Department of Justice Releases Second Report to Congress on Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions

By Yuma News Now

Washington, DC – The Department of Justice released today its second report to Congress entitled Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions, which provides a range of enforcement statistics required under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, as well as information about the progress of the Attorney General’s initiatives to reduce violent crime and strengthen tribal justice systems.

The report, based on data compiled from the case management system used by U.S. Attorney’s Offices (USAO), shows prosecutors in 2013 continued to bring substantial numbers of cases to federal court (a 34 percent increase over FY 2009 numbers) and prosecute a substantial majority of all cases referred to them.   Of the cases that were declined for federal prosecution, most were declined for insufficient evidence or because they were referred to another prosecuting authority, such as the tribe, for potential prosecution.

“As detailed in this report, the Department of Justice is making good on our commitment to strengthen cooperation with sovereign tribes, reduce violent crime, and ensure justice for every individual,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “From our work to empower Indian women under the landmark Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, to the task force we established to safeguard children in Indian country from violence and abuse, we have made significant strides – in close partnership with tribal nations – to bolster the safety and security of all American Indian and Alaska Native communities.   As we move forward, we will continue to expand on this critical work; to deepen our ongoing efforts; and to reaffirm our dedication to the promise of equal rights, equal protection, and equal justice for all.”

Although declination rates are an imperfect means of evaluating the effectiveness of criminal justice in Indian country or elsewhere, the report shows that with few exceptions, areas where the largest populations of American Indian people live and suffer from the most serious crime rates, such as the Southwest and the northern plains states (which together handled approximately 70 percent of the 2,542 cases resolved in 2013), federal declination rates were the lowest in the nation.   For instance, South Dakota had the second to highest number of cases resolved in the country last year, 470 cases, and one of the lowest declination rates of 26 percent.   Arizona resolved the highest number of cases, 733 cases, and had a declination rate of 28 percent.

Associate Attorney General Tony West announced the findings in remarks to the Four Corners Indian Country Conference today on the Navajo Nation in Flagstaff, and met separately with the Attorney General’s advisory subcommittee on Native American issues to discuss the report, among other matters.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented era of collaboration among U.S. Attorneys’ offices and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors across the country,” said Associate Attorney General West.   “This report shows the fruits of this continuing partnership between the federal government and American Indian tribes, including enhancing training and capacity building for tribal court systems and improving responses to victims in Indian country.”

“Over the past five years, the Justice Department and our tribal partners have taken important steps forward on our journey toward a safer Indian Country,” said Timothy Purdon, U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota and chair of the Attorney General’s advisory subcommittee on Native American issues.   “Vigorous enforcement of federal laws is vitally important to strengthening public safety on American Indian reservations.   We are pleased to see in this report that U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country continue to work hard to remove the most dangerous offenders and work closely with tribal law enforcement and prosecutors.  These promising numbers are the direct result of this enhanced communication and collaboration.”

“The FBI continues to be committed to public safety in Indian Country,” said FBI Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell. “Our partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies remains strong as we continue to aggressively address violent crime and victimization in tribal communities.”

The information contained in the report shows the following:

  • The Justice Department’s prioritization of Indian country crime has continued to result in substantial numbers of prosecutions, despite resource constraints that impacted the U.S. Attorney community in 2013.   Between FY 2009 and FY 2012, the number of cases the department filed against defendants in Indian country increased nearly 54 percent.   In FY 2013, due to fiscal challenges, overall case filings in Indian country declined somewhat compared to FY 2012, but still remained 34 percent above the number of cases filed when the department first began its department-wide tribal justice initiative in 2009.   Notwithstanding the fiscal impact of the sequester, reduced budgets, and a hiring freeze, federal agents and prosecutors continued to focus their efforts on improving public safety in Indian country.
  • A substantial majority of Indian country criminal investigations opened by the FBI were referred for prosecution.
  • A substantial majority of Indian country criminal cases opened by the United States Attorneys’ Offices were prosecuted.
  • USAO data for CY 2013 show that 34 percent (853) of all Indian country submissions for prosecution (2,542) were declined for prosecution.   In CY 2012, USAOs declined approximately 31 percent (965) of all (3145) Indian country submissions for prosecution.   USAO data for CY 2011 indicate that just under 37 percent (1,041) of all Indian country submissions for prosecution (2,840) were declined.
  • The most common reason for declination by USAOs was insufficient evidence (56 percent in CY 2013, 52 percent in CY 2012, and 61 percent in CY 2011).
  • The next most common reason for declination by USAOs was referral to another prosecuting authority (21 percent in CY 2013, 24 percent in CY 2012, and 19 percent in CY 2011).

