For generations, Native American children were removed from their homes and placed with white families. A recent Supreme Court ruling affirms the rights of Native families and tribes, giving them preference in adoption and foster care placement.

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In the Long Fight to Protect Native American Families, a Law Stands Guard

Producer/Narrator: Sarah Weiser
Co-Producer: Gabrielle Glaser
Editor: Anne Checler

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, a law passed in response to a long history of Native children being separated from their families.

The court’s ruling protects the rights of Native American families and tribes, giving them preference in the adoption and foster care placement of Native children.

During the 1950s and 60s, Native children were routinely taken from their families by social workers and placed for adoption into white families. “We call it the scoop era, because your children weren't safe playing in their front yards,” a Native American woman told Retro Report.

Many of the adopted children were subjected to abuse and exploitation. Separation from their communities and Native culture and traditions has caused deep scars, affecting generations.

"My mother was taken during that era from our people, from my grandparents and my great-grandparents," said Rebecca Black, a Quinault-enrolled Quileute woman. "My grandmother Myrtle found out where they were, and she went to go get her children. But with a swing of the gavel, a white judge said that she was morally unfit to raise her children. While my grandma and my great-grandparents are fighting to regain custody, my mother has already been transported out of state into white adoption."

The legal dispute underlying the court's ruling in this case, Haaland v. Brackeen, is part of a long pattern of tensions between U.S. and state governments and tribal entities over issues of sovereignty.

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TranscriptLesson PlanCollection: U.S. Supreme Court