South Dakota Seizes 5000 Lakota Children

South Dakota Seizes 5000 Lakota Children

Please read the following and then let’s do something!

From: Daniel Sheehan <>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 21:59:55 -0400 (EDT)
To: <>
Subject: South Dakota Seizes 5000 Lakota Children
Dear Russell,

You probably know that Sara, Danny Paul and I have been working hard in South Dakota to put an end to the flagrant abuses of Native American rights in that state. Recently, we helped convince NPR reporter Laura Sullivan to come to South Dakota to investigate these abuses. She did a hard-hitting series of reports last fall that reached 28 million people.

I’m sending you this email because we want to tell our friends about our Lakota People’s Law Project and the lawsuit we’re building. This is not a fundraising appeal. It is, instead, designed to let you know about the situation in South Dakota.

There is real momentum behind this work now. My investigator and I are in the field uncovering the truth about what is going on. This trial has all the earmarks of an historic unfolding, just like Silkwood and Iran Contra. I encourage you to listen to the NPR report and to sign our letter of support to the many Lakota grandmothers who’ve had their grandkids taken.



One afternoon in 2008, Janice Howe—a Dakota Indian—waited at the bus stop for her grandchildren to come home from school. They never arrived.

That afternoon, a social worker had taken Janice’s grandchildren. They were driven to a white foster facility hundreds of miles away. The reason stated in the case file: a “rumor” that Janice’s daughter, Erin Yellow Robe, had been using drugs. She hadn’t. To this day, Janice’s daughter hasn’t been charged or arrested for drugs—or anything else.

For the next year and a half, Janice fought to get her grandchildren back. She called the state’s Director of Social Services. She wrote letters to the Governor. Finally, she convinced her tribe’s Council to threaten the state with kidnapping. A few weeks later, her grandchildren were returned…on a “trial basis.”

Recently, Janice’s story was told in an NPR investigative-series by award-winning journalist Laura Sullivan. If you haven’t listened to the story, it’s a must hear.

Since 2005, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been working with hundreds of families who share Janice’s story. But they haven’t all been so lucky. Over the past decade, the State Department of Social Services has taken more than 5,000 Native American children from their homes. It’s easy to see why—for every Lakota child in state-sponsored care, South Dakota receives thousands of dollars a year in federal monies.

What’s the good news? We can do something about it!

The Lakota People’s Law Project is currently compiling court-admissible evidence and preparing a federal civil rights action on behalf of South Dakota’s Native families. Recently, we helped Janice Howe host a forum to teach parents and relatives about their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act. More than 160 Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota attended the meeting.

To be successful in this work, we need to build a chorus of support across the country. We hope that you will add your voice to this effort.

You can start by signing a letter of support to Janice Howe and all the other grandmothers like her.

Please forward this email to your friends and share Janice’s story to help us grow a strong network of people who care.

Together, we can help the Lakota reclaim their rights and get their children back!

As we say in Lakota—pilamaya—thank you.
Sara Nelson
Executive Director

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Organizer and Tribal Liaison


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