Students make pins to raise awareness of ICWA


Ayanna Allen/NW

TOGETHER – NMU’s Walking the Path Together set up outside the Jamrich Hall lobby to raise awareness about the Indian Child Welfare Act through button making. (left – Molly Miller, student at NMU right – Sierra Ayres, program coordinator of WPT)

Yesterday Northern Michigan University’s Walking the Path Together grant program held a button making event to raise awareness of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, the ICWA of 1978 is a federal law that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian children. The law was enacted after the federal government recognized that American Indian children were being removed from their homes and communities at a much higher rate than non-Native children.

“We wanted to give people kind of a fun and visual way to talk about this,” said Sierra Ayres, program coordinator for Walking the Path Together. “We got some bright-colored buttons that are well designed by our wonderful graduate assistant and so they are kind of a conversation starter.”

The grant program is based out of NMU’s Social Work department along with the Center for Native American Studies. Together, both programs work with tribal victim service programs in the Upper Peninsula to empower victim services in rural tribal nation communities by fostering a critical understanding of indigenous ways of engaging supportive pathways to higher education according to WPT’s website.

“We also work with colleges in the U.P. to help support barrier-free pathways for students who are interested in transferring to Northern or continuing their education at Northern,” Ayres said. “Just giving … support for those students coming here … so that they stay here and graduate.”

If anyone is looking for more information on ICWA or ways to help, reach out to the WPT program on their social media or to the National Indian Child Welfare Association.