native american family

The Importance of Keeping Native American Families Together

Traditions, heritage, and culture are just as significant for a child's development as well as having a strong family and nice home to live in. Yet, devastating factors can pull families apart and erode these intangible assets that American Indian tribes provide.

How Families Get Split Up

Divorce, unemployment, and homelessness can all lead to painful family separations or drawn-out custody battles. Sometimes families experience difficult periods of poverty or homelessness, and so their children must go into temporary foster care. Even the most loving parents separate and divorce. Then, relocation may ensue and pull children from what they know.

Native American families have strong legacies within their own tribes, with knowledge and confidence to impart to Indian children. Tribes can be these children's strongest link to cultural heritage. When situations threaten the continuation of their original family unit or home base, placement in their tribe is often the ideal situation for Indian children.

Reasons for Keeping Families Together

Parties should always work to keep Native American families and children together for these proven reasons:

  • Familiar faces in tribes can help children through difficult times. Tribes have elder systems and kinship networks to provide families with extra hands and mature, emotional support children need.

  • Tribal traditions and celebrations provide stability in times of flux. As families work out their new models and living situations, the tribe's special events are fortifying distractions and self-esteem boosts for children.

  • Tribes stabilize a child's identity during confusing events and changes. Losing a home or two-parent existence can shake a child to the core. Tribes are stable units, with centuries-old roots in some cases, to help maintain a sense of normalcy.

  • Tribes protect children from outsider status and stressful unfamiliarity in new environments. Even in open and inclusive environments, ethnocentric instincts can target Indian children and their ways of life as "strange" or "foreign."

Ways to Solve the Problem

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) provides for all federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages to have an official representative dedicated to maintaining children's best interests. This group advocates for Native American families and children with social welfare agencies, schools, and more during crises. For instance, they can collaborate with a child custody attorney to help mediate between separating couples and translate for senior tribe members with vested interests in the child.

While it does protect Native American children by giving jurisdiction to the tribe over the state court in matters of child custody, the ICWA does not apply in divorce cases. When family law matters involving divorce and custody of a child, the ICWA does not have the jurisdiction to intervene.

Native American Tribal Court and Tribal Law are unique, niche specialty areas we respect. The most compassionate family law attorney may not understand Tribal Law and why it matters. Circling Eagle Law can give you the appropriate, caring child custody attorney or tribal law attorney who understands these complex matters in tandem with North Dakota state laws.

If you have questions or need help keeping your family together, you may contact us today at (701) 401-7404 or by visiting our website.


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