You are here
Home > Community > Indian Country urges Supreme Court to uphold ICWA

Indian Country urges Supreme Court to uphold ICWA

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 9 in Brackeen v. Haaland. (Courtesy NICWA)

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 9 in Haaland v. Brackeen – the case that challenges the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and some of its provisions.

On Aug. 19, 21 amicus briefs were sent to the Supreme Court in favor of upholding the 1978 law – enacted to protect Native children from being separated from their extended families and taken away from their communities and culture when possible. Proponents, such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), say research has clearly shown the law leads to more positive outcomes for Native children, such as higher self-esteem and academic success.

Almost 500 tribes (including the Seminole Tribe and the Miccosukee Tribe), 62 Native organizations, 23 states and the District of Columbia, 87 members of the U.S. Congress and 27 child welfare and adoption organizations signed onto the amicus briefs in support of ICWA. Amicus briefs allow entities that have a stake in litigation to provide information to the court on particular issues they believe are important to the case.

“We are seeing the true breadth of those who champion ICWA,” a statement from NICWA on Aug. 23 said. “This large, bipartisan coalition of tribal leaders, policymakers, and organizations understand that the far-reaching consequences of challenging ICWA’s constitutionality in Haaland v. Brackeen will be felt for generations.”

ICWA supporters say the case has implications for upholding tribal sovereignty – which already took a hit this year. The Supreme Court’s Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta decision in late June caused unease across Indian Country due to its expansion of the states’ authority over Native lands.

Sierra Rae, who lives in Tampa, created pro-Indian Country videos on social media and launched an online petition in support of ICWA. (Courtesy photo)

“ICWA opponents have two things in common: deep pockets and minimal contact with tribal nations, Native organizations, tribal leaders, or Native peoples,” the statement said. “A threat to ICWA is a threat to tribal sovereignty.”

Non-Native people and organizations have contributed to the amicus briefs as well, NICWA said, including legal perspectives affirming ICWA’s constitutionality to first-person perspectives from children and families navigating the child welfare system.

Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, the threat to ICWA and other Supreme Court decisions have also sparked activism among some non-Natives.

Sierra Rae, who lives in Tampa, told the Tribune Aug. 23 that she began to educate herself about the reach of Supreme Court decisions after Roe v. Wade was overturned June 24.

“I really started getting into activism, protested, signed petitions and was trying to get active in the community,” she said.

Rae said she learned about the Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta decision and that led her to find out about the threat to ICWA.

“It blew my mind that there was no rage toward the Supreme Court in the same way as Roe versus Wade,” she said.

Rae, 21, said she has Indigenous roots in Mexico and grew up doing ceremonial dances. She made a TikTok video about the threat to Indian Country and it got tens of thousands of views. It led Rae to also create an online petition through Resistbot to support ICWA. The Resistbot platform generates letters and messages that are sent to elected officials. The petition has more than 26,000 signatures so far.

To view Rae’s ICWA petition, click here. More about ICWA is at

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at