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Bitter custody battle and a brother’s fight to fulfill his sister’s dying wish

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 White and Brandon Rickard were both the victims of a fatal car accident back in December and now her brother is in a bitter custody battle to get her two youngest children but is being denied custody because he does not reside on the Tuscarora nation near Lewiston, New York. The children are currently living with an extended family member who is not Tuscarora along with his non-Native wife.

Danyle White and Brandon Rickard were both the victims of a fatal car accident back in December and now her brother is in a bitter custody battle to get her two youngest children but is being denied custody because he does not reside on the Tuscarora nation near Lewiston, New York. The children are currently living with an extended family member who is not Tuscarora along with his non-Native wife.

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.”

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Jen MtPleasant

Jen MtPleasant

Tuscarora Nation. Honours BA Criminology, Class of 2013. Advocate for missing and murdered ogwehoweh men and women. @JenMtPleasant

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3 Comments

  • Christine Budnack
    May 29, 2014, 10:05 am

    complete bullsh** here, the children should go to family and there should be no requirement to where they live, they are young and not even in school at ages 3 and 4, you can teach heritage anywhere, it does not have to be on the reservation, that’s bullsh**. It doesn’t even say if the father is Indian or not, and why would you give the kids to non-indians who live there and why are they living there to start with? Isn’t that illegal? you have to be part Indian or married to one to live there. alot of double talk and standards here. The intention is to give the children the best parental out come possible and as long as the brother teaches them culture and heritage I see zero problem other than nutbags in charge doing this to the poor uncle and children.

    REPLY
    • Jen MtPleasant@Christine Budnack
      May 30, 2014, 7:30 am

      Christine, the article says that the father is Brandon Rickard who was from the Tuscarora Reserve. And the article never stated that the couple who has the kids now are both non-native: the man is non-Tuscarora not non-Native. I am not sure what nation he belongs to. His wife is non-Native.

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  • Laura Walk
    May 29, 2014, 12:49 am

    I think that this is complete bullshit (based off the article assuming everything is accurate)!!!! Those poor kids already lost both parents in such a tragic way and then they’re placed with people they don’t even know for the simple fact their uncle doesn’t live on the res????? That’s crazy, I understand wanting to teach them about their culture/heritage/traditions and I’m all for it but why jeopardize the children’s happiness or familiarity with the family they already know? Why can’t they compromise, maybe have the children reside with the uncle (even off res) as long as he’s willing to keep the kids enrolled in school on the res as well as participation in all special events?? It should be in the children’s best interest not the adults.

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