A Senate committee approved legislation last week that would reinforce several Justice Department positions that handle American Indian affairs.
The bill would create a permanent Native American Issues Coordinator position within the Executive Office for United States Attorneys and require the appointment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Tribal Liaisons for U.S. Attorney offices in tribal lands.
An EOUSA American Indian affairs director and 44 liaisons already exist in the Justice Department. But they were never mandated by Congress.
The Native American Issues Coordinator would work with U.S. Attorneys and the liaisons on prosecutions in Indian country. The director would also assist with other tribal issues on behalf of the Justice Department and give annual reports to Congress.
DOJ spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said the Justice Department backs the changes.
We reported Friday that the bill endorsed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee would also give the Justice Department Office of Tribal Justice a presidentially appointed head.
The Office of Tribal Justice was created under a federal statute in 1995, but exists at the discretion of the Attorney General. The OTJ serves as the department’s point of contact with Indian tribes on justice issues.
The DOJ support for these tribal justice initiatives is part of a wide-ranging campaign to address law enforcement issues on Indian reservations.
Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden met with tribal leaders in Seattle last month as part of a DOJ listening tour in Indian country. The DOJ officials are scheduled to visit tribal officials in Albuquerque, N.M., later this month and in Minneapolis in October as part of the tour.
The Justice Department has also made millions of dollars in grant money available to Indian tribes, especially for programs that fight violence against women. The $787 billion economic stimulus bill enacted in February included $20.8 million for combating violence against women on Indian reservations.