CHOCTAW, Mississippi (AP) – A Native American child protection advocate will be the keynote speaker in February at an annual conference hosted by the only federally recognized Native American tribe in Mississippi.
Sandy White Hawk will speak at the 10th Annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference. The event will take place on February 16 at the Silver Star Convention Center at the Pearl River Resort of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian in Choctaw.
The annual conference began as an effort to educate state judges and social workers on the requirements of India’s child welfare law, according to a press release from the Mississippi Courts Administration Office. The law prioritizes Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving Native children, and places reporting and other requirements on states.
It was enacted in 1978 after studies found that large numbers of indigenous children were separated from their parents, extended families and communities by public child welfare and private adoption agencies. , according to the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
White Hawk, the lecturer, was taken from her parents Sicangu Lakota in South Dakota and adopted by white missionaries more than 400 miles from the reservation. She was 18 months old and raised in Wisconsin with no connection to her tribal heritage.
In 2019, the story of White Hawk was the subject of the documentary âBlood Memoryâ. The film highlights his efforts to help others separated from the community as children to heal and reconnect with their people, culture, traditions and ceremonies. The title âBlood Memoryâ comes from the concept that experiences from one generation are passed on to the next.
White Hawk is now the Founder and Director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute, an organization that helps people affected by foster care or adoption reconnect and recover their identities.
A recurring theme of the Child Welfare Act conference is to educate non-Indians about the intergenerational trauma caused by a history of removing Native American children from tribal families.
The conference is a collaborative effort with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Courts Administration Office, the Children’s Office, the Mississippi Judicial College, and the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services.
Tribal leaders, lawyers, judges, social workers and other professionals who work with Native American children in youth court are invited to attend. Registration is mandatory and can be completed online.