Justice Cavanagh’s op/ed is available here.
Our inaugural Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum meeting this week focused on issues of Indian child welfare, on outlining the scope of the Forum’s work, and on organizing our leadership. We examined what forums in other states are doing to find examples of best practices and innovations. Also, we delved into the ICWA as the “gold standard,” as well as the importance of judicial leadership and collaboration.
Because we can’t know where we should be headed if we don’t know where we are now, the Forum also received updates on Michigan Indian child welfare data, and child welfare services and resources from the State Court Administrative Office.
Most importantly, the Forum finalized our Naakonigewin, or Charter, which defines our make-up, appointment process, and governance. The Charter will not only solidify and formalize a valuable, long-standing relationship, but it also will lay the groundwork for future collaborations among the courts. The Charter will guarantee that while the names may change, the mission will continue.
As we opened our meeting with a traditional tribal pipe ceremony and drums, I had the honor of sharing some reflections on my lifelong commitment to improving relations between our sovereign governments and our people. I am also excited to hand over my role as Supreme Court Tribal Liaison Justice to the Forum to Justice Bridget McCormack. I have no doubt she will bring even more passion and dedication to the task.
I am positive that the Forum, under the guidance of Justice McCormack, its tribal and state judge co-chairs, and the participation of many of the state’s and tribes’ most dedicated jurists, will continue to find common ground to accomplish wonderful things for all our children. The measure of our success will be reflected in strong relationships, linking our peoples, learning from the lessons of the past and leading our children to a better future.