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Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe: Adoption fight over 6-month-old baby

Baby Talon has been removed from one family and given to another.

Talon is the 6-month-old boy in the middle of a legal battle that made national headlines this week.

His adoptive mother and father were forced on Sunday to relinquish the infant to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe after a court ruling gave Talon to the tribe.

Leech Lake representatives took custody of Talon in Utah and were expected to place him in foster care within the Leech Lake tribe.

Talon's birth mother decided before he was born to give the child up for adoption through the Heart and Soul Adoption Agency.

Talon's adoptive parents, Clint and Heather Larson of Utah, were present at his June 9 birth - they had even developed a relationship with the birth mother before Talon was born - and vigorously fought the tribe's efforts to claim the infant.

But, the tribe cited the federal Indian Child Welfare Act - designed to keep American Indian children with Indian families - and the courts sided with the tribe.

The Clint and Heather Larson, and their 7-year-old son, said goodbye to Talon on Sunday, placing him in a minivan bound for northern Minnesota.

"It's hard," Heather Larson said an interview with the Pioneer on Wednesday. "We're going by on a wing and a prayer."

No option for future visits or contact has been extended to them, she said.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978. In the 1960s and 1970s, Indian children were about six times more likely to be placed in foster care than other children and many were placed in non-Indian homes or institutions, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

In Talon's case, the birth mother did sign the adoption papers, but changed her mind within days of Talon's birth, and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe began fighting to reclaim the child.

The Larsons' argument in courts was that an individual needs to be at least one-fourth Indian to be eligible for tribal membership.

"We knew he was partly Native, but according to the Constitution, he is not able to be enrolled in the tribe," Heather Larson said, saying that Talon does not meet that requirement. The Larsons say Talon is 3/16 Indian, 1/16 short of the requirement.

She said the Larsons tried to contact the Leech Lake tribe prior to Talon's birth to ensure there would not be any issues, but the tribe would not contact them.

The Larsons do not know what they will do next. An appeal is possible, but expen-sive, and not outcome is guar-anteed.

"We don't know what our course of action will be," Heather Larson said.

Frank Bibeau, the Leech Lake attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.