CNN’s Campbell Brown, commentator for the program "No Bias, No Bull", angered many in Indian Country when on Dec. 16 she commented on an doption case in Utah that involvd a Native boy. She said the adoptive parents "lost their son because the birth mother is part Native merican," noting that the boy’s mother is a Leech Lake Band Ojibwe member. She said that the tribe had gone to court and ended up winning he right to take custody of the child.
Brown said, "A federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act gives he tribe a legitimate claim." Brown added that the 1978 law was designed to keep Native American children with Native American amilies, and then said, "To me, that is a ridiculous law." rown said that ICWA "failed" the six-month-old baby boy because he as returned to the Leech Lake Band and placed into foster care while he tribe decides on a permanent placement.
After raising questions about the blood quantum of both the birth other and son, Brown said she was outraged that the boy wouldn’t be oing back to his birth mother. "He is expected to go into foster are, perhaps with other siblings already in foster care. … because he birth mother has been declared unfit," Brown said. brown ended by saying, "If there is concern in the Native American ommunity that children are being lost to the tribe through adoption because of unfit parents, then focus on strengthening your families so that your children won’t be parentless."
Angry responses from Indian Country came quickly. The National Indian
Child Welfare Association, one of the first Native groups to speak out
gainst Brown’s comments, called it media bias against Native Americans.
The organization’s official statement denounced CNN for its deeply
flawed, "ill-informed," and "deeply offensive rhetoric." We denounce
these ignorant and exploitive comments as the lowest point of
journalistic endeavor," the statement said. "The true facts of this
case speak volumes, beyond the frenzied attacks of irresponsible media
The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American
ournalists Association also slammed Brown for calling the Indian hild
Welfare Act a "ridiculous" law. The organizations called Brown’s
omments "ignorant," "inaccurate," and "negative." rown defended herself
in an e-mail to Indian Country Today, writing, There is no bias here
against Native Americans. This is about a pecific incident, a specific
law and how it is being applied in this ase. I am certainly happy to
review anything that demonstrates to me hat this family was treated
fairly, and how this little boy could ossibly be better off in foster
Letter from Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in response to Brown
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) thanks the Larsons for taking
ood care of one of our newest tribal members, Destino (Talon). ontrary
to reports in the news, the baby known as Talon in Utah was ever
adopted by the Larsons. In fact, the adoption proceedings were ot
initiated in Utah until a month after the LLBO Tribal Court issued n
order for pick-up and return of the baby to Minnesota under the
urisdiction and custody of the Tribal Court.
It is unfortunate that Heart and Soul Adoptions failed to follow-up
on he "red flag" responses the birth mother gave on their Intake
uestionnaire. Heart and Soul knew a pick-up order had been issued by he
Tribal Court within two (2) weeks after the baby was born. Instead f
complying with the court order, Heart and Soul and the Larsons nitiated
a "flawed" adoption process in Utah courts. nder Utah law, when the
birth parents are arried, both parents must ive consent to the
adoption. In this case the married father never ave his consent. It is
regrettable that adoption agencies are able o prey on pregnant mothers
in poverty. Worse yet is giving false opes to their paying clients, who
they present with a baby, who is actually someone else’s child.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) protects tribes, tribal members
nd their children and our collective Anishinabe culture. The Band did
espectfully intervene in the Larson’s Utah adoption proceedings. That
udge carefully reviewed the facts and evidence, as well as federal aw
trumping state law, and followed the law. eart and Soul should have
returned the child in June to avoid this nnecessarily long duration and
consequential attachment by the arsons. ICWA, Indians and Indian
tribes are not the problem here. The eech Lake Band of Ojibwe hopes the
Press media and Utah’s agency icensing adoption agencies will
critically examine Heart and Soul quickly. The Band hopes that the
Larsons will be provided a child that hey may legally adopt and keep.
eech Lake Band of Ojibwe