By Sheri Freemont
Imagine being a Native American person and being in a court that will judge your family and
parenting where the judge, the lawyers, the social workers, the security guard, the court
reporter, the judicial assistant, are all non-natives? As a native person who is aware of the
history of the nation to condemn Native Americans as parents, and even as humans, how
does it feel? Will native people feel comforted by the explanation that they have due process
rights? Consider: the government cannot take your child away from you without due process.
Does having due process rights mean they will still take your child away, but you get notice
and an opportunity to be heard, and a lawyer to represent you? A lawyer who has never been
inside a native person’s home, who has never heard about boarding schools or Indian massacres, or the hundreds of years of attacking the familial ways of native people. More than plain
language explaining the laws and process is needed to serve these families in child welfare
cases.5 We need to use the gold standard of legal practice, borrowing from what the Indian
Child Welfare Act can teach us about how to do child welfare practice differently.