Since 2011, National Public Radio has reported on the egregious, systematic violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services. These reports reached tens of millions of people and won a Peabody Award. Most importantly, they helped spur a movement among the Lakota people. Thus far, three South Dakota tribes have been awarded Title IV-E Federal Planning Grants—Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe (2014) and Rosebud Sioux Tribe (2013)—to create their own tribal-run Child and Family Planning Services. We know that the only permanent solution to the cultural genocide that has been occurring for over 130 years in South Dakota is to redirect federal money directly to the tribes, rather than to a state that fails to respect both the culture and the laws of the land and encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to award Title IV-E Planning Grants to the remaining four tribes—Lower Brule, Yankton, Crow Creek, and Cheyenne River—in 2015.
We are on the right track, but obstacles continue to arise, often from surprising sources. Sadly, in August 2013, the Ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), Edward Schumacher-Matos, produced a biased and factually flawed review of Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters' Peabody Award winning series of stories exposing South Dakota’s egregious violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and mistreatment of Native American children, who are removed from familial custody at 3.5 times the rate of non-Native children in the state. This report documents the irresponsibility of Schumacher-Matos' overwrought, 22-month effort to exonerate South Dakota for violating federal law. The report exposes six serious errors in the ombudsman’s "re-reporting" of Sullivan and Walters' story, for which he spoke to virtually no Native American people, instead relying entirely for his data on the very South Dakota state officials his report defends. This report proves that Schumacher-Matos misinterpreted important distinctions, used inaccurate statistics, and came to incorrect conclusions.
You can help us counteract the ombudsman’s misguided assault by taking the following actions:
- Read our report, “Who’s Watching the Watchdog?”
- Read Richard Wexler’s report, “The Schumacher-Matos report on NPR’s coverage of child welfare in South Dakota: A case study in an ombudsman gone awry.”
- Read and understand our Talking Points, which outline the major problems with the ombudsman’s report
- Register with NPR then login and lend your voice to the comment stream about the ombudsman’s attack on his own news organization
Lila Wophila Ichichapelo (thank you all for your time)
Chase Iron Eyes
South Dakota Counsel