Supreme Court Hands Big Win to Native American Tribes

Justices uphold law stipulating Native American kids up for adoption go to Native American families
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2023 10:40 AM CDT
In Surprise, Supreme Court Sides With Tribes on Adoptions
Demonstrators stand outside the US Supreme Court as the court hears arguments over the Indian Child Welfare Act on Nov. 9, 2022, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

The Supreme Court delivered a big win to American Indians on Thursday, upholding a law that stipulates Native American children up for adoption should go to Native American families. NPR reports that the 7-2 ruling defied predictions, with Amy Coney Barrett writing the majority opinion and only Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. "The issues are complicated," wrote Barrett, per the New York Times. "But the bottom line is that we reject all of petitioners' challenges to the statute." The ruling upholds the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, passed because hundreds of thousands of Native American children were taken from their homes by adoption agencies in previous years and placed with families, mostly white families, with little or no connection to their culture, per the Washington Post.

The 1978 law declared that such children should go first to members of the child's extended family. Failing that, they should be placed with another family in the same tribe or, in the third scenario, another Native American family elsewhere. Three white families and multiple states, including Texas, challenged the law, saying it's based on race and is thus unconstitutional, per the AP. The court, however, sided with the tribes, who say they're political, not racial, entities. A ruling to the contrary would have upended pretty much every law related to Native Americans, the tribes previously argued, per the Times. (Read more Native Americans stories.)

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