The Lakota People's Law Project is committed to providing an accurate and updated account of all the developments in South Dakota. Due to the state's geographic isolation, many important stories are not reported outside of particular cities. In this ongoing series of special reports, we strive to inform and engage a national debate based on factual information.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Required to Confront Past, Move Forward
The Lakota People’s Law Project released a report detailing the need for the United States government to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to finally acknowledge the brutal crimes the government has perpetrated against the Native inhabitants of the United States of America, particularly during the boarding school era.
Racial biases in the state of South Dakota continue to fuel constant, willful violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The Lakota People’s Law Project's 35-page report reveals how private institutions and their relationships with those in the highest seats of power in South Dakota are responsible for the daily violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the systemic human rights abuses against the Lakota population in Indian Country.
New report detailing the unequal treatment of Native Americans by the Untied States criminal justice system.
In light of the debate surrounding police violence against minority populations in the United States, one group that is consistently affected, yet continuously excluded from broad public discourse, is Native Americans. American Indians, in fact, suffer the most adverse effects of a criminal justice system which consistently reifies itself as structurally unjust. Unsettling reports of unfair treatment towards Native peoples by law enforcement are not isolated incidents, rather they are endemic of a deeply discriminatory justice system. Native American men are admitted to prison at four times the rate of white men and Native women at six-fold the rate of white women. Additionally, Native Americans are the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement.
Direct Federal funding for Tribal Child and Family Service programs can help to end generations of cultural genocide in South Dakota.
This report is the culmination of ten years of research, investigation, and numerous direct testimonies on issues that directly pertain to the South Dakota State Department of Social Services’ persistent, involuntary removal of Sioux children from their Indian communities, and their insistence on placing these Indian children in non-Native foster care and adoptive settings. The continued removal of Sioux children from South Dakota's tribal communities at rates that are multiple times the national average constitutes a “State of Emergency,” which has already been declared by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and it constitutes an active impediment to the success of these individual Indian children, as has been recognized by numerous performance indicators and child welfare reports.
In 2014, Lakota People's Law Project undertook an analysis of existing Title IV-E Tribal-State Agreements. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides funds to states and tribes for establishing and maintaining foster care systems, transitional independent living programs for children, guardianship assistance programs, and adoption assistance for children with special needs. This report was published in order to assess some reasons why so many tribes are moving towards direct funding models and to articulate the importance of those efforts.
Since 2011, National Public Radio has reported on the egregious, systematic violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services. These reports reached tens of millions of people and won a Peabody Award. Most importantly, they helped spur a movement among the Lakota people. We are on the right track, but obstacles continue to arise, often from surprising sources. (if there’s not enough room for all of this, this would be a good ending point) Sadly, in August 2013, the Ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), Edward Schumacher-Matos, produced a biased and factually flawed review of Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters' Peabody Award winning series of stories exposing South Dakota’s egregious violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and mistreatment of Native American children, who are removed from familial custody at 3.5 times the rate of non-Native children in the state. This report documents the irresponsibility of Schumacher-Matos' overwrought, 22-month effort to exonerate South Dakota for violating federal law. The report exposes six serious errors in the ombudsman’s "re-reporting" of Sullivan and Walters' story, for which he spoke to virtually no Native American people, instead relying entirely for his data on the very South Dakota state officials his report defends. This report proves that Schumacher-Matos misinterpreted important distinctions, used inaccurate statistics, and came to incorrect conclusions.
The Mette Affair
The state of South Dakota placed seven Lakota children into a non-Native foster home (a violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act) with a known child molester Richard Mette and his enabling wife Wendy Mette for tweleve years from 2001 to 2013. South Dakota’s Department of Social Services ignored multiple complaints of sexual and physical abuse only addressing the issue when, in October 2010, one of the children, covered in bruises, went to see his doctor who was compelled to report the abuse to the authorities. This is the story of state corruption and cover up coming before the safety of innocent children.
Reviewing the Facts: An Assessment of the Accuracy of NPR’s Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families
Following NPR’s 2011 report Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families, which reported on the state of Native foster care in South Dakota and purported significant violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS), six members of the United States House of Representatives asked then Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Larry Echo Hawk to investigate the claims, report on their veracity, and outline what steps, if any, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) would take to rectify the situation.
Is South Dakota Over-Prescribing Drugs to Native American Foster Kids?: South Dakota ICWA Director’s Special Report
Although Laura Sullivan's NPR report did not deal directly with the issue of over - prescribing prescription drugs for Native foster children, research into NPR's allegations led to Lakota People's Law Project and the Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families uncovering this problem as well.
Sovereignty and Self-Governance in the Provision of Child and Family Services
This report considers the problems that have arisen for each tribe in South Dakota in the face of the state’s Department of Social Services and it provides a structural solution to the illegal taking of Native children. Washington state’s Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has already successfully implemented such a solution and has experienced many improvements (outlined within) by establishing and managing their own child and family service programs. By using Port Gamble S’Klallam as an example, each tribe in South Dakota can stop the cultural genocide that is occurring with the removal of their children.
California Ohlone Offer Welcome and Support to Lakota and Child Rescue Project at Historic Meeting
On July 5, 2012, at Resurrection Church in Aptos, California, Ohlone leader Ann Marie Sayers welcomed Lakota activist and grandmother Madonna Thunder Hawk in a historic meeting that marked the first time a Pacific coastal tribe has welcomed the first nations of the Great Plains. The meeting represented an initial step by Native people to build national coalitions on human rights issues. Sayers pledged her support to efforts led by Thunder Hawk and other Lakota grandmothers who are working with the Lakota People's Law Project (LPLP) to find and regain custody of their grandchildren, who have been illegally taken from their families and communities by the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS).
Lakota People's Law Project Challenges New York Times "Poverty's Poster Child" Op-Ed by Nicholas Kristof
The Lakota People's Law Project states that Mr. Kristof has completely overlooked South Dakota's systematic abduction of Lakota children from their families, continuing the 150-year policy of destroying the Lakota People's family and societal structures. This omission is more puzzling considering NPR's Peabody Award-winning three-part expose of the South Dakota foster care system in October 2011, by Laura Sullivan.
How South Dakota is Punishing Native Child Welfare Advocates and Protecting Child Abusers — The Mette Case
On May 1, The Aberdeen News of South Dakota reported that former Assistant State Attorney Brandon Taliaferro and Court Appointed Child Advocate Shirley Schwab were being charged with witness tampering and subornation of perjury by South Dakota Attorney General Martin Jackley. According to Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) investigators, the charges against Mr. Taliaferro and Ms. Schwab were filed because of their repeated attempts to protect and enforce the rights of four young Native American girls, who were involuntarily removed from their Lakota mother by DSS officials and placed with Richard and Gwendolyn Mette. Mr. Taliaferro conducted a professional investigation and concluded that Richard Mette had repeatedly sexually molested the two older girls, while Gwendolyn Mette threatened to punish the children if they told authorities. Repeated reports of Richard and Gwendolyn Mette’s conduct were conveyed to DSS officials. However, the DSS steadfastly refused to undertake any investigation of the Mettes.