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Standing Rock tribe displeased with planned summit agenda

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council have written a letter to a U.S. Congressman detailing their displeasure with a planned summit on foster care in South Dakota.

The tribal council members sent the letter this week to Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts about the summit, scheduled for May 15-17 in Rapid City.

The summit, hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will focus on Indian child foster care in the state after allegations surfaced that South Dakota was routinely breaking the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Markey was one of a handful of lawmakers who questioned the BIA about Native American child foster care in South Dakota following an NPR report in 2011 that said a disproportionate number of Native American children removed from their homes in South Dakota each year are sent to foster care in non-Indian homes or group homes.

State officials have called the NPR stories inaccurate, unfair and biased, but acknowledged a disproportionate number of Native American children are involved in the child welfare system because the state receives more referrals involving them regarding alleged abuse and neglect.

"We Lakota/Dakota leaders, therefore, find it unacceptable that the BIA's draft summit agenda ... fails to address any of NPR's dominant claims, or to propose what we consider to be serious solutions to our crisis," Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Charles Murphy and members of the tribal council wrote in the letter.

The letter listed changes the tribe would like to see to the agenda, including allowing former Sen. James Abourezk of South Dakota to speak. Abourezk chaired the yearlong Indian Policy Review Commission in 1977 that resulted in the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The BIA did not immediately return a message seeking comment.