Thank you David and again, I want to thank the Tulalip Indian Community and its leadership for allowing us the opportunity to visit and tour the tribal facilities. We appreciate your hospitality in welcoming us here.
As David mentioned, we were both very personally involved in Indian Country initiatives during our work in the administration almost a decade ago. And I have to say – and I was reminded of this during our tour today – that while my jobs at the Department have had wide-ranging responsibilities throughout the years, very little has been as meaningful as my work in Indian Country. My work with tribal leaders on the CIRCLE project at Northern Cheyenne, Oglala Sioux and Zuni Pueblo – a model intended to provide a more comprehensive approach to improving public safety in Indian Country – was in fact one of the most personally fulfilling parts of my career.
And yet we look at Indian Country today, and I share your frustrations that the issues of poverty, violent crime and a lack of resources look very much the same as they did a decade ago. We must do better. When I reflect on the work we have begun here in Seattle with tribal experts and leaders, and look forward to our next session in Albuquerque next month, I feel confident that we are on the right track to really get things done and put together substantive proposals and initiatives that can lead not only to better strategies for law enforcement and detention – which are of course important – but also for the treatment and prevention programs that make communities better. Our goal is to both listen – as we must because the federal government has a sovereign-to-sovereign relationship with tribal nations – but also to come out of the series of meetings the Department is doing with tribal leaders with a plan of action. Tribal leaders have told us that listening is important, but action to address the systemic problems facing tribal nations is critical.
The Obama Administration and the Department of Justice are committed to improving public safety in Indian Country, especially in the area of domestic violence and sexual assault. We know that domestic violence and sexual assault are issues of enormous importance to tribal communities because of their impact on women in the community, as well as their children and families. That’s why I am so proud to announce that, in addition to the COPS awards announced for Washington reservations and the additional grants for equipment and resources through the resource grants, the Department’s Office on Violence Against Women – or OVW – is awarding $2.1 million in funding to tribal nations in the state of Washington to reduce violent crimes against Indian women and help keep them safe..
Of this, the Tulalip reservation has received an award of $899,999. The Tulalip Tribes will use the grant funds to improve services that are available to help women who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on the reservation. It will have an immediate impact on the quality of services offered to survivors and their children by providing advocacy and support services for those who need to be kept safe in emergency situations, and for victims who choose to leave their abusive relationships.
Today’s announcement is just the latest which demonstrates the administration’s commitment to improving the lives of Americans, and particularly Native American communities through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or Recovery Act. In the Recovery Act, the Obama administration focused on how to stimulate the economy and help communities that are suffering financially, and made sure there were funds for Indian Country, which has tremendous needs. In fact, the law provided $20.8 million for OVW’s Indian Tribal Governments Program to decrease the number of violent crimes committed against Indian women, to help tribes use their independent authority to respond to crimes of violence against Indian women, and to make sure that people who commit violent crimes against Indian women are held responsible for their actions. Much of the discussion about the Recovery Act focuses on job creation and programs like OVW’s will certainly help hire counselors and others who are desperately needed, but today’s announcement also highlights how the funding from the Recovery Act is helping communities become safer. Safer communities and healthy families are a building block for the nation and our economic recovery.
As the Department prepares to honor the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and the creation of an Office on Violence Against Women, I realize that there is much work to be done here. All of us here know what violence against women has done to your communities. And even though I am impressed that OVW has distributed nearly $62 million to assist tribal communities and more than $86 million to grant projects reaching more than half of the Nation’s 562 Indian Tribes, I also know that money alone is not going to solve problems.
I believe that fighting violence against women in Indian communities must be a partnership between the federal government and tribal governments. That’s why I am pleased that we have placed such an emphasis on the issue in our work leading up to the Listening Conference. However, none of these resources will matter if we do not direct them properly and at the issues that matter. The Department may be able to provide funding, but only by working together can we make sure you are getting what you need, so that the women and children in this community can get what they need.
Our trip to Seattle is only the beginning. And in fact, the Listening Conference is only a preliminary step in what I know will be a long partnership with tribal communities. It will provide the foundation from which to take action. And taking action on criminal justice issues is exactly what the Department of Justice intends to do.
I join David in giving you my personal commitment to work to ensure that – drawing on the insights, guidance, and partnership of tribal leaders – we all make a meaningful difference together. I’m looking forward to working with you, once again.