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‘Protecting Our Children’ conference to return in-person

Next year’s conference artwork, “Lifeway,” is by North Dakota-based artist Shawna Fricke (Taos Pueblo/Paiute). Fricke said culture is represented through the northern baskets in the floral designs, the traditional dress, and the color scheme of the family. She said the brown tones on the woman represent Mother Earth and the blue on the children represents water and lifeways. (Courtesy NICWA)

It’s been three years since the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) has hosted its annual conference in-person. The previous three have taken place in a virtual format because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organizers chose Reno, Nevada, to be the host city for its 41st “Protecting Our Children” conference. It is scheduled for April 2-5, 2023, at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino.

The conference theme is “Healing Our Spirits: Nurturing and Restoring Hope.”

“As Indigenous peoples, we know a lot about healing. Healing is culturally specific and nonlinear. It happens collectively with our families and communities. It’s not all or nothing, but a lifelong journey of reestablishing our balance,” a conference description read.

Each year the conference focuses on the needs of Native American children and their families. NICWA invites experts in child welfare issues who work in many fields and specializations, including mental health, juvenile justice, law, advocacy and more. A diverse mix of presenters is featured, including tribal and federal leaders.

One of the most talked about topics at the conference is the status of the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA has been challenged in lower courts in recent years, but reached the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The court heard oral arguments Nov. 9 in the case known as Brackeen v. Haaland, which challenges the constitutionality of ICWA. The court is expected to render a decision next summer.

“In times of uncertainty and stress, when we lose balance and a sense of wellbeing, we come together in small and large groups,” the conference description reads. “We gather our energy, share burdens and joys, and reaffirm the indispensable truth that we are here and will continue to be here. We are healing ourselves for ourselves, for the seven generations before us, and for the seven generations to come.”

For more information and to register, go to