Tuscarora Reservation – It has been almost five months since a fatal car accident took the lives of a young Tuscarora couple, Danyle White, 29 and Brandon Rickard, 32. Now, White’s brother is trying to get custody of his sister’s two youngest children, ages 3 and 4 in a battle that is turning out to be not just a fight with the Child Protection Services but which is causing a rift among members of the Tuscarora community as well.
Danyle’s two youngest children are enduring a traumatic and bitter custody battle. Chadd White, the brother of Danyle, stated that he has been trying to get custody of his sister’s two youngest children ever since her fatal accident back in December but was told by the leaders of the Tuscarora nation that he should not have the children because he does not reside on the reservation.
In an interview with the Two Row Times, White stated that his family, including his sister Danyle spent most of their lives growing up off-reserve in Niagara Falls, New York. Three years ago, Danyle moved to Tuscarora with her partner Brandon Rickard and their children. Danyle shared her two youngest children with Rickard.
White was told that all enrolled Tuscarora children must stay on the territory in the event their parents pass away or their parents can no longer care for them. Temporary custody has been given to a ‘half-brother’ of Danyle’s mother. A man who, according to White, has never had any contact with Danyle’s children prior to the accident. “The man is a stranger to my sister’s children,” stated White.
What is even more puzzling is that the man who currently has Danyle’s two youngest children is not Tuscarora, but has been living on the territory with his non-Native wife. Right now, White is being told that he cannot have custody of Danyle’s two youngest children because, although he is Tuscarora, he does not reside on the territory.
Both Danyle’s parents are deceased and Brandon’s father is deceased as well. The traditional government of Tuscarora has stepped in to decide what will happen with Danyle’s children. But White states that his sister told him before she passed away that if anything were to happen to her or Brandon, she wanted him to take care of the two youngest while the two oldest would go to their father.
Despite Danyle’s wishes for her children, White was told at a community meeting that, “It has to be put in writing nowadays. If that’s what she (Danyle) wanted, she should have made up a letter.” But she didn’t and now the community has decided to by-pass Danyle’s immediate family and hand over custody to an extended family member. Someone who never even knew or showed interest in Danyle’s children, until after she passed away and who is not Tuscarora.
White stated that he has great communication with the father of Danyle’s two oldest children, James Huggins. “We keep the kids together as much as possible,” explained White. “When they’re all together, they’re happy.” At this point White gets his sister’s two youngest children on weekends and while he has them, he stays in close contact with Huggins, to make sure all four of Danyle’s children are together as much as possible.
White is currently going through the courts to fight for his sister’s young children. “My sister died on Dec 30. On January 6, I arranged a meeting with the Tuscarora Council to try and get custody through the Nation.
Their biggest concern was that I didn’t live on the Tuscarora Reserve and they said the children needed to stay on the territory so that they can learn their culture and traditions. Yet they want to give custody to a non-Tuscarora man whose wife is non-Native, and somehow they are both allowed to live on the reserve.”
To make matters worse for White, Brandon Rickard’s mother, who is non-Native, took White to county court and was granted guardianship. However, her intention was not to raise her grandchildren. After she was granted custody, she asked the court that the children be handed over to the non-Tuscarora man and his non-Native wife, who reside on the Tuscarora Nation.
White stated, “These people are trying to take my sister’s kids and they don’t even know who the kids are. They’ve never paid any attention to them until now. I’m being told that I can’t have custody of my sister’s children and they’re not even giving me a reason why.”