The foster uncle of a 6-year-old child who was seized by authorities from her longtime foster home on Monday under the Indian Child Welfare Act — a federal law aimed at protecting Indian children and heritage — released an open letter on Wednesday, pleading with the chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to reconsider the decision.
As TheBlaze has reported, the little girl, named Lexi, is reportedly just one-and-a-half percent Choctaw Native American. She was removed from the home of her longtime foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, due to the 1978 federal law mandating that “Indian children” be raised by Native Americans.
"I'm writing to you respectfully and in a spirit of friendship and shared humanity to plead with you over the custody of Lexi Page of Saugus, California," Matt Hand, brother-in-law of Rusty Page, wrote in an open letter posted to Facebook. "I am one of Lexi's foster uncles. My wife's biological brother is Rusty Page, the foster father."
"As you may know, she is being taken away from a foster mom, Summer Page, who is of Native American descent," he wrote. "Furthermore, the court is not placing Lexi with either birth parent, nor any immediate blood relative, nor is she being 'returned' to the life of a reservation which her birth father did not identify with."
Hand continued, "In fact, Lexi isn't being 'reunited' with anyone from her past. She's been forcibly removed from a safe, stable, loving home after 4+ years and is being placed with an extended relative in Utah who is neither biologically related to Lexi, nor is any part Native American."
As previously reported, the nature of these Utah relatives' relationship to the child has been a point of contention amid an ever-complex case. According to Leslie Heimov, a court-appointed legal representative with the Children’s Law Center of California, the relatives aren’t strangers and have been in touch with the child over the past three years both in person and via Skype, the Associated Press reported.
“She has a loving relationship with them,” Heimov told the Los Angeles Daily News this week. “They are not strangers in any way, shape or form. … The law defines family based on marriage, affinity or blood.”
The couple with whom Lexi will live are not Native Americans and are related to her father — who is part Choctaw — by marriage.
Listen to Rusty Page discuss his family's ordeal on The Church Boys below:
Hand said earlier in his open letter letter that he and his wife and children have regularly interacted with Lexi over the past four years and that he has seen the foster child "blossom into an intelligent, respectful, happy, adventurous little girl."
He also took aim at the fact that Lexi is reportedly only 1.5 percent Native American — a detail that has continued to emerge in media.
"I understand that Lexi is 1.5 percent Choctaw by blood. I respect her heritage, as do Rusty and Summer," he said. "I also understand the reality of what that means: 1 of Lexi's 64 Great Great Great Great Grandparents was Choctaw. 63 of them were not."
Hand said that he grieves over the history of what has been done to Native Americans, decrying discrimination and abuse of people based on race as "deplorable and immoral." He cited his Christian faith in making that case and apologized on behalf of those in the past who perpetuated that abuse on Indian tribes.
"Your people have been wronged in unspeakable ways," Hand continued. "And I understand any degree of suspicion or self-protectiveness or frustration you must feel."
But he also dove into the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law under which Lexi was seized from the Page home, saying that he has studied the law in-depth since the child came to the foster family. While he said that the act was put into place to stop abuse, racism and manipulation of Native American children, he charged that the law is now being misused.
"I, for one, am grateful for this law. Your people deserved this protection then — and you deserve the protection of our nation's laws now," hand wrote. "That said, I respectfully disagree with the specific way ICWA is being (mis)used in the case of Lexi Page."
"I appeal to you, sir, to do what is within your power to ask that a 'good cause' exemption be granted in the case of 6 year old Lexi Page so that she can stay with her foster family and not be forced to experience the undue hardship of a separation and cross-country move," he wrote. "Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my request. May God grant you wisdom, justice, and grace."
Read more about Lexi's case here.
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