The news reports allegations of tribal governments not assisting non-Indian parents in collecting child support payments from Indian ex-spouses.
The article correctly point out that state and federal governments are powerless to make some Indian pay child support if they live and work on their reservations. Tribes, after all, are sovereign governments who control and regulate American Indians on reservations and function as sovereign nations.
“Another woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the father of her child is a member of a non-gaming tribe in California. But even these tribes get $1.1 million a year out of a revenue-sharing plan with gaming tribes. This means he gets $350 a month, she said. Under a ruling by a judge in San Diego County, she said, he owes $40,000 in child support payments, going back 10 years.
“I work three jobs,” she said, “anything would help.” She added: “When the compacts passed, they never put anything in the compacts saying they had to take care of financial obligations. If the tribe doesn’t want to, they don’t have to.”
The federal government has been working for years to help alleviate this problem. The Office of Child Support Enforcement, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has been operating a Tribal Systems Workgroup since 2002. The mixture of tribal and federal employees works to educate tribes about the problem and suggests ways for tribes to enforce child support laws without ceding tribal sovereignty.”