WASHINGTON, DC –
U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Monday he welcomes the Obama Administration’s endorsement of the Tribal Law and Order Act (S. 797), legislation he authored in response to what he describes as the “crisis” in law enforcement on many Indian reservations.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Administration support for Dorgan’s legislation during a speech Thursday in Minneapolis. President Obama’s backing of the bill provides important and timely momentum for the measure which was introduced in April, reported from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee earlier this month, and placed on the Senate calendar, October 29, where it now awaits action by the full Senate.
“This is very welcome news,” Dorgan said Monday. “Native American families have a right to live in a safe and secure environment. The federal government has treaty and trust obligations to see that they do. For much of our history, however, the federal government has done a poor job of meeting those obligations. This legislation aims to help turn that failure around. The President’s support for this bill will provide significant help in getting these much needed reforms enacted into law.”
Dorgan authored the Tribal Law and Order Act after a series of hearings and listening sessions he conducted around the country revealed a law enforcement “crisis” on Indian lands. Those sessions made clear, he said, that the crisis is the result of chronic underfunding of tribal law enforcement programs and confusing, over-lapping law enforcement jurisdictions. Domestic and sexual violence in Indian Country has reached epidemic proportions. Federal reports have found that 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and 39% will suffer physical abuse. Dorgan also noted that policing on many reservations has become so unreliable that criminal gangs and drug dealers are targeting them as safe havens.
The Tribal Law and Order Act is designed to boost law enforcement efforts on reservations by providing tools to tribal justice officials to fight crime in their own communities, improving coordination between law enforcement agencies, and increasing accountability standards for those federal agencies responsible for combating reservation crime.
In addition to Dorgan, the legislation has 18 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the Senate.