Indian Child Welfare Act Conference set for August 14 at Choctaw

August 9, 2018

The Eighth Annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference will be held Aug. 14 at the Silver Star Convention Center at Choctaw.

Indian Child Welfare Act Conference

The opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will include the National Anthem sung in the Choctaw language and a performance by renowned hoop dancer Lyndon Alec. Rae Nell Vaughn, chief of staff to Chief Phyllis Anderson, and Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services Commissioner Jess H. Dickinson will welcome conference participants at 9 a.m.

Tribal leaders, attorneys, judges, social workers and other professionals who deal with Native American children in a Youth Court setting are expected to attend the ICWA conference. The conference, hosted annually by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, began eight years ago as an effort to educate state judges and social workers on the requirements of ICWA. The U.S. Congress in 1978 set requirements which apply to state child custody proceedings involving any Native American child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. ICWA sets out federal requirements regarding removal and placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes. ICWA aims to preserve tribal culture and safeguard the rights of Native American children to their heritage.

Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Anne McKeig will give the keynote address, titled “The intersection of Family Court and Child Protection,” at 9:15 a.m. She will talk about requirements of ICWA at 10:45 a.m.

Justice McKeig, a descendant of the White Earth Nation, is the first American Indian Supreme Court Justice in Minnesota. The Minnesota Supreme Court also became a majority female court when she took office in 2016. She is an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and St. Thomas School of Law. She previously served for eight years on the Minnesota District Court. She is a former Hennepin County Family Court judge in Minneapolis. She was an assistant county attorney for more than 16 years, handling child protection cases and adoption matters with a specialty in provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

A panel discussion scheduled for 1 p.m. will focus on ethical issues. Panelists are Youth Court Judge Holly Peters of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Jurist in Residence John Hudson, Special Assistant Attorney General Paula Broome of the Bureau of Victim Assistance, and Special Assistant Attorney General Joyce Williams. Cheryl Hamby, Tribal Assistant Attorney General, will facilitate the panel discussion.

The concluding presentation will be a 2:30 p.m. showing of the documentary film “Two Tribes, Two Judges, One Goal.” The film, which first aired on PBS a year ago, explores the criminal justice reform efforts of Chief Judge Abby Abinanti of the Yurok Tribe and Judge Claudette White, an enrolled member of the Quechan Tribe who currently serves as chief judge of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Judge White will speak before the film is shown. Abinanti and White work to preserve their culture and protect the sovereign independence of California’s two largest Native American tribes. Their tribal court approach seeks restorative justice without incarceration for families who struggle with historical trauma and inter-generational addiction.