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Elk County Woman Fights The Seneca Nation For Custody of Her Daughter
POSTED: 6:14 pm EDT October 19, 2007
UPDATED: 7:20 pm EDT October 19, 2007
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ST. MARYS, Pa. -- An Elk County woman is fighting the Seneca Nation of Indians for custody of her four-year-old daughter.
Amanda Prechtel lost custody of her daughter, Marissa, after the girl's father petitioned for custody in a Seneca Nation court, in Salamanca, N.Y.
Since the Seneca Nation is a sovereign government, the U.S. Constitution is not binding there.
Now, Prechtel must schedule visits with her daughter, that normally take place in fast-food restaurants near the New York border.
According to Prechtel, she does not carry a grudge against Native Americans.
"I just want Marissa brought home," she said.
1. Marissa has never been determined that she is a Seneca Nation tribe member. It is submitted that her natural father has been determined to be a tribe member to the SNI tribe. By tribal law registration to a tribe is through the lineage of the natural mother (because the Seneca Nations are a Matrilineal heritage meaning that their bloodlines run exclusively through their mothers) and NOT the natural father. Thus the courts determined the child is a tribe member through her father is not supported through the tribal law. Since the natural mother is a non- native she can not register Marissa as a member of the SNI tribe. Therefore they can't declare her a member of the SNI Tribe and has acted improperly by removing her without determining her to be a SNI tribe member. It is believed that this is a violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. In essence they put the cart before the horse in determining they have jurisdiction over Marissa but can't say she is a member of the Seneca Nation Tribe. http://www.sni.org/gen.html
Definition of an Indian Child Per the Indian Child Welfare Act - Any unmarried person under the age of 18 and is either
A. A member of an Indian tribe or
B. Is eligible for membership in an Indian Tribe (refer to top that she is not eligible) and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe.
2. Tribal laws require that tribal elders must be consulted where a legitimate dispute of primary caregiver is going to be transferred. The code submits that the court must consult a tribal elder as defined in the federal act, they must be consulted and affirm the decision of the Peacemakers Court where transfer of custody is to be even considered. It is also noted that is is believed that an elder must affirm the decision of the Peacemakers Court before a transfer of custody from the primary caregivers. This did not occur in Amanda's case.
3.There has been an error at Law and the Due Process Right of Marissa has been violated. The Peacemakers Court has not followed the federal code and cease law thus making their court decision a violation as matter of law.
4. The Court of Common Pleas of Elk County, Pennsylvania has relinquished jurisdiction over the parties (Amanda and Marissa) which is not understood because Marissa was born in Pennsylvania and has lived their with her mother and sister all her life. She never resided in New York or on the Seneca Nation Indian Reservation. We are guessing that the Judge in Elk County assumed that the SNI Peacemakers Court investigated the matter of whether or not Marissa was an Indian Child and had their paperwork in order. Bad assumption, this was not the case.
5. Everything was started in The Court of Common Pleas of McKean County with an order for genetic testing and then an order for support. This was established in April of 2005 where he was "hit up" (his words) and ordered to pay back child support. This was brought up in the SNI Peacemakers Court at one of the hearings. Amanda has no control over how his arrears were derived so what bearing does this have on her as a mother. This was an issue discussed in determining Amanda's ability as a mother and that custody belonged to Marissa's father because he had to pay backed child support.
6. The best interest of the child and the permanent welfare of Marissa hasn't been considered as she has never resided on a permanent basis with her natural father. All relevant data would indicate the child has always resided with her mother and her sister. The child was stripped from her mothers care with out any consideration or professional opinions. The SNI Peacemakers court has failed to consider the Psychological effects on the child, her sister, or the long term effects of removing Marissa from her only known caregiver.
7. Never has Amanda been reported to any Children Youth and Family services about the care she has provided for her children. Her children have never been at risk and their safety has never been questioned. EVER!
8. Amanda and her children are involved in the activities and programs in the community, school, church, library, parks, etc. in Marissa's hometown of Saint Marys Pennsylvania. Marissa has NEVER been involved in any activities located on the Seneca Indian Reservation.
9. Psychological theory of separation from the person that was the primary caregiver will have irreparable damages to the parent child relationship between mother and child. The Peacemakers Court failed to consider the harm and effect of the child and that if custody transfer was necessary, a slow and gradual transition is the preferred manor of transfer between the parties and child. This is to minimize the potential or actual psychological harm on the child and to maintain the integrity of the mother, child relationship. According to both federal and tribal laws the Peacemakers must consider the conduct to the parties and which a parent is physically bonded with the child. The SNI Peacemakers finding of the facts are devoid of such findings as to support or warrant a transfer of custody from mother to father. The child's interest were not protected as the Peacemakers code requires that the court focus on the needs of the child and not the interest of the parents.
10. This is not the first run in that the SNI Peacemakers court has had with "non-native" white women and custody issues. This happened to another four year old little boy earlier this year http://forum.americanindiantribe.com/vi … hp?p=56159 and http://www.kourtsforkids.org/index.php? … amp;id=554 see for yourself.
Any questions or comments please email me at Marissa's Family
Here is another site you might be interested in looking at http://www.senecajustice.com/
This is Amandas site. Some interesting facts here.
Maybe they were just waiting for new judges which were elected on the 6th. MAYBE!
Senecas Decide Custody Battle
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Posted by: kristin donnelly, reporter
Created: 11/9/2007 10:15:29 PM
Updated: 11/10/2007 12:35:47 PM
The custody battle is over four-year-old Marissa. Her mother says it's been a struggle fighting for custody of her daughter because it's not going on in a United States courtroom. It was decided by three judges from the Seneca nation in what's called Peacemaker's court.
Marissa's father, a member of the Seneca nation, brought the matter to Peacemaker's court this summer and was awarded custody of the little girl.
Prior to that, she had lived with her mother, visiting her father weekly.
Amanda Prechtel, Marissa's Mom says, "It's heartbreaking to have to send her back. She's lived here all her life and I've taken care of her."
Now, Prechtel only sees her daughter on weekends. She believes the custody case went in the father's favor because he is a Seneca and she is not.
Prechtel, "You feel like they don't want you. You're not welcome especially now that this has come out."
Marissa's father, Kevin McGonnell says he may be a Seneca, but any courtroom would have made the same decision.
Kevin McGonnell, "They're using the Seneca Nation as an excuse for the ruling to be made, the problem was not with the Senecas."
Reporter, "Why go through the Seneca's court?"
McGonnell, "Cause I am Seneca it's part of my heritage," he adds later, "me being a Seneca, its my right to go to these courts."
But, Marissa's mother says it would make a difference and she will keep appealing until they give her daughter back.
Lots of comments here also!
http://www.topix.net/forum/source/wgrz/ … FAIIG5K72U