FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review a case that centers on whether Native Americans should receive preference in adoptions of Native children.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a sharply divided ruling in April over the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The law gives Native American families priority in foster care and adoption proceedings involving Native children, and places reporting and other requirements on states.
The appeals court upheld the law and Congress' authority to enact it.
But the judges invalidated some of the law's placement preferences, including for Native American families and Native foster homes, saying they violate equal protection rights under the Constitution.
The court also ruled that some of the law's provisions unconstitutionally control the duties of state officials in adoption matters.
Now, four petitions are seeking review. They ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decipher the complex ruling that had multiple partial dissents and partially concurring opinions. On some issues, a majority of the appeals court agreed. On others, the court tied, meaning the original decision from a U.S. District Court in Texas on the issues prevailed. The appeals court ruling on the issues isn't considered precedential.
The states of Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and seven individuals — three non-Native couples and the biological mother of a Native American child that was adopted by a non-Native family — want the law thrown out. The children are enrolled or potentially could be enrolled as Navajo or Cherokee, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.
The district court sided with the states and individuals who argued the Indian Child Welfare Act was unconstitutional because it was racially motivated and violates the Equal Protection Clause.
A panel of the 5th Circuit disagreed with the lower court. The majority of the court agreed to rehear the case and upheld the determination that the law is based on the political relationship between federally recognized tribes and the U.S. government, not race.
The lead defendant — the U.S. Department of the Interior — and a handful of Native American tribes are asking the Supreme Court to determine whether the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the law's placement preferences. They've long championed the law as a way to protect Native American families and their cultures and want it kept wholly intact.
The case is the most significant challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act since it was passed in 1978. Studies have shown that before then, up to one-third of Native American children were being taken from their homes by private and state agencies, including church-run programs, and placed with mostly white families or in boarding schools in attempts to assimilate them.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A popular California ski resort whose name included a derogatory term for Native women changed its name to Palisades Tahoe Monday. Resort officials had begun searching for a new name last year amid a reckoning over racial injustice.
The renaming of Squaw Valley Ski Resort is one of many efforts nationally to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native people and other people of color that includes removing statues of Christopher Columbus.
The s-word derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant "woman," but over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women, according to experts.
"It was the right thing to do and I think it's going to make a difference. I think we're going to be seen as a more welcoming, inclusive resort and community," said Palisades Tahoe President and COO Dee Byrne.
Byrne said that after studying the issue for the past year the resort's research concluded the word is very offensive "not just to Indigenous women but to all women."
The resort is in Olympic Valley, which was known as S-word Valley until it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Tribes in the region had been asking the resort for a name change for decades.
The valley, in the Lake Tahoe area about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, is within the ancestral homeland of the Washoe people, Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office said in a statement. He said the word is a "constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It's a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else and we don't agree with it."
Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey said the tribal council expressed "its great appreciation for this positive step forward."
"There's been a lot of progress but there's still a lot of work to be done," he added. "We need to continue to capitalize on that progress and continue to push forward."
Smokey said the tribe plans to work with the resort as well as Placer County officials to rename other public places and features in the Olympic Valley that continue to use the derogatory word.
Company officials said the resort's new logo honors the two legendary mountains that are part of it. And in a nod to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, it features an eagle, a symbol of the spiritual world for Native people.
Beyond changing its name, the company said it is partnering with the Washoe Tribe to educate resort guests about tribal culture. This summer, the resort launched the Washoe Cultural Tour series, offering a monthly talk by Cruz. The resort will also install an exhibit on the Washoe way of life.