Dusten Brown with Veronica, then 3, at their home in Nowata, Oklahoma.

Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

Suzette Brewer
9/24/13

In the end, it came down to one simple strategy: Waiting. As Dusten Brown faced the Damocles Sword of jail time and a felony warrant, Matt and Melanie Capobianco only had to wait.

Last week, as the clock was running down on the stay that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had granted him, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate even a bare minimum of visitation with his daughter. At the beginning of the week, there was a hopeful offer that included three weeks in the summer, one weekend every other month in South Carolina, and with alternating Christmases, which seemed like a solid deal. But as the parties returned to court on Wednesday morning, the Capobiancos again reneged and the negotiations started all over again.

By Friday afternoon, they made one last half-hearted offer in which Brown would get to see his daughter roughly 10 hours a month in South Carolina, with supervision. But even that, according to insiders, was not written to include any kind of enforcement.

Even before they were virtually forced into mediation in a courthouse in Tulsa last week, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate a settlement with the Capobiancos for months, which they outright rejected.

In spite of their public proclamations that they had “always” insisted that they would allow Veronica to stay in contact with her paternal biological family, behind the scenes insiders say it was apparent to the Brown family and their lawyers that the Capobiancos weren't interested in negotiating any kind of deal at all. This fact alone is one of the reasons Dusten Brown had fought so vociferously and publicly to force them to the negotiating table.

But even then, the negotiations were merely photo opportunities in which they were photographed arriving and leaving the courthouse in downtown Tulsa. Once inside, they had no pretense about their intentions. All they had to do was wait; no matter what Dusten Brown did or did not agree to, he was going to jail, say insiders.

After the “negotiations” failed again on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted their stay, which allowed Veronica to remain with Brown while he continued to seek legal redress in Oklahoma.

Exhausted and left with few options other than jail time and the loss of his military career and pension, he discussed her peaceful transfer with his family, legal team and tribal officials. He and his wife, Robin, packed a few bags for Veronica, who had just turned four-years-old last week. Before the family gathered to say their last goodbyes, Tommy Brown, Veronica's grandfather, began suffering chest pains and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

At 7:30, a caravan of federal marshals made their way to the Jack Brown House in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a guest residence near the Cherokee Nation tribal complex where the Browns had been staying for several months to maintain their privacy.

Chrissi Nimmo, the assistant attorney general for the tribe, took Veronica's hand and led her to the waiting SUV that was to take her to the Capobiancos.

After a four-year struggle to keep his daughter, one that led the shy, unassuming soldier all the way to the Supreme Court and beyond, it was over.

As the Brown family went to the hospital to visit their patriarch, the Capobiancos' public relations representative went on another celebratory media blitz, starting with a live interview on CNN that featured photos of Veronica with the Capobiancos.

As word of the transfer began to go viral, condolences for Dusten Brown and his daughter began pouring in from all over the country.

“We are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today, but we will not lose hope,” said Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts.”

“Our hearts are heavy at this course of events,” said Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. “Any other child would have had her or his best interest considered in a court of law. The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”

Experts say that because of Veronica's current age, she will experience trauma and homesickness. But adult adoptees who have been watching from the sidelines are all-too-familiar with the challenges that lay ahead for a little girl who is cognizant enough to know what has transpired.

In Oklahoma, she was surrounded by her large extended family, which included her grandparents, her father and stepmother, her sister, Kelsey, from Brown's first marriage and a chatty phalanx of half a dozen cousins, with whom she had grown close. She had made friends at pre-school and loved her pets. She was a spark of lightning with a sharp mind and quick to giggle, a girl who loved pink and shoes.

In South Carolina, Veronica will be the only child on both sides of her adoptive parents' families. The Capobiancos, both of whom are in their mid-40s, have no other extended family nearby, save for a stepmother who was divorced from Melanie's father before he passed away.

