honored by Federal Bar Association with civil rights award

Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, former NARF staff attorney, was selected by the Federal Bar Association to receive the Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award. The award - one of the major awards by the FBA - honors a person that has promoted civil and human rights and who exemplifies Judge Hughes' spirit of devoted service and leadership in the cause of equality.

The award recognizes Walter's lifetime of service, including his more than 35 years service as a lawyer for the Native American Rights Fund and his myriad civic, legislative, professional and other contributions. In addition to his active writing, Walter is also currently a member of the Carter Center's International Human Rights Council and serves as Chairman of the Board for the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, a new foundation dedicated to tribal philanthropy to preserve Indian art and culture. Walter is currently an attorney at Crowe & Dunlevy.

NARF congratulates Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, on this well-deserved recognition of his accomplishments and service.


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