Urban Indian organization says Supreme Court decision ‘prevents harm to generations of Native families’

The Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act, federal law that prioritizes keeping Native children in their families and communities. Martin Waukazoo, executive director of Friendship House, responds to the decision.

“Family separation, forced relocation, boarding schools, and trauma create challenges for urban Indians,” said Waukazoo. “The result of so much trauma can be addiction, homelessness and mental health challenges. The decision to uphold ICWA prevents harm to generations of Native families.

“Every day at Friendship House, we see the effects of generational trauma caused by disconnection from your ancestral homelands and tribal communities. Centuries of U.S. policy has deliberately and forcibly severed many Native peoples’ connection to their communities and cultural practices. Our work is in direct response to this trauma. We are working to reclaim a community for Native people who have been disconnected from their people and their cultural ways. We provide services like treatment and recovery, but we also help Native people connect with their spirit and each other.

“My late wife, Helen, was herself a boarding school survivor. She was sent here to San Francisco with just $10 in her pocket. She had no family and was missing her Navajo community. She founded Friendship House as a place for Native community in the city, it’s a place where people can heal and participate again in ceremonies and traditional ways. We’re continuing her work. We are developing the Village SF as a place for Native people to heal and connect again with culture and community.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision will help prevent further harm and trauma in our communities. Friendship House, like so many Native-led organizations, will continue to fight for the health and well-being of our people. We will reclaim our communities and continue to practice our culture.”