The most common reason FBI Indian country investigations were closed administratively without referral for prosecution was that the investigation concluded that no federal crime had occurred.

  • For instance, all but 30 of the 164 death investigations the FBI closed administratively in CY 2013 were closed because the FBI established that the death was due to causes other than homicide – i.e., accidents, suicide, or death from natural causes.

Other important developments in FY 2013:

VAWA Pilot Projects

The fight against domestic violence in Indian country has been an especially important priority for the Department of Justice, and in 2013, Congress and this administration took an historic step forward with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013), which the President signed into law on March 7, 2013.

Congress, in VAWA 2013, provided new tools to fight domestic violence in Indian country, and the department spared no time utilizing them.   From the date the act took effect, March 7, 2013, through the end of fiscal year 2013, U.S. Attorneys with prosecutorial responsibilities in Indian country have charged defendants with the amended provisions of the federal assault statutes that strengthened penalties for domestic assault offenses, such as strangulation and stalking.   And, while the new law’s tribal criminal jurisdiction provision takes effect generally on March 7, 2015, under VAWA 2013’s “Pilot Project” provisions, the department recently approved three tribes’ applications voluntary “Pilot Project” to begin exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction sooner.   These tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon, and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington – will be the first tribes in the nation to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status, under VAWA 2013.

Strengthening Partnerships and Support for Tribal Self-Governance

Strengthening partnerships and tribal self-governance was a major theme of the Attorney General’s message to tribal leaders on Nov.13, 2013, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, where he announced a proposed statement of principles   to guide the department’s work with federally recognized tribes.   As the Attorney General said, “ As a result of these partnerships – and the efforts of everyone here – our nation is poised to open a new era in our government-to-government relationships with sovereign tribes.”

U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country are engaged in an unprecedented level of collaboration with tribal law enforcement, consulting regularly with them on crime-fighting strategies in each district.   One important example of this is the department’s enhanced Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) program.   Tribal SAUSAs are cross-deputized tribal prosecutors who are able to prosecute crimes in both tribal court and federal court as appropriate.   These Tribal SAUSAs serve to strengthen a tribal government’s ability to fight crime and to increase the USAO’s coordination with tribal law enforcement personnel.   The work of Tribal SAUSAs can also help to accelerate a tribal criminal justice system’s implementation of TLOA and VAWA 2013.

Read the entire report at www.justice.gov/tribal/tloa.html

Read about the Justice Department’s efforts to increase public safety in Indian County at www.justice.gov/tribal/accomplishments.html

Bakken: $3M in grants to address violence against women in rural, tribal communities

A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

By  Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — Federal authorities have named recipients of $3 million in grants to address violence against women in rural and tribal communities in the oil patch of North Dakota and Montana.

The money from the Office on Violence Against Women will be used to help provide services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking in the Bakken region, which has seen an increase in population and crime because of the oil boom.

Victims in a “vast rural region like the Bakken” have trouble accessing life-saving services, Associate Attorney General Tony West said.

“With this new, targeting funding, tribes and local communities will be better equipped to respond to the increased need for mental health services, legal assistance, housing and training,” West said.

The grants will be divided among the First Nations Women’s Alliance and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, and the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“The organizations that will receive funding through this project play a critical role in addressing violence against women in the Bakken region,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who organized visits to the oil patch by two of the nation’s drug czars. “By bringing top administration officials to North Dakota to hear firsthand about the emerging challenges, great strides have been made to make sure local law enforcement and organizations receive needed support to address these challenges and help our state maintain our treasured quality of life.”

