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.  

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 2019-2020 Honors Program application opens on July 31, 2019 and closes on September 8, 2019.  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 2020 law school graduate should take the July 2020 bar exam unless eligible to take a spring 2020 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 2019-2020 Indian Country Fellowship

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

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.

Alaska is geographically the largest state in the United States, spanning over 600,000 square miles of land and over 33,000 miles of coastline. Alaska has 229 federally recognized tribes, many spread over geographically isolated remote areas accessible only by airplane and, in the case of coastal villages, by boat. Alaska has the highest American Indian/Alaska Native population in the nation, at 15% according to the 2016 U.S. Census.  The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 set Alaska apart from the reservation model used in the Lower 48. At present, the only piece of Indian Country in Alaska is Metlakatla, an Indian reservation created by Congress in 1891. ANCSA settled land and financial claims made by the Alaska Natives and provided for the establishment of 13 regional corporations and over 200 Village Corporations to receive title to certain lands in Alaska.   

Alaska’s Native population suffers a disproportionate rate of violence in a number of areas especially child sexual assault and domestic violence. Alaska presents unique challenges in providing law enforcement resources to combat this violence as numerous Native Alaskan villages may only have minimally trained public safety officers, with sworn law enforcement officers located at least an airplane flight away. Pursuant to federal statute, federal criminal jurisdiction is generally limited to the commission of federal violations as the federal government has no criminal jurisdiction over Indian Country within the state.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska prosecutes crimes that arise in rural and Tribal communities that fall outside the Major Crimes Act and the Indian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. sections 1152 & 1153) including firearms offenses, narcotics cases, fraud/embezzlement, and environmental crimes.  Although state courts account for the vast majority of prosecutions involving Alaska Natives, this office currently has 40 open cases involving federal crimes occurring in rural Alaska.  If there were more state lands under federal criminal jurisdiction, the caseload would be much higher.  In addition, our office currently averages approximately 15 medical malpractice cases per year which arise from hospitals and clinics owned by the Alaska Native corporations and which primarily treat Alaska Natives.  Against this complicated backdrop, the District of Alaska is seeking innovative ways to improve public safety in Alaska Native and rural communities, and an Indian Country Fellow would assist with these efforts.  

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 federal, state and tribal 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 plan to establish a partnership with the state to allow the Fellow to have the opportunity to work with state prosecutors in cases arising in the parts of the state where crimes affecting Alaska Natives are the most prevalent. With cases originating in rural Alaska on the state docket, the Fellow will assist in identifying cases that could qualify for federal prosecution.  Additionally, the Indian Country Fellow would work closely with the tribal liaison to conduct outreach and improve coordination between our state and tribal partners.

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. 


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 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 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; the Tucson office has 12 AUSAs who handle cases arising in Indian country in southern 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.

Previously, the Arizona USAO worked very 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 Pascua Yaqui Tribe, from its initial 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 ("VAWA") to its implementation of the TLOA.

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 Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community ("GRIC") or the Pascua Yaqui Tribe 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.

(a) 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, extends into New Mexico, northern Arizona, and Utah, and is home to over 170,000 residents. The Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting cases in twelve tribal judicial districts. The Office handles criminal misdemeanors, as well as dependency, delinquency, and children in need of supervision cases. The Office employs 13 prosecutors. In fiscal year 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor filed 10,072 criminal complaints (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.

  • Gila River Indian Community.  The Gila River Indian Community is located adjacent to Phoenix, within the Phoenix Metropolitan area in Pinal and Maricopa Counties. The reservation is approximately 583 square miles and encompasses seven districts. According to the 2010 census, the Gila River Indian Community has approximately 12,200 members living on the reservation. The Office of the Prosecutor employs nine prosecutors and handles civil traffic and adult criminal matters. In fiscal year 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor filed 520 criminal complaints and 140 felony cases, which involved 323 separate felonies. The Arizona USAO works frequently with the URIC Office of the Prosecutor on case initiation and referrals to ensure an effective use of resources. The Arizona USAO attends monthly MDT and Violent Crimes Team meetings to assist with investigations and prosecution. Additionally, on a monthly basis the Arizona USAO attends a meeting with federal, tribal and state probation officers to discuss offenders re-entering the community and performance on supervised release. Finally, the Arizona USAO provides training to law enforcement and prosecutors. GRIC exercises special domestic violence jurisdiction under the VAWA and Tribal Law and Order Act. 

