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Incentives And Cultural Bias Fuel Foster System
October 25, 2011 8:03 PM   Subscribe

"Because you know most babies don't cry ..." "In South Dakota, Native American children make up only 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half the children in foster care. An NPR News investigation has found that the state is removing 700 native children every year, sometimes in questionable circumstances. "
posted by HuronBob (95 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Listened to this earlier. So sad.
posted by postel's law at 8:06 PM on October 25, 2011


Heard this earlier, cried in front of Safeway. Jesus. So complex and horrible on all sides.
posted by tristeza at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2011


What the fuck.
posted by Melismata at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well I sure hope the Dakota legislature plans to do something about this immediately.

In the 2010 election the Republican Party of South Dakota won a Super majority in both houses.

Oops. No, probably not, then.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


The really tragic thing is there are already laws at the federal level to prevent exactly this but they aren't being honored at the state level. I see that kind of thing happening so often, it really makes me question whether Federalism actually is a workable idea anymore.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:16 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's absolutely horrifying. I was going to say, there's got to be something in the existing laws and treaties that prevents this. But I'm not at all surprised to hear that there is already and the state and local government just don't follow it.
posted by immlass at 8:18 PM on October 25, 2011


Can't even read that. So sad and depressing.
posted by Glinn at 8:19 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In case anyone missed it, the link for the audio version is here.
posted by HuronBob at 8:26 PM on October 25, 2011


This is the saddest fucking thing I have ever read on the internet. I've never read anything online that made me sob before.

I've been really critical of public radio lately, because they didn't report on OWS at all for ten days, but you know what? Bless you for this, NPR. Bless you.

To get a little overshary and backstory-y: my grandpa had one Native parent. His brother married a full Native woman, and had my aunt. Technically, she's my first cousin once removed, but she and my mom are like sisters, and she's always been my Aunt S. Her mom got shipped off to boarding school, and it had the intended effect: it broke ties with that culture. My mom jokes that we are all just dark haired white people now.

I live in a place with an empty Native orphanage/boarding school. It's an enormous building, especially for its age. The first time we visited here, I thought it must have been an old hospital, or the original college campus. Every other year there is a big public kerfuffle about what to do about the abandoned orphanage. There is a large Native population here, and, partially for that reason, no one wants to do anything about it. It's this weird, giant, looming reminder of What Was. It's almost like it's rectifying something, to allow this beautiful building to be slowly revealed as the ugly thing that it always was.

Gah. It is 2011, for Christ's sweet sake. When? When does this stop?
posted by Leta at 8:26 PM on October 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


"I mean look, we're a poor state," he says. "We're not a high income state. We're like North Dakota without oil. We're like Nebraska without Omaha and Lincoln. We don't have resources. We don't have wealth. We don't have high income jobs.

So they're extracting human resources.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:26 PM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Poverty, crime and alcoholism are all real problems on South Dakota's reservations and in the state's poorest areas. But, state records show there's another powerful force at work — money. The federal government sends the state thousands of dollars for every child it takes.

This is absolutely disgusting. How can the social services front-line workers do this without balking? How high up are these decisions made?
posted by porpoise at 8:27 PM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


As a federal Indian law practitioner, I find it stunning that this is happening. It's not as if we're dealing with gray areas in the law: The Indian Child Welfare Act has protections to ensure this doesn't happen, and there is plenty of federal caselaw delineating the limitations of tribal court and state court jurisdiction in these cases. In adjudicatory proceedings involved deprived children, a tribe should have exclusive jurisdiction over the actions arising in that Tribe's Indian country full stop.

What's going on here is a shocking lack of resources. Generally, tribes should have their own ICW services that will show up to state court deprived child actions involving Indian children to intervene and either argue to have the state case dismissed and moved to tribal court/CFR court or, depending upon the circumstances, enforce the tribe's interest in protecting the tribe's children in the state court proceeding. Unfortunately, not all tribes have the resources to be able to do this, or to be able to take these states to fed court to enforce the provisions of ICWA against states.

That's all assuming the state courts follow the notice provisions of ICWA and provide the required notices to the tribe and the natural parents. That's a whole separate violation right there.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2011 [31 favorites]


I keep coming back to this:

Every day the bucket goes to the well
One day the bottom will drop out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:33 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should also mention that another aspect of ICWA that's probably be ignored by the state's DHS program is the more stringent requirements under ICWA for reunification efforts between a deprived child and the natural parent(s). The "active efforts" requirements means the state has a much higher burden to meet to be able to terminate the rights of a natural parent of an Indian child. I suspect that these courts are probably not correctly interpreting that threshold requirement and applying it to the periodic reports provided to the court by a social worker(s) in termination cases.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:34 PM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


In case anyone is interested, here's a breakdown of ICWA from NARF (the Native American Rights Foundation) that fairly accessible to the lay person.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:37 PM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I literally pulled over to listen to this story today. It's the very definition of shit that is flat out wrong.

That said, the aggressive advertising of thus production during pledge drive time made me uncomfortable. It was as if it was crafted or timed to make people angry at a time that really fire up the base to open their wallets.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon... I hope you're wrong about that... NPR is one of the few media outlets that I give any credibility to now... I hate to think they are drinking the pledge drive koolaid!
posted by HuronBob at 8:42 PM on October 25, 2011


"I get along real good with the state and I have a good rapport with them," [Dave Valandra, the tribe's Indian Child Welfare Act director] says. "I'm satisfied."

Well, I guess that just about fucking settles it then doesn't it Mr. Valandra? Good lord, when will we ever stop fucking with these people?
posted by MikeMc at 8:45 PM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


What the FUCK.
posted by ghostbikes at 8:47 PM on October 25, 2011


NPR is one of the few media outlets that I give any credibility to now... I hate to think they are drinking the pledge drive koolaid!

