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ICWA: Reclaiming Indigenous identity

We speak with a filmmaker whose documentary takes on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Plus ICT regular commentator Holly Cook Macarro joins us once again and she's sharing the Native news from Washington, D.C.
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The Indian Child Welfare Act became law in 1978 with a goal of keeping Native children with their families and tribes. As Blackfeet citizen and Salish descendant Brooke Pepion Swaney found out, the law was overlooked when Kendra was adopted by the Mylnechuk family. Brooke’s first feature-length documentary, "Daughter of a Lost Bird," premieres at the prestigious Human Rights Watch Festival in New York, and everywhere online.

Holly Cook Macarro, Red Lake Ojibwe, is back on the show! She’s a partner at Spirit Rock Consulting. Holly’s worked for tribal nations for more than 20 years and she’s a regular guest commentator on our program. Today she'll be talking about the big Florida casino gaming compact and so much more.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The housing market is booming this year and it could affect the Native home-buying program.  
  • The Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging two new Montana voting laws. 
  • A First Nation in Saskatchewan is closing the chapter on its 25-year old legal battle over land that was stolen in 1905. 
  • Heiltsuk Nation in Canada is moving forward with plans to purchase Shearwater Marine Ltd. 
  • After more than a century, the Seneca Nation in New York is getting a piece of its history back. 
  • The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. is reopening its doors to the public this Friday.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Brooke Pepion Swaney:

"We decided to make a film about a person. Kind of giving us an entry point into this larger national and I would even say international issue about Native kids being taken from their communities and raised in non-Native homes. So we followed Kendra Mylnechuk-Potter, who is our protagonist through the film. And she serves as an entry point, but really helps guide us through her experience of meeting her birth mother, who it turns out was also adopted."

"April Kowalski, she grew up also in a non-Native family. And so they both were able to kind of share that reuniting process with their Indigenous relatives. And then towards the end of the film, there's no spoiler alerts that I have to give here. They returned to their Lummi homelands and meet and connect with family and relatives there. That's kind of the film in a nutshell, but it's really about identity and and reclaiming that identity."

"So the day that I was there, I actually flew in that day and we went straight from the airport to meet her birth mother. And it was just me and Kendra and April had a witness. And so it was the four of us there as they were meeting. And generally with film, you often will have, or documentary, you might have a few more people on site who are helping you, but it was just me with this small DSLR camera and then a zoom recorder attached with like lots of weird cables. And just being able to kind of witness that moment with them was really profound and amazing. And we spent about four or five hours in that park that afternoon."

Holly Cook Macarro:

"All eyes are on Florida this week. If you look at social media and a lot of the information that's coming out in terms of the gaming deal and sports betting. Seminole tribe is about to be the big winner and the third largest state in the country. They will have control of sports betting. They will have authorized three new casinos in Hollywood, Florida."

"They will also not just being controlled of sports running for themselves, but for the state, they will be the ones who will be the operator for sports betting in the state. At least that's my understanding. And I'm all for a cost of $500 million a year at a minimum to the state. That deal will be locked in for 30 years. That is the deal that was passed by the Senate, the state Senate yesterday, 38 to 1, terrific support coming out of there." 

"For all the political junkies out there who love to watch these things. Bob Anderson, who is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe in Northern Minnesota. He has been nominated to be the solicitor for the department of Interior, which is the top lawyer. He's not just doing Indian Affairs, which he did in a previous administration, but he is the top lawyer akin to what Hillary Tompkins, a member of the Navajo Nation, was during the Obama administration. So again, an extraordinary appointment at the department and widely supported in Indian Country."

Thank you for watching!

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

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