Tribal Council defends the Indian Child Welfare Act

Southern Ute Indian Tribe

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Congress enacted ICWA in response to a nationwide crisis: the wholesale removal of Native American children from their families by state child welfare agencies. As many as 35 percent of Native American children had been separated from their families and placed in adoptive families, foster care, or institutions. ICWA has gone far to remedy the widespread harms that these policies enabled, ensuring that tribes are directly involved in the placement of children who are either tribal members or eligible for membership.

Today, however, ICWA is under attack. In 2017, the state of Texas filed an action challenging the constitutionality of ICWA. The Tribe has been directly involved in fighting back this challenge, working with the Native American Rights Fund in reviewing arguments and participating in briefing. Tribal Council authorized the Tribe to join 325 other tribes and 57 tribal organizations in a brief supporting ICWA. While Texas was initially successful in the federal district court, the challenge was rejected this past summer by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana. However, the full Fifth Circuit decided to review the case again and heard arguments in January 2020. No decision has yet been made.

To further gain support for ICWA, Tribal Council authorized communications with the Governor of Colorado, requesting that he show his support for ICWA in the face of this challenge by Texas.  On Jan. 30, Governor Polis did exactly that. A copy of the letter from both Governor Polis and Lieutenant Governor Primavera in support of ICWA is published below.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Division of Social Services is available as a resource for tribal families who reside both on and off the reservation. The Southern Ute Division of Social Services will be the main contact for any other jurisdiction that may have an enrolled child (or one that is eligible for enrollment) that has been removed from parents or caretakers. Evangeline Gray, Social Services Caseworker II, can be contacted at 970-563-2336 or via email at

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