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Tribes prepared to battle Department of Social Services' practices

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With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes will file a federal class action today in Rapid City against at least two Department of Social Services employees.

The tribes are challenging the state department's policies that they say violate the Indian Child Welfare Act and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The plaintiffs will include "all Native American parents living in Pennington County" and three women who are representative of the class, Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna said Wednesday.

"Each one of them is a member of a different tribe," Hanna said. The women are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In addition to Hanna, ACLU senior staff attorney Stephen L. Pevar of Hartford, Conn., and Robert Doody, executive director and attorney with ACLU of South Dakota, are representing the tribes in the legal challenge of procedures the department has used to remove Native American children from their families.

In a news release, OST President Brian Brewer said officials in South Dakota and other states use perfunctory hearings and flimsy evidence to take Native American children from their homes.

Brewer declined Wednesday to comment further on the lawsuit until after it is filed in the U.S. District Court in Rapid City.

[This story has been changed to reflect a correction. The lawsuit was field in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.]

Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com

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