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.

First Justice Department Indian Country Legal Fellow Serving In the District of Arizona

Charisse Arce and AG Eric HolderOn December 4, 2014, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., announced that Charisse Arce, of Bristol Bay, Alaska, had been selected as the first-ever Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Legal Fellow, part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program.  Ms. Arce is currently a fellow at Bristol Bay Native Corporation, one of thirteen Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under federal law.  Ms. Arce received her law degree from Seattle University School of Law, where she was a member of the editorial staff for and published an article in the American Indian Law Journal.

“We are excited to welcome Charisse Arce to the District of Arizona as the first Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship recipient,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona John S. Leonardo.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to making this inaugural fellowship a success for all involved and a model for future fellowships in Arizona and in districts around the country.  Ms. Arce has demonstrated a strong commitment to American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and we look forward to having her in our Tucson office and working closely with the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe.”  “The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the District of Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Honors Program, through the Gaye L. Tenoso Indian Country Fellowship,” said Pascua Yaqui Tribal Chairman Peter Yucupicio. “We welcome the new Department of Justice fellow and look forward to a productive partnership as we fight violent crime, work to keep our community safe, and continue to implement the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction  (SDVCJ).”

May 2016:  An Update from Assistant U.S. Attorney Charisse Arce, Indian Country Fellow

I am proud to work for the DOJ and of its commitment to Indian Country. This has been an amazing opportunity. Every day I feel extremely grateful to be an AUSA and to work in the Indian Country Violent Crime Unit, handling cases from the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O'odham reservations. I’m looking forward to working in the Pascua Yaqui Prosecutor's Office later this year. I would never have this chance had it not been for the Indian Country Fellowship through the Attorney General's Honors Program.

The people I work with have an incredible depth of knowledge and experience, and I am fortunate to be supported and encouraged by management and my fellow AUSAs. I have attended three training programs at the National Advocacy Center for courses ranging  from trial advocacy for new prosecutors, to grand jury and evidence training, as well as prosecuting domestic violence cases in Indian Country. These classes significantly contribute to our professional development as AUSAs and prosecutors. My mentor is from our Unit and is the Tribal Liaison and, she too, has been a great resource for me.  Being an AUSA is a great honor, and also a great responsibility; I would not trade my experience for anything.

Placement Opportunities for the 2017-2018 Indian Country Fellowship

District of Arizona District of Colorado | District of Minnesota | District of Montana | District of Nebraska District of New Mexico District of North Dakota  |   Eastern District of Oklahoma  Northern District of Oklahoma | District of Oregon  District of South Dakota 

District of Arizona

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

There are 22 federally recognized Indian tribes within the District of Arizona, including much of the Navajo Nation (the largest Indian reservation in the country).  The U.S. Attorney’s Office has jurisdiction to charge major crimes occurring in Indian Country.  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 looks for new and innovative ways to improve public safety and quality of life for its Indian Country residents.  Our goal is to establish a holistic approach to Indian Country criminal justice, incorporating traditional beliefs and values into a system that seeks to hold offenders accountable for their actions, while working to ultimately reintegrate those offenders as productive and accepted members of their communities.  An Indian Country Fellow would learn and experience the federal and tribal justice systems as they relate to offenders, victims, and witnesses and, through these experiences, absorb the most valuable and worthwhile aspects of both systems and act as a liaison between the two.

The District is working with the tribes in its jurisdiction to develop reentry programs.  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.  However, there are a substantial number of Indians who live on the reservation who are not SRPMIC members.

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.  In 2015, the Prosecutor’s Office prosecuted over 900 criminal cases, including felonies, misdemeanors, and criminal traffic 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), the primary law enforcement agency for the SRPMIC, submits cases to tribal, federal, and state prosecuting agencies, which fosters a close working relationship between the USAO, SRPMIC Prosecutor’s Office, and the SRPD: active interagency communication provides almost daily training opportunities.

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.

An Indian Country Fellow would be invaluable to our work with the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, and Southern Ute.  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% and the occasional nickname, "The Murder Capitol of Colorado," 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 Nebraska

Bar Admission Requirements:  State Bar admission (any State or the District of Columbia) is required.  A resolution from the tribal council granting authorization to prosecute cases in the tribal court is required. 

