On Friday, September 23, 2016, a group of Native Americans will be protesting at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, in response to that organization's legal challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Event organizers, known as Defend ICWA, say the protest will fall on the third anniversary of the surrender of Baby Veronica to her adoptive parents, a case that made global headlines after the Cherokee girl's biological father fought to maintain custody in a protracted legal battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The protest is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., across the street from the Goldwater offices in Phoenix.
In July 2015, the institute filed A.D. v. Roberts in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the 38-year-old statute designed to protect Native children, families and communities from dissolution. The Goldwater case, as it has become known, seeks to overturn ICWA based on the contention that ICWA is “race-based.”
Defend ICWA founder Karl Minzenmayer noted that the organization's namesake, the late Senator Barry Goldwater, voted in favor of ICWA during its passage in 1978. Further, says Minzenmayer, who is a pre-ICWA adult adoptee of White Earth/Fond du Lac Ojibwe descent, A.D. v. Roberts is motivated by “greed and profiteering” in an industry that rakes in $14 billion a year.
“We're tired of seeing ICWA portrayed as 'evil' in the media,” says Minzenmayer. “We're fed up with the Goldwater Institute's lies and dissembling of a law that is, in fact, working and is helping to keep family first in Indian country. ICWA pertains to citizens of federally recognized Nations. It's a law based on citizenship – not race. We're trying to spread awareness of ICWA's critical importance to Native communities across the country.”
The case has angered many within the American Indian adult adoptee community, who believe the law should be upheld and strengthened. Their protest on Friday is one of many protests across the country as the litigation moves forward.
“What has Goldwater ever done for Indian children before they began fighting against the law that protects them? Their portrayal of themselves as 'saviors' of Indian children is same colonial mentality that has destroyed our communities for last 250 years,” says Minzenmayer. “As an adult adoptee who has had first-hand experience with the adoption industry and its tactics, we will no longer be silent as our children continue to be taken from our families and communities.”