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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jazz at the Native American Music Awards? Join the discussion!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

My friend Marc Bowlegs Anderson, a jazz guitarist of Oklahoma Seminole descent, has instigated a spirited discussion regarding the absence of separate categories for jazz and classical recordings at the Native American Music Awards, now in its 12th year.

The Nammys currently place all jazz and classical nominees in a catch-all category labeled “instrumental,” although there are probably as many jazz and classical recordings with vocals as there are without.

The Nammys require a minimum of six nominations in each of the 28 categories that they currently recognize. They haven’t received the minimum six, they say, six this year, six last year and six next year to create the category.

Marc wrote to the Nammys: “The NAMMYS should take a proactive approach…and foster participation in jazz and classical music by offering these awards without regard to the number of entries in any year. This can only enhance the diversity and visibility of the NAMMYS and will certainly serve Native Classical and Jazz musicians well, thereby benefiting the entire Native American music community.”

The Nammys replied to Marc: “In our earlier years, we actually had a combined jazz/blues category. Over time, the jazz recording submissions vanished and were non-existent and thus gave way to a complete Blues category, as evidenced today. We are still attempting to hold on to the classical field through our Instrumental category.

"However, we continue to honor jazz and classical musicians with special awards as we have in the past with artists as Frederick Whiteface with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Jim Pepper - Hall of Fame, etc. and allow all jazz and classical artists to submit their recordings in whatever category they feel they are qualified to enter.

"We did not ask the Grammys to "break their rules", when we submitted the Native American music category proposal and sought their approval. In fact, we had to prove a marketplace existed five years prior and five years ahead showing hundreds of recordings each year in both the traditional and contemporary fields just to create ONE category for our genre. The same obviously does not apply to suggesting new categories in the Nammys, but to maintain our credibility among the mainstream music industry and media and keep the fairness among all competing categories - we require a minimum number of entries of six recordings for that year and continuous years just like any other national music awards show."

It’s a complicated subject. I intend to return to it several times over the coming months, any number of times going forward.

The argument is only in part about which should come first, the chicken or the egg, six entries each year for the foreseeable future or the category.

Music is often not easy to categorize or label, and that fact points to a separate but related issue, the arbitrariness of the nomenclature itself.

Coming off the stage after his set at the Isle of Wight music festival, Miles Davis was asked the name of whatever it was that his band had just performed. Miles said, “Call it anything,” and that’s how its labeled on the album.

There’s art, and then there are labels and categories.

Then there is the much larger issue of how Native American music and musicians are perceived and categorized by the recording industry and recognized by the Grammys, its annual self-promotional showcase. The Grammys bestows awards, prestige and other support to artists in 109 categories.

In each of the past 12 years the Nammys have demonstrated the broad diversity of Native American music, while in an entirely separate process the Grammys distills all of Native American music down to one performer per year, regardless of genre.

This discussion reaches to how Native American music is categorized and marketed in record store bins, often clustered with “World Music”, irony noted….

The six-entry rule bars recognition of a lot of Indian talent. Robbie Robertson is an easy example. Among his accomplishments are movie scores for “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York”. The music itself was not “Native”, but regardless, the Nammys are not likely to get six Best Score or Best Song Soundtrack for Motion Picture or Television any time soon. The only option was to award Robbie a Lifetime Achievement Nammy, which he earned for his time with The Band and Bob Dylan alone.

There should be a way to recognize the accomplishment for the accomplishment.

It’s not like there isn’t any Native American jazz or classical music close at hand….

Gabriel Ayala, the Yaqui guitarist, won the 2010 Best World Music Nammy with a recording of Spanish classical guitar music. Most record stores consider World music to be synonymous with indigenous music, not the Spanish classical canon.

On awards night, Gabriel performed a medley of Concierto de Aranjuez (as popularized by Miles Davis) and Chick Corea’s Spain, and that was jazz played on a classical guitar. Gabriel Ayala plays classical and jazz guitar on the same instrument, in the same performance.

His Nammy performance included this duet with Skylar Wolf. Feel free to put a label on it, to place it in a single category. Is it Indian music? Sure, but then what…?

