We Do Not Work With Indians

Tiny - Posted on 17 October 2010

Students who attended the Genoa Industrial School for Indian Youth in Nebraska in 1910, when this photograph was taken, were mostly Sioux, placed off the reservation and away from their families. The Indian Child Welfare Act reacted against this long history of displacement as well as against the Indian Adoption Project of the 1950s and 1960s.


“I have been working in the Housing Authority for over twenty years, we do not work with Indians, Indian tribes, or the Indian Child Welfare Act. Never have...never will”, said Myron Standing Bear, father of two and Native American social worker, as he repeated the words said to him by a case worker at the San Francisco Housing Authority to POOR Magazine’s Indigenous News-Making Circle. This horrible sentence launched his families’ journey to his current state of homelessness

Mr. Standing Bear, who suffers from congestive heart failure, has been living out of his car with his two disabled teenage sons, who like him are members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation. He was granted guardianship of his two sons by his tribe, a sovereign nation located in South Dakota, under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The ICWA is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to the extremely high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies.

In August of 2009, the family was informed of their approved Section 8 Voucher, a list they had been on for 11 years. Upon finding a home, however, they were told by their worker that they were immediately being taken off of the Section 8 housing list where they had reached rank #1 and put on the Public Housing list where they are currently number 564.

On September 16th, 2010 a meeting took place between Mr. Standing Bear, two S.F.H.A administrative officials, and an advocate for the S.F. Coalition on Homelessness. At this meeting, he was told by one of the officials that none of his supporting documents that were issued to him through the Sioux Tribal government, were “legal and binding." This included his documentation of guardianship, a letter of recognition by the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation, and even a will signed by three witnesses--licensed attorneys with a notary seal. The terms of his will were that Standing Bear will have guardianship of his two sons until their 21st Birthday.

Because of this denial of services based on discrimination by the S.F. Housing Authority, he and his two sons have been forced to live in a car.

As I listened to the horrible tragedy of Myron, I was reminded of my great grandfather who is member of the Sioux Nation and how the history and herstory of native peoples in the US is riddled with struggle, theft and resistance, and how we must advocate outside and around all of these government systems of oppression if we want to get any justice. At POOR Magazine we have implemented the UN declaration on Indigenous Peoples as a resistance document for native peoples struggling with false borders, globalization and the abuses of the rights of indigenous peoples across Pachamama in poverty.

“I have been an advocate for my people for the last 17 years, I know what my rights are, and yet it seems like I can’t get any justice,” Myron’s voice faltered as he concluded, “I am only trying to get the basic human rights of housing for my family.”


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