I'm trying to figure out whether this comment is a joke or not. You know that most of NPR's income is fees from member stations, which are paid for by pledge drives, right? Sorry if I'm an idiot.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:47 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we EVER going to stop hurting these people?
posted by Avenger at 8:48 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"That said, the aggressive advertising of thus production during pledge drive time made me uncomfortable."

I could see where it might be timed that way, much like networks program for "sweeps".
posted by MikeMc at 8:48 PM on October 25, 2011


Well you know what pisses me off? why are the tribes in poverty? Don't give me some bullshit about it not being european immigrants fault, for fucks sake, the native people's way of life was obliterated and now because *cough* "honestly" "purchased" land, the immigrants think it's theirs and they can make laws for native people, threaten to take MORE of their land if they don't pay taxes to the immigrant government, take their children??

Seriously? Education systems, drug rehabilitation, successful careers, parenting support, nutritious food, meaningful work, money and stability,-----

there are tons of things needed, and dammit we should hand over tons of money if we aren't going to give back massive amounts of land we should rightfully give back. For fucks sake, whatever it is native people need to empower themselves and create what they need for themselves-- give them money and the kind of support they need.

All the presidents make nice speeches, and yet what manifests? Crow creek in south dakota is one of the poorest, my half sister and my cousin both have fathers who lived on the crow creek tribe. The police do nothing or make things worse. My cousin says he's an alcoholic because he's an injun ain't he. My sisters father died young after drinking and living a hard life.

The reasons for alcoholism are complex but intergenerational trauma, poverty, life pain, and biological factors are all related to it and we need to make sure there native people are living better childhoods and getting supports to prevent and tools to treat it. IF white motherfuckers are going to intervene at all-- fix the poverty first before you keep stealing children of people whose entire culture YOU destroyed?!
posted by xarnop at 8:49 PM on October 25, 2011 [24 favorites]


Sorry white mofos can be replaced with non-native. Too much grar.
posted by xarnop at 8:50 PM on October 25, 2011


God, this is tragic. And even if kids are returned to their homes on the reservations, their future is statistically dim. Life expectancy there hovers around 50, and the youth suicide rate is staggering.

From The Guardian:
"The hardest ones are the kids. The deaths are disturbing but so are the funerals," he says. "At the funerals you see the glamorised attention they get. They've got their names written all over the windows in honour of this kid because he took his life. Kids see that. Kids want attention. This is how they're going to get attention. I've heard them say: when I go, I hope that's how they honour me."

In fact, Native Americans teenagers are more likely to kill themselves than any other minority group. Some statistics show the rate at three times the national average. But those figures shield the fact that self-harm is most likely to occur on poorer reservations, such as Pine Ridge and neighbouring Rosebud; here rates are far higher.
posted by Sfving at 8:52 PM on October 25, 2011


"I'm trying to figure out whether this comment is a joke or not"

Not a joke... I hope that NPR isn't doing the commercial tv/radio trick of using this type of story to drive ratings/donations... I would be disappointed if that were the case...
posted by HuronBob at 8:52 PM on October 25, 2011


The "Office of the Chief Coroner’s Death Review of the Youth Suicides at the Pikangikum First Nation" is a heartbreaking look at the suicide epidemic among youth at a Northern Ontario reserve.

Over the summer after this report was released six more young people committed suicide on this reserve.

"Five percent of the population has committed suicide in the past 20 years." according to this article.

This is a community where 300-500 school aged children do not attend school - you can't get a number more accurate than that because they just don't know.

This is truly Canada's national shame - but there seems to be very little real political will or public pressure to do much about it.
posted by davey_darling at 9:00 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Too much grar.

After reading this little "gem" I'm not sure there's enough grar:

States receive money if they move kids out of foster care and into adoption — about $4,000 a child. But according to federal records, if the child has "special needs," a state can get as much as $12,000.

A decade ago, South Dakota designated all Native American children "special needs," which means Native American children who are permanently removed from their homes are worth more financially to the state than other children.

posted by MikeMc at 9:02 PM on October 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


That said, the aggressive advertising of thus production during pledge drive time made me uncomfortable.

It's important to remember that National Public Radio only produces programming. There is not, as far as I am aware, any ACTUAL "NPR station" anywhere. There are many, many public radio stations who carry NPR programming, as well as Public Radio International programming and from whomever else. We tend to call all of it "NPR" for short, but in a case like this, you should be directing your ire at the affiliate/local radio station, not the news organization.

Oregon Public Broadcasting, for instance, did its pledge drive a week or three ago. Any time there's a pledge drive on and there's a breaking story, they always work it into the pitch; "And your dollars help us bring you these very very important stories, like this thing which is happening now." Unless you're saying that your station's pledge drive was recent and they were hyping this? Cos I didn't hear any of that here, and today is the first I heard of the story.

Slight derail, but it's important to point out so there isn't a whole "GRAR NPR GRAR" thing distracting from the "HUMAN BEINGS ARE SHIT" thing that's far more appropriate here.

If my public radio understanding is wrong, someone please jump in and correct.
posted by curious nu at 9:03 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can we please not turn this into a referendum on the perils of the res? And how these kids are doomed to alcoholism and suicide and poverty regardless? Can we please PLEASE not do that?
posted by Leta at 9:07 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the SD courts can't seem to appreciate the importance of protecting the rights of the natural parents, the tribes, and the children under ICWA, you would think they'd stop and think about the effect that their ignorance of the law has on their adjudications on the adoptive parents who stand to benefit from a court's incompetence: a Court's failure to follow ICWA could result in an unlawful adoption being halted or overturned.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:12 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is horrible, but you don't have to go to North Dakota to see similar. I live in Massachusetts, and among the people downstairs in family court it was common knowledge that black and Latino families had their kids removed and parental rights terminated at far higher rates, and for far less compelling reasons, than white parents in similar circumstances. And of course, once DCF finds a reason to take your kids, it's going to find a reason to keep them.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:17 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, xarnop, not all tribes are poor. I was just thinking of forwarding this story to a woman I know here who is very tribally active, and all three tribes here are pretty financially solid and might be able to help these South Dakotans out. I'll grant you, we've had casinos here for twenty years, our state was on the vanguard that way. The reses here are lovely little subdivisions with new, tidy homes, and no crime. The name reservation is really appropriate because there is a waiting list to get a house, and you have to be an elder, and elder's caregiver, or a family with minor children to get one. The highest rent there that I ever heard of was $250/mo, including all utilities, for a four bedroom, two bath house. (The tribe owns all the houses, they are all technically rentals, rented to tribe members below cost.)