Here are some thoughts going forward:

Muskokee Creek poet and musician Joy Harjo, last year’s Female Artist of the Year at the Nammys, has a new multimedia show titled “We were there when jazz was invented,” featuring her band, three Oklahoma stomp dancers and video.

The Nammies could make a powerful statement about Native Americans in jazz by featuring Joy Harjo’s program at the 2011 Nammys, I’m just saying….

And while we’re at it, let’s nominate Choctaw brother the late Don Cherry for the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame, to join his soul mate Jim Pepper there….

And then there’s the late Don Pullen, whose “Sacred Common Ground” with the Chief Cliff Singers (Kootenai) is just as astonishing a concept today as it was when recorded shortly before his death….

I’m just saying….

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oregon Indian wars to be continued? You can bet on it!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Some sell snake oil, some sling the venom….

The two shiny-suited Lake Oswego hucksters fronting the recent attempt to build a foreign-owned private megacasino at the former greyhound track in Wood Village have announced that they—like the clap—will be back.

A 2-to-1 defeat at the polls would usually kill off most expensive, grandiose political schemes, particularly one as poorly thought out as the Measure 75 campaign was, but the Wood Village Casino zombie lives.

The promoters smell the sweet scent of hundreds of millions of dollars in the distance, even if nearly all of that fortune is money siphoned off from existing businesses and that comes at onerous social cost.

They are counting on a single element to work eventually in their favor: Indians. To be precise, they are counting on attitudes towards Indians and the threat of more Indians to motivate voters to choose to make the promoters rich.

The key lesson learned in the recent Measure 75 campaign was that no privately owned casino can possibly be built in Oregon without mustering up the votes to pass multiple constitutional amendments and to force other substantive changes in state law, although many voters probably misunderstood these prohibitive legal realities.

Since the Wood Village Casino complex creates nothing of new value to Oregon beyond the short-term construction jobs needed to build it, the promoters realize that they can make no compelling argument to persuade Oregon voters to grant them an exclusive license to enrich themselves on fiscal grounds alone.

As the M75 campaign demonstrated, their strategy in the future will be to mount an organized effort to dredge up anti-Indian resentments and to leverage that hostility into votes.

There is no other path to the place they want to lead Oregon.

The core of their business plan will continue to depend upon instigating and increasing hostile attitudes among the general public towards Oregon’s indigenous populations in general, against its nine Confederated Tribes in particular, and by conjuring up the threat that other Indians might build a casino north of the Columbia River in Southwest Washington.

This strategy is shamefully consistent with the history of the state.

The Oregon Territory was founded as a whites-only paradise. The Oregon Provisional Government authorized land claims to white settlers of 640 acres apiece for free, while early law and actual practice barred non-whites from land ownership and even from residing in the Territory.

The pioneers swarmed into Oregon and took all of the best, most productive land, destroying food sources that had sustained Native people for thousands of years in the process, introducing lethal new diseases and murdering any Indians who stood in the way.

Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Act in 1850, offering free 160- and 320-acre tracts of land to white settlers only, years before the tribes were forced at gunpoint into treaties ceding the land. By the time the Act expired in 1855, white settlers had laid claim to 7,437 patents covering two and a half million acres of free land in Oregon.

These patents formed the foundation of many Oregon family fortunes, and the state’s founding fathers enshrined those racially discriminatory practices and attitudes in the Constitution itself.

Later generations passed the Dawes Allotment Act in 1887, the Surplus Land Act of 1901, and the Termination Act of 1954, all for the purpose of transferring Indian land and resources into white ownership. During this entire period, the federal government subjected Native American children to forced removal from their families and sent them to boarding schools en masse.

Extermination of the race was seen as a side benefit to these policies.

But reciting these facts merely annoys many people, nearly one third of the electorate in the last election cycle, as the M75 vote illustrates.

We can expect to see a lot of money spent on snake oil, on misinformation and on the usual mudslinging when the Wood Village Casino promoters ramp up their next campaign, but what will characterize their efforts more than any other single aspect will be the venom.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 3: Aaron's Law: A very personal piece of legislation

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

We were standing near the top of the hill, where my son’s gravesite lay waiting, that sunny day in May, at a place called El Dorado Hills, California.

