Interior Offers Nearly $100 Million to More Than 4,000 Landowners with Interests at Gila River and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations to Reduce Fractionation of Tribal Lands

Offers Will Be Valid for 45 Days as Part of $1.9 Billion Land Buy-Back Program

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior today announced that purchase offers have been sent to more than 4,000 individual landowners with fractional interests at the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana. These offers, totaling nearly $100 million, will give eligible landowners with interests in tribal priority tracts the opportunity to voluntarily sell their land to be held in trust for each tribe.

With these offers, Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) has sent more than 37,000 purchase offers to owners of fractionated interests. The Program has successfully concluded transactions worth nearly $97 million and has restored the equivalent of almost 265,000 acres of land to tribal governments.

“I continue to be encouraged by the progress we see with the Buy-Back Program, and welcome the ongoing collaboration we have had with many Tribal Nations as we implement this Program across Indian Country,” said Deputy Secretary Michael Connor. “The success of the Buy-Back Program is vitally important. We are working vigorously with tribal staff to make sure that individuals are aware of this historic opportunity to strengthen tribal sovereignty by supporting the consolidation of Indian lands.”

The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within a 10-year period. Individuals who choose to sell their interests will receive payments directly into their IIM accounts. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members. 

There are almost 245,000 owners of nearly 3 million fractional interests, spanning 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often very small undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state. 

In addition to receiving fair market value for their land based on objective appraisals, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land.

Sales of land interests will also result in up to $60 million in contributions to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. This contribution by Interior is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it will not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.

Gila River landowners will have until October 10, 2014, to return accepted offers. 

Northern Cheyenne landowners will have until October 17, 2014, to return accepted offers. 

Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.

Individual participation is voluntary. A decision to sell land for restoration to tribes does not impact a landowner’s eligibility to receive individual settlement payments from the Cobell Settlement, which are being handled by the Garden City Group.

