Grantee finds that fossil fuel industry funds opposition to Indian Child Welfare Act, hoping to weaken tribal rights

Darren Thompson

The federal Indian Child Welfare Act has enjoyed bipartisan support and is widely seen as the gold standard for U.S. child welfare systems. But it came under fire from a little-known network of attorneys, corporate law firms and conservative political organizations. Murat Oztaskin, with support from the Fund, examined these connections for the New York Review of Books, exposing ties to fossil fuel and gaming industries – two areas that could stand “to benefit from diminished federal power or diminished tribal power on Indian lands,” as one scholar told Oztaskin. Oztaskin mapped a network that has been behind every high-level case against the law in the past decade, as well as recent challenges to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. These players have no significant past interest or experience in either child welfare or Native issues. Eight days after the piece was published, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that the child welfare law was constitutional.