2018 Indian Country Conference: Offering Hope to Victims in the Spirit of Justice
United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that the 2018 Indian Country Conference: Offering Hope to Victims in the Spirit of Justice, was recently held in Bismarck, ND, on July 19-20, 2018, at the North Dakota Heritage Center.
U.S. Attorney Parsons provided opening remarks, along with officials from the District of North Dakota. The conference offered several speakers on a variety of topics. The range included presentations on Native Sexual Violence Victimology; Communication & Intervention - Knowing What to Say and How to Say It Matters; Building Effective Partnerships in Assisting Victims of Mass Casualty Incidents; and a session on how to avoid burn-out “I’ve Run Out of Fuel…Now What?” There were also several break-out sessions for the participants to choose from and attend.
The case presented for the mass casualty incident was that of Dylan Roof, the mass shooter in the Charleston, SC, church shooting of June 2015. Presenting were an FBI agent and Victim Witness Specialist from Charleston, and Victim Witness Coordinator Marlys Big Eagle from the District of South Dakota, who assisted with the victims during the Roof trial.
The conference was geared towards law enforcement officers, victim service providers, prosecutors, social workers, judges, physicians and other medical professionals, mental health therapists, counselors, educators, court service officers, corrections officers, child care providers, parents, community leaders, and other concerned individuals from the two-state region of North Dakota and South Dakota—especially those dealing with family violence issues in American Indian Communities.
One of the most important goals anyone in criminal justice can strive for is to ensure the victims are heard and respected, and the most important thing that any government does is protect the rights of its citizens.
To that end, the District of South Dakota is breathing new life into initiatives designed to help all communities, including those in Indian country, prosper:
- Emphasis on combatting violent crime harming Indian country;
- Reinvigoration of Project Safe Neighborhood to target the illegal use of firearms;
- Project Safe Childhood, to target sexual predators that would target or harm our children, including those who try to use the Internet to commit their crimes;
- Targeting the drug traffickers who plague our communities, whether in Indian country or elsewhere;
- New efforts to curb the spread of Opioids and related overdoses and deaths;
- Addition of two brand new prosecutor positions, one in Rapid City and one in Pierre, to focus on violent crime and drug trafficking in Indian country;
- Hosting an Indian Country Fellow from the DOJ Honors program, who will devote three years to prosecuting crime both in federal court and in Tribal Court on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation;
- Suicide prevention – the U.S. Attorney’s office is partnering with Avera Health to hold a conference in Sioux Falls on September 6, 2018, on Addiction and Suicide: Communities in Crisis. The keynote speaker will be former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf and it will include a panel on the alarming problem of suicide in Tribal communities, with Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, Patricia Iron Shell-Hill, MD, and J.R. LaPlante.
Conference attendees were provided new tools and resources to continue the commitment and dedication to work for justice for victims of crime.