The ACLU of Utah works to uplift Indigenous people, communities and tribes through community-directed and integrated legal and advocacy work. We aim to support tribal communities -- and follow their lead -- as they work to uphold their sovereignty, dignity, and autonomy. We work to dismantle colonial systems of oppression that are found in all of our institutions including schools, prisons and access to the ballot.

Key Terms

Family Regulation System

A term coined by anti-violence advocate Emma Williams, and popularized by the Movement for Family Power and the ground-breaking scholar Dorothy Roberts, that refers to the “multi-billion-dollar government apparatus that regulates millions of marginalized people through intrusive investigations, monitoring and forcible removal of children from their homes to be placed in foster care, group homes and ‘therapeutic’ detention facilities” — most often due to allegations of neglect related to poverty which the system does nothing to address.

Federal Indian Boarding Schools

The forced removal of Indigenous children from their homes and communities to systematically destroy Indigenous cultures and communities, as an act of cultural genocide. Between 1869 and 1969, hundreds of thousands of Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the federal government and the churches.

Indian Child Welfare Act

(ICWA)

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 to address the history of forced separation and genocide of Native people, maintain and restore familial connections, and affirm tribal sovereignty. ICWA establishes requirements for state child custody proceedings involving an “Indian child,” defined as a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized Tribe, and requires measures intended to keep Native children in the care of their communities.

Indigenous Justice

The freedom and ability of Indigenous people to exercise their rights and sovereignty over themselves, their people, and their land; including the freedom to engage in traditional ways of governing, being, healing, and knowing; learning and celebrating their cultures, languages, traditions, and heritages by their ceremonies and other practices.

Settler-colonialism

Settler-colonialism is an ongoing process upon which our entire society is structured, not an event in time or history. The goal of the settler-colonial society is to destroy and replace — eliminate the Indigenous people on the land they seek to settle and get rid of what was there before, rather than become part of it or merge with it. Settler-colonialism violently tears Indigenous people from the land and turns that land into property to be used as a resource and extracted from. That rupture from the land is ongoing violence against Indigenous people. Because all land that is now the United States was taken — often through violence — from Indigenous people, all of us who occupy that land today and benefit from her resources are engaged in settler-colonialism.

Tribal sovereignty

Tribal sovereignty refers to the right of Indian tribes to govern themselves and their lands. This sovereignty is inherent. Native Nations existed long before the creation of the United States.

At the ACLU of Utah, we prefer the more inclusive term Indigenous, which is why our work is called Indigenous Justice.