The Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship


Gaye L. TenosoThe Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship

The Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship, part of the Attorney General's Honors Program, is designed to create a new pipeline of legal talent with expertise and deep experience in federal Indian law, tribal law, and Indian country issues that can be deployed in creative ways to build tribal capacity, combat violent crime, and bolster public safety in Indian country jurisdictions.

The Fellowship is named in honor of  the late Gaye L. Tenoso, a Department of Justice attorney whose distinguished service to the Department and the people it serves spanned 30 years. For the last six years of her life Gaye served as the Deputy Director the Office of Tribal Justice. Gaye’s expertise in Federal Indian law and knowledge of tribes enabled her to be an exceptionally effective advisor on litigation and policy matters. She worked tirelessly to ensure that specific protections for Native American women were included in the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013. Gaye also mentored many legal interns during her time at the Office of Tribal Justice, and was an inspiration and guide who left a deep impression on many young attorneys.

Prior to serving with the Office of Tribal Justice, Gaye worked for over 25 years in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in the Educational Opportunities Section and the Voting Section. While in the Voting Section, she received the high honor of being invited by the United States Solicitor General to sit at counsel table during the Supreme Court argument in Reno v. Bossier Parish School District. In addition, Gaye led the Civil Rights Division’s Election Monitoring Program to ensure the right to vote for all Americans. Gaye’s passion was to ensure American Indians were provided the same access to voting as others. She was instrumental in bringing cases against counties in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah to provide language assistance at the polls for American Indians, where she helped spearhead unprecedented remedies to provide voting opportunities for all.

Fellowship Details

Each Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship position offers a 36-month appointment that may be extended or converted to a permanent position at the hiring component’s discretion without further competition. Fellows will  be assigned to a U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) with significant Indian country work.  Candidates will interview with a joint panel of attorneys from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) and participating USAOs.  Candidates who receive an offer of employment will be able to select their assignment preferences from the list of participating Districts.  Actual placement will be mutually agreed upon by the Fellow and the District. In addition, individual USAOs may offer additional Indian Country Fellowship positions at their discretion.  This year, the Indian Country Fellowship will place one Fellow in a U.S. Attorney's Office (any participating District) with assignment based on mutual agreement of the Fellow and District.  A second Indian Country Fellowship is offered by the District of South Dakota.

As part of your work with a USAO, Indian Country Fellows will be required to serve 12 months with an appropriate tribal legal entity, typically in a tribal prosecutor’s office. The assignment or detail may consist of a one-year detail to a single tribal legal or governmental entity or two six-month details to different tribal legal or governmental entities.

The Indian Country Fellowship is open to all eligible Honors Program applicants, including current law students graduating in the coming academic year.  The 2017-2018 Honors Program application opens on July 31, 2017 and closes on September 5, 2017.  There are a few requirements associated with bar admission that applicants should consider:

  • Fellows who accept an offer from a USAO located in a jurisdiction that requires State bar admission must become admitted to that bar within 12 months of entry on duty.
  • Whether or not the USAO is located in a jurisdiction that requires admission to that State’s bar, all Indian Country Fellows hired by USAOs must be admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 12 months of appointment.
  • Incoming Fellows who are not admitted to a bar (or who have not recently taken a bar with results pending) are expected to take the first available bar examination for which they are eligible (e.g., a May 2018 law school graduate should take the July 2018 bar exam unless eligible to take a spring 2018 bar exam.
  • Fellows must meet specific tribal court or bar admission requirements, if relevant to their assigned District.


The Selection Panel will not consider where the applicant ranked the Fellowship in order of preference on the online application when selecting interview candidates: the applicant can rank the Fellowship third on his or her preference list and it will be considered in the same way as an applicant who ranked it first.


Placement Opportunities for the 2018-2019 Indian Country Fellowship

District of Alaska  | District of Arizona District of Colorado | District of Minnesota District of Montana | District of New Mexico |  Eastern District of Oklahoma  | Northern District of Oklahoma | District of Oregon  Eastern District of Washington


District of Alaska

Bar Admission Requirements:  State Bar Admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required to practice in United States District Court.  The USAO is working with state prosecutors to detemine the requirements a Fellow must satisfy to practice in state court.

