After an 18-month investigation, the Lakota People’s Law Project has issued a special report, “The Mette Case: Native Children Abandoned and Forgotten." Working with court transcripts and written statements from key participants, The Lakota People's Law Project has reviewed the way in which State of South Dakota handled the foster placement and adoption of Native American children by Richard and Wendy Mette of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
"Legitimized cultural genocide - that's happening right now. Every year we lose 700 of our kids."
- Attorney Chase Iron Eyes
May 15, 2013
The Mette case and the 2011 Peabody Award winningNPR expose by Laura Sullivan "Native Foster Care, Lost Children Shattered Families " have raised many questions about compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act by the State of South Dakota.
At the request of several Congressmen concerned about compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will host a summit on Lakota foster care on May 15-17 in Rapid City, SD, at the Ramkota Hotel. The summit will be attended by congressional staff, Department of Justice officials, and Ken Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs of the Department of Interior along with former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk the author of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
The Lakota People’s Law Project is releasing a new special report at this historic summit on Native American foster care and South Dakota compliance with ICWA: "The Mette Case: Native Children Abandoned and Forgotten."
The report – based on 18 months of research - uses material from court transcripts, research documents and interviews with child advocates Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab to present a more detailed analysis of the case of convicted South Dakota child rapist Richard Mette (case # CR 10-11-13; Fifth Circuit Superior Court of South Dakota).
In simple terms, the report is about the prosecution of Richard Mette by deputy state’s attorney Brandon Taliaferro with the assistance of Court Appointed Special Advocate Shirley Schwab. In an amazing turn of events, the prosecutors – Taliaferro and Schwab – are taken off the case. Taliaferro is fired and the state accuses the child advocates of getting the children to lie about the abuse.
The report goes into all of the details including Taliaferro and Schwab’s vindication in court and theplea agreement that almost let Mette off the hook.Mette got 15 years, instead of the maximum life sentence.
The Lakota People’s Law Project is working with Taliaferro and Schwab to circulate a petition, asking the Department of Justice to investigate the Mette Affair as a series of major civil rights violations. Also, leaders from the Standing Rock and Oglala Sioux (Pine Ridge) Tribes, in cooperation with The Last Real Indians, have produced a video to raise awareness about the issue, since the foster children were taken from the Standing Rock and Pine Ridge reservations.
Now on contract with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, The Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with tribes and leaders in South Dakota since 2005 from its offices in Rapid City, SD and Santa Cruz, CA. LPLP’s activities have included funding and supporting Native experts to provide technical assistance to the tribes on family and child welfare issues. The project combines public interest law, research, education, and organizing into a unique model for advocacy and social reform.
The Lakota People's Law Project is sponsored by the non-profit Romero Institute based in Santa Cruz, California. The Institute is named after slain human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The Institute seeks to identify and dismantle structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.