Native American Adoption Law Reviewed by High Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court could determine the impact of a federal law that gives jurisdiction over adoptions of American Indian children to tribal courts instead of state courts.

The Clarion-Ledger reported Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has joined 17 other state attorneys general in supporting the law, known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, as the Supreme Court reviews a case known as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

Hood has an interest in the case because the law applies to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the state's only federally recognized tribe.

The Supreme Court has taken up the act only once before, in the case Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, which was decided in 1989, and has been applied to hundreds of American Indian custody cases.

The outcome of MBCI vs. Holyfield was the opinion that since both of the natural parents resided on the reservation, the child's domicile follows that of the parent. The fact that the parents had traveled 200 miles to avoid giving birth on the reservation did not eliminate the tribal court's exclusive jurisdiction. It reversed the state court-approved adoption by the Holyfields of Harrison County.