The State of Alaska covers 586,400 square miles, (1,400 miles long north to south and 2,700 miles wide east to west) with 34,000 miles of coastline. The four major highways connect only one-sixth of the State. Due to the terrain, most of the villages of Alaska do not have road systems and are therefore accessible only by marine ferry or air service.  The population of Alaska is approximately 644,000 people. Of that, approximately 370,000 reside in the metropolitain areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. More than 300 smaller communities are spread across the reminder of the state. According to the 2016 U.S. Census, over 15% of single-race Alaska residents were Native American or Alaska Native. Alaska’s only Indian reservation is Annette Islands Reserve, which covers 130 square miles of land and 83 miles of water. On March 3, 1891, Congress set aside the Annette Islands for occupancy of the Metlakatla Indians. The reservation currently has approximately 1,500 members.  A unique aspect of the Alaska Native culture is that Natives are organized in two major ways. Similar to the lower 48, Alaska Natives are organized by tribes. However, the tribes are much more numerous and smaller:  there are 227 tribes in Alaska, many of them no larger than a village.  Alaska Natives are also organized Native Corporations, both Regional and Village Corporations, which were established through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). ANCSA settled land and financial claims made by the Alaska Natives and provided for the establishment of 13 regional corporations and 233 Village Corporations to administer the resulting structure.

Although Alaska Natives comprise only 15% of Alaska’s population, they are disproportionally affected by violent crime. Statistics for 2016 (the last year for which data is available) show that Alaska Natives are involved in 28% of the homicides, 51% of the rapes, 28% of the robberies, 44% of the aggravated assaults, 39% of the burglaries, 27% of the larcenies, 29% of the motor vehicle thefts and 41% of the arsons which occurred in Alaska. Many of these cases are in rural Alaska, where the State Department of Public Safety, particularly the Alaska State Troopers, and Department of Law have limited resources. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked with our state counterparts to provide assistance to rural Alaska, but much more needs to be done. 

The Alaska USAO is seeking new and innovative ways to strengthen state and local partnerships to improve public safety and quality of life for Alaska Natives. Our desire is to have the Indian Country Fellow involved in both federal and state criminal cases and federal civil cases. We anticipate establishing a partnership with the state to allow the Fellow to work with state prosecutors in cases arising in the parts of the state where crimes affecting Alaska Natives are the most prevelant. The Fellow would also work closely with our Civil Division, handling some of the medical malpractice cases arising at the Native-run hospitals and clinics. The Fellow would have opportunities to meet with leaders in the Alaska Native health care industry and gain first-hand knowledge of one of the most unique aspects of the Alaska Native corporations – free comprehensive health care for all Alaska Natives throughout the state.  Because Alaska has no tribal courts, we anticipate that the Fellow would be involved in a number of state prosecutions across Alaska.

District of Arizona

Bar Admission Requirements: State Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required. 

There are 22 federally-recognized tribes within the District of Arizona, including much of the Navajo Nation, which is the largest Indian reservation in the country.  Reservations comprise approximately 40% of the state’s land mass and have a combined population of nearly 340,000, which is the  largest  tribal  population  of  any  District.   Because  Arizona  is  not  a  P.L.  280 jurisdiction, the District of Arizona’s U.S. Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) has jurisdiction to charge major crimes and some misdemeanors occurring in Indian Country.  In the Department of Justice’s Indian Country nvestigations and Prosecutions Report for 2016, the Arizona USAO accounted for almost a third of the Indian Country matt  rs handled by all USAOs; specifically, the Arizona USAO resolved 842 Indian Country matters.  The District works closely with the tribes to promote public safety with the Indian Country communities and accounts for nearly one-third of the Indian Country matters handled by USAOs nationwide.  The Arizona USAO is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve public safety and quality of life within Indian Country. Our desire is to have the Indian Country Fellow learn from and experience both the federal and tribal justice systems. The Fellow would have the opportunity to either work with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (“SRPMIC”) or the Navajo Nation in all areas of prosecution.  The Fellow would also have the opportunity to work directly in the federal criminal justice system on Indian Country prosecutions. It is our hope that, through these experiences, the Fellow would be able to absorb the most valuable and worthwhile aspects of both systems and act as a liaison between the two.

Indian Country matters are a high priority for the Arizona USAO. This office has devoted significant resources to prosecution, re-entry, training, and outreach. The Arizona USAO works closely with the Indian tribes within its jurisdiction to promote public safety in Indian Country. Currently, the Phoenix and Flagstaff offices have 17 AUSAs assigned to work on cases arising from 19 different tribes in central and northern Arizona. AUSAs and Victim Advocates regularly participate in Mullti-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings, and we have established a robust tribal SAUSA program. We provide training and education to tribal leadership, police, prosecutors, hospital staff and child protective services. In addition, we are currently working with several tribes to assist with the development of re-entry programs and Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs). The Fellow would have the opportunity to be actively involved in all stages of criminal prosecution, in addition to working with tribes to develop re-entry programs and SARTs. Previously, the Arizona USAO worked closely with the Hopi tribe to help the tribe become one of the first in the nation to exercise enhanced sentencing under the Tribal Law and Order Act (“TLOA”). Similarly, the Arizona USAO worked closely with the Pasqua Yaqui tribe, from its selection as one of three tribes in the nation to participate in the DOJ pilot program of expanded tribal jurisdiction under the Violence Against Women Act to its implementation of the TLOA.

In the District of Arizona, the Fellow has the opportunity to choose to work with one of two tribes: the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community or the Navajo Nation.

