UNITED STATES SENATE
SELECT COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS
AUGUST 4, 1977
STATEMENT OF GOLDIE DENNY, DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES,
QUINAULT NATION AND NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN
INDIANS, ACCOMPANIED BY BERTHRAM HIRSCH, ASSOCIATION
OF AMERICAN INDIAN AFFAIRS
Ms. DENNY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Goldie Denny. I am director of social service for the
Quinault Tribe. I will be giving testimony on behalf of the National
Congress of American Indians as well as the Quinault Tribe.
First of all, I would like to start out by saying I am appalled at
what I have just heard from our trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But I don't know why I am surprised because this has been typical
of the BIA's lack of response to Indian problems for a good number
I think it is a gross neglect of responsibility that they made these
comments here today. I say this because these comments do not reflect
the thinking of people in Indian country, the people who live on the
reservations, the people who deal with Indian child welfare problems
on a day-to-day basis.
At the 1976 33d annual convention of the National Congress of
American Indians a resolution was passed supporting the then draft
Senate bill 3777. It was passed unanimously by 130 Indian tribes in
the United States supporting the basic concepts that are contained
within this bill.
The BIA is supposed to represent the Indian views. But when 130
Indian tribes say, "This is what we want," the BIA says, "We don't
want this for the Indians."
I cannot understand that thinking at all.
In addition, at that same convention, a policy resolution, No. 5, was
adopted by the National Congress of American Indians Convention.
The title of that resolution was the "International Intertribal Child
Welfare Compact." Indians were attempting on their own to establish
some type of system for identifying where their lost children were
and how to get them back.
In addition to that, policy resolution No. 10 was passed. This was
addressing the interstate placement of Indian children, whether for
cultural, educational, or whatever reasons. Indian people are entitled to
know where their children are and what is going to happen to them.
They are entitled to have complete control of their children.
The failure of the BIA and the State and county welfare services'
practices has been clearly evidenced in the 1974 hearings. I will not
burden you with the many horror stories of things that have happened
to Indian children because --
Chairman ABOUREZK. Ms. Denny, I think you ought to tell a couple
of horror stories while the administration witnesses are here.
Ms. DENNY. I will tell my own.
When I was approximately 4 years old, I was one of five children.
Our mother was deceased. We lived with our father. My grandmother
came in to help take care of us.
My sister and I were removed by the welfare department because
we were caught out in the street barefoot, wading in mud puddles. I
don't see anything wrong with being barefoot, wading in mud puddles.
I had a good time. I might have been a little dirty, but dirt washes off.
But what's up in the head does not wash off.
There was no reason for that type of removal. I was returned home,
but that is one instance.
Chairman ABOUREZK. For the record, is that the kind of thing that
goes on around the country, around Indian reservations when the
non-Indian social welfare agencies decide that they know what is best
for the Indian kids?
Ms. DENNY. Absolutely.
Chairman ABOUREZK. I recall the testimony in 1974. 1 believe it
was a psychiatrist who testified that, most of the time, the Indian
children are even better off if their mother happens to be an alcoholic.
Mr. HIRCH. That was Dr. Joseph Westermeier who gave that
Chairman ABOUREZK. Do you recall exactly what he said at the
Mr. HIRSCH. My recollection is that he said that the trauma that is
caused to the children--Indian children, in particular--in light of the
studies that he has done and the patients that he has had, is far worse
in that they spend many years growing up in non-Indian homes and
then have to struggle for identity when they reach late adolescence and
early adulthood. He says many of these people end up on skid rows in
cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul and Los Angeles. Generally speaking,
children are better off growing up in their own homes, even with
alcoholic parents. It is not a fact that alcoholic parents necessarily
create a situation that is so harmful to a child that they must be taken
out of that home.
Chairman ABOUREZK. I think there was testimony at the time that
children grew up much healthier with their parents irrespective of
the physical or mental condition of the parents -- within reasonable
bounds. They were much happier there than if they were dragged out
of the home and an attempt was made to bring them up in a non-
There was another aspect. I am sorry that I cannot remember
exactly what it is right now.
Mr. HIRSCH. I think what he was saying, Senator Abourezk, is that
Indian children grow up in their own communities and with their
own families and at least know that they are Indian. Regardless of
the kinds of problems that they may have during that growing up
period, they do not have to start with the process of learning who
they are. If they grow up in non-Indian homes, they grow up thinking
that they are white and expect to be treated as other white people.
They are treated that way when they are little kids. But then, when
they reach late adolescence and early adulthood, the entire community
looks at them and says, "You're Indian; you can't date our children.
You can't be employed in our businesses," and so on.
So, these kids who have grown up perhaps in healthful environ-
ments and have had an integrating psychological growth period begin
to disintegrate psychologically; while the children who have grown
up in somewhat difficult economic and social circumstances, but who
know they are Indian, can begin to integrate psychologically and
develop whole personalities when they are in late adolescence and
I think that was the essence of Dr. Westmeier's testimony; and Dr.