I had never seen this place before. It was a field of strangers. No friends or family relations were buried here, the cemetery itself no more than 12 years old. There were no connections here, no family traditions, no history here, he was alone here. It was his mother’s choice to bury him here, to park his body here alone. My son was about to be parked here in this place.

I listened dumbfounded as my son’s mother continued her tearless matter-of-fact story, speaking about Aaron, about how he was sick back there in Payson, Utah, seriously ill; about how she had hoped he would agree to move to Hawaii and live with his sister, that maybe living in Hawaii would be good for his health; “But,” she said, “I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

She didn’t think he was going to make it? Did she just say that she didn’t think he would live? Yes! I was stunned and sickened. Again. Only a few days earlier, she had described the last time she had seen Aaron alive, about how he was sick and feverish and how she had left him alone with a sack of groceries and some Heavenly Father stories so she could join her new Mormon husband—the fifth time is the charm they say—who was waiting impatiently across town to get back to his dental practice in—El Dorado Hills!

So they had left Aaron alone, sick and feverish, that part was clear, and we were here in El Dorado Hills because it was convenient, because it was a good place to park, but most of all we were here because Aaron had died from lack of medical care….

My son’s mother plainfaced told the gathering on this grassy knoll that she did not think Aaron would live to board a flight to Hawaii, he was acutely ill, he was desperately ill. She thought he might die before he got out of Payson, Utah, where she had left him behind, and she was telling us all about it.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and what was not said was that she had made no effort at all to get my son medical care, not in Utah where she had left him behind, and not in El Dorado Hills, where she was busy with her new life now, in El Dorado Hills where there was no room for Aaron, not while he was alive, just this patch of hillside….

Aaron had needed hospitalization, urgently, and this was no secret, he had been ill for years, suffering there isolated in that rat hole in the Mormon desert, where they had drained the life out of him rather than let him be happy and free to be with me, to be himself, that’s the real Mormon way….

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and then she assured us all that she had seen that Aaron knew all about Heavenly Father before he died, she had done her job you see, shedding no tears, she was devout, and that’s what counts….

Gina had told me that her new white-haired husband number five Ben Foulk had a dental practice but that he was mostly retired, that he had sung with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which must have made him a real catch in Mormon country I suppose, and that his ex-wife was putting a lot of pressure on his wallet, and this was the general impression I had at the time, which turned out to be only a partly true story….

I was angry with her, could not understand why her husband had taken no interest in his new wife’s son, in obvious critical need of medical care, didn’t this man have a medical degree?

She did not want to get her new husband upset over Aaron, she told me, speak-his-own-mind unMormon non-Mormon Aaron. She had told me in the hospital that Ben Foulk wouldn’t have understood Aaron, would have been impatient with his drug history and she did not want to upset the great man, former singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir….

This explained why Aaron had received no invitation to travel to El Dorado Hills.

Years later, a couple of years ago, I learned about the string of senior care centers that Ben and Gina Foulk own and operate, offering skilled medical care to those in their tender years….

El Dorado Hills Senior Care Village

Oak Haven Senior Care Village

Oak Creek Senior Care

Oak Grove Senior Care

Oak Hill Senior Care

Oak Ridge Senior Care

"Located in beautiful El Dorado Hills, California"

  • 24-Hour Responsive, Compassionate Care
  • Fresh Healthy Home Cooked Meals
  • Private Rooms with Private Bathrooms
  • Enjoyable Social and Recreational Activities
  • Music, Arts, Crafts,  and Games
  • Assistance with Bathing, & Personal Hygiene
  • Medication Management & Assistance
  • Manicured Landscaping with Paved Walkways
  • Scheduled Transportation to Appointments
  • Personal Housekeeping and Laundry Services
  • On-Site Salon Services

“Please take time to visit us and see for yourself why El Dorado Hills Senior Care Villageis considered one of the best resident care facilities for the elderly in the El Dorado Hills area,” so the brochure reads….

She had hoped that someone else would take care of Aaron, someone besides herself, had hoped he would just get on that plane to Hawaii and be his sister’s problem. That’s the way she was, our children having spent their entire lives making the world happy for their mother, no relief from that burden once they were taken into concealment in Utah, not then, not since, not now. They are locked into the Mormon world, keeping the world safe for Mom, fighting against evil non-Mormons….

