04.19.18

Daines to DOJ: Uphold Your Responsibilities to Indian Tribes

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), urging the DOJ to uphold its responsibilities to Indian tribes and implement the recommendations outlined in that report as quickly as possible.  

“The DOJ must fulfill its responsibilities to Indian tribes,” said Daines, “There is an epidemic of violent crime in Indian country and action must be taken immediately to strengthen law enforcement and provide justice for victims.”

Read the letter below: 

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We write in light of the December 2017 report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding the DOJ’s responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) and urge you implement the recommendations outlined in that report as expeditiously as possible.

Those living in Indian country experience a per capita rate of violent crime twice that of other racial and ethnic groups, as the report notes. According to another DOJ source, on some reservations, native women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average. In the face of these staggering and unacceptable statistics, we must ensure we are doing all in our power to keep American Indian and Alaska Native communities safe and to empower them to do the same.

The report confirms that DOJ has failed to uphold a number of its TLOA-mandated requirements. In particular, we find it alarming that the DOJ lacks a coordinated approach to the assistance it provides in Indian country, that United States Attorney’s Offices (USAOs) do not consistently communicate or effectively coordinate with Indian tribes regarding their activities in Indian country, and that some law enforcement agents do not receive adequate training prior to working in Indian country. We cannot afford such inconsistencies and deficiencies when many tribes rely solely on USAOs to prosecute felony and misdemeanor crimes occurring in Indian country and when human lives are at stake.

We do appreciate your recently announced Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to support law enforcement and maintain public safety in Indian country. We hope the task force’s listening sessions and partnerships contribute to your work in accomplishing the recommendations in the OIG report and fulfilling your TLOA mandates.

Implementing the recommendations outlined by the DOJ OIG is a crucial component of increasing public safety in Indian Country. We will continue to track your progress on the recommendations outlined in the report and look forward to your updates.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 Background: 

On April 13, 2018, Daines’ bill to help relocate children who go missing through AMBER Alert systems became law. 

On February 14, 2018, Daines sponsored and supported the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs’ passage of the Tribal Law and Order Reauthorization and Amendments Act, which included Daines’ bipartisan legislation to promote tribes’ access to national criminal databases.

In February 2018, Daines led a bipartisan coalition of his colleagues in introducing a resolution to designate May 5 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. 

On December 21, 2017, Daines introduced bipartisan legislation, the Mitigating the Methamphetamine Epidemic and Promoting Tribal Health Act, or the Mitigating METH Act, to combat methamphetamine use across Montana and strengthen Indian tribes’ ability to fight this epidemic.

On December 6, 2017, Daines’ bipartisan legislation, the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act, passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. This bill strengthens services for victims of crime in Indian country.  

On May 5, 2017, Daines joined with the family of Hanna Harris to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls as designated by his Senate resolution.

In 2017, Daines introduced and secured U.S. Senate unanimous passage of a resolution to honor the memory of Hanna Harris, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who was murdered in July 2013.

In April 2016, Daines led an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill to set-aside five percent of the Crime Victims Fund for Indian tribes.

 

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