The Department of Justice has granted a request by the White Earth Nation for the United States to assume concurrent criminal jurisdiction on the 1,300 square mile White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced today.
The decision was the first action of its kind under the landmark Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (TLOA), which granted the Justice Department discretion to accept concurrent federal jurisdiction to prosecute major crimes within areas of Indian country that are also subject to state criminal jurisdiction under Public Law 280. Public Law 280 is the 1953 law that mandated the transfer of federal law enforcement jurisdiction for certain tribes to six states, including Minnesota. The decision, relayed yesterday in a letter to the tribe signed by Deputy Attorney General Cole, will take effect on June 1, 2013. Tribal, state, and county prosecutors and law enforcement agencies will also continue to have criminal jurisdiction on the reservation.
“Our goal in granting this request is to strengthen public safety and security for the people of White Earth,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “We look forward to partnering with the tribe and our state and local counterparts to support White Earth in ensuring justice on the reservation.”
“The public safety challenges facing our tribal communities are serious and complex,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota B. Todd Jones. “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue working closely and collaboratively with our tribal and local partners towards our common goal – improving public safety. It is our hope that with the additional jurisdiction, our Office will be able to support our tribal and county partners for the benefit of all communities.”
The Department of Justice already has jurisdiction to prosecute crimes such as drug trafficking and financial crimes wherever they occur in the United States – including on the White Earth reservation. The change announced today will expand this existing jurisdiction on the reservation to allow federal prosecution of major crimes such as murder, rape, felony assault and felony child abuse.
The decision followed careful consideration of the request and information provided by the White Earth Nation, as well as by the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota, the FBI, the U.S. District Court, state and local law enforcement partners and other sources.