Aaron Cruz suffered a seizure and died in Payson Utah after having run out of his prescription meds, his anti-seizure meds, alone in his mother’s left-behind empty house. He had also probably been unable to get to the methadone clinic a dozen miles away in Orem, adding to his suffering. His mother grabbed all of Aaron’s medical records, where they remain concealed behind a wall of Foulk lawyers.

I was back at my desk in the Oregon Senate Monday morning following the burial, where I led the workgroup on Senator Gordly’s landmark child abduction bill, SB 1041.

Senate Bill 1041 had its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 25, National Missing Children’s Day, where I testified on the abduction of my children and the death of my son.

Senate Bill 1041, creating a new path to prevent and resolve child abductions through a civil process outside of both the family law and criminal law systems that routinely fail to protect children from non-stranger abductions, would require ten major rewrites and would benefit from the near-record length of the 2005 legislative session, would need every hour of that time. No other state in the US has a law like this….

On August 1, 2005, the Oregon Senate passed SB 1041 on a 26-3 vote, the same day that I received the Utah Medical Examiner’s report on Aaron’s death, from “undetermined” causes. It was waiting in the mail for me when I got home that night. The report identified my son as “white.” That would need correction.

Passing the Senate was an important step but we were only just arriving at the legislative halfway point, and it had taken months to get here. SB 1041 would yet have to get through the entire House process, and the end of the 2005 session could come at any time. We were entering the session’s final week. There were only a handful of bills still alive in the building, and I held no realistic hope that the bill would see the House floor this biennium.

The following evening, however, as Senator Gordly and I prepared to leave the building, we received a call from staff that the House State and Federal Affairs Committee would hear SB 1041 in just 15 minutes. Another two minutes and we would have missed the call and the hearing. We put our briefcases down and walked across the Capitol building to testify.

Representative Linda Flores, a member of the HSFA Committee, took a particular interest in the bill as the hearing unfolded, disclosing that her grandchild had disappeared into Mexico in a parental abduction and had been missing for a year. Her support was crucial, and the bill was voted out of Committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

After the hearing, we first started referring to SB 1041 as Aaron’s Law. It was a very personal piece of legislation. But the session was coming to an end and time had run out….

The next morning, on August 3, in a stunning surprise, Senator Gordly and I arrived at the Capitol to learn that SB 1041 was scheduled for the House floor. Carried by Representative Flores, the Oregon House passed SB 1041, now called “Aaron’s Law”, named for my son Aaron Cruz, on a dramatic unanimous end-of session vote, 59-0 with one member absent.

I stood in the side aisle and received the congratulations of many of the House members. It was a good day for justice, for children at risk of parental and family abduction, although the legislation did not cover children who had already been kidnapped, like my own.

The legislature adjourned the following day.

To be continued….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz.

The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abduction or who otherwise participated materially in the crime, “enticing, taking or keeping” a child in violation of felony Custodial Interference I.

The civil process requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence” instead of the much stricter “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement for conviction in criminal court.

Local law enforcement agencies rarely invest the time and resources required to reach the higher evidentiary standard in parental and family abduction cases, and there the investigations usually end, opening the door for the kidnappings to take place, for the actors to escape justice.

This fact applies in every state in the US, where each year more than 12,000 parental and family abductions lasting longer than six months take place, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

The system itself enables the abductions.

Aaron’s Law anticipates that defendants will lawyer up and that their lawyers will use every legal means to protect their clients, to buy time, to keep justice at bay for as long as the system permits, which is indefinitely, as the Kyron Hormankidnapping currently getting some national attention demonstrates fairly conclusively.

I had to fight against a dozen lawyers in three states, mostly representing myself, year after year, losing every time, as the lawyers won delay after delay, buying long stretches of time for my children’s abductors, despite an Order for Joint Custody that had been in effect for five years at the time my children vanished.

Aaron’s Law provides for the appointment of mental health and legal professionals to protect the abducted child and authorizes the judge to assign the costs to the party or parties who are the cause of the problem.

Aaron’s Law takes the additional step of authorizing the judge to order the parties into counseling sessions directed at educating the parties to the harm that their
conduct is causing the children, at their own expense.