And somehow, I do not think what's happening to the Crow kids in South Dakota would happen to the Anishinaabe kids here, because here the tribe has the money and the social standing to fight. Racism and cultural imperialism and poverty seem to be the three corners of bullshit.
posted by Leta at 9:17 PM on October 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


1adam12: "This is horrible, but you don't have to go to North Dakota to see similar."

But the difference here is that DHS workers can actually get away with it more easily with Latinos and black kids because in those cases, we're not talking about taking kids out of separate sovereign jurisdictions. Think about it like MA social services marching into the domicile of a NY family, declaring the parents unfit and adjudicating the child deprived back in MA.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:30 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If my public radio understanding is wrong, someone please jump in and correct.

You are correct, so we can drop it.
posted by mykescipark at 9:31 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that tribal structures are a good thing in modern society. I recognise that they are important socially and culturally, but people's rights shouldn't be determined by their social or cultural position or by how successfully their tribal leadership extracts rent. Even if people wanted to help people like this on a pro-bono basis they would be compromised by the need to cooperate with the tribal structure in order to get access to them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:33 PM on October 25, 2011


Leta: "And somehow, I do not think what's happening to the Crow kids in South Dakota would happen to the Anishinaabe kids here, because here the tribe has the money and the social standing to fight."

Your Great Lakes tribes you mention probably also have their own tribal court systems set up so they're not relying upon the BIA like the Crow and Lakota tribes are in this case. Unfortunately, Bureau incompetence contributes to the problem as well (you can see it in the article).

Joe in Australia: "I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that tribal structures are a good thing in modern society. I recognise that they are important socially and culturally, but people's rights shouldn't be determined by their social or cultural position or by how successfully their tribal leadership extracts rent. "

I appreciate your viewpoint, but it's a very destructive viewpoint to the rights of indigenous people. To be fair though, this same viewpoint and misunderstanding about the legal status of tribes is all too common amongst Americans as well who have absolutely no education in fed Indian law and policy. We're not talking about tribes as social clubs or social hierarchies here in the US. We're talking about separate sovereign jurisdictions that happen to be geographically located within the boundaries of two other sovereign jurisdictions.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:44 PM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


Greed. Money. Corruption. A system built to destroy the fabric of family.

And you wonder why our people are starting to demonstrate on the streets of America.

FFS, can we just stop trying to rip each other off and just become a nation that cares about it's citizens?
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:03 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This makes me so angry I'm kind of shaky. Horrible, horrible. So horrible. I'm particularly appalled by the bit in the article where it's implied that the mother's parental rights were well on the road to being terminated without her ever even being offered the opportunity to jump through various bullshit hoops to prove that she was an okay mom. And all of this on a possibly trumped-up drug rumor. WTF? How is this possible?

Dr. Zira, thank you for your insight here! Very interesting.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:28 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Appalling. My grandmother was an Indian scholar and activist, who gave hundreds of hours of testimony in trials between various tribes and the American government to secure the tribal sovereignty rights. (She was a scholar of Indian history, not Indian herself.) It's revolting to see that even when those rights have been won and set down in black-letter law, they're still totally ignored.
posted by KathrynT at 10:37 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"States receive money if they move kids out of foster care and into adoption — about $4,000 a child. But according to federal records, if the child has "special needs," a state can get as much as $12,000.

A decade ago, South Dakota designated all Native American children "special needs," which means Native American children who are permanently removed from their homes are worth more financially to the state than other children."

How, HOW, did the state get by with designating all Native children "special needs?" The corruption is mind boggling. Everyone involved in this little charade should be locked up.

Every time I think I've heard it all, there's more to come.

Many years ago I lived near a reservation (not in the Dakotas) whose people were in extreme poverty and alcoholism was rampant. They had the highest infant/child mortality rate for any ethnic group in the country at that time and I frequently saw small children with hardly any clothes on, barefoot, in the snow, at very cold temperatures, while their parents were bundled up warmly. At that time, in that place, I wouldn't have been shocked by a story such as this one, so this story didn't, at first, hit me the same way it was hitting everyone else. But then I read about the money - literally using these children as a source of income for the state - and my stomach lurched. Now I'm enraged, just furious.

The same people who are perpetuating the "transfer" (sale) of Native children for money for the state are curling their lips at the welfare family who's busily making another baby for money.

Is there any integrity left anywhere?
posted by aryma at 10:58 PM on October 25, 2011


How is this not war?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:58 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anyone have a good idea on what we might be able to do about this, that might make a difference? Give money, or petition somebody, or....?
posted by msalt at 11:05 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of the Sixties Scoop, where the Canadian government decided residential schools weren't working well enough to assimilate Native children and started "scooping" them in massive numbers from First Nations communities and dumping them in foster care (money was a big motivator of course--provinces received money for each child taken into care; nearly all the kids went to non-native families and some were shipped over the border to the US for adoption).

A lot of my current students are descendents of those babies. They're pretty open about how those experiences (and/or the trauma of residential school) affected their parents, grandparents...and them, as the next generation. South Dakota is perpetrating cultural genocide and it is going to reap the whirlwind.

Here's an audio interview from the CBC with a survivor of the Sixties Scoop who has launched a class action lawsuit against the federal government. Maybe that's what needs to happen for the people in this NPR piece...a class action lawsuit against the government of South Dakota. Would that even be possible?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:23 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


i know the secrecy the surrounds Social Services cases is designed to protect children from information that may be inappropriate for their age but i dont see how SUBJECTIVE assessments made in SECRET can be legal: this process is totally extrajudicial.