The District of Nebraska is responsible for three reservations – Omaha Nation, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago.  The bulk of the USAO’s Indian Country (IC) cases are violent crime cases, which, by the nature, require the immediate time and attention of an assigned Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) or Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA).  Violent crime cases include sexual assaults, assaults resulting in serious bodily injury, and assaults with a dangerous weapon; however, there are also manslaughter cases, assaults on federal police officers, and burglaries.  Non-violent cases are primarily embezzlement cases.  Currently assigned to handle the bulk of the IC caseload are one AUSA (who also functions as the Tribal Liaison and Deputy Chief of the General Crimes Unit) and a Tribal SAUSA, who is detailed to prosecute crimes against women and children in both tribal and federal court on each of the three reservations under a three year grant funded by the Office of Violence Against Women.  However, funding for this project is slated to end in December 2017, which will creates the potential for a lapse in coverage that would negatively impact the tribes' ability to coordinate and prosecute these cases, thus creating safety issues for the women and children who are often victims of these crimes. The presence of the Tribal SAUSA on the reservations has built a comfort level among the tribes, tribal law enforcement, tribal prosecutors, and the community that has encouraged the reporting and the prosecution of domestic violence cases.  While we are hopeful that additional funding will be approved, an Indian Country Fellow would be an invaluable resources to this District. 

The goals and structure of the Indian Country Fellowship are ideally suited to maintaining these relationships and are necessary in order to assist tribes with improving their courts to meet the requirements to exercise felony jurisdiction under the Tribal Law and Order Act.  Additionally, methamphetamine and other drug trafficking and abuse are largely an unaddressed problem on the three reservations.  The Fellow may be tasked to train and work with tribal police to improve investigations and conduct pre-trial preparation.  We anticipate the Fellow’s regular interaction with the community will help develop trust so that tribal members will be more willing to provide information and participate in the judicial process. 

The District has identified the Omaha national Indian Reservation and the Winnebago Indian Reservation as tribes with the most need for the services of an Indian Country Fellow during the dedicated detail period.  These Tribes are feeling the impacts of the demands on the tribal court system and the lack of resources to properly address cases in the most desirable manner.  The contributions of a Fellow, dedicated to Indian Country, dedicated to victims, dedicated to providing the best legal advice to the tribal court and law enforcement community, would be invaluable.  Increased assistance to the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes would, in turn, assist the Santee Sioux, because as the Fellow assumes his or her caseload, the existing caseload carried by other AUSA's could be redistributed.  All three reservations would benefit from the placement of an Indian Country Fellow.

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.

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. 

District of North Dakota

Bar Admission Requirements:  Admission to North Dakota bar required within one year of assignment. 

Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe: The Lake Sioux Reservation is located approximately 180 miles northeast of Fargo, North Dakota. To serve as a Tribal Court prosecutor, the Fellow must be licensed to practice before a U.S. district court or state court; not have been convicted of any felony offense; and become familiar with the Spirit Lake Constitution and Law and Order Code.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is located in south central North Dakota and north central South Dakota. To serve as a Tribal Court prosecutor or assistant prosecutor, the individual must be a member in good standing of the bar in any state or federal court; at least 21 years of age; of high moral character and integrity; have a law degree from an ABA accredited law school; must not have been convicted of a felony; shall not have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces; and be physically able to perform the duties of the office.

Three Affiliated Tribes:  The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations are located on the Fort Berthold reservation in western North Dakota.  To serve as a Tribal Court prosecutor, the Fellow must be a licensed attorney in any state and become familiar with the Three Affiliated Tribal Code.

Turtle Mountain Chippewa:  The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is located in north central North Dakota.  To serve as a Tribal Court prosecutor, the Fellow must be a licensed attorney in any state.

Sisseton/Wahpeton Oyate:  The Sisseton/Wahpeton Oyate reservation is located in southeastern North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota.  To serve as a Tribal Court Prosecutor, the fellow must be licensed attorney in any state.

The District of North Dakota includes primary jurisdiction for federal offenses on five Indian reservations, two of which include land in both North Dakota and South Dakota. Prosecutions most frequently involve assaults, including domestic violence and sexual assaults, property crimes, manslaughter, and murder.

The District of North Dakota is focused on making tribal communities safer. Each reservation has an AUSA specifically assigned to work the crimes committed within that reservation.  The AUSA of the assigned reservation regularly attends Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings on the reservation for the purpose of case discussions concerning child sexual and physical abuse. These MDT meetings bring the federal and tribal systems together to sort through the case investigation to determine the appropriate jurisdiction to prosecute the child victim offense. 

