WASHINGTON D.C. –
President Obama, in a formal White House ceremony Thursday, signed into law historic legislation that will bring major reforms to law enforcement on the nation’s Indian reservations. The author of the legislation, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, attended the ceremony at the President’s request and witnessed the signing.
“This new law will save lives in Indian Country,” Dorgan said. “It will also dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Native Americans who have lived far too long with unacceptable levels of violent crime in their communities. Jurisdictional confusion, lack of adequate law enforcement training, and a host of other structural roadblocks to effective law enforcement have created a crisis in law enforcement on many reservations where violent crime rates far exceed the national average. This legislation provides urgently needed help in clearing those roadblocks away.”
Enacting the bill has been one of Dorgan’s top priorities as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “The federal government has treaty and trust obligations to ensure public safety for Native Americans and for most of our history, we have failed to meet those obligations,” Dorgan said. “This new law will allow us to write a new and much better chapter in the history books regarding law enforcement in Indian communities.”
Dorgan said the “broken system of justice” in Indian Country often acts as a magnet for outside criminal groups.
The legislation aims to improve all aspects of the justice system on American Indian reservations and clear up jurisdictional confusion among tribal, state and local law enforcement officials, which often gridlocks effective law enforcement in Indian Country.
In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation suffered 8.6 times the national rate of violence in 2008. At that time, there were only nine police officers patrolling the 2.3 million acre reservation. As a result, victims of violence reported often waiting hours and sometimes even days before receiving a response to their emergency calls.
Contact: Barry Piatt