Getting paid federal MONEY to take away kids because their families dont have MONEY is sickening even without the deplorable history of stealing from and killing these Americans.
posted by dongolier at 11:33 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to point out that it's completely possible to be opposed to kids being removed from their homes for flimsy reasons, opposed to racist bullshit like the state designating all Native American kids as "special needs", and still think Native American sovereignty is a bad dea, and the right to have kids who are taken away from their parents placed in a foster home with the same culture is... weird at best (and also somewhat discriminatory).

I'm not an American, but the idea of Native American sovereignty has always seemed incredibly weird to me. There's an enormous amount of people around the world who have lost their country or parts of it in the last few hundred years, but it'd be crazy to assume they all have the right to sovereignty (even limited).

Just a thought, it's entirely possible that the crushing poverty many Native Americans live in is a result of a lack of integration (as well as many other factors, I'm sure).

Also, this: "State officials acknowledge that only 11 of their 183 case workers are Native American." seems a bit biased. That's 6 percent. South Dakota's Native American population is 8.5%, so that's not far from representative, certainly given a workforce as small as 183. (Of course
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sfving: "Life expectancy there hovers around 50, and the youth suicide rate is staggering."

So, this would be an indicator that children and youth in many Native American reservations are living in unacceptable conditions, then, and that Social Services may be right in intervening in at least some cases (and even at higher rates than the state in general)?

It seems hard to have it both ways.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:37 AM on October 26, 2011


Oh, America. Just look at all this naive outrage! You're doing it very, very wrong. Now, repeat after me:

"These government people have the best intentions."
"There's some short term pain, but it's for long term gain."
"I didn't personally remove any children, so what's the problem?"
"I'm pretty sure that all stopped a hundred years ago."
"If they just got off their asses and got jobs we wouldn't have to do this in the first place."
"I'm all for the government getting involved to sort these people out, but if you spend one red cent of my taxes on long-term programs for indigenous peoples and there'll be a civil war, just you wait and see."
"If you're against this, you're just being divisive."
"Oh yeah, well somebody removed my [ancestor from any time in the past several thousand years] from their home - where's my payout?"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This hurts me in my heart... I'm a Sincangu Lakota and I've talked before about how I'd like to go back to the rez. I can't even process all the comments.
posted by blessedlyndie at 12:57 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Getting paid federal MONEY to take away kids because their families dont have MONEY is sickening even without the deplorable history of stealing from and killing these Americans.

Dude, this is war.

I thought it was bad when US citizens were targeted for murder by the government...

but holy shit this seems worse.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:03 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



It seems hard to have it both ways.


The sovereignty and jurisdictional issues that Dr Zira explained above are what makes this different. And even in a situation where things are bad and intervention is necessary, things are supposed to proceed in ways that protect and respect everyone's rights; from the story, this was clearly not happening.

I don't know if that's having it both ways, but I am certain that not being comfortable with things as described in the story is not the same as being ok with children being in bad situations.
posted by Forktine at 2:12 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, this would be an indicator that children and youth in many Native American reservations are living in unacceptable conditions, then, and that Social Services may be right in intervening in at least some cases (and even at higher rates than the state in general)?

There's a difference between many and all. You're using the suggestion of the former to justify the latter and practically sliding down a slippery slope

and the right to have kids who are taken away from their parents placed in a foster home with the same culture is... weird at best (and also somewhat discriminatory).

It's an attempt to keep the kids within their cultural heritage. The supposed order of removing these kids is to try to place them with family, then other tribe members, then Native American foster homes. According to the report, all of that was being ignored, they talked to Native American foster families who had never been contacted or called.

It's not discriminatory to prefer, at least on paper, to make attempts to keep a culture together.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:12 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I heard this on the way home from law school last night, which added another level of shriveling depression to my reaction.

This is not an isolated incident, on the Federal level stories break regarding abuses and failures at BIA schools every few years. From this last August:
AP: Senate hearing in Poplar examines Indian suicides (via Sen. Tester's website.)

Relatedly, the Native CLASS Act, intended to reform Native American education, has cleared the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is on its way to voting.

Sen. Johnson of SD is one of its sponsors.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that's not the AP link I was looking for. I'm having trouble finding the reports I'm thinking of--they were about investigations into woeful under-funding and abusive conditions at BIA run or contracted teen "treatment centers" and in other programs.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:31 AM on October 26, 2011


Still can't find the stories about the treatment centers (reform schools?) but here's a USA-Today story from 2004 about the decrepit BIA prison system; and a 2003 report from Congress' bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs In Indian Country.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:50 AM on October 26, 2011


Joe in Australia: "I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that tribal structures are a good thing in modern society. I recognise that they are important socially and culturally, but people's rights shouldn't be determined by their social or cultural position or by how successfully their tribal leadership extracts rent. "

I'm sure the sovereign tribal governments in occupied North America would be very impressed by the opinion of a random Australian on the matter.

Dr. Zira, it's awesome to have your voice in this thread.
posted by spitbull at 5:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


How, HOW, did the state get by with designating all Native children "special needs?"

When I was researching adoption before we adopted our daughter, I learned that in the adoption industry in general almost any hard-to-place child is designated "special needs." So, for instance, African-American babies and children, or older children, or sibling groups, might be designated that way, even if they have no health problems or developmental delays. It has, yes, to do with funding--for instance, people who adopt "special needs" kids are eligible for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit even if they don't thave adoption-related expenses (if they adopt from foster care, for instance, so don't pay adoption fees). It's a financial incentive to adopt kids who might otherwise not be placed.
posted by not that girl at 5:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How far would that $12,000.00 go to alleviate the poverty that's at the root of Native American desperation if it were applied directly to the families in need, instead of being given to the state as a reward for removing kids from poverty?

