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2023 Indian Child Welfare and Wellness Conference to be held in person July 25-27

2023 Indian Child Welfare and Wellness Conference to be held in person July 25-27

BISMARCK, ND - The 22nd annual Indian Child Welfare and Wellness Conference, titled “Honoring the Past, Healing the Present, Shaping the Future,” will be held July 25-27, at Sky Dancer Casino and Resort in Belcourt, N.D.  

Hosted by the Native American Training Institute (NATI), in partnership with North Dakota Health and Human Services’ Children and Family Services Section, the conference features experts on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), as well as training for professionals on topics including family preservation, human trafficking in indigenous communities, and ethics.  

“We would like to welcome everyone to our 22nd annual conference. We are pleased to announce that it will be held in person. This year’s conference has significant meaning due to the reaffirmation of ICWA by the U.S. Supreme Court. Being a critical piece of legislation, it recognizes that we are in fact healing the present, reshaping the future of Indigenous children and creating better outcomes for their families this very moment in time,” said NATI Executive Director Gillian Plenty Chief. 

The conference will begin July 25 with a pre-conference session titled “ICWA 101” led by nationally recognized expert Judge William Thorne from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Opening-day programming continues at 11 a.m. with the official conference welcome, opening prayer, flag song, proclamation, and opening remarks followed by a luncheon session titled “ND ICWA Law.” The afternoon will include general sessions “Turtle Mountain History and Culture“ by Les LaFountain, “The Indian Child Welfare Act in a post-Brackeen America” featuring Dan Lewernz, University of North Dakota School of Law faculty and former staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Washington D.C.; and a panel discussion on ethics moderated by Deb DeWitz from Family Resources Consultants in Moorhead, Minn.  

Day two of the conference begins at 8:30 a.m. CT, with a general session titled “Introduction to Substance Use Disorders,” by Dr. Melissa Henke, medical director at Heartview and member of the Recovery Reinvented Advisory Council, followed by another general session titled “SOAR for Indigenous Communities: Understanding Human Trafficking,” featuring Anne LaFrinier-Ritchie from the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center.  

A variety of breakout sessions on child welfare, wellness, and the court will be held from 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on day two. The afternoon concludes with the announcement of the ICWA Champion Award winner. Evening entertainment will be provided by Donna Lunday and dancers at 6 p.m. in which traditional dance of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa will be presented.  

The final day of the conference begins with an opening prayer, flag song, and welcome, then proceeds with general sessions by Shana King and Donna Lunday, closing remarks, and the final star quilt drawing.   


People can register in advance or onsite. Registration is $260 and includes all scheduled events, meals, and entry for daily star quilt drawings. Individuals can, if they prefer, register for specific days for $100 per day. The foster parent, student and elder conference registration rate is $65 or a daily rate of $25. All conference details are online at https://nativeinstitute.org. The registration form can be downloaded directly from the website.    

Four drawings for star quilts will be held during the conference. Individuals must be present to win.  

This conference has been approved for ND Wraparound Certification and up to 13.5 Continuing Education Units to include ethics. 

For questions, contact NATI by phone at (701) 255-6374, fax (701) 255-6394, email at info@nativeinstitute.org.  

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