Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law is designed to make sure Native American children in the child welfare system stay connected with their tribes.
Why? Because for decades, American Indian families all over the country, including in Michigan, were wrenched apart by private and state child welfare workers.
Often with little reason, these workers removed Indian children from their families and tribes and tried to assimilate them into white and usually Christian culture. As barbaric as that might sound, it is not ancient history.
Judge Alli Greenleaf Maldonado's mother was taken away from her family after her mother, Maldonado's grandmother, died. She could have been placed with any number of relatives," Maldonado says. "But instead, she was sent to another state to be a domestic worker for a Mennonite minister and his wife."
Maldonado's mother was only four years old when she started working as a maid. Maldonado says it was common practice for young girls to be sent to be domestic workers, while boys were sent to be farm hands in an attempt to give the children job skills.