NICWA responds to National Public Radio

The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) responded to National Public Radio’s (NPR) Nina Totenberg, in reaction to her April 16, 2013, coverage of the “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” case before the U.S. Supreme Court  Here’s what NICWA said:

While we normally respect NPR Reporter Nina Totenberg’s reporting, we must correct and clarify points she made in her coverage yesterday.  

  1. Dusten Brown did not give up his parental rights.  Private correspondence between him and the birth mother does not begin to meet the legal threshold of relinquishing rights as required by ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act). To do this, the federal law requires that Brown come before a judge, have his parental rights read to him, and then have the judge’s orders explained to him in a manner he could understand.
  2. Brown does not merely “consider himself”  Cherokee. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.
  3. Similarly, by including a blood quantum for Veronica, Totenberg reinforces confusion about race and political status. We doubt that if Totenberg were reporting on an American child with one parent being an American citizen and one parent being from a different country, she would claim the child to be only 50% American. ICWA’s requirements as a federal law and the basic tenets of tribal citizenship are well known and the law of the land. It is disappointing that such a highly respected reporter would choose to favor the emotional trappings and racial red herrings that distract listeners from understanding what the clear provisions of the law require and how federal law was not followed in  this case.

(More information about this case can be found on the NICWA website here.)