Department of Justice officials also announced that the Fort Beck and Fort Berthold reservations will each receive three-year, $450,000 grants to pay for tribal prosecutors who will be cross-designated as special U.S. attorneys.

Remarks by Associate Attorney General Tony West at the Four Corners Conference

Source: U.S. Department of Justice
Flagstaff, AZ ~ Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

 Thank you, Carlie for that kind introduction and for hosting this important gathering along with U.S. Attorneys Judge Leonardo from the District of Arizona, John Walsh from the District of Colorado, and Damon Martinez from the District of New Mexico.

With the Native America Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee meeting here today, we are fortunate to have over a dozen additional U.S. Attorneys in attendance.   Thank you all for your commitment to serving Indian Country in your districts.

I am so pleased to be with you at this twenty-second convening of Four Corners Conference.   For over two decades, this conference has provided federal and tribal leaders, social service providers, law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors with a unique opportunity explore ideas, share best practices and forge critical collaborations that help us move forward in our common desire to make Indian Country safer and stronger.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to this Conference when you gathered in Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico.   I said at that time ours was a moment of hope, challenge and opportunity, as we confronted the reality of alarmingly high rates of violence against Native women and girls in Indian country.

You’ll recall that at that time, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – or VAWA 2013 – hung in the balance.   And notwithstanding efforts by the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, to push forward legislative recommendations that would enhance the ability of tribes to protect Indian women from domestic violence, the outcome of that effort, you’ll remember, was far from certain.   In fact at times, it looked as if VAWA would not be reauthorized by Congress for the first time in nearly twenty years.

But thanks to the many courageous Native women who stood up and spoke out and told their stories of pain and heartache; thanks to the many tribal leaders who said enough is enough, that whether a Native woman receives justice should not depend on the race of her perpetrator; indeed, thanks to many of you in this room today, together we met that challenge and today VAWA 2013 remains the law of land, and now with additional statutory tools for both Federal and tribal governments to prosecute intimate partner violence.

And VAWA’s reauthorization was just the latest in what has been a remarkable surge in positive federal activity in Indian Country over the last five years, a commitment that began with Attorney General Holder’s convening of over 500 tribal leaders for a listening session in his first year of office.

It’s a commitment we reflect in the litigation positions we take as a Department – from our work to resolve decades-long, painful disputes like the Cobell tribal trust litigation and the Keepseagle Native American farmers discrimination lawsuit; to our repeated court filings in support of presumptive tribal jurisdiction over Indian child-custody proceedings, even though our arguments do not always prevail, because standing up for ICWA means standing strong for tribal sovereignty.

In fact, earlier this month, the Department took a strong stand on behalf of Indian children and their families involved in state child welfare proceedings in a South Dakota federal court.   We filed a brief in the case out of concern for the harm to Indian families that even the temporary removal of their children can cause.   This case could set important precedent regarding how the emergency removals and placements of Indian children are to be handled and how ICWA is interpreted.

Our commitment to Indian Country has likewise led us to create CTAS, an effort to streamline the way we administer Justice Department grants to tribal grant applicants.

And that commitment is made manifest in the tireless work of so many federal investigators, AUSAs and SAUSAs throughout the nation — including many of you here today – to enhance public safety on tribal lands throughout Indian Country – efforts that have resulted in a remarkable 34% increase in Federal criminal prosecutions in Indian Country since 2009.

Indeed, today, the Justice Department is releasing its second Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions report to Congress, and it reflects this Administration’s commitment to public safety in Indian Country.    Although declination rates alone are not the best way to measure the success of our law enforcement efforts, the report show that with few exceptions, areas where the largest populations of American Indian people live and suffer from the most serious crime rates – such as here in the Southwest and in the Northern Plains states – federal declination rates were among the lowest in the nation.