Unofficial Results for Navajo Nation Tribal Council

Chinle Total Votes
(1 of 1 polls)
Leonard H. Pete 807
Eugene Tso 419
Harry Claw 419
Low Mountain/Tachee-Blue Gap/Nazlini/
Tselani-Cottonwood/Many Farms
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
Sampson Begay, Low Mountain 223
2. Kee Allen Begay Jr., Many Farms Chapter 897
3. Marlene Thomas, Many Farms Chapter 187
4. Harry Gorman Jr., Tselani/Cottonwood Chapter 397
5. Crystalyne Gayle Curley, Tselani/Cottonwood Chapter 519
6. Lee Vincent Bigwater, Nazlini Chapter 279
Forest Lake/Black Mesa/
Hardrock/Whippoorwill/Pinon
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. Dwight Witherspoon, Hardrock Chapter 1148
2. Bill Yazzie, Pinon Chapter 340
3. Jimmy Yellowhair, Black Mesa Chapter 516
Tsé Ch’izhi/Round Rock/Rock Point
/Lukachukai/Tsaile-Wheatfields
Total Votes
(5 of 5 chapters)
1. Jaye R. Tom, Lukachukai Chapter 326
2. Nelson S. BeGaye, Tsaile/Wheatfields Chapter 669
3. Margie R. S. Begay, Tsaile/Wheatfields Chapter 390
4. Norman L. Begay, Lukachukai Chapter 480
5. Zane James, Tsaile/Wheatfields Chapter 474
Red Lake/Crystal/
Sawmill/Fort Defiance
Total Votes
(4 of 4 polls)
1. Arval T. McCabe, Red Lake Chapter 183
2. Benjamin L. Bennett, Fort Defiance Chapter 475
3. Alfred Barney, Red Lake Chapter 267
4. Genevieve J. Jackson, Fort Defiance Chapter 463
5. Tom M. White Jr., Fort Defiance Chapter 530
6. Juanita J. Martinez-Chavez, Sawmill Chapter 151
7. Virginia A. Benally, Crystal Chapter 362
Mexican Springs/Coyote Canyon/
Tohatchi/Naschitti/Bahastl’a’a’
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. Hoskie Bryant, Naschitti Chapter 219
2. Mel R. Begay, Coyote Canyon Chapter 939
3. Thomas ‘Tom” Ranger, Coyote Canyon Chapter 145
4. Peter Watchman, Mexican Springs Chapter 196
5. Willis Nez, Naschitti Chapter 426
6. Carol W. Bitsoi, Naschitti Chapter 245
7. Harrison Plummer, Coyote Canyon Chapter 576
Manuelito/Bááháálí/Tsayatoh/
Rock Springs/Chichiltah/Tsé ?ich’’
Total Votes
(6 of 6 polls)
1. Paul Houston, Chichiltah Chapter 444
2. Chancey Martinez, Tsayatoh Chapter 86
3. Emily Ellison, Chichiltah Chapter 313
4. Arlene Nakai-Brown, Manuelito Chapter 324
5. Christopher H. Morris, Baahaali Chapter 133
6. Seth Damon, Baahaali Chapter 858
7. Walter B. Hudson, Tsayatoh Chapter 364
8. Maureen Curley, Chichiltah Chapter 183
9. William Skeet, Baahaali Chapter 129
Oak Springs/St. Michaels Total Votes
(2 of 2 polls)
1. Curran Hannon, St. Michaels Chapter 403
2. Jonathan L. Hale, Oaksprings Chapter 799
Tsé si’ Áni,/Wide Ruins/
Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Houck
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. LaVerne M. Joe, Klagetoh Chapter 272
2. LaVonne Tsosie, Nahata Dziil Chapter 153
3. Raymond Smith Jr., Tsé si’ çni Chapter 340
4. Darrell Tso, Nahata Dziil Chapter 293
5. Clarence Chee, Wide Ruins Chapter 160
6. Arbin Mitchell, Wide Ruins Chapter 301
7. Lorenzo Curley, Houck Chapter 536
Jeddito/Cornfields/Ganado/
Steamboat/Kin Dah ?ichíí
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. Alton Joe Shepherd, Ganado Chapter 2133
Indian Wells/Greasewood Springs/
Teesto/Whitecone/Dilkon
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. Elmer P. Begay, Dilkon Chapter 553
2. Bill Spencer, Greasewood Springs Chapter 142
3. Henry Haskie, Indian Wells Chapter 179
4. Lee Jack Sr., Whitecone Chapter 603
5. Eula C. Yazzie, Whitecone Chapter 261
Tolani Lake/ Ts’dii to’ii/
Coalmine Canyon/Cameron/Leupp
Total Votes
(5 of 5 chapters)
1. Walter Phelps, Leupp Chapter 743
2. Leonard Chee, Leupp Chapter 804
3. Lorenzo Robbins, Cameron Chapter 184
To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance Total Votes
(1 of 1)
1. Angie Williams, To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance 239
2. Otto Tso, To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance 489
3. James Bilagody, To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance 274
4. Perry B. Yazzie, To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance 69
5. Raymond Maxx, To’Nanees’Dizi Local Governance 206
Coppermine/Lechee/ K’Ai’ Bii’ Tó/
Bodaway-Gap/Tonalea
Total Votes
(5 of 5)
1. Shalinda Johnson, K’Ai’Bii’To Chapter 344
2. Chester Claw, Tonalea Chapter 149
3. Tauchoney Slim Jr., Tonalea Chapter 565
4. Darrell R. Marks, Tonalea Chapter 242
5. Darlene Martin, Bodaway/Gap Chapter 92
6. Regina Allison, Bodaway/Gap Chapter 467
7. Billy Arizona Jr., Bodaway/Gap Chapter 263
8. Marie B. Acothley, Tonalea Chapter 157
Navajo Mountain/Tsah Bii Kin/
Shonto/Oljato
Total Votes
(4 of 4 chapters)
1. Jonathan Nez, Shonto Community Governance 1524
Chilchinbeto/Dennehotso/Kayenta Total Votes
(3 of 3)
1. Walter Begay Jr., Kayenta Chapter 466
2. Stanley Clitso, Kayenta Chapter 410
3. Teddy Begay, Kayenta Chapter 104
4. Sylvia Laughter, Dennehotso Chapter 210
5. Nathaniel Brown, Dennehotso Chapter 417
6. Harrison Tsosie, Dennehotso Chapter 211
Mexican Water/Tó likan/
Teecnospos/Red Mesa/Aneth
Total Votes
(5 of 5 polls)
1. Davis Filfred, Aneth Chapter 869
2. Francis Redhouse, Teecnospos Chapter 316
3. David L. John, Mexican Water Chapter 266
4. Steven S. Benally, To Likan Chapter 435
5. Herman Farley, Red Mesa Chapter 411
Toadlena/Two Grey Hills/Beclabito/Gadii’áhi/To’Koi/Cove/Sheep Springs/Red Valley/Tsé Al Náoztii Total Votes
(7 of 7 polls)
1. Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Sheepsprings Chapter 572
2. J. R. Hunt, Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Chapter 390
3. Stanley Hardy, Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Chapter 207
4. Everett Howe, Cove Chapter 468
5. Larry Duncan, Tse alnaozt’i’i Chapter 662
6. David L. Tom, Beclabito Chapter 240
7. Eloise Brown, Tse alnaozti’i Chapter 228
Shiprock Total Votes
(1 of 1 poll)
1. Jerry Jay Todacheene, Shiprock Chapter 17
2. Myron K. Begay, Shiprock Chapter 166
3. Lula Jackson, Shiprock Chapter 225
4. Ray Begaye, Shiprock Chapter 540
5. William Lee, Shiprock Chapter 187
6. Wilbur M. Nelson Jr., Shiprock Chapter 42
7. Tom Chee, Shiprock Chapter 468
8. Rose Fasthorse Nofchissey, Shiprock Chapter 178
9. Wallace Charley, Shiprock Chapter 301
San Juan/T’istsoh Sikaad/
Newcomb/Tse Daa Kaan/
Nenahnezad/Upper Fruitland
Total Votes
(6 of 6)
1. LoRenzo Bates, Upper Fruitland Chapter 1505
2. George Arthur, San Juan Chapter 614
Whiterock/Lake Valley/Nahodishgish/Tse’ii’ahi’/
Becenti/Nageezi/Crownpoint/Huerfano
Total Votes
(8 of 8 polls)
1. Jonathan Perry, Becenti Chapter 573
2. Gilbert Roger, Whiterock Chapter 245
3. Julius Elwood, Tse’ii’ahi’ Chapter 221
4. Andrew C. Charley, Nageezi Chapter 176
5. Ben Woody Jr., Huerfano Chapter 370
6. Rosilyn Smith, Tse’ii’ahi’ Chapter
7. Janice Padilla, Lake Valley Chapter 305
8. Danny Simpson, Huerfano Chapter 518
Pueblo Pintado/Casamero Lake/Whitehorse Lake/Counselor/Ojo Encino/Littlewater/Baca/Prewitt/Torreon Total Votes
(8 of 8)
1. Leonard Tsosie, Whitehorse Lake Chapter 747
2. Daniel E. Tso, Torreon Chapter 547
3. Hoskie Kee, Baca/Prewitt Chapter 482
4. Fernie Yazzie, Casamero Lake Chapter 482
Smith Lake/Iyanbito/Mariano Lake/Pinedale/Thoreau/Church Rock Total Votes
(6 of 6 chapters)
1. Edmund E. Yazzie, Thoreau Chapter 1361
2. Anselm Morgan, Smith Lake Chapter 675
3. Titus Jay Nez, Church Rock Chapter 571
4. Anthony Begay, Mariano Lake 244
Tohajillee/Ramah/Alamo Total Votes
(3 of 3)
1. Norman M. Begay, Tohajiilee Chapter 396
2. Martha Garcia, Ramah Chapter 466
3. Leo L. Pino, Ramah Chapter 190
4. Buddy Mexicano, Alamo Chapter 163
5. George Apachito, Alamo Chapter 81

2014 Navajo Nation Election: Unofficial Results Navajo Nation President

Navajo Nation President

  • Joe Shirley, Jr.: 10,910
  • Chris Deschene: 9,734
  • Russell Begaye: 7,404
  • Donald Benally: 5,286
  • Kenneth Maryboy: 3,153
  • Edison J. Wauneka: 2,454
  • Ben Shelly: 2,446
  • Myron McLaughlin: 2,333
  • Carrie Lynn Martin: 2,136
  • Dale E. Tsosie: 1,278
  • Duane H. Yazzie: 1,112
  • Moroni Benally 965
  • Cal Nez: 592
  • Edison “Chip” Begay: 547
  • Hank Whitethorne: 398
  • Kee Yazzie Mann: 336
  • Dan Smith: 216

REMARKS BY ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL TONY WEST AT THE FOUR CORNERS CONFERENCE

Flagstaff, AZ

Thank you, Carlie for that kind introduction and for hosting this important gathering along with U.S. Attorneys Judge Leonardo from the District of Arizona, John Walsh from the District of Colorado, and Damon Martinez from the District of New Mexico.

With the Native America Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee meeting here today, we are fortunate to have over a dozen additional U.S. Attorneys in attendance.  Thank you all for your commitment to serving Indian Country in your districts.

I am so pleased to be with you at this twenty-second convening of Four Corners Conference.  For over two decades, this conference has provided federal and tribal leaders, social service providers, law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors with a unique opportunity explore ideas, share best practices and forge critical collaborations that help us move forward in our common desire to make Indian Country safer and stronger.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to this Conference when you gathered in Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico.  I said at that time ours was a moment of hope, challenge and opportunity, as we confronted the reality of alarmingly high rates of violence against Native women and girls in Indian country.

You’ll recall that at that time, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – or VAWA 2013 – hung in the balance.  And notwithstanding efforts by the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, to push forward legislative recommendations that would enhance the ability of tribes to protect Indian women from domestic violence, the outcome of that effort, you’ll remember, was far from certain.  In fact at times, it looked as if VAWA would not be reauthorized by Congress for the first time in nearly twenty years.

But thanks to the many courageous Native women who stood up and spoke out and told their stories of pain and heartache; thanks to the many tribal leaders who said enough is enough, that whether a Native woman receives justice should not depend on the race of her perpetrator; indeed, thanks to many of you in this room today, together we met that challenge and today VAWA 2013 remains the law of land, and now with additional statutory tools for both Federal and tribal governments to prosecute intimate partner violence.

And VAWA’s reauthorization was just the latest in what has been a remarkable surge in positive federal activity in Indian Country over the last five years, a commitment that began with Attorney General Holder’s convening of over 500 tribal leaders for a listening session in his first year of office.

It’s a commitment we reflect in the litigation positions we take as a Department – from our work to resolvedecades-long, painful disputes like the Cobell tribal trust litigation and the Keepseagle Native American farmers discrimination lawsuit; to our repeated court filings in support of presumptive tribal jurisdiction over Indian child-custody proceedings, even though our arguments do not always prevail, because standing up for ICWA means standing strong for tribal sovereignty.

In fact, earlier this month, the Department took a strong stand on behalf of Indian children and their families involved in state child welfare proceedings in a South Dakota federal court.  We filed a brief in the case out of concern for the harm to Indian families that even the temporary removal of their children can cause.  This case could set important precedent regarding how the emergency removals and placements of Indian children are to be handled and how ICWA is interpreted.

Our commitment to Indian Country has likewise led us to create CTAS, an effort to streamline the way we administer Justice Department grants to tribal grant applicants.

And that commitment is made manifest in the tireless work of so many federal investigators, AUSAs and SAUSAs throughout the nation — including many of you here today – to enhance public safety on tribal lands throughout Indian Country – efforts that have resulted in a remarkable 34% increase in Federal criminal prosecutions in Indian Country since 2009.

Indeed, today, the Justice Department is releasing its second Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions report to Congress, and it reflects this Administration’s commitment to public safety in Indian Country.   Although declination rates alone are not the best way to measure the success of our law enforcement efforts, the report show that with few exceptions, areas where the largest populations of American Indian people live and suffer from the most serious crime rates – such as here in the Southwest and in the Northern Plains states – federal declination rates were among the lowest in the nation.

So we’ve come a long way and made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time.  We are witnessing an unprecedented era of collaboration among U.S. Attorneys’ offices and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors across the country.

Yet it’s in that success that lies our greatest and perhaps most difficult test:  How do we take the success we’ve achieved over the last five years and make it sustainable over the long term?

I believe solidifying those gains requires us to double-down on the collaborations that enhance tribal public safety; to expand the culturally-informed law enforcement training we’ve conducted; and to encourage and incentivize interdisciplinary approaches to violence reduction.

What’s essential to our long-term success is for us – at the federal, tribal, state and local levels — to takes steps that will institutionalize our commitment to Indian Country public safety, such that the best practices you are sharing, the promising pilot projects you’re launching, the interdisciplinary collaborations your spearheading – they need to become part of the routine work we do to pursue effective law enforcement in Indian Country so that the impact you are having will continue to be felt for years, even generations to come.

Our dedication to Indian Country must be transformed from an initiative defined by the contours of any one Administration’s commitment and ingrained into the DNA of federal law enforcement practice.  It must be part of the yardstick by which we measure our own success or failure as federal law enforcement professionals.

So what does institutionalizing our commitment to justice in Indian Country look like?  I think there are three areas that illustrate this, and they are areas where I am pleased to report we are making good strides.

First, institutionalizing our commitment means enhancing our existing collaborations between tribal and federal law enforcement, and a good example comes from our recent experience with VAWA.

As soon as VAWA’s reauthorization was signed into law, the Justice Department’s leadership engaged in an expedited but extensive consultation with tribal officials on how best to implement VAWA’s newest provisions dealing with tribal special criminal jurisdiction.

We came up with a voluntary Pilot Project that allowed some tribes to begin exercising that jurisdiction earlier this year – ahead of law’s March 2015 effective date – if the tribe’s criminal justice system has adequate safeguards in place to protect defendants’ rights.  Six months ago, I authorized three tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation – to become the first tribes in the United States to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction.

And importantly, while these tribes have moved swiftly, they have also acted with deliberation to combat domestic violence by protecting the safety and rights of victims, while simultaneously safeguarding defendants’ rights.  They are closely coordinating with their local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to identify those cases that are best handled in tribal court and those which are more appropriate for federal prosecution.  Here in Arizona, for example, the Pascua Yacqui Tribe worked with the United States Attorney’s Office to refer four of the 12 non-Indians arrested by the tribe for federal prosecution.

Other tribes are also carefully preparing to exercise the new jurisdiction.  Since June of last year, 39 tribes have voluntarily joined the Department’s Intertribal Technical-Assistance Working Group, working with Department officials and other tribes in an effort to exercise effectively the new special criminal jurisdiction in 2015.

And as more tribes step up to assume this new exercise of sovereignty, more Tribal-Federal partnerships will be established; more interdependence and collaboration on public safety matters will result; and more tribal capacity to protect the integrity, culture and safety of the tribe will be created, enhancing the opportunity for long-term, sustainable tribal justice.

Second, we can institutionalize our commitment to public safety in Indian Country by expanding our training efforts, thereby increasing the ability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute effectively Indian Country crimes, which in turn heightens the priority of pursuing these crimes for law enforcement.

Most of you know Leslie Hagen, who is here and who has been instrumental in leading the Justice Department’s training efforts around Indian Country public safety.  One of the many Indian Country training modules she conducts for federal and tribal investigators, prosecutors, advocates, and medical professionals around the country in one that raises awareness about the lethality risks for strangulation and suffocation crimes.  It is work that can pay dividends in our efforts to better protect Native women from violence, because almost half of all domestic violence victims have experienced at least one episode of strangulation prior to a lethal or near-lethal violent incident.

One FBI agent who took the training wrote Leslie an email saying fifteen days after he had taken her course, a strangulation assault occurred that was assigned to him.  He wrote the training helped him to ask the right questions and present the case persuasively to the AUSA, who successfully prosecuted the assailant.  According to the FBI agent, “this conviction is a direct result of the Indian Country Strangulation and Suffocation Class,” and he went on to teach what he had learned to other local, state and federal investigators.

And with VAWA 2013, Congress recognized the gravity of strangulation and suffocation crimes and amended the federal assault statute to include a specific charge of assault or attempted assault by strangulation or suffocation – making Leslie’s training all the more important and relevant to federal law enforcement priorities.  Indeed, just over a year after Congress enacted these new provisions, U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter and his office in the District of Montana secured one of the first federal strangulation convictions: a 2.5-year prison sentence against a man who strangled his girlfriend into unconsciousness on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Finally, I believe institutionalizing justice in Indian Country means intensifying our work and deepening our investment in efforts to reduce violence against Native women and children, not only because rates of victimization remain intolerably high; but also because our best hope of reversing those rates begins with early and predictable intervention – both from a prevention and enforcement standpoint – that helps us break the cycle of violence.

U.S. Attorneys Tim Purdon and Mike Cotter know well what I’m talking about.  In their districts of North Dakota and Montana, a meteoric population boom in the geographically isolated region of the Bakken has led to escalated rates of violence, particularly against Native women.  Earlier this year, Tim and I met with local law enforcement officials who spoke of the dramatic spike in sex and drug trafficking which was taxing their capabilities.  We met with service providers from around the state who told us of their inability to absorb the sudden increase in demand for victim’s services.  And I heard tragic stories of sexual exploitation suffered by women and girls.

To address the unique and critical needs of victims, responders, and service providers within this rural region, the Department’s Office on Violence Against Women established its Bakken Region Initiative.  And as part of that effort, today, I am pleased to announce the award of seven new grants, totaling nearly $3 million, to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services; the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota; and the First Nations Women’s Alliance in North Dakota.  These awards will fund Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys – attorneys who are cross-designated tribal-federal prosecutors – as well as victim service providers who are working to prevent violence and support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

Now at the same time we are strengthening our efforts to protect Native women, we must also do more to shield Native children from violence.

We know that more than 60 percent of all children in the United States are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims.  And while current research doesn’t give us a complete picture for American Indian and Alaska Native children, a 2008 report by the Indian Country Child Trauma Center calculated that Native youth are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience trauma when compared with their non-Native peers.

In fact, the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Indian youth is almost triple the rate of the general population – comparable to the rates of PTSD among soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 15- to 34-years of age and is 2.5 times higher than the national average for that age group.

Appalled by these statistics, the Attorney General last year invested Justice Department resources to establish a Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children’s Exposure Violence, including a Federal Working Group led by U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and OTJ Director Tracy Toulou.  And over the last year, the Task Force’s Advisory Committee held public hearings and listening sessions around the country – including one here in Arizona – examining the unacceptably high levels of violence that Native children suffer.

 

I participated in three of those hearings, the most recent of which was held in Anchorage, Alaska.  And at each hearing, researchers told us about how victimization can steal a child’s future.  Practitioners shared lessons learned from experience and outlined approaches that could help us better serve child victims in the future.  Survivors courageously shared their experiences in the hope that by telling their stories, they might lift the curtain of shame and fear that too often shrouds acts of violence and exploitation against children.

