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Press Release

U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Tribal Leaders Join Together to Host Great Lakes Native American Conference

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan
Conference focused on strengthening partnerships, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland a keynote speaker

Today kicked off the two-day 2023 Great Lakes Native American Conference focused on Native American issues and strengthening relationships with Tribal communities across the region. The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana

“This conference brings together victim support specialists, law enforcement officials, advocates, and others who work on Tribal matters across the Great Lakes Region,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “My office is deeply committed to carrying out our responsibilities to protect Tribal communities and preserve their status as sovereign nations. This conference is one tool to help us advance that mission.”

U.S. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland served as a keynote speaker. In 2021 Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland launched the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive effort to recognize the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies with the goal of addressing their intergenerational impact and shedding light on the traumas of the past. Assistant Secretary Newland, who has led the Initiative, used his remarks to address this important effort.

"For the first time, the federal government is examining its role in the federal Indian boarding school system and how that contributed to the forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples, resulting in the breakup of families and Tribal Nations and the loss of languages, cultural practices, and relatives," Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said. "The Federal Indian Boarding School system left lasting scars that continue to impact Tribal communities. Today, the federal government is working to help heal these scars as we support Tribes in their efforts to revitalize their economies, languages, and cultural practices and promote public safety and justice so that they can continue to exist as Indigenous Peoples."

Preparation for the conference, which is being held in New Buffalo, Michigan at the Four Winds Casino, was a collaborative effort between various tribes, Tribal advocates, and the various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. Some of the topics covered include Sextortion: History, Methods, and Impact on Victims; Indian Boarding Schools; Drugs: Myths, Trends, and Opportunities to Intervene; Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons; and Federal Indian Law changes. 

“My office is committed to furthering and strengthening our relationship with our Native American community in the Eastern District of Michigan,” said Dawn N. Ison, U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “I welcome the opportunity to collaborate and discuss issues that directly impact our Tribal partners. This conference and its focus on hope and healing helps facilitate not only communication, understanding, and opportunities for law enforcement partners serving Native American communities to further learn ways in which we can best serve Native Americans, it also allows for the type of engagement that helps build trust and legitimacy between the tribes and law enforcement.”

“This conference provides an opportunity to discuss public safety issues with our Tribal partners, such as combatting violence against women and addressing the devastating consequences of drug trafficking and substance use disorder in Indian country,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea of the Western District of Wisconsin

Pokagon Band Tribal Vice Chair Gary Morseau; Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema Larry Romanelli; Dr. Colleen Lane, MD, of Corewell Health; Dan Wicklund, DNPA, RN, of Corewell Health; and Katheryn E. Fort, Director of the Indian Law Clinic at the Michigan State University College of Law also served as speakers at the conference. Attendees of the conference included Tribal members, Tribal law enforcement, Tribal governments, federal government partners, and other victim service providers that work with Indian Country victims.

“This conference highlights what collaboration can do by gathering Tribal nations and units of governments together, to create better communication and strengthen relationship between the participants,” said Ogema Larry Romanelli. “I am thankful to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for their sponsorship, and the Department of Interior’s involvement.  I am honored to participate.”

“On behalf of the Pokagon Tribal Government, we would like to acknowledge the purpose of this conference focused on Native American issues, our collaboration with federal partners, and the role of the U.S. Department of Justice in successfully defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act before the Supreme Court,” said Pokagon Tribal Vice Chair Gary Morseau.

The 2023 Great Lakes Native American Conference and events like it, are components of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination, and action on public safety in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

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Updated September 12, 2023

Indian Country Law and Justice