Seems like a basic bootstrapping problem. Maybe it's my bias as a "root causes" liberal, but if we're going to be dispensing tax dollars, why not dispense them to the source? Skin color? This whole thing reeks of bigotry, even from those who seem to think they're acting in the kid's best interest. Imperialism has been replaced with smug paternalism, at best, and this is not a best-case at all.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm going to have to finish it later. I feel embarrassed that I can't even bear to read about a situation that is a reality for these people. :( They can't close the browser & go back to dealing later.
posted by pointystick at 6:11 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So, this would be an indicator that children and youth in many Native American reservations are living in unacceptable conditions, then, and that Social Services may be right in intervening in at least some cases (and even at higher rates than the state in general)?"

Bullshit. My sister was adopted into a white family, and I'm not sure the tribe was given any option of keeping her. And yes they may have been limited by the poverty and misery on the reservation to feel like they could keep her.

Are you an Australian immigrant or native? Australia has done some of the same horrible stuff to the native people there. So I suppose perhaps you really want to be ok with that?

But the land that ws "purchesed" was some combination of physically stolen through acts of war, through surrender to prevent more acts of war, through differing understandings of what it means to "own" land, and perhaps some amount of honestly consented to purchases.

I get that it would be complicated to give back all land to any previous owners ever--- however we need to do more to make what how much devestation has happened to native peoples and help them get the tools and financial resources they need to come up with a new way of functioning that works for them.

Leta-- I am so happy to hear things are different on some of the reservations. The solution is to address the poverty and lack of resources. Before you do that, it's as yucky as american people paying 10,000-30,000 for a baby when a fraction of that could have allowed the mother to parent for life.
posted by xarnop at 7:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: "I'm not an American, but the idea of Native American sovereignty has always seemed incredibly weird to me. There's an enormous amount of people around the world who have lost their country or parts of it in the last few hundred years, but it'd be crazy to assume they all have the right to sovereignty (even limited)."

Thank you for this honest comment because without even knowing it, you've basically articulated the mindset at the root of the problems of indigenous people all over the world. If the idea that conquered peoples have inherent sovereign rights seems weird to you, you're not alone. It wasn't until 2007 that the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Part of the reason that it's so difficult for people to wrap their heads around the idea that indigenous peoples have sovereign rights is because most people are conditioned to believe that sovereign rights are tied to property rights.

To understand the fundamental concepts of indigenous sovereign rights, you have to understand the legal history of how these concepts evolved. The genesis is the concept of Discovery doctrine relied upon by colonial conquerers for centuries to create the legal framework justifying colonization of the lands which rightfully belong to the indigenous. The mindset is partially based in the idea of a divine right to take aboriginal lands away from native peoples of any particular land. All of our US fed Indian policy (and those of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other colonial nations) spins off from there. Here in the US, our Supreme Court basically used the discovery doctrine to create foundational caselaw which held that upon discovery, indigenous tribes' rights to land were converted to a mere right of occupancy, which could only be sold to the discovering conquerors, not other private parties.

Now I think most of us understand the moral issues behind the plight of the conquerer versus the rights of the indigenous; we inherently understand how morally repulsive it is for a conquerer to justify its actions through Divine Right by saying "God says we are better than you, therefore we are justified in conquering you because we make you better people." However, even the conquerers understood that the important part of the conquering business isn't the development of the moral justification, so much as the development of the legal justification. For a conquerer, taking land from someone else had serious practical implications requiring more than just moral justification: perfecting a claim to someone else's land requires a legal justification as well. To wrap your head around this, think about it from the perspective of a conquerer: coming into a new territory, planting your flag, and proclaiming THIS IS MINE presents some very practical problems, most notably that the people you are conquering don't generally tend to just roll over easily, so the conquerer has a couple of options: war, or bargaining. Here in the US, the British colonists and their successors in interest - the US government and its citizens - had the luxury of a vast expanse of uncolonized real estate to the West that allowed them to emphasize the bargaining part and remove and relocate the indigenous westward.

So after our US Constitution was ratified, our courts, led by Justice Marshall, worked out the legal framework to address the title issues of taking property from our Indians and moving them the parts of the country we hadn't yet colonized. The Executive Branch set the policies and Congress and the courts created the laws and treaties necessary to effect those policies. You can read more about more recent history of the development of the law here. Canada, Australia, and NZ, whose policy was frequently modeled on US policy, have similar legal histories. But the bottom line is that the US eventually rerecognized and acknowledged the inherent rights of the conquered tribes as separate sovereign entities with inherent sovereign rights. As inherent rights, those rights cannot be extinguished, although they can be ignored, which brings us back to your original comment. Just because people don't know or don't remember these rights exist doesn't make those rights go away.

Unlike other countries, the frequent relocation of tribes through removal and resettlement means that the geographical borders of the 400+ federally recognized borders have been and continue to be in a constant state of flux. Further, although most Americans are familiar with the concepts of dual sovereignty between states and federal governments - e.g., one sovereign coexisting within the boundaries of another sovereign - most people aren't aware of the existence of tribes as sovereigns within those borders as well. Again, the lack of awareness doesn't mean they don't exist - it's easy for me to forget about the existence of, say, a far away nation like Mauritania - but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist with sovereign rights.

That lack of awareness of the existence of tribal sovereignty is a rampant problem here in the US. Further, because that lack of awareness extends to lawmakers and judges who should know better, it exacerbates the preexisting jurisdictional confusion, and leads to all sorts of awful abuses of power and human rights, including the child welfare authority abuses that are the subject of this article.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:14 AM on October 26, 2011 [36 favorites]


That should be "500+" borders, not "400+". I think the official number of federally recognized tribes I was referring to above is ~ 565.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't get past "babies don't cry". Clearly whoever said that has never had a baby. Or been a baby.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:47 AM on October 26, 2011


Clearly whoever said that has never had a baby. Or been a baby.

