Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
67% Not Prosecuted
WASHINGTON - Last Thursday, the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs conducted a hearing called "Tribal Law and Order Act One Year Later: Have We Improved Public Safety and Justice Throughout Indian Country?"
Testimony from several witnesses centered on what federal agencies are doing to comply with Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 that was signed into law by President Barak Obama on July 29, 2011.
"The United States Attorney in Alaska has made the sex trafficking of Alaska Native women a top priority," testified US Attorney Brendon V. Johnson. "The United States Attorney Office recently prosecuted several significant human trafficking cases, including four defendants who are alleged to have used Craig's List to traffic twenty victims, causing many of them to engage in commercial sex acts. Several of the victims are Alaska Natives."
Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, US Department of Justice, testified the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 "covers an extraordinary range of important policies, organized into six subtitles:
Much of the testimony dealt with the complexities of the Tribal Law and Order Act. Federal agencies have worked aggressively to implement and comply with the Act. Much time and effort has been spent on hiring more prosecutors and training law enforcement on a variety of American Indian legal and justice issues.
One area that has received high priority since the enactment of the Tribal Law and Order Act is the combating the high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault protection.
"In addition, the FBI and Anchorage Police Department recently conducted a joint presentation to several hundred attendees at a Bureau of Indian Affairs Conference on the dangers of sex trafficking of Alaska Natives to raise awareness of this problem," Johnson continued. "The program was so well received that it has been replicated in rural communities. The United States Attorney Office recently received funding to hire a rural Federal prosecutor who is working with Alaska State Troopers to remove violent individuals from rural villages."
Other US Attorney Offices around in Indian Country have prioritized violence against American Indian women by conducting special training on "how to recognize, avoid and report sexual assault and domestic violence."
Some 600 junior and senior high school students from the Wind River Reservation schools in Wyoming attended a conference on Empowering Native American Youth that discussed sexting, cyberbullying, dating violence and sexual assault, according to Johnson.
"No one denies that violence against Native women in the US has reached epidemic proportions: 34% of Native women will be raped in their lifetimes and 39 % will be the victim of domestic violence," testified Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians.
"According to a 2010 GAO Study, US Attorneys decline to prosecute 67% of sexual abuse and related matters that occur in Indian country. The Tribal Law and Order Act takes steps to improve the safety of Indian women, but there are still several issues that it leaves unaddressed, namely the lack of tribal authority to prosecute non-Indians committing heinous crimes on the reservation."
"The lack of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders on Indian lands may be the key reason for the creation and perpetuation of disproportionate violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women," Johnson Pata stated.
posted September 26, 2011 8:50 am edt
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