MADONNA THUNDER HAWK is a member of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and is grandmother to a generation of Native American activists. is a co-founder of The Lakota Peoples Law Project (LPLP) (www.lakotalaw.org) working in South Dakota to stop the illegal seizure of Indian children by the Department of Social Services.
She was an original member of the American Indian Movement, a co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and is currently the Lakota People's Law Project's principal organizer and Tribal Liaison. Madonna has been featured in several documentary films including the recent PBS series We Shall Remain. Through her work, Madonna builds alliances and support for Child Welfare among South Dakota's tribal leaders and communities.
South Dakota, second only to Alaska, leads the nation in the number of Indian children removed from their homes; and 2/3 of all children placed in foster care in this state are Native American. Placed in non-Indian homes, the children are often subjected to sexual and physical abuse, medical over-drugging and inadequate education. In South Dakota 60% of Native American children who have been in the foster care system wind up drug addicted, incarcerated or dead by age 20. In South Dakota and many other states The Indian Children Welfare Act (ICWA), which was enacted to protect Indian children by keeping them in Indian homes, is being violated. The LPLP is working for federal enforcement and reform of ICWA so that Indian children stay with their families and/or on the reservation.
The United States Government's treatment of Native Americans over the last 150 years is tantamount to a slow genocide. This is especially true in South Dakota. Six of the eleven poorest counties in the entire United States are on Indian reservations in the state. Unemployment among Native American there is over 85%. Families are torn apart. Cancer and diabetes are pandemic. Drinking water is contaminated with uranium from government mines. Education is poor. Misery abounds. Astonishingly, the caring and vibrant spirit of the Lakota people is still intact. That they have survived such devastating federal and state policies is a testament to their phenomenal strength. Over the years our work has gone through several phases. After an initial period of discovering the magnitude and severity of the challenges in Lakota country, we worked with our staff and allies to develop a long-term, holistic vision. What emerged were seven long-term objectives: 1. Return Lakota children to their families and tribes 2. Reclaim and steward the ancestral lands 3. Revive the traditional government of the Seven Council Fires 4. Birth a new Oyate economy of self-reliance and sustainability 5. Ensure access to education for all Lakota children in traditional spirituality, wisdom, and knowledge 6. Rebuild the kinship system 7. Protect the gifts of the Spiritual Elements (natural resources) 8. The first and most important of these is to rescue the children. Any genuine attempt at renewing Lakota society must begin there. In recognition of this, we have launched the Lakota Child Rescue Project. Explore this site to learn more about work, and please consider making a gift to the Lakota Children Legal Action Fund.