So we’ve come a long way and made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time.   We are witnessing an unprecedented era of collaboration among U.S. Attorneys’ offices and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors across the country.

Yet it’s in that success that lies our greatest and perhaps most difficult test:   How do we take the success we’ve achieved over the last five years and make it sustainable over the long term?

I believe solidifying those gains requires us to double-down on the collaborations that enhance tribal public safety; to expand the culturally-informed law enforcement training we’ve conducted; and to encourage and incentivize interdisciplinary approaches to violence reduction.

What’s essential to our long-term success is for us – at the federal, tribal, state and local levels — to takes steps that will institutionalize our commitment to Indian Country public safety, such that the best practices you are sharing, the promising pilot projects you’re launching, the interdisciplinary collaborations your spearheading – they need to become part of the routine work we do to pursue effective law enforcement in Indian Country so that the impact you are having will continue to be felt for years, even generations to come.

Our dedication to Indian Country must be transformed from an initiative defined by the contours of any one Administration’s commitment and ingrained into the DNA of federal law enforcement practice.   It must be part of the yardstick by which we measure our own success or failure as federal law enforcement professionals.

So what does institutionalizing our commitment to justice in Indian Country look like?   I think there are three areas that illustrate this, and they are areas where I am pleased to report we are making good strides.

First, institutionalizing our commitment means enhancing our existing collaborations between tribal and federal law enforcement, and a good example comes from our recent experience with VAWA.

As soon as VAWA’s reauthorization was signed into law, the Justice Department ’ s leadership engaged in an expedited but extensive consultation with tribal officials on how best to implement VAWA’s newest provisions dealing with tribal special criminal jurisdiction.

We came up with a voluntary Pilot Project that allowed some tribes to begin exercising that jurisdiction earlier this year – ahead of law’s March 2015 effective date – if the tribe’s criminal justice system has adequate safeguards in place to protect defendants’ rights.   Six months ago, I authorized three tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation – to become the first tribes in the United States to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction.

And importantly, while these tribes have moved swiftly, they have also acted with deliberation to combat domestic violence by protecting the safety and rights of victims, while simultaneously safeguarding defendants’ rights.   They are closely coordinating with their local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to identify those cases that are best handled in tribal court and those which are more appropriate for federal prosecution.   Here in Arizona, for example, the Pascua Yacqui Tribe worked with the United States Attorney ’ s Office to refer four of the 12 non-Indians arrested by the tribe for federal prosecution.

Other tribes are also carefully preparing to exercise the new jurisdiction.   Since June of last year, 39 tribes have voluntarily joined the Department’s Intertribal Technical-Assistance Working Group, working with Department officials and other tribes in an effort to exercise effectively the new special criminal jurisdiction in 2015.

And as more tribes step up to assume this new exercise of sovereignty, more Tribal-Federal partnerships will be established; more interdependence and collaboration on public safety matters will result; and more tribal capacity to protect the integrity, culture and safety of the tribe will be created, enhancing the opportunity for long-term, sustainable tribal justice.

Second, we can institutionalize our commitment to public safety in Indian Country by expanding our training efforts, thereby increasing the ability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute effectively Indian Country crimes, which in turn heightens the priority of pursuing these crimes for law enforcement.

Most of you know Leslie Hagen, who is here and who has been instrumental in leading the Justice Department’s training efforts around Indian Country public safety.   One of the many Indian Country training modules she conducts for federal and tribal investigators, prosecutors, advocates, and medical professionals around the country in one that raises awareness about the lethality risks for strangulation and suffocation crimes.   It is work that can pay dividends in our efforts to better protect Native women from violence, because almost half of all domestic violence victims have experienced at least one episode of strangulation prior to a lethal or near-lethal violent incident.

One FBI agent who took the training wrote Leslie an email saying fifteen days after he had taken her course, a strangulation assault occurred that was assigned to him.   He wrote the training helped him to ask the right questions and present the case persuasively to the AUSA, who successfully prosecuted the assailant.   According to the FBI agent, “this conviction is a direct result of the Indian Country Strangulation and Suffocation Class,” and he went on to teach what he had learned to other local, state and federal investigators.