(a) Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC). The tribal legal office is the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Prosecutor’s Office.  The Fellow must become admitted to practice in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) courts, which involves completing an “Application for Admission,” providing documentation of good standing in a State or jurisdiction where the applicant is licensed to practice, and passing a background check.

The Fellow would have the opportunity to work with the SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office in all areas of prosecution, including working on cases that are handled by that office and the District.  The SRPMIC is located in the metropolitan Phoenix area and borders the cities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, and Fountain Hills.  The tribe has over 10,000 enrolled members, the majority of whom live on the reservation.  The SPRMIC has exercised expanded jurisdiction under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) since March 2013.  The SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office has ten full-time prosecutors.  The Prosecutor’s Office processes a high volume of cases:  last year, the office prosecuted over 900 criminal cases, including felonies, misdemeanors, and criminal traffic offenses.  Since implementing the TLOA, the SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office regularly prosecutes felony cases, with charges including aggravated domestic violence, aggravated assault, and sexual assault. The tribal court utilizes its enhanced sentencing authority to impose significant prison sentences for felony offenses. The tribe also has a family advocacy center where tribal prosecutors work directly with forensic interviewers and medical practitioners.  The USAO works closely with its counterparts in the SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office, which has four Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys who participate in all aspects of federal prosecution, from grand jury presentation to trial.  The USAO and SAUSAs regularly work jointly to prosecute major offenders.  The Salt River Police Department (“SRPD”) is the primary law enforcement agency for the SRPMIC. The SRPD submits cases directly to tribal, federal, and state prosecuting agencies. The Arizona USAO works closely with the SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office to determine the best course of action on potential federal cases. This frequent and open communication between agencies has resulted in a close working relationship between the Arizona USAO, the SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office, and the SRPD.

(b) Navajo Nation. The tribal legal office is the Office of the Prosecutor.  To practice in the Navajo Nation’s tribal courts, the Fellow must complete an application for admission, which includes completing a course in “Traditional Teachings and Navajo Culture” and documentation of good character. An applicant must also pass the Navajo Nation bar examination.

The Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation in the country. It spans 27,425 square miles and extends into New Mexico, northern Arizona, and Utah. The Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting cases in eleven tribal judicial districts. The Office handles criminal misdemeanors, as well as dependency, delinquency, and children in need of supervision cases. The Office employs 14 prosecutors. In fiscal year 2017, the Office of the Prosecutor filed 7,092 cases (which includes criminal traffic offenses). The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the primary law enforcement agency for major crimes that occur on the Navajo Nation reservation. The FBI works together with Navajo Criminal Investigators on major crime investigations. The Navajo Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency for tribal offenses (misdemeanors). The Arizona USAO works frequently with the Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor. In response to the AG’s 2017 directive to target violent crime, the Arizona USAO and the Navajo Nation have met in communities across the reservation to discuss the most effective ways to identify and prosecute violent criminals in those communities. Currently, the Navajo Nation does not exercise enhanced sentencing authority under the TLOA or special domestic violence jurisdiction under the VAWA. The tribe is currently building resources and infrastructure in anticipation of pursuing both sources of authority. A Fellow working with the Navajo Nation would likely have the unique opportunity to participate in the efforts to implement those provisions.

District of Colorado

Bar Admission Requirements: An Indian Country (IC) Fellow must graduate from an accredited law school, be admitted to a bar (any State or the District of Columbia), and be licensed to practice in a state to join the U.S. District Court Bar in Colorado.

The Durango Branch Office handles all the Indian Country Crimes in the District of Colorado and is in close proximity to two Colorado Tribes (Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute) located near the “Four Corners” area of southwest Colorado. Both tribes reside on exclusive federal jurisdiction reservations covering large geographic areas, which border neighboring Districts as well as neighboring tribes in those Districts, enlarging the transient Native population on each Reservation. The Durango Branch has its own Grand Jury. The case load is moderately heavy. Typical IC criminal prosecutions include homicides, sexual assaults, other assaults, drug offenses, alcohol-related offenses, domestic abuse, and an increasing number of methamphetamine and gang-related crimes. The case load is also notable for the intensity of its concomitant, high-impact victim work. Recently, the U.S. District Court established the "Durango Pilot Program" which assigned an Article III District Court Judge to the Court in Durango. This procedural change alleviates myriad issues related to AUSAs, law enforcement, witnesses, victims, and others who previously had to travel to Denver (350 miles away) for grand jury, hearings, trials, etc. A Fellow based in Durango, Colorado would be able to observe and practice before not only a sitting U.S. Magistrate Judge, but also an Article III District Judge who would locally conduct trials and sentencing hearings involving violent crime and other felony cases.

