Indian Family Preservation Act passes Minnesota House

MN Indian Family Preservation Act
MN Indian Family Preservation Act(Valley News Live)
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:15 PM CST
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ST. PAUL (Valley News Live) - The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the “Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act” with a 128-0 vote on Thursday, March 9. SF 667, authored by Representative Heather Keeler of Moorhead, codifies sections of MIFPA that were dependent on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into Minnesota law and clarifies various terms undefined in ICWA.

“The erasure of my community isn’t only in our past; it is firmly in our present,” said Representative Keeler. “As an Indigenous woman, I am committed to preserving my culture, language, values, and community. Other people have been attempting to exterminate us for generations, but the fact that we keep showing up in these spaces is an act of resiliency. We’ve overcome decades of harm aimed at our community through our children. What this bill does is continue to protect Indigenous children, so they continue to have a lifeline to their culture.”

This bill makes technical changes and adds numerous provisions to the Minnesota Indian Family MIFPA, incorporating federal ICWA procedures and requirements for voluntary and involuntary child placement and permanency proceedings. The legislation also affirms the state’s policy on Tribal-state relations, including the recognition of Tribes as sovereign nations and the recognition that Tribes have the inherent authority to determine their own jurisdiction for Indian child custody or child placement proceedings.

“The Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act intends to protect Indigenous children and families from cycles of harm and trauma,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “With uncertainty around how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, it is important that we act quickly in Minnesota and respect tribal sovereignty. I’m grateful to Rep. Keeler and Sen. Kunesh for their work on this legislation.”

You can watch the presentation and testimony of the bill here.

Meanwhile, Rep. Keeler clarified comments made on social media, which the Minnesota GOP has called a “racist rant.” The post on her personal Facebook page, which has since been deleted, read:

The Republican Party of Minnesota put out a statement saying: “There is no place in our political discourse for attacks on Minnesotans’ races or religions. We condemn this hateful and extremist rhetoric in the strongest possible terms and call on the Democrats to do the same. Elected Democrats like Gov. Walz and Speaker Hortman and party leaders like Chairman Ken Martin need to unequivocally denounce this hateful speech immediately.”

Valley News Live reached out to Rep. Keeler for a response and she said, in part: “As an elected official I should always strive to use words and language that bring people together, and should not generalize any group of people. “I apologize that my recent comments on my personal social media have distracted from what matters most – protecting our kids, protecting our culture, and working to make the best Minnesota possible.”

Rep. Keeler’s full statement is below: