Las Vegas, Nevada - Nevada United States Attorney Nicholas Trutanich met last week with fellow members of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues (NAIS) in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, in order to discuss public safety and law enforcement issues that impact Native American and Alaska Native communities.
During the three-day annual meeting, the NAIS engaged with tribal leaders and developed strategies and best practices to address missing and murdered indigenous people, drug trafficking, needed law enforcement resources, and safeguarding children from sexual abuse in Indian country.
The most common crimes investigated in Indian country include child sexual abuse, violent assaults, and adult sexual assaults, followed by homicide, other forms of child abuse, drug, and property crimes. According to a 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Justice, more than 80 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, and more than half of all American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence from an intimate partner. Native women and girls suffer a high rate of violence, including murder.
“United States Attorneys nationwide are committed to improving public safety in Indian country and rural Alaska. The work of Attorney General Barr’s Native American Issues Subcommittee is focused on reducing violent crime, improving law enforcement resources, and combating the distribution of methamphetamine and opioids,” said US Attorney Shores, Chair of the NAIS. “The disproportionate rates of violence affecting Native American and Alaska Native women is particularly troubling to me. With Attorney General Barr’s leadership, we will continue working with tribal leaders to find solutions to the epidemic of violence against indigenous women.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office reaffirms its commitment to working with tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to improve the safety and security of Native American communities,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “Prosecutors are working every day to bring violent offenders to justice and to reduce and prevent crime. In addition, through the Department of Justice’s grant programs, we are helping communities become safer and providing victims with a full range of services and support.”
Panel discussions focused on the Indian Arts and Crafts Act and preserving Native American cultural patrimony. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in the marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.
U.S. Attorney John Anderson of the District of New Mexico hosted the three-day conference.
The NAIS consists of 53 U.S. Attorneys serving in districts that include Indian Country or one or more federally recognized tribes and makes policy recommendations to the Attorney General. The NAIS has identified four priority areas: 1) Violent crime 2) Law enforcement resources 3) Drug trafficking and substance abuse, and 4) White collar crime. It is the longest standing subcommittee to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and helps develop, shape, and otherwise implement justice policies affecting Native Americans and Alaska Natives. U.S. Attorney Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma is the subcommittee Chair. U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme of the District of Montana is the Vice Chair.
In fiscal year 2018, the Department of Justice awarded $113 million in grant awards to improve public safety, serve victims of crime, combat violence against women, and support youth programs, to 134 Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages. In addition, the Department awarded a total of 154 grants totaling $88 million as part of the first-ever Tribal Victim Service Set-Aside program; these awards were supported by the Crime Victims Fund, a repository of federal criminal fines, fees, and special assessments. The awards will help tribes develop, expand and improve services to victims of crime by providing funding, programming and technical assistance. Even more funding will be available – up to $168 million – under the set-aside this year.
In July 2019, the Department announced a new tool giving tribal governments the ability to input data directly and gain access to the FBI’s National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) using the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System (TTSORS). TTSORS is a fully functioning registry system that complies with Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requirements. The system connection will be available to all tribal governments already participating in the Tribal Access Program (TAP), which allows information sharing between tribal and federal government criminal information systems. TAP has been instrumental in assisting tribes with ongoing implementation of SORNA. In fiscal year 2019, the department expanded TAP to 25 more tribes, for a total of more than 70 participating tribes across the country.