And with VAWA 2013, Congress recognized the gravity of strangulation and suffocation crimes and amended the federal assault statute to include a specific charge of assault or attempted assault by strangulation or suffocation – making Leslie’s training all the more important and relevant to federal law enforcement priorities.   Indeed, just over a year after Congress enacted these new provisions, U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter and his office in the District of Montana secured one of the first federal strangulation convictions: a 2.5-year prison sentence against a man who strangled his girlfriend into unconsciousness on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Finally, I believe institutionalizing justice in Indian Country means intensifying our work and deepening our investment in efforts to reduce violence against Native women and children, not only because rates of victimization remain intolerably high; but also because our best hope of reversing those rates begins with early and predictable intervention – both from a prevention and enforcement standpoint – that helps us break the cycle of violence.

U.S. Attorneys Tim Purdon and Mike Cotter know well what I’m talking about.   In their districts of North Dakota and Montana, a meteoric population boom in the geographically isolated region of the Bakken has led to escalated rates of violence, particularly against Native women.   Earlier this year, Tim and I met with local law enforcement officials who spoke of the dramatic spike in sex and drug trafficking which was taxing their capabilities.   We met with service providers from around the state who told us of their inability to absorb the sudden increase in demand for victim’s services.   And I heard tragic stories of sexual exploitation suffered by women and girls.

To address the unique and critical needs of victims, responders, and service providers within this rural region, the Department’s Office on Violence Against Women established its Bakken Region Initiative.   And as part of that effort, today, I am pleased to announce the award of seven new grants, totaling nearly $3 million, to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services; the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota; and the First Nations Women’s Alliance in North Dakota.   These awards will fund Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys – attorneys who are cross-designated tribal-federal prosecutors – as well as victim service providers who are working to prevent violence and support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

Now at the same time we are strengthening our efforts to protect Native women, we must also do more to shield Native children from violence.

We know that more than 60 percent of all children in the United States are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims.   And while current research doesn’t give us a complete picture for American Indian and Alaska Native children, a 2008 report by the Indian Country Child Trauma Center calculated that Native youth are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience trauma when compared with their non-N ative peers.

In fact, the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Indian youth is almost triple the rate of the general population – comparable to the rates of PTSD among soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 15- to 34-years of age and is 2.5 times higher than the national average for that age group.

Appalled by these statistics, the Attorney General last year invested Justice Department resources to establish a Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children’s Exposure Violence, including a Federal Working Group led by U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and OTJ Director Tracy Toulou.   And over the last year, the Task Force’s Advisory Committee held public hearings and listening sessions around the country – including one here in Arizona – examining the unacceptably high levels of violence that Native children suffer.

I participated in three of those hearings, the most recent of which was held in Anchorage, Alaska.   And at each hearing, researchers told us about how victimization can steal a child’s future.   Practitioners shared lessons learned from experience and outlined approaches that could help us better serve child victims in the future.   Survivors courageously shared their experiences in the hope that by telling their stories, they might lift the curtain of shame and fear that too often shrouds acts of violence and exploitation against children.

And this fall, based on those hearings, the Task Force’s Advisory Committee will present the Attorney General with a blueprint of comprehensive policy recommendations for preventing and reducing the negative effects of Native children’s exposure to violence – a guide for action we are eagerly anticipating.

So let me close by saying this.   Fifty years ago, Attorney General Robert Kennedy predicted that the tide was turning for Native American generations yet unborn; that the shadow of poverty and affliction and unfairness in Indian Country would be lifted.

Working with you to help make that prediction a reality has been among the highest privileges of my professional life.   Still, it’s clear we have much work to do.

As long as Native youth on reservations endure rates of suicide we would never tolerate in any major American city;

Or as long as Native men and women living in remote corners of this country are denied the fundamental right to vote by state laws that make it harder for them to access the ballot box and have a voice in offices that shape their everyday lives;

Or as long we have to explain, over and over again – because of a long, sorry chapter in American history of violence, termination, forced relocation, and discrimination – why the use of “Redskins” is so painful to so many, Native and non-Native alike, then we have work to do.