The North Dakota and South Dakota USAOs have successfully implemented a tribal re-entry program on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that pairs returning tribal members who have completed Federal custody or imprisonment with mentors from the tribe. Mentors are former federal inmates who guide the returnees though both tribal custom and practices to transition back into life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The District of North Dakota does not believe that prosecutions alone will make tribal communities safer; the Fellow will also engage in community outreach with their tribal partners to build cooperative and productive relationships based on mutual trust and respect. The Fellow will join AUSAs in providing training and information to local school officials, Indian Health Service personnel, community groups, and youth organizations. The Fellow will also participate in meetings with law enforcement, domestic violence and abuse advocates, state and tribal social services providers, and medical personnel to address the best ways to protect the most vulnerable victims – children – to ensure the provision of all necessary services and address criminal matters. The greatest benefit of this Fellowship will be the increased coordination between the federal government's prosecution responsibility and the tribal prosecutor's offices.

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.


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.

District of South Dakota

Bar Admission Requirements:  Admission to South Dakota bar required within one year of assignment. 

The District of South Dakota has primary jurisdiction for federal offenses on nine Indian reservations, two of which include lands in both North and South Dakota.  Historically, Indian Country (IC) cases comprise over half of the total cases prosecuted in the District, with recent increases in prosecutions on the Cheyenne River, Flandreau, and Yankton Sioux Reservations, as well as the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations.  With federal, state, and tribal law enforcement partners, the office addresses murder, manslaughter, felony assault, sexual abuse, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping offenses, as well as narcotics, firearms and other matters.

The U.S. Attorney anticipates placing the Fellow in the Pierre or Rapid City branch office.  The Fellow would likely serve for one year on a detail with a tribal prosecutor’s office.  The placement locations could include, but are not limited to:

  • The Oglala Sioux Tribe: To serve as a Tribal court prosecutor or assistant prosecutor, must be a member in good standing of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Bar.  The Oglala Sioux Tribal Bar can regulate the conduct of all practicing attorneys before Oglala Sioux Tribal Courts in the administration of justice and in maintaining a high standard of professional conduct by the bar. 
  • The Rosebud Sioux Tribe: To serve as a Tribal Court prosecutor or assistant prosecutor, must be a member in good standing of the Sicangu Oyate Bar Association.  In order to become an active member, lawyers must pass a bar examination administered by the Sicangu Oyate Bar Association. 

The District of South Dakota is focused on making tribal communities safer.  The District has entered into Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) agreements with a number of reservations, to include the Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Lower Brule Sioux Reservations and their chief prosecutors.  Each SAUSA works hand in hand with the AUSAs assigned to each reservation to effectively manage the jurisdiction best suited to bring forward criminal charges.  The SAUSA and AUSAs meet regularly to discuss cases, work on indictments and bring matters in federal court.  The SAUSA participates in grand jury and court proceedings, and in jury trials.  We anticipate the Fellow will join the Tribal SAUSAs and AUSAs assigned to these cases.   Likely detail opportunities exist with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, both of which offer a wide variety of cases for the Indian Country Fellow to handle.  It is possible for the Fellow to work for a period of time with both tribes.

The District of South Dakota has successfully implemented a tribal re-entry program on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that pairs returning tribal members who have completed Federal custody or imprisonment with mentors from the tribe.  Mentors are former federal inmates who guide the returnees though both tribal custom and practices to transition back into life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.  The District does not believe that prosecutions alone will make tribal communities safer; the Fellow will also engage in community outreach with their tribal partners to build cooperative and productive relationships based on mutual trust and respect.  The Fellow will join AUSAs in providing training and information to local school officials, Indian Health Service personnel, community groups, and youth organizations.  The Fellow will also participate in meetings with law enforcement, domestic violence and abuse advocates, state and tribal social services providers, and medical personnel to address the best ways to protect the most vulnerable victims – children – to ensure the provision of all necessary services and address criminal matters.  The Fellow will help increase coordination between the federal government's prosecution responsibility and the tribal prosecutor's offices.  The greatest benefit of this Fellowship will be an increased awareness of, and first-hand exposure to, the problems besetting Indian country and how the United States Department of Justice can employ creative solutions to these problems.




Updated June 14, 2017

Was this page helpful?

Was this page helpful?
Yes No