Time will tell what the ultimate outcome will be for Veronica, who will undoubtedly be given the best of what the Capobiancos can afford in terms of education and the trappings of an older, upper middle income childless couple. Nonetheless, so far in her young life, she brought attention to the corrupt and broken system of illegal adoptions that are taking place every day throughout Indian Country. In spite of her removal from Oklahoma, Veronica Brown paved the way for other children to remain with their communities and families, bringing attention to the loopholes and cracks in the Indian Child Welfare Act that allow attorneys, social workers, guardian ad litems and judges to continue profiting from a very profitable adoption and foster care industry that traffics Native babies and children.

“We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica's life,” said Hembree. “We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed.”

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Unbelievable! This wicked washichu couple has no idea the curses they have unleashed upon themselves. This case has been an absolute fiasco in as far as justice being served goes. It has been a total mockery of justice! SHAME on this couple, their legal teams, the South Carolina supreme court & the US Supreme Court & specifically Mr. Roberts & his disgusting & arrogant display of corruption OF justice! I would not want to be any of these individuals who has had a part in ripping this child from her biologic family who loves her without end. The Great Spirit is going to bring chaos, pain, suffering & unimaginable horrible things into each of their lives. Get ready & watch this disaster start playing out over time my friends.

builds-the-fire's picture
builds-the-fire
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
I pray Veronica's grandfather, Tommy Brown, is doing better. My prayers go up for Veronica, Dusten, Robin, Kelsey, and their extended family as well.

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
this was all over cbs this morning...of course they only touched the minimum facts, with reassurance dusten brown would have access to his daughter...its just raggedy sad that yet another euro centric family have managed to steal for acculturation one of our own....they should be ashamed....couldnt they have bought a white baby from some 'downtrodden' white teenager...baby veronica's biological mother is a spiteful, vengeful bitch for making this mess in the first place...she could have stepped in and stopped this....

rabbit's picture
rabbit
Submitted by rabbit on
Even if I didn't know everything I know about the case--I would still wonder how the pre-adoptive couple ever reconciled in their minds how they would one day be able to tell this little girl that they took her away from her father who wanted her from the beginning. What child who knows their father wants them and can care for them would choose to go be raised by someone else? What adult would look back and say "Oh thank you for taking me away from that terrible person! Clearly you love me more and I"m so grateful for what you put me and my family through simply because you got hurt and robbed by corrupt people and couldn't see anyone else getting hurt and robbed. So grateful for the life you saved me from!" Sure, it's heartbreaking to give up the baby you cared for for 2 yrs as pre-adoptive potential parents, but what loving potential parent would go to these lengths to get what they wanted when they well knew from early on that this child had a father who dearly loved and wanted and could care for her? And then after all this time, to consistently put their own interests above hers and allow others to use her to further their careers...it blows my mind.

Yvonne Mcewen
Yvonne Mcewen
Submitted by Yvonne Mcewen on
This is just another, perfect example of what the U.S. Government, did to the Indians. My great great grandmother, was an Indian from S.W. Texas. What the white man has done, and is STILL doing, to the Native Americans, is a total disgrace... Shame on you White Man!!! You were wrong in the beginning, and I'll be damned, you are still wrong today. Almighty God in heaven, will deal with you in his own way.

conny whales's picture
conny whales
Submitted by conny whales on
This is disgusting, this child will now remember her real dad not the ones that bought her through a corrupt adoption process, she was to young, this is child abuse, plain and simple...I pray the Creator that the family does not give up...all our support, otherwise they will do this again and again...

Jawja's picture
Jawja
Submitted by Jawja on
I am so troubled about this shocking development. this child should be with her father. From all I've read, there have been numerous misleading an unlawful actions to take Veronica. Please tell me there is still some legal recourse for Dusten and Veronica.

