FROM: Mike W. Ray, Media Director

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division

March 20, 1995

Contact:  State Rep. Russ Roach
          Capitol: (405) 521-2711
          Tulsa: (918) 743-1935

Author of Indian Child-Custody Bill
Vows to Continue Despite Setback

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Although a bill to clarify state law pertaining 
to custody of Indian children in domestic disputes was soundly 
defeated on the House floor last week, "I'm not giving up," the 
author of the measure vowed Monday.

The obituary on the death of the concepts embodied in House Bill 
1966 "was premature," said Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa. "It took me 
four years to pass tax-increment financing. I don't intend to 
give up until the rights of Indian parents are written into 
state law."

Roach said he introduced the bill because, "Indian tribes treat 
their own members in a paternalistic manner," asserting that the 
tribes think they "can make better decisions" about the 
voluntary placement of children than the parents themselves can.

"After years of complaining that the federal government treats 
Indians in a paternalistic fashion, I find that ironic," Roach 
said. There were general provisions of HB 1966 which benefitted 
Indians.  These were:

 Indian tribes would be prohibited from interfering in 
child-custody matters stemming from divorce proceedings. "We 
don't even allow the State of Oklahoma to interfere unless there 
is compelling evidence a parent has done something wrong," Roach 
said. "Interference from Indian lawyers is just as bad as 
interference from state-government bureaucrats."

 An Indian child placed in a non-Indian home would have to be 
informed of his/her tribal affiliation when they turn 18 years 

 Indian tribes would have been permitted to access federal funds 
when resolving difficult placement cases, such as those 
involving handicapped children. During his tenure in the 
Legislature, "I have learned that right doesn't always prevail 
on the House or Senate floor," the fifth-term lawmaker said. 
"False information has won many a legislative debate."

Even though HB 1966 was defeated in the House by a vote of 
10-90, "I intend to proceed in behalf of Indian children, who 
also are entitled to the state's protection," Roach vowed. "Even 
Indian attorneys told me there was nothing wrong with my bill," 
he said.

Many then told members to vote against the bill without 
informing Roach. "After you sit down and invite participation 
and discussion, and then people turn around and knife you in the 
back, it just intensifies your commitment."