These provisions are designed to address the real-life consequences of parental and family abductions and to deter the parties from carrying out the kidnapping in the first place.

Had Aaron’s Law been on the books in 1995, the Cruz family abduction would not have taken place and Aaron would be alive today. The Mormon non-family members, the Mormon Bishops and other officials who participated in the abduction would not have risked the consequences of Aaron’s Law.

Chris and Kory Wright, Bishop David Holliday, Bishop Donald Taylor and Relief Society President Evelyn Taylor would have all been subject to Aaron’s Law, all ordered financially liable for the damages, all subjected to the public humiliation of counseling directed at educating them to the harm their Mormon absolutism was causing my children and my family.

Aaron’s Law would have been a significant deterrent.

Once the Cruz kidnapping had begun, however, there was no way for them to end it without consequence, and my children’s conversion to Mormonism became their most important line of defense. I would never see my children again except under circumstances under Mormon control. They would never leave Utah except under Mormon supervision.

Aaron was too independent-minded to buy into their force-fed Mormonism, too much like his father, and they made him pay for that in Utah, where his despair became so complete that he began slicing up his arms with a knife at the age of fifteen.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide, that it might help reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero. More than 12,000 of those abductions last longer than six months, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 currently appears on the Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse website, five years after its passage.

There is much work yet to be done on this issue.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oregon's Museum of Missing Children and the child sex trade

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

You are probably not aware that the Oregon State Police maintains a Museum of Missing Children.

Created in 1989, it maintains such a low profile that I did not learn it existed until the summer of 2004, eight long years after my four children had disappeared from Oregon, on their way to concealment in a series of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah.

I discovered the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse website while preparing my testimony for the Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, which held four meetings that year.

It was a shocking discovery, my first clue to the fact that no Oregon law enforcement agency maintains a list of missing or abducted children, not then and not now (see “Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities” for further discussion).

One would think that the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse would have such a list, collected from and shared with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, but that is far from the case.

The site contains a scant 41 names. Some have been missing for decades. The only name added in the past three years is Kyron Horman, last seen in the company of his stepmom, Terri Horman, in June.

Yet Portland has been making the national news recently for its prominence in the child sex trade trafficking business.

In September, Sharyn Alfonsi reported on ABC World News:

“Though Portland, Oregon is considered one of the most livable cities in the U.S., it also has a reputation as the national hub for child sex trafficking.

“In today's Conversation, ABC's Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi talked about Alfonsi's trip to Portland and why middle-class children are getting recruited in a city with the largest legal commercial sex trade (per capita) in the U.S.

“Alfonsi visited the 82nd Avenue strip, also known as "The Track," where there are more than 100 massage parlors and strip clubs. She interviewed child victims their parents and even the pimps.”

These reports are clearly at odds with the OSP list. It is not known what set of circumstances would cause a missing or abducted child’s name to appear on the OSP website, but it would begin with a report from local law enforcement.

Most of the photographs of the 41 missing children on the OSP website appear to be school pictures, and there is a nostalgic sense of looking at old yearbooks, at moments frozen in time, as one gazes at these faces, all but one, Kyron Horman, completely forgotten by all but the once-child’s surviving family members.

There is no cold case squad for missing or abducted children; for most, there isn’t even a warm case squad. If they are still alive, most of these faces belong to adults now, and one can be sure that law enforcement isn’t looking for children-now-adults.

These are photos for a museum, with little effective purpose other than to underscore the fact that abductions are forever, that these are continuing crimes, crimes without end, regardless of the ages of the victims.

To be sure, the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse suffers from inadequate funding, a condition made permanent by the voters themselves when they amended the Constitution in the 1980’s to shift funding from the State Highway Fund to the General Fund, and then made a habit of continually underfunding the agency, biennium after biennium.

Efforts to recover Oregon’s missing and abducted children and to make a dent in the child sex trade that is currently flourishing here are surely hampered by the failure to prioritize the children, a fault shared by state and local law enforcement agencies and by successive legislatures.

The most recent OSP Annual Performance Progress Report posted on the agency website makes no mention of missing children, nor does its proposed Key Performance Measures for the 2009-2011 biennium.