Jawja's picture
Jawja
Submitted by Jawja on
I am so troubled about this shocking development. this child should be with her father. From all I've read, there have been numerous misleading an unlawful actions to take Veronica. Please tell me there is still some legal recourse for Dusten and Veronica.

hawaiianembassy's picture
hawaiianembassy
Submitted by hawaiianembassy on
Indian rights under the American constitution are only suggestive and dissolve in the face of the dominate culture. This becomes a violation of their own US Proxmire Act against genocide. This is a policy that goes back to the beginning and the kill the Indian and save the man thinking. Original peoples can not ask American permission to have any rights. We filed a case in Hawai'i when one of our keiki [child] was removed from our community in violation of the Proxmire act. The foreign American judge ruled we were all just "Americans" and so were subject to this foreign constitution. For America it is about race, for us it is about sovereignty.

hawaiianembassy's picture
hawaiianembassy
Submitted by hawaiianembassy on
Indian rights under the American constitution are only suggestive and dissolve in the face of the dominate culture. This becomes a violation of their own US Proxmire Act against genocide. This is a policy that goes back to the beginning and the kill the Indian and save the man thinking. Original peoples can not ask American permission to have any rights. We filed a case in Hawai'i when one of our keiki [child] was removed from our community in violation of the Proxmire act. The foreign American judge ruled we were all just "Americans" and so were subject to this foreign constitution. For America it is about race, for us it is about sovereignty.

nokomis's picture
nokomis
Submitted by nokomis on
Yes, I agree that this is a travesty for both sides and I've read some legal opinions that state that all the courts made the wrong decision here and that a great wrong has been done to this little girl. Some of the comments posted here throughout are "he said, she said" innuendos. However, before long you will get the opportunity to hear the exclusive interview by Veronica's unwed birth mom as she speaks out on Dr. Phil. We will hear how she did what she believed was best for her child after her father signed away his rights. Being removed from one set of parents at the age of 27 months, after deliberations of her best interest, and then again, under present issues with the courts--another immediate change of custody has taken place without consideration of her best interest and now a four-year-old child who has to deal with her feelings of loss for a second time. The adoptive parents had an open adoption with the birth mother and now state that they want to honor Veronica's heritage, including keeping her biological father in her life. They said, "Despite our differences, and everything that has happened over the last several months, we all love Veronica and want what is best for her." The tragic lesson from this is that the law and all the adults who talk about the best interest of Veronica don't seem to be doing what's in her best interest but in their own selfish interest.

Red Hawk's picture
Red Hawk
Submitted by Red Hawk on
This whole event has reminded me of what Billy Jack told the court on the trial of Billy Jack. He said after the events that had taken place concerning the slaughter of innocent woman and children in Vietnam he was convinced the conscience of America was dead and could never again be revised Todays event brings those words to the surface.

Mary Elliott-Albright
Mary Elliott-Al...
Submitted by Mary Elliott-Al... on
I m a native mohawk why why why what happened to chapter 25 we saw all our nations numbers go down over the years I don't understand this do people not understand " must be placed with a native Family" if one is avb so sorry for the loss of one for profit isn't that human trafficing and is not the United States trying to stop that

value116's picture
value116
Submitted by value116 on
I have clear, loving memories of my dad from when I was two years old. He walked on when I was five. Those memories, along with the love and lessons he instilled into me is an unbreakable everlasting bond that remains in the core of my life today. Custodial care vs. the loving bond between a girl and her father? It's a no-brainer. Veronica may be back sooner than anyone thinks. The heartless Capobiancos have violated something very special. Veronica remembers everything in her heart and her soul. It still boggles my mind how this could have happened. She definitely will make her way back to her Cherokee Nation family where she is loved for who she is. Along the way she will take comfort in the beautiful photos she will see of herself and her dad that have been posted on the internet. The wicked ones cannot buy someone's heart.

