National Native Children’s Trauma Center Essays

The NNCTC is publishing a series of essays on Native child welfare, ICWA, and boarding schools. They are all available here.

In the most recent, Patrice Kunesh reflects on her own family history during this time of boarding school listening sessions and investigation by the federal government.

In January 1888, the year before North Dakota would become a state, their middle daughter Josephine, my great-aunt, was born on Battle Creek in Dakota Territory. When she was nine years old, Josephine was sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where she was trained in domestic skills. Upon her graduation in 1909 at the age of twenty-one, her mother Nellie presented her with a beaded valise, a small suitcase, depicting the 1863 Battle of Whitestone Hill on one side and the Lakota’s last buffalo hunt in 1882, two momentous losses of life and livelihood for the Lakota people that Nellie had witnessed.

Final Reminder for Minnesota American Indian Bar Association Annual Meeting THIS FRIDAY

Here is the agenda:


Keynote speaker is Patrice Kunesh, and featured speakers include Tracy Toulou, Andrew Adams III, Colette Routel, and Hon. Korey Wahwassuck.

I was going to be there as well, but I will be testifying before the Senate Committee Thursday and couldn’t find a way back to Minnesota. I will be there in spirit, however. This is a remarkable conference and group. We wish we had something like this in Michigan.

Minnesota American Indian Bar Assoc. Annual Indian Law Conference Agenda — May 18, 2012

Here is the agenda:


Keynote speaker is Patrice Kunesh, and featured speakers include Tracy Toulou, Andrew Adams III, Colette Routel, and Hon. Korey Wahwassuck.

Two Papers by Patrice Kunesh on SSRN

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: Protecting Essential Tribal Interests
University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 60, No. 131, 1989
Patrice H. Kunesh
University of South Dakota

Tribal Self-Determination in the Age of Scarcity
South Dakota Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 398, 2009
Patrice H. Kunesh
University of South Dakota

Patrice Kunesh on Indian Children in South Dakota

Patrice Kunesh (South Dakota) has posted “A Call for an Assessment of the Welfare of Indian Children in South Dakota” on SSRN. The paper is published in the South Dakota Law Review. Here is the abstract:

In the midst of faltering economies and raging poverty, American Indians in South Dakota have the nation’s lowest life expectancy, as well as some of the highest infant mortality and teen death rates. Furthermore, Indians are over-represented in significant numbers in every part of South Dakota’s welfare programs and criminal justice systems. What appears to have been missing throughout all these years is some meaningful discussion among State policymakers and tribal leaders about the correlation between the pervasive negative experience of American Indians in South Dakota, a birth to grave continuum, and restrictive and unsupportive state governmental policies. Through a close examination of demographic information about American Indian populations in the nation, with a particular focus on Indian communities in South Dakota, and of three recently issued state reports concerning the gross disproportionate over-representation of Native Americans in South Dakota’s juvenile justice, adult criminal justice, and the child welfare systems, this Article calls for a serious assessment of these critical issues in light of the State’s faltering social welfare and criminal justice systems relative to American Indians and tribal communities.

Congrats to Patrice Kunesh!!!!

From Indianz:

Standing Rock woman to lead Indian studies at USD

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Patrice H. Kunesh, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has been named director of the University of South Dakota’s Institute of American Indian Studies.

Kunesh, an assistant professor of law at USD, teaches Indian law, children and the law, legislation and property. She has worked for the Native American Rights Fund and served as in-house counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut. In her new position, Kunesh will establish a research agenda for the institute and reach out to tribes.

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Patrice Kunesh on ICWA: “Borders Beyond Borders”

Patrice Kunesh (South Dakota Law) has posted “Borders Beyond Borders: Protecting Essential Tribal Relations Off Reservation Under the Indian Child Welfare Act” on her BEPRESS Selected Works site.

Patrice presented her paper at the 3rd Annual Indigenous Law Conference, “Facing the Future: The Indian Child Welfare Act at 30.”


2008 is the thirty year anniversary of the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), one of the most dynamic pieces of legislation in federal Indian affairs that irrevocably changed the jurisdictional prerogatives of states and tribes. ICWA’s tribal wardship provision is remarkably constructive because it vests tribes with exclusive jurisdiction over Indian children who are wards of the tribal court–irrespective of the child’s domicile. This jurisdictional scheme, a rough mixture of territorial and personal criteria, defies the normative notions of state court jurisdiction over family relations. And the cross-hatching of state and tribal interests in off-reservation child welfare matters has engendered serious tension and questions about the precise contours of tribal sovereignty and the boundary line between state and tribal power.

This article investigates the transformation point between tribal and state jurisdiction over Indian child welfare matters. From an examination of the historical development of tribal wardship decisions and ICWA’s legislative history, material unexamined in this context in other scholarship, I posit that tribes, as unique political entities in our federal system of government, possess inherent attributes of sovereignty to regulate their internal social relations. ICWA is premised on the dual nature of tribal sovereignty, and allows, if not encourages, tribes to redefine their relationship to state governments by recognizing that the power to adjudicate internal matters, including child custody matters, derives from a source independent of the land. Thus, there are no real boundaries to protecting these essential tribal relations where the exercise of tribal authority is vital to the maintenance of tribal integrity and self-determination.