The person who said it was a grandmother and here's the full quote:
"They were sitting in the cars," Howe says, choking up. "They were just looking at me. Because you know most babies don't cry if they're raised in a secure environment. So I went out there and took their diaper bags. And they left."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, this: "State officials acknowledge that only 11 of their 183 case workers are Native American." seems a bit biased. That's 6 percent. South Dakota's Native American population is 8.5%, so that's not far from representative, certainly given a workforce as small as 183.

But from another perspective, if over half of the kids in foster care are native, then the workforce is not representative of the population they are working with.
posted by RobotHero at 8:12 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's an enormous amount of people around the world who have lost their country or parts of it in the last few hundred years, but it'd be crazy to assume they all have the right to sovereignty (even limited).

The Indians have sovereignty because they made treaties with the entities that later became the Federal Government. Those treaties need to be honored; we can't just unilaterally decide to abandon our sworn and signed word just because now it's inconvenient.
posted by KathrynT at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I listened to this story yesterday and was so appalled. One can only hope that the broad coverage of this will help make some changes. The utter lack of due process and the utter corruption of the system - still, today - after all the public discussion that's gone on is truly shocking even to those of us who are utterly cynical. My hope is that the financial incentives get re-worked to help families stay together and not to reward destroying families and cultural traditions. Not living in South Dakota I'm dubious that signing petitions to SD legislators will make any difference but would happily raise hell if anyone had thoughts of where to point it effectively.

And thank you Dr Zira for elucidating this even more.
posted by leslies at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2011


we can't just unilaterally decide to abandon our sworn and signed word just because now it's inconvenient.

Shouldn't decide, perhaps, but this story (among others) makes it quite clear that governments can do this.

It's horrifying. Even if we accept that living on a reservation increases your risk of alcoholism, suicide, etc, I'm entirely unconvinced that being taken away from your family and dumped in a foster home that has no specific knowledge of your culture and given no visitation with family and no realistic chance to be allowed back home is going to reduce those risks.
posted by jeather at 8:20 AM on October 26, 2011


Uh, I meant "perhaps the right word here is shouldn't", not "perhaps we shouldn't do that, but you know maybe we should".
posted by jeather at 8:22 AM on October 26, 2011


>: Sfving: "Life expectancy there hovers around 50, and the youth suicide rate is staggering."

So, this would be an indicator that children and youth in many Native American reservations are living in unacceptable conditions, then, and that Social Services may be right in intervening in at least some cases (and even at higher rates than the state in general)?

No, this would be an indicator that the appalling conditions on many reservations in North America are a direct result of hundreds of years of colonialism, and remain unaddressed because of a lack of government will to take concrete steps in remedying the effects of government-sanctioned cultural genocide.

Here is an analogy: Imagine that I went to the house next to mine and forced both the parents and all the kids to move into one bedroom while I took the rest of the house for my own use, and then I let their water and power supply get cut off. My neighbours would then most certainly be living in unacceptable conditions. The way to fix their bad living situation--which I would be directly responsible for--is not for me to barge in and take their children for adoption because they are now living crowded into one bedroom, without running water or power. The solution is to give them back their house and fix the power and water supply, because then they won't be living in unacceptable conditions anymore.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I lived in Montana for four years and met many people who were either from the reservations or familiar with them. There was stunning animosity and ignorance from white people towards Natives that reminds me of the way whites act towards blacks here in hypersegregated Milwaukee. I mean, I'd hear stuff like they're all lazy drunks, why do they get free money, why do they have a student group only for Natives, why do they have so many kids, etc.

I don't know why I was stunned to hear all that; I suppose it's because I never learned anything but positive things growing up (the Native population in Milwaukee is extremely small, although the downtown casino has sparked some negativity). Racism, AFAIK, was something directed at blacks. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.
posted by desjardins at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2011


I thought it was bad when US citizens were targeted for murder by the government...
but holy shit this seems worse.


SEEMS? I can't believe you're even comparing innocent Native American children with Al Qaeda member Awlaki.
posted by msalt at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2011


This is beyond obscene and disgusting. What is sickening is this is not some sort of isolated case instigated by a single idiot or bigot. This sort of crap happens too often and has been happening for far FAR too long. It is one thing for this to happen in the distant and uneducated/unenlightened past but for it to still be happening today is reprehensible.


Not trying to be an asshole here, just really don't understand this:

Something I don't understand about special rights to indigenous people is every single square inch of human occupied land was occupied by someone else before. Everyone is on property that was taken from someone and everyone has ancestors who both conquered and were conquered.

With the native americans there is the issue of broken treaties which puts the relationship and the wrongdoings in a different light. It makes the case for restitution much stronger.

However in general terms I don't get why group X should own money and land to group Z just because their ancestors were there first and lost a war.

If non-natives should be forced to give "tons of money" and "loads of land" to tribes such as the Crow Creek, should the Crow Creek be forced to give loads of land and tons of money to the Siksika and the Dakota tribes while also receiving land and money from the Hidatsa?

Take Hawaii for instance. Many Hawaiian feel they are entitled to free money, land, and sovereignty simply because they occupied the islands first. There is much anger towards the US for acquiring the islands.

HOWEVER, King Kamehameha is greatly revered for uniting the individual independent sovereign island nations under his rule. If the US should have to give Hawaiians money, land, and special rights because they were there first, should not the people of The Big Island (Hawaii - Kamehameha's kingdom) give money, land, and special rights to the people of Oahu for "stealing" their land. After all, they were there first.

Is it a matter of happening too far in the distant past? Is it a matter of the indigenous groups being too small to qualify as having indigenous rights? Perhaps it it a matter of how that group sees themselves? Hawaiians even those descended from that original Oahu nation see themselves as Hawaiians and not as Oahu'ians. That would make sense but what if that changed? What if a group of native Oahu people said that the people from the Big Island stole their land and demanded restitution?



tl;dr How is a sovereign group defined , how is the conqueror defined, and more importantly, how is the case handled when both groups are the same?
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2011


I don't want to get into this issue too much because it makes me incredibly angry. The poverty on the reservations in South Dakota is a national tragedy. The area is far poorer than any other place in the US, with health outcomes barely outstripping sub-Saharan Africa. That kind of poverty should not exist in the developed world.
posted by miyabo at 12:30 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


2manyusernames: "If the US should have to give Hawaiians money, land, and special rights because they were there first, should not the people of The Big Island (Hawaii - Kamehameha's kingdom) give money, land, and special rights to the people of Oahu for "stealing" their land. After all, they were there first."

