LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court affirmed on Friday a lower court's decision to remove a 6-year-old girl with Native American ancestry from her foster family of four years and reunite her with relatives in Utah.
Lexi, who is part Choctaw, was taken from her foster home north of Los Angeles in a tearful parting in March and placed with extended family in Utah under a decades-old federal law designed to keep Native American families together.
Her former foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, asked the appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that ordered them to surrender Lexi. Their attorney argued the lower court made an error by failing to take into account Lexi's bond with her foster parents and siblings.
However, a three-judge panel in Los Angeles found the lower court made the right decision and correctly considered the bond Lexi developed with the Pages as well as other factors related to her best interests.
Those factors included Lexi's relationship with her extended family and half-siblings, their capacity to help her reconnect with her tribal roots, and the Pages' "relative reluctance or resistance'' to foster Lexi's relationship with her extended family or encourage exploration of her Choctaw cultural identity, the judges wrote in their ruling.
They also agreed that the Pages did not prove with clear and convincing evidence that Lexi would suffer emotional harm by the transfer.
The Pages said they plan to take the case to the California Supreme Court.
“The Pages are obviously extremely disappointed with the court's decision, but they believe in our judicial system and remain hopeful that they will ultimately prevail,'' their attorney, Lori Alvino McGill, said in a statement.
Lexi was 17 months old when she was removed from the custody of her mother, who had drug-abuse problems. Her father has a criminal history, according to court records.
Although foster care is supposed to be temporary, the Pages want to adopt Lexi and for years have fought efforts under the federal act to place the girl with relatives of her father, who is part Choctaw.
Lexi is now living in Utah with relatives of her father who are not Native Americans.
Her relatives said in a statement they hope the ruling brings closure and “Lexi is at last allowed to live a peaceful childhood in our home with her sister.''
The case is one of dozens brought by foster families since the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in the late 1970s. Lawmakers found that Native American families were broken up at disproportionately high rates, and that cultural ignorance and biases within the child welfare system were largely to blame.
KALISPELL (AP) — Four members of the Blackfoot Tribal Business Council will be sworn in this week, and longtime council member Chief Earl Old Person is not among them.
After Thursday's swearing in the council will elect a president, vice president and secretary.
The Flathead Beacon reports that Timothy "Kink" Davis narrowly beat Old Person during the June 28 election. Old Person has served 26 terms on the tribal council since 1954.
Terry Tatsey and Carl Kipp won seats in which incumbents were ousted in the primary and Roland Kennerly won re-election after being appointed to the tribal council. He was appointed to replace Cheryl Little Dog who was expelled and has pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive who had sexually assaulted a child.
The council plans to draft a new constitution to create a government with more checks and balances.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Leaders of the tribe that owns the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut are speaking out over past remarks by Donald Trump that they describe as bigoted, and current campaign rallies they say disrespect Native Americans.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation members remain bitter over congressional testimony in 1993 in which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said that the Pequots “don't look like Indians'' to him.
Tribal leaders said in a statement Thursday that Trump and his supporters also show disrespect by using fake war chants at rallies. The tribe called such words and actions “highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory'' and “no laughing matter.''
Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler is a Democratic delegate who is supporting Hillary Clinton at the national convention.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shoshone-Bannock High School
BIA Regions, Agencies & Tribes