WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder and other administration officials met this week with tribal leaders and advocates to discuss issues of tribal safety and domestic violence in Rapid City, S.D., and Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D. The tribal listening conference coincided with the one year anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) into law—a measure aimed at helping both tribal governments and the federal government better address the unique public safety challenges facing Native American communities across the country.
Attorney General Holder, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, and 30 U.S. Attorneys engaged in a host of conversations, on topics including combating violence against women, protecting tribal lands, honoring traditional Native American values, and training tribal prosecutors and police forces.
Attorney General Holder also participated in a special wreath laying ceremony at Wounded Knee. He is the first administration official since President Clinton in 1999 to visit the historic site.
“Nearly half a century ago, following his tenure as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy traveled to here Pine Ridge to signal the U.S. government’s commitment to ensuring peace, security, opportunity, justice on tribal lands. Today, this commitment lives on – and it has been renewed, and strengthened, by this Administration,” said Attorney General Holder. “I’m especially proud that, through the implementation the Tribal Law and Order Act and other critical efforts, the Justice Department’s work to protect and empower people in Indian Country have never been stronger or more effective.”
Soon after he came into office, Attorney General Holder identified building and sustaining safe and secure tribal communities as one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities. In June of 2009, the department launched a wide-ranging initiative to strengthen public safety in Indian Country. Since that time, the department has taken a number of steps to deepen its commitment to tribal communities and to develop more effective partnership with tribal leaders, police, prosecutors, courts and advocates to combat crime in tribal communities.
Also this week, the Justice Department is hosting the 2011 National Intertribal Youth Summit in Santa Fe, N.M., convening 175 young men and women from nearly 50 tribal communities across the country for the week-long summit. The summit features administration officials from the White House and the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services and Education, and provides an opportunity for Obama administration officials to hear directly from youth in Indian Country.
Last week, the Obama Administration unveiled a new proposal for legislation to combat the epidemic rates of violence against Native women in Indian Country. The proposed legislation offers a broader set of tools for federal and tribal law enforcement agencies to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their crimes. It builds on the philosophy of the TLOA by recognizing that tribal authorities, in collaboration with their federal partners, are best able to address crime in their communities if they are given the tools, authorities and resources needed to do it.
For a list of the Justice Department’s accomplishments in Indian Country, please visit: www.tribaljusticeandsafety.gov/docs/indian-country-accomplishments.pdf