Hawaii is a different issue altogether because of its unique history under Kamehameha. You have to remember that a sovereign group is recognized as a political group/entity, not a racial group/entity. Unlike Native American tribes, who are able to obtain federal recognition as separate sovereign entities, Native Hawaiians are no longer self identify through tribal political subgroups, but as a collective racial group of Kanaka Maoli. Consequently, they can't meet the requirements for federal recognition as an American Indian tribe under Part 83 of the CFR. Basically, it's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Consequently, although the US federal government recognizes individual Native Hawaiians as a racial group, Native Hawaiians as a collective group are still struggling for US federal recognition as a sovereign governing entity. There have been numerous, regular attempts to obtain passage of a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill. I think the last attempt through the US Congress was January 2011. Hopefully someone more familiar with Native Hawaiian issues can jump in and comment on the current status.

Of course, prior to conquest and discovery in America, there were intertribal wars, but you have to understand that indigenous tribes had fundamentally different relationships with land and accompanying property rights that Europeans had (e.g. differences between agrarian based societies versus hunter/gather based societies). But the differences between one tribe being conquered by another tribes versus one tribe being conquered by Europeans is that European conquerers weren't content to just boot indigenous peoples off their aboriginal lands; they spent about 200 years trying to mold them into the images of their white conquerers. That's still going on to this very day. You can see examples of it in almost any discussion of federal Indian policy, e.g., arguments that question why "cultural differences" even require recognition in the first place or arguments questioning why tribes and tribal members can't just be content to be subject to state jurisdiction, authority, and/or control just like everyone else.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Something I don't understand about special rights to indigenous people is every single square inch of human occupied land was occupied by someone else before. Everyone is on property that was taken from someone and everyone has ancestors who both conquered and were conquered."

I can tell you believe this but you are aware that you are exaggerating to emphasis that exploitation of entire nations of people is ok?

Is that really the position you want to take? And... why? You really believe that if right now someone came and took over your country through acts of violence that you wouldn't deserve the right to continually fight back against an occupation of your nation enforced by acts of war?

I take it you were in favor of Ghandi being stopped?
posted by xarnop at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2011


xarnop, you seem to be reading someone else's comment

I did not say that if your land is conquered that you don't have the right and duty to fight back against your occupiers. I didn't even imply that.

Nor did I say that Ghandi should have been stopped.
posted by 2manyusernames at 3:35 PM on October 26, 2011


I am a CASA, and this is why. Child welfare cases aren't about the caseworker, or the attorneys, or the judge, or the providers. They're about the family. They're about the children whose lives can be completely transformed, for good or ill, through involvement in "the system". If there's a CASA/GAL program in your area, please consider volunteering. Help make the child welfare system work for the good of the children.
posted by epj at 5:21 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


All of it sucks, and what's really bad is that there won't be any change, because it's money vs kids, and kids don't matter like $$$ matters.

... crafted or timed to make people angry at a time that really fire up the base to open their wallets.

Actually, this is exactly the type of story that should remind us we need to open our wallets. Where else would you hear this? Fox News?

Public Radio isn't perfect, but just occasionally it tells us what we NEED to hear.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2011


i know the secrecy the surrounds Social Services cases is designed to protect children from information that may be inappropriate for their age but i dont see how SUBJECTIVE assessments made in SECRET can be legal: this process is totally extrajudicial.

Would FOIA apply here? FOIA requests can take a long time to process (especially if they don't want to do it), but eventually they'd have to release the information. If FOIA applies to states. I don't know.
posted by cereselle at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2011


Many Hawaiian feel they are entitled to free money, land, and sovereignty simply because they occupied the islands first.

I was going to stay out of this, but "free"? Is that what it's called when you've been invaded, conquered, and diseased nearly out of existence, and you want payment for what was taken from you? When you had a sovereign nation, with a government and a ruler and stuff, and then another country came along and with the encouragement and help of the business class, deposed your government and just took over - wanting some sort of payment for that is asking for "free" money?
posted by rtha at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Something I don't understand about special rights to indigenous people is every single square inch of human occupied land was occupied by someone else before. Everyone is on property that was taken from someone and everyone has ancestors who both conquered and were conquered.

Most of us on this site are probably of European descent. I am no historian*, but my impression is that most of the wars in Europe were relatively evenly matched, at least compared to conquering Europeans vs Native Americans. If you lose an evenly matched battle, that is the nature of war. Europe has been peaceful since WWII.

If you are overwhelmingly conquered by a force that you cannot possibly hope to defend against, that force owes you reparations, period, or they are admitting that you are not a human being. It's not special rights at all - it's human rights. Germany was forced to give all kinds of reparations to holocaust victims; what are we supposed to do, say "oh well, sucked to be you"? Germans lost the war, but there's no crying about special rights because 1) they started it, and 2) each side had mostly equivalent weapons. Japan, OTOH, often kicked our asses in the Pacific Theater because they had equivalent weapons - until we developed the bomb. After the war ended, we helped them get their economy together again. I realize that wasn't because we were really sorry, and it served our own interests, but it would also serve our own interests for Indians to not be desperately poor.

tl;dr: basic human rights != special rights

*Most of my knowledge of history is from high school and freshman college courses, along with a smattering of History Channel episodes. So I admit I could be way off base on a few things.
posted by desjardins at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


P.S. I use Native Americans and Indians interchangeably because in my experience most of the ones I've personally known also do that.
posted by desjardins at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2011


desjardins: "P.S. I use Native Americans and Indians interchangeably because in my experience most of the ones I've personally known also do that."

