Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Marion Werkheiser, Managing Partner, Attorney at Law
Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC
Mobile: (703) 489-6059
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AS U.S. SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT, VIRGINIA TRIBES PRAISE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S BOLD AFFIRMATION OF THE LAW’S IMPORTANCE
Richmond, VA — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an official opinion yesterday affirming the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The opinion confirms that ICWA applies in Virginia cases that involve, or could result in, foster care placement, termination of parental rights, and pre-adoptive or adoptive placements for Indian children. Attorney General Herring’s opinion concludes by emphasizing that “state and federal law require that Virginia courts protect the interest of Indian children and promote the security and stability of federally recognized tribes.”
Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe remarked, “Especially given the recent efforts by certain states to attack ICWA and undermine tribal sovereignty, I am grateful that Attorney General Herring has taken this opportunity to voice unwavering support for this important cultural preservation law.” This Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to hear a case challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 in response to the longstanding federal policy of removing Indian children from their families and tribes. Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe said: “Before ICWA was passed, children were removed from the care of their parents and sent to boarding schools or adopted by white families. Because of ICWA, more Indian children will grow up knowing their history and culture, and their families and tribes will be stronger as a result.”
Virginia is home to seven federally recognized tribes. Marion Werkheiser is the managing partner of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, a law firm that represents the federally recognized Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indians – Eastern Division, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond Indian Nation, Rappahannock Indian Tribe, and Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe.
Ms. Werkheiser, who regularly works on ICWA cases in Virginia, said, “Attorney General Herring’s opinion comes during a critical time for ICWA. Virginia judges and attorneys need to educate themselves about ICWA as case numbers rise with the recent federal recognition of tribes in the Commonwealth.” On the petitions for certiorari on ICWA pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, she added, “ICWA is based on the political, government-to-government relationship between the United States and federally recognized tribes. It is not based on race.”