When the State seeks to terminate a person’s parental rights to an Indian child, it must comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law aimed at promoting the stability of Indian tribes and families. In this case, the majority held that the state court did not have reason to know that the children involved might be Indian. Abrahamson dissented and argued that a father’s assertion that his children had Indian heritage, even if he could not identify the tribe, was sufficient to trigger the federal law.
Teague v. Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, 2003 WI 118, 265 Wis. 2d 64, 655 N.W.2d 899
Sometimes an Indian tribal court and a state court have concurrent jurisdiction over a civil dispute. Ultimately, one court must yield to the other—but how do they decide? Abrahamson, writing for the majority, reinforced an earlier ruling that when tribal and state courts realize that they have concurrent jurisdiction over a dispute they should apply principles of comity to determine which court should proceed. Then she listed 13 comity principles and explained how their application fosters tribal self-government and collaboration between tribal and state courts.