In addition to Indian Country crimes, the Durango AUSAs cover all of the federal cases originating in the southwest comer of the state, incluing those generated from over one million acres of public lands surrounding the Durango area. Durango is also at the crossroads of two national highways, making it a drug and alien smuggling corridor. Because of this, the branch office is seeing an increased volume of drug cases from both reservations. A Fellow would be assigned to the Durango branch as an AUSA and would gain valuable experience immediately. The Durango branch office is geographically located in between the reservations. An Indian Country Fellow would be invaluable to our work with the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, and Southern Utes.  The USAO has been unable to establish a SAUSA program with their tribe. Thus, with any case of significance, it is difficult for the District to maintain the necessary and vital lines of communication with the tribal prosecutor, tribal court, tribal probation, and other agencies. Records indicate that many tribal crimes are dismissed and the USAO is not informed because of the lack of effective liaison between the Tribe and AUSAs in cases that are of mutual interest. We anticipate the Fellow would fill help fill that gap, providing an immeasurable benefit.

Additionally, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is currently working with DOJ partners, the U.S. District Court, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, the American Probation and Parole Association("APPA"), and numerous other federal, state and local agencies to establish a reentry program on Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. With a horrific recidivism rate of over 70%, a Fellow who could assist the Ute Mountain Tribe during and after the development and implementation of such a program would enhance the potential for success.

District of Minnesota

Bar Admission Requirements:  Admission to Minnesota bar preferred but not required.  State Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required. Given the "tri-current" jurisdiction (tribal, state, and federal) on White Earth and Mille Lacs Reservations, it may be beneficial for the Fellow to be licensed in the State of Minnesota.  However, this bar admission is not required for Red Lake and Boise Forte, nor is it a prerequisite for assisting in the White Earth and Mille Lacs legal offices. 

The District of Minnesota is home to 11 federally-recognized tribal nations.  The USAO has exclusive federal criminal jurisdiction on the Red Lake and Bois Forte Indian reservations, and concurrent federal criminal jurisdiction on the White Earth Indian Reservation.  The February 2013 request by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe for concurrent federal criminal jurisdiction was approved in January 2016.  Consequently, in January 2017, the USAO will exercise exclusive and concurrent federal criminal jurisdiction on the Red Lake, Bois Forte, White Earth, and Mille Lacs Indian Reservations, and will further exercise federal criminal jurisdiction of crimes of general applicability where appropriate on the remaining 7 reservations within the District.   For many years, the USAO has maintained a robust Indian Country (IC) practice with the Red Lake and Bois Forte.  After the Tribal Law and Order Act passed in 2010, and with assumption of concurrent federal criminal jurisdiction, the USAO has faced a need for greater communication with not only the Red Lake and Bois Forte, but also White Earth and the remaining tribal nations located in the District. 

The USAO is committed to more meaningful communication and collaboration with all 11 tribal nations located within the District.  With this renewed commitment and extended jurisdiction, the USAO increasingly resolves time, distance and resource issues through in-person communications with the Tribal Nations. Additionally, the USAO is addressing challenges associated with coordinating increased Indian Country caseloads.  The Red Lake, White Earth, and Bois Forte reservations are over 220 miles from the USAO – and the distance has, at times, been a barrier to effective and efficient communication, especially when significant matters arise on all three Reservations simultaneously.  An Indian Country Fellow in the District of Minnesota would be an invaluable resource and cement the strong existing working relationships by direct placement within Indian Country for at least 12 months.  Through tribal details, the Fellow will assist in providing a greater understanding to all parties about tribal court and federal court practices, and in establishing a consistent framework for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes occurring in Indian Country as criminal jurisdiction within the District changes.  The USAO is committed to finding its Fellow suitable placement for at least one if not two tribal details consisting of at least 12 months.  

The District does not currently have a Tribal SAUSA program with any of the tribal nations.  An Indian country Fellow would be instrumental in increasing the capacity to handle Indian Country cases and solidifying an established framework to coordinate investigations and prosecutions in tribal, federal, or state court without distance being a barrier to in-person communications. 

District of Montana

Bar Admission Requirements:  Fellow must be an active member in good standing of another federal Bar or of the Bar of the highest court of a State, territory, or insular possession of the United States.  Fort Peck Tribal Court requires attorneys to take a Tribal Bar Examination administered by the Tribal Court Administrators Office.  Attorneys can file a petition to practice on a single case without taking the bar with the Chief Judge, but the Fellow will likely be required to take the bar examination so he or she can continue to practice in the Tribal Court. There is an annual fee to maintain tribal bar registration.  Fort Belknap Tribal Court allows lawyers to practice if they are licensed in any State, complete a fitness questionnaire, are approved by the Chief Judge, and pay a nominal fee. 

Montana is a vast state with seven Indian Reservations.  The Flathead is the only PL 280 reservation; the other six reservations are under federal jurisdiction.  They are:  the Blackfeet Reservation, the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, the Fort Belknap Reservation, the Fort Peck Reservation, the Crow Reservation, and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. 

