Header

Attention Media: Baby Veronica Is Cherokee

Jennifer Gapetz
6/25/13

An open letter to the media:

Baby Veronica is Cherokee. Whether her father wanted custody or not is irrelevant. Every American Indian tribe sets their own requirement for how to become a citizen. Some tribes have narrow requirements (such as blood quantum) to become a citizen. It is possible a person does not meet tribal requirements but can meet the Bureau of Indian Affairs requirements in order to be recognized. Baby Veronica is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma because, like all citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, her family lineage is traceable and dates to the Dawes Rolls. (The Dawes Rolls is a census of sorts ordered by the U.S. Congress in 1893.) Present-day citizenship is not based on blood quantum, race, geographic location, or anything else, but in having a document-able relative on the Dawes. Like Americans in general, there are Cherokees of all “races,” and are diverse in culture and appearance. (As an aside, there are also an uncountable number of people who are Cherokee but are not recognized by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma because their relatives did not report themselves on the Dawes Rolls, for many reasons.)

Regardless of who she is raised by, Baby Veronica is Cherokee. Even if the adoption attorney did not do his job, Baby Veronica is Cherokee. Even if her adoptive parents do not raise her as Cherokee, Baby Veronica is Cherokee. Even as courts are deciding if the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to her, Baby Veronica is Cherokee.

Jennifer Gapetz is am a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.She is a writer, artist and teacher, and an alumnus of Haskell Indian Nation University and University of Kansas. She is currently and a current student at City University of New York's Graduate Center.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

9

POST A COMMENT

Comments

Anonymous's picture
baby Veronica is and will always be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and nothing will ever take that away from her. However, Veronica's father, also a Cherokee Nation citizen, gave up his parental rights, so Veronica was lovingly adopted by a family out of love, out of wanting to provide this child a loving family. Has this adoptive family said anywhere that they would not tell Veronica of her heritage, teach her about the Cherokee Indian tribe, what the Cherokee Indians endured and continue to endure? Yes again, Veronica is a Cherokee but just because she may grow up living with non Cherokee parents does not mean that those parents will not teach her about her wonderful heritage.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
As I understand it, the Supreme Court did NOT rule that the ICWA does not apply to her. They merely disagreed with the SC Court's opinion that her father's rights were terminated, as he had never had custody. From the opinion: "It is undisputed that Baby Girl is an “Indian child” as defined by the ICWA because she is an unmarried minor who “is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe" Also from the opinion: "It is also undisputed that the present case concerns a “child custody proceeding,” which the ICWA defines to include proceedings thatinvolve “termination of parental rights” and “adoptive placement,” Also, interestingly: "Biological Father is not covered by§1915(a) because he did not seek to adopt Baby Girl" So, what this opinion says to me, is that if Dusten Brown wants to keep his daughter, he should file for adoption, which, under the terms of ICWA, he would win. (His parents could also seek to adopt her as well). Since she was never adopted by the CopaBiancos, the preference provisions would still be active. Also, despite not having been in her father's custody originally, she is now, which means that 1912(d) and (f) can start to apply, so any further action by SC must now consider them in that context.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
You shouldn't even have to defend that. The same people who doubt her Cherokee heritage are the same ones who think she's been living with the adoptive couple all this time. They're the same ones who think today's ruling means she's on her way to South Carolina as we speak. I often wonder if they can even comprehend what this case is about or if they think it has something to do with the Kardashians.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
American Indian advocates did a very poor job in choosing its battles with this case. I am the type of person who is typically disinterested in political issues affecting American Indians. When it comes down to it I believe no group should receive separate/special treatment in America, but at the end of the day I was not really going to spend time fighting these preferential treatment. Thanks to this case, myself and many others like me will forever be much more vocal in opposing special treatment for American Indians. I have already written my representatives on the issue and will from this point forward be more adamant about doing away with preferences for American Indians or any other group. In choosing this case, the Cherokee Nation and its advocates not only picked a loser, as the facts of the case clearly supported the Supreme Courts decision today, but ended up weakening the ICWA and losing a lot of goodwill nationwide toward American Indian interests.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
So, the fact that she is Cherokee is the only thing that matters? What about what is in her best interest? I think her well-being is more important than just being Cherokee
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I find this letter funny. The loop hole that created all of this is BECAUSE Veronica has Cherokee blood. Finding that "Loop Hole" was all the father needed to do what he did. I don't know the circumstances surrounding the relationship between the biological parents but for whatever reasons they could not make a living together, unstable. The best interest of the child, at that time, the mother decided to give the baby up for adoption. Blood quantum was imposed by the US Govt, that is nothing new. Just because the BIA says in writing that you have "X" amount of Tribal Blood, that doesn't mean you're a member of whatever tribe. An enrollment process still has be complete. There were alot of tribal people who did not want to report themselves to the enrollment/Dawes Rolls. It is well known that for some tribes there were individuals who were not even Native Americans and they were considered a member of that tribe. Not to mention the fact that these people did not even want to go back to their own people. Example, can't remember the name of the book: but the Apache's had Mexicans living with them as Apache's. When the US Govt. and the Mexican Govt. did a prisoner/slave exchange, there were Mexicans in the tribe, standing right there among the Apache. And no one said anything about them, not even the Mexicans, they did not want to return to Mexico. It is recorded that these Mexican tribal members were very loyal to the tribe and were sent as emissaries into Mexican towns to obtain information, logistics, etc. Getting back to this open letter. Baby Veronica is between people who claim to love her. I think of King Solomon in the Bible, and also on reservations we have informal adoptions. You tribal people know about this, where a child is taken care of by a relative, without court involvement. Sometimes for life, or until the parent is ready to take the child back, depending on the situation. What the Supreme is Court is doing is arguing the law. I think from the Native American way, the human way, is it should not have to be so cold, cut and dry. I know this sounds Naive, but Couldn't the Cherokee father and the non-Native parents work something out, for the BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
There is only one race--which is the human race! However, there are different cultures or dissimilar Indigenous ethnicities. As Indigenous people we need to change our colonized mindset!
Anonymous
jenngee's picture
Hi. My article is in reaction to many news outlets questioning, mocking, and/or refusing to accept that Baby Veronica is Cherokee, regardless of her blood quantum, what she looks like, or who raises her. Thank you, Jenn Gapetz
jenngee
Anonymous's picture
Leave it to a white man to ruin what's suppose to help real indians!
Anonymous