Advocates celebrate new protections for native children in New Mexico

Many gathered Friday at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque to celebrate the passage, including 14-year-old Than Povi Baca. After her mother was murdered, she was adopted at Santa Clara Pueblo. She said the federal protections, now solidified at the state level with India’s Family Protection Act, are the reason for her success story.

“I wouldn’t be in my community, my pueblo,” she said. “I would not have met my real uncles and aunts.”

Supporters said the new state law actually protects local families more than the federal version.

“[It] empowers tribes to get involved at any point during an adoption or placement process,” said Angel Charley, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.

Jacqueline Yalch, president of the New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium, said that even now, current rules are not always followed and this new state action will truly help hundreds of children a year.

“They are our children. The community wants to help support these children and raise their children,” Yalch said. “Give them the opportunity to which they have this tribal right.”

Federal protection – the Indian Child Welfare Act – is currently facing several challenges, including in Texas. The US Supreme Court is set to hear arguments, although no date has been set. Advocates celebrate new protections for native children in New Mexico

Brian Lowry

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