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President Signs Tribal Law and Order Act

On Thursday, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act to bolster law enforcement efforts on Native lands.

Introducing President Obama as he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, Lisa Iyotte  bravely told her story about how she was brutally raped on her reservation and how her assailant, though later caught, was never prosecuted for his crimes against her. Right now, crime rates in Indian Country are more than twice the national average – up to twenty times the national average on some reservations.  Native American women suffer from violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average.  Astoundingly, one in three Native women will be raped within their lifetimes.

As Lisa recounted her tragic ordeal, there were moments where she seemed unable to speak – until the President came out and stood by her as she spoke.  In his remarks, he  called these  statistics “an assault on our national conscience and an affront to our shared humanity.” He went on to say that he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act into law “for every survivor like Lisa, who’s never gotten their day in court; for every family that feels like justice is beyond their reach; and for every tribal community struggling to keep its people safe.”

The Tribal Law and Order Act will help address crime in Indian Country and places a strong emphasis on decreasing violence against women in tribal communities. The Act provides more law enforcement officers for Indian lands and equips them with more crime-fighting resources.  Specifically, the Act will:

  • Require the DOJ to disclose data on cases it declines to prosecute;
  • Enhance tribes’ authority to prosecute and punish criminals themselves;
  • Expand efforts to recruit, train and keep BIA and Tribal officers;
  • Provide BIA and Tribal officers with greater access to better criminal databases;
  • Strengthen Tribal courts;
  • Supply new training and guidelines for handling sex crimes and domestic violence, providing victims with better counseling and boosting conviction rates through better evidence collection; and
  • Enhance prevention programs, helping combat alcohol and drug abuse and help at-risk youth.

You can watch a video of the bill signing, and you can read more about how this Act will benefit Native American women, by visiting this post by Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.

Jodi Gillette is the Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, Associate Director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and she is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.