Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the first public hearing of a new task force to examine the impact of exposure to violence on American Indian and Alaska Native children. Joining President Obama and other officials at the Department of the Interior for the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Attorney General Holder shared the announcement with leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes and emphasized the Justice Department’s long-standing collaboration with leaders in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve public safety.
“We must not accept the shameful reality that American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately likely to be exposed to crime and violence – and that many who suffer exposure are children,” said Attorney General Holder. “By bringing together federal officials, tribal leaders, and local partners to focus on the unique challenges that Indian children face, this task force will enhance public safety. And these leaders will strengthen our communities by ensuring that every child can have the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to thrive – free from violence and fear.”
This task force is anchored by both a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts appointed to examine the scope and impact of violence facing American Indian and Alaska Native children and make policy recommendations to Attorney General Holder on ways to address it.
The advisory committee will convene four public hearings across the country beginning in Bismarck, N.D., Dec. 9, focusing on violence in children’s homes, schools and communities in Indian country. Associate Attorney General Tony West will join the task force at the first hearing in Bismarck. The other hearings will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Anchorage, Alaska early in 2014.
The advisory committee will be co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah. They will be aided by tribal members and national experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma, and child welfare and law. There are currently 12 advisory committee members:
• Dolores Subia Bigfoot, Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, Director, Indian Child Trauma Center, University of Oklahoma
• Rear Admiral Eric Broderick, former Deputy Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
• Eddie Brown, Pasqua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation, Executive Director of the American Indian Policy Institute and Professor of American Indian Studies, Arizona State University
• Valerie Davidson, Orutsararmiut Native Council Member and Senior Director, Legal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
• The Hon. Byron Dorgan, Chairman, Board of Advisors, Center for Native American Youth; former U.S. Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
• Anita Fineday, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Director, Indian Child Welfare, Casey Family Programs
• Matthew Fletcher, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Director, Indigenous Law and Policy Center, Michigan State University
• Alicia Lieberman, Director, Child Trauma Research Program, University of California at San Francisco
• Joanne Shenandoah, Iroquois, composer and musical artist
• Chaske Spencer, Lakota, actor
• Ron Whitener, Squaxin Island Tribe, Executive Director, Native American Law Center, University of Washington School of Law
• Marilyn J. Bruguier Zimmerman, Assiniboine-Sioux/Fort Peck Reservation, Director, National Native Children’s Trauma Center, University of Montana
This new task force is a key part of Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood initiative to prevent and reduce children’s trauma from experiencing violence as victims or witnesses. The task force was created in response to a recommendation in the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence December 2012 final report. The report noted that American Indian and Alaska Native children have an exceptional degree of unmet needs for services and support to prevent and respond to the extreme levels of violence they experience.
For more information about the Defending Childhood initiative, please visit www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood.
To submit oral or written testimony to the committee, please contact the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s technical assistance provider to the committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 323-650-5467.