ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Friday, Governor Tim Walz, tribal leaders, legislators, and stakeholders gathered to celebrate the enactment of legislation that strengthens the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), into law.
Chief author Senator Mary Kunesh, Standing Rock Lakota descendant (DFL-New Brighton), celebrated the law’s enactment and releases the following statement:
“Today we celebrate Minnesota’s commitment to honoring tribal sovereignty and the sanctity of American Indian families. This legislation is a powerful move to protect Native children and help tribes, counties, and government agencies prevent the removal and disconnection of Indian children from their families, culture, and tribes. The federal and state governments’ use of boarding schools, adoptions, and out-of-home placements as tools for genocide is not history; we heard testimony from survivors of these policies as we built this legislation, and their impact affects every Native community to this day. By strengthening MIFPA, we take one more step toward a world where Native families stay together and tribal sovereignty is respected. I extend great thanks to Governor Tim Walz for his support and signature on this legislation, and to Representative Heather Keeler (Yankton Sioux), Representative Jamie Becker Finn (Ojibwe descendant) and Representative Alicia Koslowski (Ojibwe) for championing this legislation in the House.”
This law codifies sections of MIFPA that were dependent on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into Minnesota’s books and clarifies various terms that are undefined in ICWA. It will protect Native families from unnecessary separation and is a result of recommendations from the Tribal MIFPA working group with input from Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Association of County Social Services Administrators, and more. This law will help Minnesota avoid an overwhelming amount of litigation in Child Welfare and Family law if ICWA is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, as it may be by the case Haaland v. Brackeen.
The legislation updating MIFPA passed the Senate 66-1 on February 27 and passed the House 128-0 on March 7. Its effective date is August 1, 2023.