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Five of South Dakota's ICWA directors, plus a Lakota grandmother
Five ICWA directors from South Dakota, and one Lakota grandmother. From left to right: Terry Yellow Fat, (Standing Rock) Diane Garreau (Cheyenne River), Eileen Brown (grandmother, Standing Rock), Evelyn Pilcher (Sisseton-Wahpeton), Raymond Cournoyer (Yankton), Juanita Sherrick (Pine Ridge)
On Saturday, Aji posted an excellent diary about a hard-hitting report that South Dakota’s Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) directors recently submitted to Congress. That report exposes the fact that the State of South Dakota is illegally taking hundreds of Native American children each year from their homes and placing them in non-Native and state-run foster care…all in the name of profit. If you didn’t catch Aji’s post, you should definitely give it a read! If you did see it, then you may be interested to know that Laura Sullivan of NPR will air a story tomorrow on the submission of the congressional report. Ms. Sullivan has been a champion of Lakota foster children for two years straight now, and we hope that she will continue to be so.

In addition to writing to tell you about NPR's reporting today, we want you to know that our Lakota People’s Law Project has been preparing a campaign in response to the situation in South Dakota and the report’s findings. That campaign starts now! If you want, you can head straight to our website and sign your name on our petition to members of Congress. (Or, you can keep reading for more info.)

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Our Lakota People's Law Project needs your help packing a courtroom in Aberdeen, South Dakota next Monday, January 7. Two champions of Lakota foster child safety—former assistant state attorney Brandon Taliaferro and court appointed child advocate Shirley Schwab—will go on trial for crimes we believe they didn't commit. Mr. Taliaferro and Ms. Schwab have been indicted by SD Attorney General Martin Jackley on trumped up charges, we believe, because these two child advocates challenged the Department of Social Services' protection of a child rapist in 2011.

The formal charges against Mr. Taliaferro and Ms. Schwab are witness tampering and disclosure of confidential, Department of Social Services (DSS) information. In reality, we think Brandon and Shirley merely encouraged two teenage Lakota foster girls to tell the truth about being molested by their non-Native foster parent. The foster parent, Richard Mette, is now serving a 15 year prison sentence for rape of a child under 10.

Here's how what we consider to be a witch hunt began: in October 2011, NPR exposed widespread violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act by South Dakota. The reporting showed that, against federal law, 90% of Lakota children in SD are put into non-Native care by DSS. The state responded by attacking critics on its own payroll, including Brandon and Shirley. Following the NPR story, night raids were conducted on Mr. Taliaferro's and Ms. Schwab's homes and offices, their computers were seized, and charges were served against them.

Mr. Taliaferro and Ms. Schwab now assert that South Dakota is engaged in a criminal conspiracy to discriminate against Lakota foster children and their mothers, fathers, grandparents and relatives. "It is financially beneficial for the DSS to remove American Indian children from their homes and place them in [white] foster homes," said Attorney Taliaferro to the Aberdeen News on December 19, 2011. "[Had I followed] the orders of [my boss with respect to the Mette investigation, it] would have required [me] to violate the law, and ethical rules that govern attorney conduct.” Mr. Taliaferro asserts that in 2011 he refused to participate in “a cover-up of misconduct” by the DSS.

Will you help us get media and observers to the trial next Monday by forwarding this message to your networks? And will you pressure the House Committee on Natural Resources (Indian Affairs) to get involved by sending a short note in your own words to Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM) here? (Be sure to include the case #: CR 10-11-13; Fifth Circuit Superior Court of South Dakota).

Our executive staff will be present at the trial, along with other "Official Observers." Please join us if you live in or near South Dakota!

WHEN: Monday, January 7th at 9:00 AM

WHERE: 5th Circuit Court, 101 SE 1st Ave in Aberdeen, SD

Pilamaya (Thank you),

The Lakota People’s Law Project Organizing Team

PS: To learn more about the Mette sexual abuse scandal, see these two published articles: 1) 100 Reporters; 2) Lakota People's Law Project Special Report.

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