But I also believe that your work over the last five years — those of you in this room – you are helping to turn the tide.   You know that like any relationship that is worthwhile, our relationships with sovereign tribal nations continue to be works in progress.   They require constant attention, unwavering commitment, candor about what is working well and what is not.   And they require the most important of ingredients — mutual trust, faith and respect — born of a common history and shared destiny.

And with that knowledge you are forging a legacy and a future of reconciliation and respect; of support for sovereignty and self-determination; of commitment to tribal safety.   And for that unwavering dedication, know that I salute you, proudly stand with you, and look forward to supporting you today and in the days to come.

 

Thank you.

Associate Attorney General Tony West Delivers Remarks at the Native American Issues Subcommittee Meeting

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thank you, Karol, for that kind introduction.  Karol is one of the leading advocates for tribes at the Department of Justice, and I’m delighted that she has taken the helm at OJP.

Let me thank Tim [Purdon, NAIS Chair] and Sandy [Coats, NAIS Vice Chair] for their very capable leadership of the Native American Issues Subcommittee, and for all they do to coordinate the Department’s efforts with its tribal partners.  I also want to thank Amanda [Marshall, USA for the District of Oregon] and the many tribal leaders for hosting us.  I’m honored to be here among you.  Thanks, too, to Marshall Jarrett for his leadership at the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and Tracy Toulou for the exceptional work he does as Director of our Office of Tribal Justice.  Finally, I extend my appreciation to all the members of the committee for your hard work and commitment to these very important issues.

I’m very pleased to have this chance to meet with the federal and tribal officials responsible for the safety and welfare of native communities and to talk about ways we can continue working together to strengthen the Justice Department’s work in Indian country.  We have made unprecedented strides – and achieved remarkable success – in improving law enforcement and ensuring justice in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and I want to ensure that we build on our progress.

The progress has been tremendous.

Every U.S. Attorney with jurisdiction in Indian country has now appointed at least one tribal liaison, and we’ve designated a Native American Issues Coordinator to provide advice and assistance to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on legal and policy issues.  We created the Tribal Nations Leadership Council to advise the Attorney General on issues critical to tribal governments.  We launched the National Indian Country Training Initiative, which last year trained some 2,500 federal, state, and tribal criminal justice professionals on issues ranging from domestic violence to wildlife and pollution enforcement.  We created a Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force and assigned additional federal personnel to investigate and prosecute cases on Indian lands.  And we established the Office of Tribal Justice as a permanent component within the Justice Department.

We have also met – and exceeded – our responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act.  We published a final rule that authorizes the Department to assume concurrent jurisdiction over certain crimes committed in Public Law 280 states, and we have already exercised that authority.  We’re enhancing our efforts to combat sexual assault by expanding support for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and Sexual Assault Response Teams in Indian country and by establishing a SANE/SART Advisory Committee.  We’ve settled long-standing trust litigation and boundary disputes to the benefit of tribes.  We’ve worked to protect water rights and natural resources on tribal lands and helped preserve native cultural and religious practices.  We’ve joined with our federal partners to develop, in consultation with tribes, a long-term plan to build and sustain tribal justice systems.  And we’re fighting alcohol and substance abuse by coordinating services with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services and by providing assistance to tribes that want to develop action plans to address these issues.

Finally, we’ve vastly expanded and strengthened our outreach to tribes.  I have had the honor of joining the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and many other leaders in the Department at a number of listening sessions and consultations in Indian country.  Attorney General Holder approved a policy statement committing the Department to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials.  This policy statement requires the Department to seek tribal input whenever we develop or amend policies, regulations, or legislation that will affect tribes.  In addition, staff from across the Justice Department have partnered with their colleagues in the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, HUD, and other agencies to hold tribal justice, safety, and wellness training and technical assistance sessions, where we’ve reached more than 5,500 participants.  As a result of this greater coordination and cooperation, we’ve been able to more effectively target our resources to meet the most pressing public safety needs of tribes.

