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Girl's 'cultural identity' rights considered

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A United Nations official who focuses on the status of indigenous people called on state, federal and tribal authorities on Tuesday to ensure that the rights of a nearly 4-year-old girl in the middle of a custody dispute are considered.

James Anaya said in a statement that authorities should consider Veronica's rights to maintain her “cultural identity” as a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Veronica's father, Dusten Brown, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, has been fighting for custody of the girl with a South Carolina couple who adopted her.

“Veronica's human rights as a child and as (a) member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Anaya said. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.”

Veronica's birth mother, who is not Native American, was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and the South Carolina couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. But Brown and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.

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