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OPINION: A message to the tribal members of Kotzebue

September 16th | Nicole Stoops, Executive Director of the Native Village of Kotzebue Print this article   Email this article   Create a Shortlink for this article

In recent days, you may have noticed signs posted on local bulletin boards, or even on Facebook or other social media, about the Kotzebue IRA and certain staff members in regards to a recent Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. This public posting of a family matter caught us all by surprise. I just wanted to take a moment to reassure our tribal members and community that our tribe takes all child welfare matters seriously, that our staff has acted appropriately as the tribal representative for this Indian child.

It is always difficult to intervene in a case that involves our tribal children. By way of background, typically when the State of Alaska Office of Children's Services is called to a home, and the right due process occurs, the child(ren) or family's tribe is notified. When or if that occurs our role is to ensure that the child, if taken from their parent(s) or guardian, is placed with family, another Native household, or with a family that will take the best care of the child. Sometimes the best decision is not always with family or another Native household.

In some circumstances, based on a family's makeup, more than one tribe is notified. When or if that occurs, the Native Village of Kotzebue works with the other tribe to determine the best course of action, after we carry out our own investigation. originally In these matters, there can only be one tribal representative.

These matters are complex and personal to a family. We do not provide details of any pending matter based on protection of the children involved. Our goal is to always ensure that the best interest of the child is first and foremost. Our role, however, is not to necessarily represent the parent in these matters, given our legal mandates.

The Native Village of Kotzebue takes its role in carrying out governmental programs and functions seriously, and we work to ensure that we are properly managing our programs to the best of our capability in order to make sure our members get the best services possible. For more information about the various programs that we have, please stop by our office, check out our website (, or give us a call at (907) 442-3467. You can also email Nicole N. Stoops at


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