By Chairman Baker, Southern Ute Tribe
Maykh! My name is Chairman Melvin J. Baker. I am the Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. I am pleased to be featured in this newsletter in recognition of the 45th Anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). As one of two Tribes in the State of Colorado, I can attest that ICWA has a crucial role in protecting the cultural identity and familial connections of our Native American children.
Nationally and in Colorado, ICWA has been instrumental in ensuring that Tribes retain authority over child welfare decisions and that Native children are kept connected to their heritage, community, and families. Prior to ICWA, Native children were disproportionately removed from their homes and placed in non-Native foster care. This had a devastating impact on children and their families, and it disrupted the cultural continuity of Tribal communities.
This year, Colorado celebrated a notable accomplishment in strengthening ICWA’s protections with the passage of SB23-211 to codify ICWA into state law. I was honored to provide a testimony of support to the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. I firmly believe as a leader, “our future generations depend on us to do what we can now to protect them.”
This month is also Native American Heritage Month, we are reminded how precious our children are as future leaders. We must remain committed to upholding and improving the principles of ICWA to ensure all Native children have the opportunity to thrive. In doing so, we protect our children and ensure the future survival of our cultures and traditions. Each child represents a link to our past and a promise for the continuity of our heritage. By ensuring their well-being and providing them with opportunities to flourish, we are investing in the resilience and longevity of our cultures and creating invaluable contributions for generations to come.