(b) Pascua Yaqui.  The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is located in Pima County in metropolitan Tucson, Arizona. According to the 2010 census, over 3,800 people reside on the reservation. The Office of the Prosecutor received 547 cases for prosecution in fiscal year 2018. A total of 311 criminal cases were filed for prosecution, including adult criminal, juvenile criminal and animal control. An additional 136 traffic cases were handled by the Prosecutor's Office along with another 38 cases involving juvenile status offenses and child dependency cases. The Office of the Prosecutor has five Arizona licensed attorneys, all of whom are Special Assistant United States Attorneys, three lay advocates and a Victim Advocate. Each prosecutor handles approximately 40 active cases at any given time. Cases vary, to include: adult criminal, criminal traffic, civil traffic, juvenile criminal, animal control, child dependency and juvenile status offenses. Pascua Yaqui prosecutors collaborate with the Arizona USAO and, when appropriate, State of Arizona partners to achieve the best outcomes for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe given the complex nature of prosecutions on the reservation and the jurisdictional limits.

Pascua Yaqui has successfully exercised special domestic violence jurisdiction under VAWA since 2014 and the Tribal Law and Order Act.  Pascua Yaqui and the Arizona USAO participated in the inaugural Indian Country Fellowship, which was a great success for both offices and Fellow Charisse Arce (now an AUSA with the District of Alaska).


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 New Mexico

Bar Admission Requirement:  Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.  The fellow must apply for permission to appear in Laguna Pueblo tribal court.

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 2018, the USAO-NM Indian Country Crimes Section opened 195 cases under I 8 U.S.C. §§ 1152 and 1153. Among those were 35 homicide cases involving 57 victims, 76 felony assault cases involving 99 victims, and 63 sexual assault cases involving 79 victims.

The USAO-NM serves 22 separate tribes with individual goverments that vary widely in their practices, structure, and the size of the communities they serve. The Navajo Nation, our larges tribal partner, has four discrete geographic portions within New Mexico, each with its own community or encompassing multiple communities. The varied Native American cutlture in New Mexico and the heavy Indian Country criminal caseload handled by our office will provide an Indian Country Fellow with substantial and meaningful work. In addition, the Fellow will have an unparalleled opportunity to leam about the varied challenges facing tribal communities and the federal government's efforts to discharge its trust responsibilities.

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 the Pueblo Laguna's Office of the Prosecutor.  


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 (NDOK) 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 of theNDOK.


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. The NDOK currently has 25 active Indian Country investigations or open cases, including an OCEDTF case with multiple defendants. The NDOK has a tribal liaison/ AUSA and an AUSA/Indian Country Fellow assigned to Indian Country crimes. The United States Attorney, R. Trent Shores, is the Chairman of the Native American Issues Subcommittee and is actively involved with tribal community outreach. The Tribal Liaison conducts several trainings to law enforcement, casino personnel, tribal officers, and child welfare workers. In addition, she carries a full caseload. Further, USA Shores and the Tribal Liaison are currently part of the Presidential Task Force for the Safety of Children at IHS Facilities. As Indian Country is specialized, coverage of some cases by other AUSAs when the tribal liaison is out of the office is difficult.


Indian Country matters include, but are 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. Indian Country AUSAs serve 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.


The Fellow will also have the opportunity to work with the Cherokee Nation, Office of the Attorney General.  The Cherokee Nation Tribal courts are open to every person or entity with in the fourteen county jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma, unless specifically limited by statute. The District Court consists of two judges who handle matters in the civil, criminal, and juvenile realms, while the Supreme Court hears cases of appeals and other matters as may be conferred by statue. The criminal case are those that arise on Indian country and are prosecuted by the Cherokee Nation Attorney General's Office. The Supreme Court consists of five Justices. All judges and justices in the Cherokee Nation courts are attorneys. The Cherokee Nation creates rules to certify arbitrators to work within the tribe. Arbitrators also must be attorneys. The Cherokee Nation has a very active court docket including over 100 criminal cases a year.



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 District of Oregon has a significant lndian Country criminal caseload, including violent crimes (homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, gang assaults, and firearms offenses), drug trafficking organizations, and fraud/embezzlement cases. The District's Major and General Crimes Act jurisdictional authority is focused on three tribal governments - Burns Paiute Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla lndian Reservation (CTUIR), and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The criminal jurisdiction regarding the remaining six (6) tribes (the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw lndians; Coquille lndian Tribe; Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of lndians; Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; Klamath Tribes; and Confederated Tribes of Siletz lndians) is impacted by Public Law 280.  The District of Oregon has the equivalent of two fulltime Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAS) and a dedicated Tribal Victim Specialist to prosecute the lndian Country criminal caseload. We also have a full time lndian Country Liaison in our Eugene branch office.