All credible cases alleging crimes set forth in the Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1153), and the Indian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1152) are prosecuted by the USAO.  Specifically, we prosecute murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, arson, burglary, and assault cases, and we prioritize cases involving physical and sexual assaults on women and children.   In Montana, our commitment to Indian Country is evident by a review of our case and trial numbers.  In 2014, 40% of the cases were from Indian Country.  In 2015 and 2016, 35% of the cases prosecuted by the USAO were from Indian Country.  So far in 2017, we are on track again for Indian Country cases to comprise about 1/3 of the criminal caseload for the District.

Annually, Indian Country AUSAs average between 20 and 30 indicted cases; they also handle their own appeals.  Additionally, Indian Country AUSAs have significant liaison responsibilities that require extensive travel.  Federal crimes from the Blackfeet, Rocky Boy’s, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck reservations are prosecuted at Great Falls.  Federal crimes from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations are prosecuted at Billings.  Distances from these reservations are a challenge as round trips range from a minimum of 120 miles (Crow to Billings) to a maximum of 650 miles (Fort Peck to Great Falls.)  Bad weather, bad roads, as well as the distances involved create significant time and travel issues for AUSAs. 

Currently, the Indian Country unit is comprised of two AUSAs in Billings, including a Deputy Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney who is responsible for supervising the unit and prosecuting cases arising from the Crow Reservation, and four Indian Country AUSAs in Great Falls, including the district Tribal Liaison.  The USAO has a heavy caseload that would provide our Fellow a great opportunity for trial and liaison work.  We anticipate offering our Fellow detail opportunities at the Fort Peck tribal courts.  Crimes stemming from the use and abuse of alcohol are common, and the abuse and trafficking of methamphetamine and prescription drugs is at epidemic proportions.  Fort Peck tribal court handles approximately 3000 cases annually.  Fort Peck is a Violence Against Women Act Pilot Project reservation with licensed attorneys prosecuting for the tribe, and a SAUSA that prosecutes in both tribal and federal courts.  

District of New Mexico

Bar Admission Requirement:  Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.

The U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) for the District of New Mexico has the third largest Indian Country caseload in the country and is the only USAO with a section dedicated solely to investigating and prosecuting crime arising out of the District's tribal communities.  The Indian Country Crimes Section (ICCS) is comprised of eight Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs), a paralegal specialist, and several experienced legal assistants.  The ICCS prosecutes cases under the Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. sections 1152 & 1153) and currently has a docket of more than 350 active Indian Country cases, including homicide, child sexual assault and other assault cases.  The ICCS also prosecutes crimes that arise in Indian Country but fall outside of the Major Crimes Act and the Indian Country Crimes Act, including firearms, narcotics cases, and white-collar crimes.  Another significant ICCS responsibility is the investigation and prosecution of cultural property crimes to protect New Mexico's tribal cultural resources and to preserve the cultural and artistic heritage of Native Americans.  For calendar year 2017 , the USAO-NM opened 1 83 cases under the Major Crimes Act and the Indian Country Crimes Act, including 68 cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, or child abuse. In addition, the USAO-NM actively pursues cases involving NAGPRA and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, as exmplified by this office's on-going efforts to recover the Acoma Shield from the Eve Auction House in France.

The USAO-NM serves 22 separate tribal governments which vary widely in their practices, structure, and the size ofthe communities they serve. The Navajo Nation, our largest tribal partner, has four discrete geographic portions, each with its own community or multiple communities, within New Mexico. The rich and varied Native American culture in New Mexico, along with the heavy Indian Country criminal caseload will provide an Indian Country Fellow with substantial and meaningful work along with the unparalleled opportunity to learn about the challenges facing Indian Country communities and the federal govemments efforts to discharge its trust responsibilities to diverse cultures with both common and unique needs.

An Indian Country Fellow working in the ICCS would be exposed to a broad spectrum of cases that arise in Indian Country, be afforded the opportunity to develop investigative, prosecutorial, and trial skills, and be mentored by Assistant U.S. Attorneys with substantial experience in and a commitment to prosecuting Indian Country crimes.  The U.S. Attorney encourages strong government-to-government relationships with New Mexico's 22 Indian Tribes by hosting an annual District-wide tribal consultation, participating in consultations with groups of Tribes, and meeting with Tribal leaders to address specific legal issues.  The ICCS Supervisory AUSA and Tribal Liaison support the U.S. Attorney's efforts by meeting regularly with Tribal leaders and providing training to tribal officers, social service providers, victim advocates, and other tribal partners.  An Indian Country Fellow working in the ICCS would have the opportunity to participate in these ongoing tribal outreach and training efforts.  In addition, the Fellow would be offered the opportunity to work with two tribal agencies, the Pueblo of Laguna's Government Affairs Office (Prosecutor) and the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Prosecutor's Office, for six-month terms. 

