Minnesota Court of Appeals on Reason to Know: How to Write an Opinion On This [ICWA]


All the Courts of Appeals facing the question of reason to know should just go read this one (I’m looking at you, Colorado).

In this case the court ordered another investigation to ensure the children were not Indian children, and this bothered the state So Much that it asked for a writ of prohibition to avoid the order. The Court is pretty clear that the lower court has the power to order an investigation and dismisses the state’s argument that the lower court didn’t have “reason to know” in one succinct paragraph.

Finally, we reject the county’s assertion that the district court erroneously replaced the reasontoknow standard with a lower standard: that the children “might” be Indian children. [R]eason to know” is “[i]nformation from which a person of ordinary intelligence . . . would infer that the fact in question exists or that there is a substantial enough chance of its existence that, if the person exercises reasonable care, the person can assume the fact exists. Black’s Law Dictionary 1520 (11th ed. 2019). The word might” means “to express possibility.” Random House Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1219 (2d ed. 1987). There is significant overlap between when a court “has reason to know” that a child is an Indian child and when there is a “possibility” that a child is an Indian child. On this record, we cannot say that the district court applied an incorrect standard. Moreover, as noted, even if a court has something less than a reason to know that a child is an Indian child, the court may nevertheless “choose to require additional investigation into whether there is a reason to know the child is an Indian child. ICWA Guidelines, supra, at 11

First Native American Appointed to MN Court of Appeals

Gov. Walz appoints Sarah Wheelock to fill vacancy on the Minnesota Court of Appeals

Bench & Bar of Minnesota | Minnesota State Bar Association
By Claire Lancaster

Read the article here!


Minnesota Governor Appoints Meskwaki Tribal Citizen Sarah Wheelock to Serve on State’s Court of Appeals

Native News Online
By Native News Online Staff

Read the article here!

Unreported Transfer to Tribal Court Decision out of Minnesota

I get asked a lot–just last week, in fact–to address the claim that Native children are often ripped from loving foster homes where they have been for a long time because the Tribe wants something different. I think the fact pattern in this case is more usual–the child was in the home (an Indian foster home) for five months when the Tribe requested visitation between her and her grandmother. Within a year, the state child welfare department petitioned to move the child to her grandmother. The original placement was always a foster placement and ICWA applied to this child from very early on in the proceedings. Moving a child to a permanent relative home within a year is very fast for a child welfare case. And yet still, the foster family intervened and attempted to stop the transfer to tribal court and regain custody of the child. 

The Court of appeals here affirmed the lower court’s decision to transfer.