The OSP and the Department of Justice assured the Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions in 2004 that they would implement a rule requiring that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

They never implemented the rule, making this a good time to remind the Oregon legislature and law enforcement agencies around the state, as they plan for the coming 2011 budgeting bloodbath, of the mission of the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse:

“The mission of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to receive and distribute information on missing children to local law enforcement agencies, school districts, state and federal agencies, and the public.  In 1989,the Oregon legislature mandated that OSP establish and maintain a missing children clearinghouse.

“The goal of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to streamline the system, serving child victims and their families by providing assistance to law enforcement agencies and the public.”

Lest they continue to be forgotten, the names of Oregon’s 41 missing children:

The earliest name on the list is Brian page, missing since 1975

Christi Farni and Edward Nye comprise the Class of 1978

Jerry Johnson has been missing since 1982.

Joan Hall vanished in 1983

William Gunn disappeared in 1984

Jeremy Bright and Duane Fochtman have been missing since 1986

Walter Ackerson, Kacey Perry and Rachanda Pickle, Class of 1990

Thomas Gibson made the list in 1991

Ashlyn Wilson vanished in 1995

Annalycia Cruz was an infant weighing 14 pounds when she disappeared in 1996

Aryssa Torabi and Derrick Engebretson, Class of 1998

Five children disappeared in 2001: Shausha Henson, Yuliana Escudero, Kami Vollendroff, Eugene Hyatt and Shaina Kirkpatrick

Carlos Cortez-Leon vanished in 2002

Five more children disappeared in 2004: Karla Coronado, Miriam Cruz-Torres, Schnee Bedford, and siblings Takoda and Tiana Weed

Narcisa Bernadino has been missing since 2005

Five children made the list in 2006: Samuel Boehlke, Nieves Izquierdo-Olea, Esmerelda Salazar-Penaloza, Luis Adrian-Olea, and Yeni Fuentes-Garcia

Seven children vanished in 2007: Jesus Marina-Mendoza, Keely Gigoux, Maria Hidalgo, sisters Savanah and Sierra Ontiveros, Jamie Wiedeman and Jacob Thorpe

According to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, no Oregon children were reported missing in 2008, 2009 or 2010, until Kyron Horman was abducted in June 2010.

Tell that to Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz. The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly and passed on a dramatic end-of-session unanimous House vote in 2005.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) financially accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abductor(s) or who otherwise participated materially in the crime.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide and reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 appears on the OSP website.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

On election to the Oregon Native American Chamber Board

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Members of the Oregon Native American Chamber recently elected me to its nine-member Board of Directors.

I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to make a contribution to ONAC’s mission and to the People the organization serves.

I am grateful for the friendship and support that ONAC members and friends of ONAC contributed to our work to establish the Jim Pepper Chair, the Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund and the Jim Pepper Arts Festival at Portland State University. Their support was vital to our success.

I look forward to working alongside my fellow ONAC Board members on issues of significance to Native American populations statewide and throughout the NW region.

The Portland Metro Area is home to the ninth largest Native American population in the USA, with more than 380 tribes identified in the urban area alone.

ONAC’s mission is:

“We are dedicated to working with all members of the community to advance the educational and economic opportunities for Native Americans in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

ONAC promotes and supports:

“The education, training and cultural understanding of Native Americans, ONAC members and ONAC partners through access to economic development programs, services and resources.

“The development, growth and advancement of Native American businesses, professionals and students in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“Networking to increase business opportunities among Native American businesses, professionals, ONAC members and ONAC partners, thereby strengthening and growing economic opportunity for all communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

I want to invite you to become a member of ONAC. You can thank me later. Find out more here:

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

“Guns drawn, everyone out and down on the ground!”

That’s how the officer described what would happen if the police encountered whoever was driving my freshly-stolen car, just last week.

He wanted me to know this because, although finding the car myself would be extremely unlikely, it does happen, and if I did happen to find it, I should report that fact before driving it anywhere, because I could also find myself facing an abrupt out-of-the-car-and-down-on-the-ground-at-gunpoint situation, and however unlikely that might be, it would be good advice to keep in mind.

