In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law to stop the excessive removal of Native American children from their families and culture. Soon the new law was put to the test in Mississippi, and the result was a milestone for Native American rights.
A Harrison County couple, the Holyfields, had arranged to adopt twin girls born to a Choctaw mother. The adoption was approved by the State, but The Mississippi Band of Choctaws challenged it, claiming that under the new law, only their tribal court had legal jurisdiction. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Choctaws.
Then the tribal court made a surprising ruling. The now four year old twins would be taught about their native culture…but would remain in the only home they had ever known.
It was a victory for the Choctaws, for the twins, and for tribal wisdom.
For more interesting facts about Mississippi's 200-year history, watch a new interstitial each week of 2017 with Mississippi: A Thread Through Time on MPB Television.