There’s really only a couple of pieces I have to share with you today as they are massively, massively important.
Though I currently live in Chicago, I am from the state of South Dakota – I lived there for 22 years before moving away for graduate school, and I consider the state my home. Indeed, sitting on my desk a few inches from my keyboard right now is a South Dakota coffee mug – it is how everyone at work knows “That is Dianna’s mug.”
However, despite my love for the state and its people, there are a lot of things wrong. A lot. Our teacher pay is consistently the lowest in the nation. The state has a terrible track record on prosecuting rape and sexual assault cases. Someone in our legislature actual thought it would be a good idea to propose a law that would make it legal to kill abortion doctors, in ‘self-defense.’ Our educational funding is tied to gambling and video lottery taxes (not kidding). And the counties where the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Native American reservations are? The poorest in the nation. Not, “among the poorest in the nation.” They ARE the poorest.
And NPR this week released a three part report that is the result of a yearlong investigation into how Native American children are handled by the foster care system in the United States, with a specific focus on South Dakota. Why South Dakota? Because we suck at it.
It’s pretty common knowledge among people who have lived in South Dakota for a while that the foster care system is bad, and the governmental system dealing with Native Americans is even worse. We have a large population of Natives in the prison system, and poverty, alcoholism, and drugs run rampant on the reservations. But work is being done, things are progressing – we thought. But with this report, I have significant doubt that South Dakota’s government and white population even gives a shit – excuse me, even cares in the least bit – about how seriously bad it is for Native Americans in the state.
I highly, highly recommend that you take the time this weekend to either read or listen to the three parts of the report, which I’ve linked below.
For a little incentive, here’s a taste of what I learned from the first article:
-700 Native children are removed from their homes every year. Every. Year. While Natives comprise only 16% of the SD population, 60% of the children in foster care are Native.
-87% of these children are placed in white foster homes, in violation of federal law (which, if you remember your high school government class, is supposed to take precedence over state action). Federal law states that you must, at the very least, place the child in the home of someone else in the tribe, and only if you are unable to place that child with a relative. This is in order to preserve tribal traditions and identity – it’s like a Christian requesting that the kid she’s giving up for adoption go to a Christian home.
-The white foster home situation is preventable. There are numerous foster homes on the reservations that are sitting empty – one lady has been licensed by the state to foster children for six years now, and has yet to see a child.
-Perhaps the most disturbing? All Native children in the system, regardless of actual cases, are classified as “special needs.” Why? The state gets more money if they class children in the foster care system as special needs.
This is a horrific injustice. Pass this report along to everyone you know. I am writing my legislators in South Dakota. I recommend that you research the situation in your home state and find out what you can do to urge changes in laws and more accountability in the system.
And with that heavy burden on your mind (injustice always kinds of ruins one’s day), I welcome you to listen to some Aussie and New Zealander artists I’ve been introduced to this week, courtesy of my dear friend Kimberley. The first is Gotye (I have no idea how to pronounce that) and he’s an Australian singer who hasn’t quite made it in the US yet. And that’s a definite “yet” – I imagine within a couple of years, you’ll be hearing all about him.
(I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song since the first time I heard it less than 24 hours ago. I already have it memorized.)
The second is New Zealand artist Kimbra, whose look I want to steal.
Have a good weekend!