Eastern District of Oklahoma

Bar Admission Requirements:  Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.

The Eastern District of Oklahoma is home to nine federally recognized tribes representing over a million tribal members:  Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (the largest tribe in the United States), Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Seminole Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Alabama-Quasserte Tribal Town, and the Kialegee Tribal Town.  Each tribe operates casinos, which has resulted in a significant increase in economic and violent crimes on casino property and has led to more complex investigations/prosecutions of tribal officials involved in corruption. 

Current and recent cases involve murder, kidnapping, child abuse, distribution of illegal narcotics, armed robbery, serious assaults, arson, firearm violations, and white collar crimes ranging from simple employee embezzlements to complex conspiracies and frauds involving millions of dollars.  The Office’s sole Indian Country (IC) AUSA/Tribal Liaison is currently assigned to 45 cases.  Recent Indian Country cases include a triple homicide; a corruption and bribery investigation and subsequent conviction of the Executive Director of Chocktaw Nation (associated with the construction of $385 million in casinos); multiple domestic violence cases/assaults, and numerous economic cases involving corruption, theft, and embezzlement, often involving casino employees.  Methamphetamine offenses and trafficking continue to be a significant problem. 

We anticipate that an Indian Country Fellow would be primarily assigned to the Criminal Division, although the Civil Division is also actively involved in IC and would offer opportunities for the Fellow.  Civil Division cases include medical malpractice defense for 23 Indian Health Care facilities under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  Our district defends 10 to 15 major malpractice cases annually that subject the United States to millions of dollars in liability.  In addition to an active caseload, the Fellow will participate in regular outreach within the tribes.  The District has strong existing working relationships with five of the largest tribes in the country (Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Muscogee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Seminole Nation) and can offer the Fellow detail opportunities with multiple Native American legal organizations for trial and liaison work.

Northern District of Oklahoma


Bar Admission Requirements: Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.  Tribal bar admission is necessary to practice in tribal court, but that may be obtained after appointment, provided Fellow's bar admission is in good standing.


The Northern District of Oklahoma lies entirely within the area formerly known as Indian Territory. The site of the forced removal of several tribes, Oklahoma has a very diverse and unique history. The Northern District of Oklahoma is the home of the second largest city in Oklahoma,
Tulsa. NDOK encompasses eleven counties in the northeastern part of Oklahoma. Located within the District are fourteen Federally recognized tribes: (1) Cherokee Nation; (2) Muscogee (Creek) Nation; (3) Modoc Tribe; (4) Osage Nation; (5) Delaware Tribe; (6) Seneca-Cayuga Tribe; (7) Miami Tribe; (8) Peoria Tribe; (9) Quapaw Tribe; (10) Wyandotte Tribe; (11) Eastern Shawnee Tribe; (12) Pawnee Nation; (13) Ottawa Tribe; and (14) Shawnee. Oklahoma has the second highest American Indian/Alaska Native population 12.9% second only to Alaska. Each tribe has their own government, some resembling the federal government's structure and some based more on historical structures. The USAO is committed to maintaining a government-to-government relationship with each of these tribes, and striving to meet the Federal trust responsibility with regard to justice issues. Throughout the District exists various types of Indian Country, as defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1151. Generally, the District is comprised of a patchwork system or "checkerboard" of Indian lands that may be classified as either trust land or restricted allotment land. Recently the 10th Circuit ruled that the lands within the historical Muscogee (Creek) Nation boundaries was a reservation, which had never been disestablished. We are awaiting resolution by the Supreme Court as to whether the vast majority of the NDOK will be Indian Country. This decision could have a drastic increase in caseload of the NDOK.

Regardless of the expansion of tribal lands, the NDOK has a steady caseload with its fourteen tribes, all of which have at least one casino. These casinos are rapidly changing from casino only to resorts with full hotels, restaurants, spas, and other amenities. The 24-hour resorts mean an increase in drug trafficking, gun crimes, embezzlements, thefts, and domestic violence.  Further, the tribes are involved in several economic ventures throughout the state. In addition, the crimes and issues that plague all of Indian Country also exist on the allotments and restricted lands ofNDOK.


