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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the National Congress of American Indians Winter Conference


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good afternoon. Thank you, Secretary Lewis for that kind introduction. And thank you, President Sharp and Mr. Desiderio for inviting me to join you today and for your leadership.

On behalf of all of us at the Justice Department, I want to thank the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) for your partnership over many decades.

Almost 59 years ago, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy spoke to an NCAI convening in Bismarck, North Dakota. During those remarks, he outlined some of the obligations owed by the federal government to Tribal communities, and his commitment to fulfilling them.

Today, the circumstances under which we are meeting are quite different. For one, I very much wish we were meeting in person. More important, meetings between the Justice Department and our Tribal partners are no longer a rarity.

I always appreciate the opportunity to affirm the Department’s commitment to working together with you.

The Justice Department seeks to honor and strengthen our nation-to-nation partnership as we work together on behalf of Tribal communities.

And we seek to approach this effort with the respect, sincerity, and humility our Tribal partners deserve.

Last November, I was happy to join the first White House Tribal Nations Summit held in five years.

As I noted during my remarks at the summit, the Justice Department understands that open and honest conversations with our Tribal partners are fundamental to a strong nation-to-nation relationship.

The Department recognizes the diversity of thought and perspective among sovereign Tribal nations, and we appreciate the opportunity to hear directly from Tribal leaders from across the country.

That is why, last year, we held more major consultations than in any year prior. We are committed to continuing that engagement moving forward.

This spring — for the first time in more than four years — the Justice Department’s leadership will host a formal meeting with our Tribal Nations Leadership Council.

Historically, this convening — made up of 12 Tribal leaders elected within their regions — has been one of the best opportunities for the Department’s leadership team to substantially engage with Tribal partners.

Establishing and maintaining these strong lines of communication is especially important when it comes to working together to make Tribal communities safer.

The Justice Department is committed to addressing the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous people with the urgency and resources it demands.

Many communities across the country are grappling with an increase in violent crime. But many Tribal communities have suffered from unacceptable rates of violence for decades.

I know that you have just heard from Secretary Haaland, who has been an essential partner in our ongoing effort to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to violence against Native Americans.

In addition to working with our other federal partners to that end, we are also providing the resources that Tribal governments, courts, and law enforcement partners need to help reduce crime and support victims.

I particularly want to thank NCAI for your work in advocating for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was finally introduced last week.

Among other things, the proposed bill would strengthen and expand the recognition of tribal criminal jurisdiction enacted in 2013.

The Department has been a vocal proponent of these provisions, which help ensure Tribal nations can hold accountable those who harm Tribal members.  

We continue to urge Congress to act to pass this bill into law.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Justice Department is committed to working alongside you as partners. We do so with respect, sincerity, and a shared interest in the wellbeing of Tribal communities.  

I am looking forward to your questions. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to join you today.

Thank you.

Indian Country Law and Justice
Updated February 14, 2022