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Samantha Skenandore Shares Insight on Supreme Court Ruling About Indian Child Welfare Act in Native News Online Story

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Quarles & Brady attorney Samantha Skenandore, a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Indian Law & Policy groups, was quoted in a Native News Online article about the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Under ICWA, tribal governments have jurisdiction over Native children who live on reservations, ensuring the right of Indian parents to raise their children as they deem appropriate. In the article, Skenandore explained the significance of the ruling for tribes and offered a personal example of ICWA’s impact. An excerpt:

Attorney Samantha Skenandore (Ho-Chunk Nation) of Quarles and Brady LLP said the decision reinforces the foundation of tribal sovereignty: tribal membership.

“One of the pillars of sovereignty is to make laws and be governed by them,” Skenandore told Tribal Business News. “And that doesn’t apply when your children are governed outside of the tribe. This [decision] means that tribes get to decide who their membership is based on whatever they decide, and they get to exercise their sovereignty.” 

For Skenandore, the ruling is also deeply personal — twenty years ago, she became a foster mom to three teenage girls from her tribe after their mother passed away from drug use. After being partially raised by their non-native father and being placed in 10 different foster homes, ICWA protections allowed the tribe to take jurisdiction over the girls and place them with Skenandore. She re-introduced the girls to the Ho-Chunk tribe and their culture. Today, Skenandore has seven grandkids through her foster daughters.

“We often talk about how thankful we are that we got to be together, and all three of them have said, ‘I think we would have died by suicide had we not been placed with you,’” Skenandore said. “I feel relieved, on a personal level, I am so relieved that sovereignty, at least for now, is upheld. This is a huge breath of fresh air.”


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