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>  News Releases >   2008 >   May

Udall Scholarship winner explores consequences of Indian Child Welfare Act

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 05/15/08 • Media Contact: Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

Daniel Becker
Daniel Becker '09 (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Dartmouth junior Daniel Becker is one of 80 national winners of a 2008 Morris K. Udall scholarship. Becker is Yup'ik and is from Anchorage, Alaska. He was awarded the scholarship based on his essay about the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and his personal family connection to the Act.

The Morris K. Udall Scholarships were first awarded in 1996 to celebrate the late Congressman Udall's legacy of public service. His work as a U.S. Representative for Arizona from 1961-91 was highlighted by his love for the environment and his championing of the rights of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The annually-awarded scholarship support students who will go into careers in the environment, or Native America/Alaska Native students who plan to work on tribal policy issues.

Among Udall's achievements was the passage of the ICWA, which attempted to redress the many Native children taken from their homes and placed with non-native families, often under questionable or illegal circumstances. The Act recognized tribal jurisdiction over Native children, and prioritized placement of children who did have to be removed from their homes with family members, other tribe members, or finally, other Native families. The bill also had a retroactive component which gave tribes the right to seek the return of children who had been taken. 

"The village where my family's from was the first Alaskan Native village to use the Act," said Becker. "Throughout the 1940, '50s, '60s and '70s, a much larger portion of Indian and Alaskan Native children were taken away from their homes-more than any other race, and often with very little reason. They were nearly always sent away to a non-native family, usually in a different state."

When he learned he had won the scholarship, said Becker, "I was really excited about it. It's competitive."

Next year, as a senior, Becker said he plans to apply for a Senior Fellowship to pursue another aspect of his personal history. "I plan to write my family's story on my mom's side." The story will focus, he said, on his brother's involvement as a witness in a high-profile murder trial and the aftermath that followed. Upon graduating, Becker is considering applying to law school and hopes to work on Tribal policy issues because, as he put it, "Alaska, federal-tribal-state relations are still being defined, and that  needs to happen in such a way that allows us to build healthy Native communities for infinite generations to come."

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