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Name: In re A.A.
Case #: E079176
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/16/2023

Eligibility as a “naturalized member” but not as an enrolled member of a tribe is insufficient to trigger the substantive and procedural safeguards of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The minors were removed from Mother and placed in foster care. Father and his relatives denied any Indian ancestry. Mother was an enrolled member of the Jemez Pueblo tribe. The Agency contacted the tribe who said that the tribe requires individuals to have ¼ Jemez Pueblo blood quantum to be eligible for membership.  Therefore, the minors were only eligible to be “naturalized members” (qualifying for tribal health services) but not fully enrolled members receiving federal funds from the tribe. The tribe would not intervene in the dependency case because the minors were only naturalized members of the tribe. The juvenile court found that ICWA did not apply and terminated parental rights at the section 366.26 hearing. The parents appealed and the reviewing court affirmed. Indian tribes determine whether a child is a member of the tribe or eligible for membership and each tribe has sole authority to determine tribal eligibility. While the information that the Jemez Pueblo tribe had about the minors’ blood quantum may have been incorrect, Mother never challenged the tribe’s conclusion that the minors were not eligible to become enrolled members. The minors being “naturalized members” of the tribe is insufficient to trigger ICWA. Thus, the juvenile court did not err in finding that ICWA did not apply.