The lndian Country Fellow would work on a wide variety of cases in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland, Oregon as well as with the CTUIR Tribal Prosecutor in the CTUIR Tribal Court. The District of Oregon is in the first year of a three year grant to work with a Tribal Special AUSA (SAUSA) on lndian Country cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sex trafficking linked to intimate partner violence. The Tribal SAUSA is the CTUIR Tribal Prosecutor. The lndian Country Fellow would have the opportunity to complement the Tribal Prosecutor's work, covering other types of cases in Tribal Court. The CTUIR Tribal Court implemented 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. The lndian Country Fellow would work closely with the AUSA and the Tribal Prosecutor in organizing periodic training and case reviews with the Umatilla Tribal Police Department.

ln addition to criminal cases related to the Major and General Crimes Act, the lndian County Fellow could work with the lndian County AUSA in supervising the Central Violations Bureau (CVB) docket for Chemawa lndian School (a BIE managed lndian Boarding School) and assist In developing the Chemawa lndian School Peer Court (a restorative justice program).  The District of Oregon is in the process of expanding the lndian Country CVB docket and the lndian Country Fellow could assist in this expansion.

The lndian Country Fellow would have an unparalleled opportunity to try cases in two excellent trial settings, federal court and CTUIR Tribal Court, supported by enthusiastic and knowledgeable coworkers and team members. The lndian Country caseload in the District of Oregon caseload is as intense and interesting as any jurisdiction in the country and will provide the recipient of the lndian Country Fellowship a challenging and rewarding experience. 

The District of Oregon and the CTUIR recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for a Tribal SAUSA to dedicate his time exclusively to the investigation and prosecution of lndian Country cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and certain sex trafficking cases linked to intimate partner violence. ln addition to limiting the type of cases the Tribal SAUSA will handle, the MOU provides that the Tribal SAUSA will spend 40%o of his time in the Portland office of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The lndian Country Fellow would spend one year or two six month terms at the CTUIR Tribal Prosecutor's Office complementing the Tribal SAUSA's work by covering other aspects of prosecution. This will fill a need for the Tribal Prosecutor's Office, as well as provide a valuable resource to the CTUIR. We would execute another MOU with the CTUIR detailing the terms of the lndian Country Fellow's participation at the CTUIR Tribal Prosecutor's Office.

  • The CTUIR Tribal Court was established by the Board of Trustees and consists of the Chief Judge and court administration staff. The Court is vested with jurisdiction to enforce all provisions of the CTUIR Criminal Code against lndians violating the Code within the boundaries of the Reservation. The felony caseload includes VAWA cases, felony sexual assault cases, felony domestic assault cases, felony theft, failure 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 CTU lR caseload also includes location specific investigations of waste of wildlife, violation of tribal treaty fishing rights and Montana bison hunting violations. Tribal Court also has civil jurisdiction over laws, codes and policies governing the CTUIR adopted by the Board of Trustees.
  • The CTUIR Tribal Court was one of the first tribal courts in the country awarded "Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction" established under the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA 2013). The "Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction," which allows for the prosecution of non-lndians for certain domestic violence felonies and misdemeanors. The CTUIR is one of the few tribes that is qualified and has exerted enhanced Tribal Court sentencing authority against violent tribal offenders under the Tribal Law and Order Act.

The lndian Country Fellow would also work with tribal officers in charging, negotiating and trying federal misdemeanor cases in the U.S. Magistrate Court in Pendleton, Oregon, on a bi-monthly basis. The United States District Court for the District of Oregon approved a CVB collateral schedule for lndian Country, enabling tribal officers to cite non-lndians for specified misdemeanors on tribal lands. The lndian Country Fellow would work closely with Portland-based AUSAs in supervising law clerks who appear on some of these matters, as well as in developing appropriate training in investigation and court appearances for the tribal officers issuing CVB citations. When working in the Portland office, the lndian Country Fellow will have the opportunity to serve as a second chair in appropriate lndian Country felony trials, and possibly lead counsel as the Fellowship progresses. The Fellow will also have the opportunity to work on cases from the CTUIR, the Warm Springs Reservation, the Burns Paiute Reservation, and Chemawa lndian School. The Fellow will be involved in developing training for the Chemawa lndian School Peer Court.

lndian Country cases often involve some of the most vulnerable victims; institutional racism and disenfranchisement, intergenerational trauma, polyvictimization, addiction, and poverty in many of these cases combine to be seemingly insurmountable barriers to safety. ln addition, victim cases are the minority of cases handled in the USAO. The USAO has a need for an attorney to explore utilizing victim rights statutes and streamlining victim protection efforts via the legal system for our most vulnerable victims.  The lndian County Fellow could work to develop a library of protocols, pleadings, and memos around victim rights for lndian Country cases. Most of the federal cases handled by the USAO are victim cases. With our new Tribal Victim Assistance Specialist position, our office is just beginning to contemplate utilizing the victim rights statutes to enhance legal and physical safety protections for the vulnerable victims out of these cases. The lndian County Fellow would research utilizing victim rights in enhancing victim safety in federal cases, and develop standard pleadings and memos to place victim safety at the forefront of lndian Country cases.


Updated July 17, 2019

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