Through our Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS as we call it, we’ve revamped and streamlined the process for tribes to tap much-needed federal funding.  We’ve heard from tribes that this mechanism has been an important positive step in our relationship with tribes, and we continue to make it a centerpiece of our efforts to support tribal communities.

In fact, today I’m pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is awarding almost 200 new awards totaling more than $90 million under CTAS.  These awards bring the total number of grants to tribes over the last four years to almost 1,000, totaling almost $440 million.  These grants address an array of tribal justice system issues, from at-risk youth and violence against women to community policing and corrections alternatives, and they give tribes the support they need to keep their communities safe and ensure a just, fair, and effective system for fighting crime.

But there is more we must do.  Violence against native women continues at alarming rates, and children in Indian country encounter violence far too often.

I was proud to witness President Obama sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in March.  This landmark legislation provides vital protections for all women, but it is especially important for what it does to help ensure the safety of Indian women.  Now, thanks to the new law, tribes may exercise jurisdiction over certain crimes committed by non-Indians on their lands.  This represents a giant step forward in our ability to hold perpetrators of domestic and dating violence accountable.

And we must do all we can to protect Indian children.  More than 60 percent of kids in America encounter some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims.  Almost 40 percent are direct victims of two or more violent acts.  Tribal communities are no exception to this troubling phenomenon.  As one tribal leader said, “For us. . . the question is not who has been exposed to violence, it’s who hasn’t been exposed to violence.”

As part of his Defending Childhood Initiative, Attorney General Holder established a national task force to study this problem and recommend ways to address it.  One of the recommendations was the creation of a separate task force devoted specifically to children exposed to violence in Indian country.  I’m pleased that work is well under way to stand up this task force, which includes both an advisory committee and a federal working group composed of U.S. Attorneys and other government officials, including our partners at the Department of Inteiror, working in Indian country.

We anticipate that the Advisory Committee will convene hearings and listening sessions throughout the country and prioritize consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native youth.  Our goal is to develop a national strategy to reduce and mitigate the impact of violence on children in tribal communities.

The Federal Working Group of the Task Force is already hard at work and making real progress.  In an effort to ensure that juveniles held in tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs detention facilities are provided adequate and culturally-sensitive educational and counseling services, the working group initiated a close look at existing programs and services.  As a result, BIA has ensured that contracts for teachers are secured for detention facilities in Towoac, Colorado, and Northern Cheyenne, Montana.  To ensure that Bureau of Prison contract facilities provide culturally appropriate services to tribal youth in detention, the working group completed a survey of programs currently available and is currently analyzing the results to develop best practices to ensure consistency across facilities.  These are just a few of many efforts currently underway.

This is my sixth trip to Indian country since joining the Department of Justice as a member of President Obama’s administration in 2009, and my fourth as the Associate Attorney General. Since my first trip to the Navajo Nation, where I met with brave Cold War Warriors, I have traveled from the Crow Nation and Northern Cheyenne in Montana to the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos of the Four Corners.  Earlier this month, I visited the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, and I am so pleased to join you today here in Celilo Village.

For me, these visits to Indian country are a great privilege.  They are a great privilege for me because they remind me of the rich legacy that First Americans have bestowed upon this country, and that we are a stronger America because of that legacy.

They remind me of the important trust relationship between the United States and tribal nations, and that the struggle for tribal sovereignty and self-determination has too often been waged in the face of disruption and devastation caused by assimilation and termination policies pursued in the not-so-distant past.

The work we’ve done to strengthen public safety in Indian country – and the work we are doing to protect tribal sovereignty – is a collective responsibility, one that we all must share, federal and tribal officials alike.  I’m pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far.  I believe we have written a great chapter in the story of our government-to-government relationship with tribes.  I look forward to working with all of you to continue that story into the next – and even greater – chapter.

Thank you.