Bob Bergman, who testified at that time, gave similar testimony.
Chairman ABOUREZK. I apologize for interrupting you, but I wanted
to try to bring that out.
Ms. DENNY. That is quite right, Senator.
One of the things that the BIA seems to think will help us is S. 1928,
while criticizing S. 1214 for imposing standards on Indian people.
That is not true. The intent of the bill is to impose standards upon
the State, county, and Federal agencies who are now imposing their
materialistic standards on Indian people.
So, the BIA statement is simply not a true statement; and does
not describe, the intent of this bill it all.
It is not interfering with any Indian tribe or any individual's right
because the bill is purely asking for the notification to tribes go that
they can respond within 30 days. The tribe has the option not to
respond. They do not have to respond to this at all. So, I do not see
that that is detracting from any tribal rights or any Indian individ-
These standards set forth in this document are long overdue.
The Quinault Tribe is located in the State of Washington which is a
Public Law 280 State. The Quinault people have suffered the same
injustice that any other Indian tribe has. We have lost a great number
of children through foster care and adoption by non-Indian case-
workers who come upon the reservation and remove children for
stupid reasons: You don't have enough bedrooms in your house; you
don't have this; and you don't have that. It is all based upon mate-
Indian people have successfully raised many, many happy chil-
dren and were providing good parenthood for many, many years be-
fore we had middle class American standards imposed upon us as to
how we are supposed to be caring for our children.
I cannot understand why the BIA is not going along. As Mr. Butler
says, Indian people are now beginning to speak out, learning, and
trying to take care of some of their own problems. This is what Indian
people are saying: The Federal, State, and county governments have
messed up Indian child welfare matters ever since they started med-
dling around in them. So why not let Indian people run their own
show for a change? They can do it a lot better than any other agency
The Indian people understand the problems better, and they are
better equipped to do it. And they will say, "Well, we've got to
take care of these Indians because they don't have enough education;
they don't have the skills." I heard a very skilled lady up here this
morning who could not make a commitment as to whether this abuse
toward Indian children should be halted or not. She could not answer
that question. I do not understand that. If that is an educated opinion --
well, I am glad I don't have that education.
I maintain that any Indian person can provide social services on
an Indian reservation if they do not even have an eighth grade educa-
tion. They understand the problems better. They have lived there. They
can relate to their own people better than a non-Indian person who
has a Ph. D. who might come in and try to tell them how they should
I would like to cite the Quinault Tribe as an example of how
Indian people can develop successful programs on their own.
Quinault Tribe has developed on its own, with no help from the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, no help from the State, no help from the
county, a human resource delivery system consisting of the provision
of 34 different types of services on the reservation. The social service
department is just one portion of that human resource delivery system.
I am the director. I have trained five paraprofessional Quinault case-
We have been in operation approximately 5 years. In that period of
time, I have been able to train the staff so that they have been able to
assume all the child welfare responsibilities that were at one time ad-
ministered by the State and county officials. We handle all child wel-
fare cases such as foster care, adoption, the child protective services,
and juvenile delinquency services. We offer many services.
It took a while to establish our credibility within the State court
system. It was not easy; but, after being in operation and providing
services for over a year the State began recognizing that Quinault
Social Services Department was a legitimate organization. It set a
precedent. All courts give Quinault Social Services Department joint
supervision on any child custody case in the Gracee Harbor and Jef-
ferson County area along with the department of social and health
services, which has the legal jurisdiction. That is a major break-
We have more credibility in the courts than the department of social
and health services does in our area.
These are some of the advantages of a tribe operating its own social
services delivery system. You can be innovative. You do not have to
be restricted by the old ways of doing things that the non-Indian
people have taught you to do. The foster care program in the entire
United States, not only for Indians but for every child, is a total
The average length of foster care in the State of Washington for
any child is 4.5 years. I think that is a disgrace.
Quinault has developed its own foster care system, thereby limiting
the length of stay in foster care to less than a year.
I want to continue on with the advantages of a tribe being able to
implement Senate bill 1214.
The tribe is not restricted by agency rules and regulations and
All Quinault children are now placed in Quinault foster homes.
Foster home recruitment has increased licensed foster homes on the
reservation from 7 to 31.
Fifty-two Quinault children have been returned from foster care
to their natural parents. All Quinault juvenile cases are referred to
the Quinault Social Services Department by the Grace Harbor Juve-
The Washington Administrative Code was amended October 27,
1976, to address Indian child welfare placement standards in the
State of Washington. The Washington Administrative Code con-
tains the same standards that are set forth in Senate bill 1214.
I think you might look at the State of Washington as a model of
how it is being implemented. I strongly support and recommend
passage of Senate bill 1214.
NCAI has submitted their narrative comments on the bill in sup-
port of it. In addition to that, we have some specific recommendations
on Senate bill 1914 to strengthen the bill. We are submitting those
for the record.
Chairman ABOUREZK. That material as well as your entire prepared
statement will be inserted in the record.