The Red Nation Film Festival and Awards will give its 2012 Humanitarian Tribute Award to Lakota People's Law Project Chief Counsel Daniel P. Sheehan and Sara M. Nelson, Executive Director of the Romero Institute which sponsors the project. Other recipients of Tribute Awards include: actor Johnny Depp (Brando Award), acclaimed public artist Shepard Fairy (Red Nation Activists Award), photojournalist and documentary photographer Aaron Huey (Red Nation Vision Award), actress Connie Stevens (Red Nation “Oyate” Award), and the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association Ernie Stevens, Jr. (American Indian Heritage Month Award).
Chief Counsel Lakota People's Law Project
November 13, 2012
The Red Nation Film Festival & Awards Show will give its 2012 Humanitarian Tribute Award to Lakota People’s Law Project Chief Counsel Daniel P. Sheehan and Sara M. Nelson, the Executive Director of the non-profit Romero Institute of Santa Cruz, CA which sponsors the project.
The Red Nation Film Festival & Awards Show celebrates the accomplishments of American Indian & Indigenous people in the fields of film and television, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors in support of the American Indian. The three-hour, star-studded event will be held on Wednesday, November 14 from 7:00 to 10:00 in the evening at the Harmony Gold Preview Theater in Los Angeles.
The other recipients of Tribute Awards include: actor Johnny Depp (Brando Award), acclaimed public artist Shepard Fairy (Red Nation Activists Award), photojournalist and documentary photographer Aaron Huey (Red Nation Vision Award), actress Connie Stevens (Red Nation “Oyate” Award), and the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association Ernie Stevens, Jr. (American Indian Heritage Month Award).
Since 2005, under the leadership of Nelson and Sheehan, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with tribes and leaders in South Dakota to challenge more than 150 years of injustice against Native American families. The Lakota People’s Law project combines public interest law, research, education, and organizing in a unique model for advocacy and social reform.
Currently, the Lakota People’s Law Project is concentrating on the Lakota Child Rescue Project, which seeks the return of more than 2,000 Lakota children who have been taken from their homes and placed into white foster care settings by state authorities. The Lakota People’s Law Project argues that South Dakota's current practice of taking Lakota foster children into custody and placing 90% of them into non-Indian homes violates the Indian Child Welfare Act.
“This award is really for the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota People. The grandmothers and other family members who are fighting for the return of their children deserve the full credit,” Nelson observed when she was notified of the award. “The Great Sioux Nation — the People of the Seven Council Fires — are refusing to be victims and are making their voices heard,” Sheehan commented while reflecting on the award and its deeper meaning.
In partnership with Lakota leaders, the Lakota People’s Law Project is confronting South Dakota’s systematic violation of the Indian Children Welfare Act. The Lakota People’s Law Project has launched a campaign to petition the Bureau of Indian Affairs to host a summit on foster care in South Dakota. In a letter to the Department of Interior last October following NPR’s Peabody Award-winning “Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families,” two Democratic congressmen, Ed Markey of the House Natural Resources Committee and Dan Boren of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, demanded action by the BIA. Nothing has been done.
Nelson and Sheehan have devoted their careers to humanitarian social change. Sheehan, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, played a key role in several of the major cases of our time including the Pentagon Papers, Three Mile Island, the Karen Silkwood Case, and the Iran-Contra Affair. Nelson, a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, began her career advocating for women’s rights. While working at the National Organization of Women, Nelson recruited Sheehan to work on the Karen Silkwood case.
Sheehan and Nelson helped to create the Christic Institute after the Karen Silkwood case, bringing together a coalition of organized labor, environmental, social justice, and faith communities. The Institute represented victims of the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island, prosecuted KKK members for killing civil rights demonstrators in Greensboro, North Carolina, defended Catholic workers who provided sanctuary to political refugees fleeing El Salvador's death squads, and, in 1986, filed federal racketeering charges against 26 individuals who perpetrated the Iran-Contra Affair.
Today, Sheehan and Nelson carry on their work through the Romero Institute. Based in Santa Cruz, California, the Romero Institute is named after slain human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The Institute seeks to identify and dismantle the structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.