TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Principal Chief Bill John Baker said Wednesday Dusten Brown deserves to be heard.
Brown is the biological father of "Baby Veronica," who is at the center of a custody battle involving a South Carolina couple and the Indian Child Welfare Act.
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He is being charged with felony custodial interference in South Carolina for failing to turn Veronica over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the South Carolina couple who were named her legal parents last month.
On Tuesday, the Capobiancos arrived in Oklahoma in an effort to take their daughter back home. On Wednesday they called a press conference, saying they've been denied requests to see their daughter.
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The Cherokee Nation chief weighed in on the matter following the press conference:
"The Capobiancos have requested the Cherokee Nation and Dusten Brown to follow the South Carolina court's order, but they forget that Dusten Brown has the same rights to have his arguments heard before our Oklahoma courts and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court. We respectfully ask the Capobiancos to allow that due process. The Cherokee people throughout time have stood our ground and for the rights of our people, and this is no different. We will continue to stand by Dusten and his biological daughter, Veronica, and for what is right."
Brown claimed Veronica's biological mother gave her up for adoption without his knowledge and that because of the Indian child Welfare Act, a federal law that gives relatives and tribes a say over Native American children, he deserved custody.
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Initially a South Carolina court agreed, but the Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled ICWA was not applicable to the case because Brown was a non-custodial parent.
That decision sent the custody case back to South Carolina, which named the Capobiancos the rightful parents of Veronica.