And this fall, based on those hearings, the Task Force’s Advisory Committee will present the Attorney General with a blueprint of comprehensive policy recommendations for preventing and reducing the negative effects of Native children’s exposure to violence – a guide for action we are eagerly anticipating.

So let me close by saying this.  Fifty years ago, Attorney General Robert Kennedy predicted that the tide was turning for Native American generations yet unborn; that the shadow of poverty and affliction and unfairness in Indian Country would be lifted.

Working with you to help make that prediction a reality has been among the highest privileges of my professional life.  Still, it’s clear we have much work to do.

As long as Native youth on reservations endure rates of suicide we would never tolerate in any major American city;

Or as long as Native men and women living in remote corners of this country are denied the fundamental right to vote by state laws that make it harder for them to access the ballot box and have a voice in offices that shape their everyday lives;

Or as long we have to explain, over and over again – because of a long, sorry chapter in American history of violence, termination, forced relocation, and discrimination – why the use of “Redskins” is so painful to so many, Native and non-Native alike, then we have work to do.

But I also believe that your work over the last five years — those of you in this room – you are helping to turn the tide.  You know that like any relationship that is worthwhile, our relationships with sovereign tribal nations continue to be works in progress.  They require constant attention, unwavering commitment, candor about what is working well and what is not.  And they require the most important of ingredients — mutual trust, faith and respect — born of a common history and shared destiny.

And with that knowledge you are forging a legacy and a future of reconciliation and respect; of support for sovereignty and self-determination; of commitment to tribal safety.  And for that unwavering dedication, know that I salute you, proudly stand with you, and look forward to supporting you today and in the days to come.

ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL WEST ANNOUNCES $3 MILLION IN GRANTS TO ADDRESS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN RURAL AND TRIBAL COMMUNITIES IN THE BAKKEN REGION

WASHINGTON – Associate Attorney General Tony West today announced $3 million dollars in grants from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to increase local and tribal capacity to prosecute crimes of violence against women and provide services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking in the Bakken Region of North Dakota and Montana.

Associate Attorney General West made the announcement at the Four Corners Indian Country Conference today taking place on the Navajo Nation near Flagstaff, Arizona.  The grants are part of the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment to protecting women from violence and strengthening the capacity of communities to respond to domestic and sexual violence.

OVW’s Bakken Region special initiative launched in April 2014 and is the first large scale project targeting resources to support the expansion of services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking as well as aid the local criminal justice system in responding to these crimes in the Bakken region.

“Victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking living in a vast rural region like the Bakken face unique challenges in accessing critical, life-saving services,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West. “With this new, targeted funding, tribes and local communities will be better equipped to respond to the increased need for mental health services, legal assistance, housing, and training.”

The five grantees supported by OVW’s Bakken Region Initiative are: Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, Poplar, Montana; First Nations Women’s Alliance, Devils Lake, North Dakota; Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Helena, Montana; North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, Bismarck, North Dakota; and Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, New Town, North Dakota.

With Justice Department funding these grantees will be able to enhance responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and expand mental health counseling, advocacy, legal assistance, prevention education, sexual assault forensic examiner programs, Sexual Assault Response Teams, and law enforcement training.

In addition, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana and the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota are each receiving a three-year $450,000 grant to support the salary, travel, and training costs of a tribal prosecutor, who will be cross-designated to serve as a tribal Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“OVW grant funds have made a marked difference in the lives of countless victims and survivors, and we are eager to provide dedicated funding that will support desperately needed services,” said Bea Hanson, OVW’s Principal Deputy Director. “These grants represent the Department’s recognition that to combat violence against women, especially in Indian country, we must be responsive to emerging issues.”

For more information on OVW and its programs, please visit:  www.justice.gov/ovw.