Stands on Hill's picture
Stands on Hill
Submitted by Stands on Hill on
Baby Veronica is a child conceived by the adoptive parents - she does not exist. This child is (and always will be.....) who she was born as - and who the Creator put her in this world to be. The Capobiancos should have gone through a legitimate adoption agency and adopted a child that 'fit into their family' (as adoption agencies used to say). Native American children should be raised in a Native American culture - they will then understand who they are and were created to be.... I agree with everything that Two Bears Growling has said..... I was adopted almost 63 years ago. My adoptive parents, however, were always very supportive of me. When I wanted to find my natural mother at age 18, they encouraged me. They went with me to meet her. And eleven years later, they encouraged me in my search for my father. However - I would also like to say that the state that I was adopted in (Missouri) hid my ancestry from me. This is a breach of civil liberties and unfair to anyone. When I was a senior in high school and was in a family relations class, it was said that we might be required to work on a family tree as a class project.. Although I had an "A" average in that class, I immediately in my mind decided that I would refuse to do the project and take a grade of "F" for not doing it. After I found my natural mother, I found out that I was a large percentage Cherokee ancestry. I later learned that I was also Choctaw - and that my natural father was mostly Native American. When my adoptive parents asked the state adoption agency at the time of the adoption about my ancestry, they were told, simply, "You said that was not important to you!". They had told the agency that they were asking because some day I would want to know. But this is not about me - this is about this child who belongs to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I hope and pray for an outcome that will be fair to this little girl and her father - and to the future of all Native American children to come.

elcee1987's picture
elcee1987
Submitted by elcee1987 on
All the Supreme Court cared about was the letter of the law. They gave no thought to whether that law should be changed or reinterpreted. This breaks my heart. Veronica will grow up lonely, wondering why she has no family around, no aunties or grandparents or cousins. She may have a good education, but at what price?

value116's picture
value116
Submitted by value116 on
The bond between a daughter and a loving father is sacred. I have memories of my father from when I was two years old. Even though he walked on when I was five years old, the lessons he taught me and the loving bond we had is still with me today, many years later. Custodial care is just that--the heart is what's important, and the Capobiancos have none--Veronica's pain will become determination to reunite with her dad and her Cherokee family--she has google search--and she will find her way back sooner than we think. She is not a trophy--stay strong--she will be back to stay and the causes the Capobiancos have made will come back to bite them--keep the petitions, the pictures, the letters and the legal strategies going--their arrogance will fail and those corrupt officials and lawyers, agencies, etc. that aided them should be jailed for life.

Gregory Willis's picture
Gregory Willis
Submitted by Gregory Willis on
Finally, Veronica is back with her REAL parents. God will surely bless this child.

spottedfoot's picture
spottedfoot
Submitted by spottedfoot on
My insides scream in agony. My heart is exploding in a million particles. What is being done to this beautiful American Indian child is beyond reprehensible. I know how that child feels and will feel as she grows. The ONLY positive 'anything' in this complete debacle is the fact that Victoria is old enough to remember her father - and she WILL remember his love for her. For 71 years I have longed to know who I am, besides being told that my birth father was an American Indian, I have no further information. In the '80s I did a search for my birth parents through an adoptees' rights group. The results? There are NO records of me. Oh, I have a birth certificate but it, of course, is fradulent. It seems I was sold in a black market, white assimilation adoption. In my growing up years I was often told that I would never be able to find my true parents because there were "secrets" I was never supposed to know. I was also fed the common "adoption lies". You know, the ones that go "your parents died in a car reck" and your parents gave you up (nice sentiment for a child to hear enit?) because they couldn't take care of you and they wanted you to be with someone who could better provide for you. Ha! What a freaking joke that was. Unless you have experienced this adoption crap you cannot understand my insides - or have any real sense of what beautiful Victoria will have to deall with. Articles and poetry written here in Indian Country do a wonderful job of laying their hearts open to their own pain and experience. The whole situation in the theft of Veronica (and it IS good old washichu theft) has stirred emotions in me and other adoptees that are real and indeed painful. My thoughts on the Capobiancos, their attorneys, the absolutely criminal judge? Were I to state my true feelings I'd never be able to post at Indian Country again. <g> I also do not want to let the loss, the vitriol, the hurt, the anger, the lies, the memories of adopted life that was physically abusive, etc., etc., etc, spew forth from my place of emptiness and all that resides there. Dustin, my respect for you is boundless. Victoria, remember your father and his love for you. I wish you both peace.

