Tribal sovereignty issue in custody case

Oct. 28, 2009 at 1:24 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Lawyers for an Indian tribe in Rhode Island argue the chief is exempt from a subpoena because the Narragansett tribe has sovereign immunity.

The chief and other tribal leaders were subpoenaed to testify in a child custody case, The Providence Journal reported. Jackie Robinson, a member of the tribe, is trying to get custody of a 2-year-old daughter who was given up by her mother immediately after birth.

At issue is whether the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act, passed in 1978 because of concerns about Indians losing child custody in greater numbers than other groups, applies to the girl. An advocate argued the girl is not enrolled in the Narragansett tribe but a judge ordered a new hearing, finding that she is eligible for tribal membership.

Robinson has accused tribal leaders of sabotaging his efforts to gain custody of his daughter by a selective use of the issue of sovereign immunity.

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