In my experience here in the US, the term "Native Americans" tends to be used more by outsiders; my tribal clients and colleagues tend to refer to themselves as "Indians" and more comfortable with that term. I rarely use the term "Native American" in legal documents and pleadings; it's almost always either Indian/non-Indian or member/non-member depending upon the context.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:37 AM on October 27, 2011


Following up on the the earlier question regarding Native Hawaiian issues, it appears as though there's a Native Hawaiian recognition provision being included in a draft appropriations bill which will pave the way for federal recognition of Native Hawaiian entities on the list of federally-recognized tribes (although they won't be eligible for the same services as tribes).
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2011


In my experience here in the US, the term "Native Americans" tends to be used more by outsiders; my tribal clients and colleagues tend to refer to themselves as "Indians" and more comfortable with that term. I rarely use the term "Native American" in legal documents and pleadings; it's almost always either Indian/non-Indian or member/non-member depending upon the context.

My grandmother (see above) felt strongly about this and would chew out anyone who used the term Native American. The term preferred by her, and by all the tribes she worked with, was Indian.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on October 27, 2011


I'm definitely going to look into this:

If there's a CASA/GAL program in your area, please consider volunteering. Help make the child welfare system work for the good of the children.

Seconding the request for more information on how to help, if anyone knows!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 11:48 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


For you, Isingthebodyelectric, CASA of New Hampshire. It's a great program.

For everyone else, CASA stands for "court appointed special advocate" and GAL stands for "guardian ad litem." One of those terms plus your state/city name should get you a local program. Otherwise try your county's name plus "children's services" or "family services" and call and ask them for similar programs (they're becoming more common, but aren't everywhere yet.)

You may also have local mentoring programs through children's services. My county has eight or nine volunteering programs specifically working with kids in the system, including one at the crisis unit (where parents at the end of their rope can come and sit for a few hours and talk with a counselor, and the volunteers watch over the kids.) They're always, always in need of more volunteers, as is Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Oh, and the local YMCA may have an after-school program in need of volunteers - as may whatever organization the police bring truant kids and kids who've violated curfew to (in my city that's the Y.)

Be ready to be fingerprinted and have your information run through the FBI database.
posted by SMPA at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my experience here in the US, the term "Native Americans" tends to be used more by outsiders; my tribal clients and colleagues tend to refer to themselves as "Indians" and more comfortable with that term.

In my tangential experience, working at casinos mostly in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, the preferred term is "tribal" these days. As in, "he's tribal."
posted by msalt at 12:09 AM on October 28, 2011


"the term "Native Americans" tends to be used more by outsiders; my tribal clients and colleagues tend to refer to themselves as "Indians" and more comfortable with that term."

Yeah I have noticed this too, but I sort of feel like as an outsider, it's weird to use a term that outsider gave native people's here that was the name of the wrong country. As in I think native people can use whatever they want, but as outsiders I get why we're a bit hesitant to use it. My cousin calls himself indian and his (non native) friends call him "Injun Steve" (not actually Steve but you get the point) and it makes me angry even though I know the point is to acknowledge difference with humor to normalize or something that I do understand, but I also know that when he was a kid people literally ran away and kids would hide from him because he was a "scary Indian" (makes my blood boil but ok, kids are kids? Kids are shitty hurtful kids?). His identity as "Indian" related to his father and family involves thinking of himself as a scary untrustworthy alcoholic criminla ready to repeat intergenerational negative behaviors because that what his dad and his dad's family/friends were getting up to and it makes me mad because in my experience these kinds of intergenerational behaviors are tied up in poverty, stress, adversity, and learned helplessness from extremely hopeless circumstance. On an epigenetic level, YES these behaviors get passed on both from learned teaching and through pavlovian conditioning on a biological level that is passed on to offspring.

So my point is: These behaviors and cycles are directly related to the European takeover, and then for a native person to have their whole family, biology, behaviors affected in such a way and then grow up with white people running away and saying, "Ah it's an indian!!" It makes me think I'm going to explode into a bazillion pieces and start screaming at people, although I haven't actually exploded but maybe this is me internet screaming that dammit this sucks. Dammit.
posted by xarnop at 6:08 AM on October 28, 2011


The only problem I have with "Indian" is increasingly, I find myself needing to refer to an Asian Indian, as in someone from India, and find that I'm misunderstood and unsure of what to say to make myself clear.

"So there's an Indian kid in my son's class -- no, you know, an Indian Indian... from India." It's clumsy. What does one say conversationally to easily distinguish them from American Indians?

Damn you twice, Christopher Columbus!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:36 AM on October 28, 2011


The only problem I have with "Indian" is increasingly, I find myself needing to refer to an Asian Indian, as in someone from India, and find that I'm misunderstood and unsure of what to say to make myself clear.

I've noticed that increasingly, people I know of South Asian descent (I'm not part of this group, so please take my observation with a large helping of salt) use "Desi", as a term that won't be confused with American Indians and has the bonus of being neutral w/r/t ethnic/nationalist identification.
posted by kagredon at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2011


I've noticed that increasingly, people I know of South Asian descent (I'm not part of this group, so please take my observation with a large helping of salt) use "Desi", as a term that won't be confused with American Indians and has the bonus of being neutral w/r/t ethnic/nationalist identification.

Are non-South-Asians allowed to use "Desi"? My impression has always been that that's something such people use to describe themselves. As a Cuban-American I fear that if I referred to "Desi" people would think I was talking about Desi Arnaz.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2011


Are non-South-Asians allowed to use "Desi"? My impression has always been that that's something such people use to describe themselves.

Yeah, that's a good point. Honestly, I'm not really sure.
posted by kagredon at 2:37 PM on October 28, 2011


In my experience as an Indian-American, other people saying "desi" would be fine; I don't really think of it as an in-group term, nor does it have some negative connotation that needs to be reclaimed. Just a data point for your consideration.
posted by Errant at 4:24 PM on October 28, 2011


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