Less than two hours after I had reported it stolen, information about my recently-departed red Subaru was already in the Law Enforcement Database and police agencies had been alerted from the Canadian border down to Mexico, and from the Oregon coast eastward to the Mississippi River.

As I listened to the officer, I reflected back nearly fifteen years ago, when I had reported the disappearance of my four children to local law enforcement, taken in what I would learn was a Mormon abduction as much as it was a parental and family abduction, and how differently law enforcement handled the case.

The bottom-line point I want to make here is that while Oregon law enforcement agencies maintain and share lists of stolen vehicles, there is no comparable list of abducted children anywhere throughout the state.

This dichotomy exposes one of the major gaps that abducted children fall through, particularly if the suspected kidnapper is a parent or family member.

The structural problem lies in the fact that local law enforcement agencies handle each case of abducted or missing children in their own way, with little or no sharing of information with other agencies or with the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

The OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse has added only one new name to its short list in the past three years.

The Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions became aware of the problem in 2004 and considered legislation to correct it, but was dissuaded as reported to the Senate President:

“The Task Force considered legislation that would have required that all local law enforcement agencies report missing children to the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

“However, after the State Police and the Department of Justice met and discussed the issue, they determined that the State Police could obtain this information by an administrative process that will automatically notify the Missing Children’s Clearinghouse of all reports of missing children made by state, county and local law enforcement agencies. Consequently, the Task Force decided that this legislation is not needed.” –Final Report, Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, 2004.

It is important to understand what is being stated here:

1. The Task Force wanted to require that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

2. The OSP stated that they could get the information from local law enforcement by administrative rule, convincing the Task Force not to press legislation.

3. The OSP never implemented the rule, which would have created a list of all cases of abducted or missing children reported in Oregon.

The Task Force determined that Oregon has its per capita share of the more than 200,000 cases of parental and family abductions that take place in the USA each year, yet the Oregon State Police has added only one name, that of Kyron Horman, to its Missing Children’s Clearinghouse list in the past three years.

A few months ago, a father from southern Oregon whose 3-year-old daughter went missing with the child’s mother in July contacted me. Local law enforcement had told him that his missing child did not “meet the criteria” for any actual action by law enforcement, including adding his missing child to the State Police list of missing Oregon children, or notifying law enforcement in other jurisdictions of the missing child…and yet there was a child missing….

The phrase “does not meet the criteria” struck me when I took the call, because I was already planning to write about the subject, which came up during a press conference on the Kyron Horman abduction on July 23, when Sheriff Dan Staton
responded to a series of questions, including this one:

Q: How many other children are considered missing/endangered in Multnomah County at this time, aside from Kyron? 

There are no other cases that meet this criteria,” he said.

“This criteria” may have included the fact that one of Kyron’s close family members is a police detective, giving the family instant credibility with law enforcement.

Coupled with the fact that Kyron’s disappearance was originally thought to be a stranger abduction (since no one else was missing), the family’s call to 911 quickly led to the largest search for a missing child in the history of the state.

The OSP could hardly ignore that.

The Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse maintains a list of abducted or otherwise missing children, which stands currently at 41 children.

More than half of these children have been missing for decades, and the only child that has “met the criteria” to make the OSP list in the past three years is Kyron Horman….

The US Department of Justice has reported no decrease in the number of abducted children, tallied at more than 200,000 annually for more than a dozen years, signaling that not enough is being done to address the problem.

People abduct their own children or other family members in large part because they are likely to get away with it, to suffer no consequences for their part in the crime, partially explaining why the number is so high.

The failure of law enforcement to utilize the same technological resources that enable them to instantly notify agencies across every jurisdictional level or locale about my stolen Subaru, to reach the same agencies with reports of abducted or missing children is difficult enough to understand.

The Task Force report documents the fact that OSP and the Department of Justice became aware of both the problem and the solution through the course of the Task Force’s work, and yet have done nothing to correct it.

We all live complicated lives. Imagine for a moment how complicated your life would be if your child was abducted, and you found out that your child’s’ name wasn’t on the list, because there was no list.

It is not a question of knowledge or awareness; the Task Force report and the OSP’s addition of just a single name in the past three years indicates that this is a problem of policy, a problem of priorities, a matter of choosing to value stolen property over stolen lives.

--Sean Cruz, November 2010