The USAO for the Northern District of Oklahoma regards its federal trust responsibilities to the 14 federally recognized tribes within its jurisdiction as a significant priority. Three Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) form “Team Indian Country.” Their work is dedicated to Indian Country matters including, but not limited to, prosecution of criminal matters arising from concurrent or exclusive federal jurisdiction, coordination with tribal leaders and tribal law enforcement officials regarding justice issues, and serving as liaison with the Attorney General’s Native American Issues Sub-Committee and the DOJ Office of Tribal Justice to ensure uniformity in Department policies and litigation positions with regard to Indian Country. Typical criminal prosecutions include federal narcotics and firearms violations, violent crimes (rape, child abuse and domestic violence, burglary and robbery) as well as white collar crimes, including theft from Indian casinos, public corruption, and other non-violent crimes. Team Indian Country serves as the primary contacts with tribal leaders and law enforcement officials, and in-house experts for the USAO regarding federal Indian law. All the Indian Country AUSAs serve as instructors or presenters at conferences providing training to tribal and state law enforcement officers and social services personnel regarding the identification, investigation, and prosecution of crimes in Indian Country. The Fellow would participate fully with these experienced prosecutors in Federal criminal investigations, case development, and jury trials. Furthermore, the Fellow would be an integral part of the District’s outreach efforts to coordinate and communicate with federal recognized tribes on a government-to-government basis. Given the unique nature of Indian Country in Oklahoma, the USAO has secured the commitment of three separate tribal Attorneys General, who welcome the opportunity to work with the Indian Country Fellow.


District of Oregon

Bar Admission Requirements:  State Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.  The Fellow must become admitted to the bar of the Umatilla Tribal Court.  To be eligible, the Fellow must be a member in good standing of any tribal or State bar, petition for admission, and file an admission fee of $100.00. 

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon has a proud history of actively engaging in building relationships on a government-to-government level with the nine federally recognized tribal nations in the District of Oregon, as well as with intertribal organizations involved in law enforcement on Indian Country lands located within the district.  Routine and meaningful government-to-government consultations with tribes and tribal organizations serve as a critical focus of this district’s public safety efforts. The nine federally recognized tribal nations within the jurisdiction of the District of Oregon offer diverse cultures, distinct lifestyles and traditions.  These are the Burns Paiute Tribe; Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians; Coquille Indian Tribe Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians; The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; The Klamath Tribes; Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; and The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The District of Oregon has a significant Indian Country criminal caseload. The caseload is incredibly diverse, with numerous violent crimes (homicide, domestic violence, gang assaults, and firearms offenses), drug trafficking organizations, and fraud/embezzlement cases. Most of these cases originate from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and Umatilla Indian Reservations. The District has the equivalent of one full-time AUSA to prosecute this caseload. The Indian Country AUSA is also responsible for conducting trainings for tribal enforcement, supervising the Central Violations Bureau docket and consulting with tribal officers to ensure compliance with DOJ policies, including federal marijuana enforcement. Indian Country cases require the AUSA to coordinate investigations with the FBI and tribal police, meet with victims and their families, and research jurisdictional issues.

The District also has one SAUSA who is the tribal prosecutor for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). The CTUIR is one of 8 tribes that qualified to implement the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), improving the justice system, granting tribal courts tougher sentencing powers for crimes, and expanding coordination between federal agencies and the tribal justice system. TLOA increased the potential sentences imposed in tribal court from one to three years, and authorized tribal courts to impose consecutive sentences for multiple crimes with a cap of 9 years. Consistent with the requirements of TLOA, the CTUIR provides licensed defense counsel, and requires the tribal judge to be licensed and law trained, and the tribal court to have a published code of criminal law and rules of evidence and criminal procedure. The SAUSA co-chairs with the Indian Country AUSA on federal criminal cases arising from the CTUIR.

The District of Oregon has a great need for the Indian Country Fellow and would propose to detail the Fellow to the CTUIR.  The United States District Court for the District of Oregon recently approved a Central Violations Bureau collateral schedule for Indian Country, which will enable officers to cite non-tribal members for specified misdemeanors on tribal lands.  SAUSA/CTUIR Tribal Counsel Kyle Daley will play a key role in implementing the CVB docket in Pendleton, Oregon.  The Fellow would work closely with the SAUSA, as well as Portland-based AUSAs in developing appropriate training in investigation and court appearances for the tribal officers issuing CVB citations.  The Fellow would also be involved in CVB training for other tribes, and for the law enforcement officers at Chemawa Indian School.  The Fellow would work with tribal officers in charging, negotiating and trying CVB misdemeanor cases in U.S. Magistrate Court on a bi-monthly basis.   In addition, the Fellow would assist SAUSA/CTUIR Tribal Counsel by handling a misdemeanor caseload in Tribal Court, and by serving as second chair at appropriate trials in Tribal Court.  In appropriate cases, the Fellow would also have an opportunity to serve as second chair in trials in District Court.

The Office of Tribal Prosecutor and the Office of Legal Counsel for the CTUIR serve as the tribal legal offices. The Office of Tribal Prosecutor has one full time prosecutor and one administrative assistant who handle a full caseload of felony and misdemeanor matters.  The current felony caseload includes several VAWA cases, felony sexual assault cases, felony domestic assault cases, felony theft, fail to register as a sex offender, child neglect, elder abuse, felony flight from law enforcement and felony drug cases.  The misdemeanor caseload includes assault cases, driving while suspended, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence of intoxicants and marijuana infractions.  The CTUIR caseload also includes location specific investigations of waste of wildlife, violation of tribal treaty fishing rights and Montana bison hunting violations. In 2014, the CTUIR caseload included 166 adult cases, six juvenile cases, and seven truancy matters.