spottedfoot's picture
spottedfoot
Submitted by spottedfoot on
My insides scream in agony. My heart is exploding in a million particles. What is being done to this beautiful American Indian child is beyond reprehensible. I know how that child feels and will feel as she grows. The ONLY positive 'anything' in this complete debacle is the fact that Victoria is old enough to remember her father - and she WILL remember his love for her. For 71 years I have longed to know who I am, besides being told that my birth father was an American Indian, I have no further information. In the '80s I did a search for my birth parents through an adoptees' rights group. The results? There are NO records of me. Oh, I have a birth certificate but it, of course, is fradulent. It seems I was sold in a black market, white assimilation adoption. In my growing up years I was often told that I would never be able to find my true parents because there were "secrets" I was never supposed to know. I was also fed the common "adoption lies". You know, the ones that go "your parents died in a car reck" and your parents gave you up (nice sentiment for a child to hear enit?) because they couldn't take care of you and they wanted you to be with someone who could better provide for you. Ha! What a freaking joke that was. Unless you have experienced this adoption crap you cannot understand my insides - or have any real sense of what beautiful Victoria will have to deall with. Articles and poetry written here in Indian Country do a wonderful job of laying their hearts open to their own pain and experience. The whole situation in the theft of Veronica (and it IS good old washichu theft) has stirred emotions in me and other adoptees that are real and indeed painful. My thoughts on the Capobiancos, their attorneys, the absolutely criminal judge? Were I to state my true feelings I'd never be able to post at Indian Country again. <g> I also do not want to let the loss, the vitriol, the hurt, the anger, the lies, the memories of adopted life that was physically abusive, etc., etc., etc, spew forth from my place of emptiness and all that resides there. Dustin, my respect for you is boundless. Victoria, remember your father and his love for you. I wish you both peace.

Leslie 's picture
Leslie
Submitted by Leslie on
I disagree completely. This is not a Native vs White thing, never was and never will be. There is no cultural differences being taken away from the child here. None atall. Father is white, adoptive parents are white, what's the true issue for Mr.brown? My comment on other news sites still holds true to this: It makes a huge difference between who is and who isn't. If i'm 3/256th Chinese, should i be entitled to call my self a full blood-partly mixed Chinese person? Sounds ridiculous now doesn't it? How can anyone pretend otherwise, or try and justify this? (The Cherokee Nation website looks as if almost everyone on it is white, hardly a Native face on the site, and the chief even looks like he hardly has any to speak of. ) I CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER, HAS ANYONE EVEN LOOKED IF THE CHIEF IS EVEN NATIVE? BECAUSE HE SEEMS TO LET EVERYONE ELSE JOIN. The law of protecting Indian children does not work here, as the people who are adopting Veronica are no different then Dusten himself. Same language, same race, same everything. There's nothing being taken away from his daughter being given to the adopted parents. The law of protecting Indian children does not work here, as the people who are adopting Veronica are no different then Dusten himself. Same language, same race, same everything. There's nothing being taken away from his daughter being given to the adopted parents. Regardless if they are enrolled from the Cherokee band rolls, most tribes would not allow them join nor would they be eligible for status/blood quantum. As Alto said, for the media to use this as a Native vs White thing, when in fact the father himself is 99% white, is embarrassing. They are not Cherokee! No Native family is being broken up! This law does not apply and its awful the Cherokee nation is supporting this goof, and giving out status like lollipops is just sad.

Irate Adult Adoptee's picture
Irate Adult Adoptee
Submitted by Irate Adult Adoptee on
I'm not Native American but I do believe that these "adoptive parents" (actually kidnappers) will have curses rained down on them.....
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