Native American rights in play while Iraq vet fights for 3-year-old daughter

By David Ferguson
Friday, July 5, 2013 13:54 EDT
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Veronica Brown via screencap
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An Iraq War veteran who says he mistakenly signed away his parental rights is trying to keep custody of his 3-year-old daughter. According to CBS News, Army National Guardsman Dusten Brown believed that he was signing over custody to his daughter’s mother when he sent a text message and signed a parental rights agreement on his way to Iraq in 2009.

Instead, both he and the mother lost all custody rights and the baby girl was taken home from the hospital for adoption by a South Carolina couple named Matt and Melanie Capobianco. When Brown found out about the adoption, he invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, a law designed to keep Native American families from being separated by the government. Brown is of Native American descent, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

“That’s my daughter. I’m not wanting to abandon her,” he told CBS. “I want to be right there along the whole time, watch her grow up, make her decisions and everything. Never once did I want to just give her away.”

Now baby Veronica is living with Brown and his wife in Oklahoma. For two years, she lived with the Capobiancos until a South Carolina court awarded Brown custody of his daughter in 2011.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five-to-four that the 1978 law does not apply in this case. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Court’s decision that Brown “abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.”

Brown told CBS, “I mean, they could think what they want, say what they want. But I never abandoned my child.”

The Supreme Court has handed the case back to a South Carolina court to rule on. For now, Veronica’s fate hangs in the balance between staying with her father or going back to the couple who raised her for two years.

Watch video about this story, embedded below via CBS News:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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