 In addition, the Umatilla Tribe was one of the few tribes which applied for and was granted “Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction” established under the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA 2013).  The “Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction”, allows for the prosecution of non-Indians for certain domestic violence related crimes. Finally, the Umatilla Tribe was one of the few tribes that qualified to exert enhanced Tribal Court sentencing authority against violent tribal offenders under the Tribal Law and Order Act.  The Umatilla Tribe has exerted this enhanced sentencing authority and participated in a Bureau of Prisons Pilot Program to place those prosecuted into federal prison.  While other federal districts may have more Indian Country cases, the District of Oregon caseload is as intense and interesting as any jurisdiction in the country and will provide the recipient of the Indian Country Fellowship a challenging and rewarding experience.

Eastern District of Washington

Bar Admission Requirements:  State Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.  Tribal bar admission standards vary by tribe: 

  • Yakama Nation - prosecutors are required to be bar licensed
  • Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation - requires good moral character, tribal court approval, a signed oath, and an admission fee
  • Spokane Tribal Court - Court approval required to prosecute
  • Kalispel Tribe of Indians - Requres taking the Spokesperson's Oath, payment of any applicable bar admission fees, and membership in good standing in any other jurisdiction in which the applicant is licensed


The Eastern District of Washington is comprised of twenty Washington counties east of the crest of the Cascade Mountains. The District includes approximately two-thirds of the land area of the state (41,826 square miles) and is home to 1,495,054 (2010 census) of its citizens. The United States Attorney's Office has its headquarters in Spokane, and a full-time branch office in Yakima. The USAO for the Eastern District of Washington has an extensive Indian Country caseload.  The Spokane office serves Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. The Yakima branch office serves the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yaknma Nation ("Yakama Nation").  The U.S. Attomey's Office for the Eastern District of Washington enjoys an outstanding relationship with tribal law enforcement that is the envy of other districts in PL 280 or partial PL 280 states. The outstanding relationship between tribal and federal law enforcement has served to benefit the district greatly, but it has also served to generate an immense caseload, particularly in Yakima, the district's smaller field office, which responds to the Yakama Nation, the tribe with the largest caseload of all.

The highest concentration of cases is in Yakima Branch Office (approximately 16% of total cases charged in 2018 to date have Indian Country connection to the Yakima Nation). The Yakima office currently has thirty-eight active cases under the MCA or ICCA. The Yakama Nation is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of criminal activity. In February 2018, the Yakama Nation Triba lCouncil declared a public safety crisis. On February 7, 2018, the Council passed Resolution T-057-18, which was initiated to address criminal activity throughout the reservation.  The USAO and Yakama Nation have a strong existing working relationship. At the current time, the Yakima office has five permanent AUSA's of which all have cases originating within the boundaries of the Yakama Nation. The Yakima office currently has thirty-eight open cases involving violent crimes, and multiple open drug trafficking and firearm cases, all of which originated within the boundaries of the Yakama Nation.  Specifically, the Yakima Branch Office currently has multiple murder cases pending in district court, filed under the General Crime Act (non-lndians who victimized lndians, as well as the Major Crime Act (MCA) (Indian-defendants), with three defendants charged with first degree murder, two defendants charged as accomplices, three charged with second degree murder, and one charged with manslaughter.  In addition, the office has multiple violent offenders charged with assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and aggravated sexual assault. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have all recognized the crime wave within the boundaries of the Yakama Nation and have advised they intend to devote resources to combat this current plague. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has primary jurisdiction over Major Crimes Act offenses and has recently added a new agent to the Yakima office.


The USAO's main office in Spokane currently has multiple assault cases, including a violent stabbing case, which went to trial and is pending sentencing and sexual abuse of a minor,and burglary and robbery matters. While the crime level is not comparable to the Yakama Nation, the tribes to which the Spokane office responds  (the Kalispel, Spokane, and Confederated Colville tribes) also generate significant work for the district. Last year, the Spokane office alone had 29 Indian Country arrests, 8 complaints, 14 indictments returned, and 2 cases that went to full jury trial. Last year the Spokane office had 26 federal Indian Country convictions, and 23 Indian Country sentencing hearings. The cases have been very diverse involving everything from assault with intent to commit murder, sexual abuse of a minor, embezzlement, arson, child pornography, felon in possession of a firearm, strangulation, residential burglary, domestic violence recidivism, and aggravated sexual abuse. The significant majority of the Indian Country cases brought, however, were sexual assaults and other violent crime-in particular domestic violence. These crimes, which turn nearly entirely on witness testimony and the testimony of medical experts, require a tremendous amount of time and energy to prepare.


Updated September 21, 2018

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