A Ute tribal judge has ruled that 12-year-old Ulysses Allen Cuch will remain with the non-Indian foster family he has lived with since infancy, but his natural mother and her father will have liberal rights to visit him.
The ruling Wednesday by Judge Larry Yazzie was satisfactory to all parties in the custody dispute, said Dennis Ickes, a Salt Lake attorney appointed to represent the boy.Similar rulings have been handed down recently in custody disputes involving Navajo children who have lived for years with non-Indian families.
The boy is the son of Evangeline Cuch of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. She was 16 and unwed when the boy was born. At 5 weeks, the boy was turned over by state social services to Vickie and Charlie Trucks.
More than a year later, Allen was briefly returned to his mother on the reservation but was returned to the Trucks when social workers determined he was not being given adequate care and had suffered a partial hearing loss.
Charlie Trucks was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1982, and later that year Allen's Indian grandfather testified against Vickie Trucks' pending adoption of the boy.
The tribal court asked Mrs. Trucks if she would keep Allen in custody until he was 18, at which time he could decide whether to return to the tribe or be adopted.
The boy's natural mother, who has married and is now Evangeline Antencio, recently sought to gain custody and have the boy live on the reservation with her and her other four children.
Allen, who was born with a cleft palate, said he wanted to stay in Heber City with the family that had seen him through six operations.
"I feel like an old used car, abandoned and nobody wanted me. I needed repairs," he said in a recent interview. "A man came by and thinks, `What a neat car.' He takes the wrecked car and fixes it up. Then the original owner thinks it looks sharp and wants it back."
Ickes, former deputy director of the Office of Indian Rights in the Justice Department, said in an earlier interview that the case was one of numerous tragedies occurring because of deficiencies in the Indian Child Welfare Act.
He has written Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urging that Congress impose a statute of limitations on children being "recalled by the natural parents after an extended period of time."