Indian Law & Order Commission holds field hearing on Rosebud Reservation

MISSION, SD – The Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC) conducted a field hearing last week on the Rosebud Reservation. Topics addressed included: High Priority Performance Goals (HPPG) in Indian Country, Juvenile Justice, Implementation of the TLOA, Jurisdiction, and Enhanced Sentencing under TLOA, also Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault and Stalking.


“Communities cannot arrest their way out of problems that threaten safety. Putting people behind bars does not strengthen communities, it takes away from them,” stated Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux. “Yet, people must be held accountable for their actions and deterred from hurting others and this cannot be done without police presence. We are proud of the developments we have made to strengthen justice for our people but we still have a lot of work to do in making sure victims feel safe enough to report crimes. Our people need to believe police will respond when their lives or others’ lives are in danger.”


“People were able to feel safe,” said James Cerney, a Tribal Public Defender for who spoke about the effects of HPPG on the Standing Rock Reservation. The project “diminished levels that crime would reach, officers were able to arrive before fights escalated from simple assaults to aggravated assaults.”


“80% of Rosebud’s young people have attempted suicide, many have multiple attempts. 100% of the juveniles on our reservation have a friend or relative who has completed suicide,” said Miskoo Petite. He serves as the Facility Administrator for the Wanbli Wiconi Tipi (Juvenile Detention Center).


“Some young people complete treatment and come out with a positive sense but go back into the same environment,” Petite continued. “We usually see a spike in grades when the young people we serve have their basic needs met.”


“Rather than focus on incarceration we focused on education and included the day school,” said Children’s Court Judge Janel Sully. “When the youth come in they are sullen, angry and upset. They spend some time in the Green Entry program and in a matter of days they are smiling, happy and energetic.”


“There is a perception in Indian Country that the federal courts don’t prosecute as many cases as they could,” stated US Attorney Brendan Johnson. “But the number of federal cases prosecuted on Rosebud has grown over the last four years.” In 2008 there were 73 federal cases. 2009 saw 85 court cases prosecuted at the federal level. In 2010 there were 102 cases. There were 130 federal cases in 2011. These numbers indicate a 78% increase in federal prosecution.


“We have a human right to be safe in our communities,” stated JR LaPlante. He currently serves as South Dakota’s Secretary of Tribal Relations.


“I see enhanced sentencing as flexing the sovereignty muscles that we do have,” stated RST Attorney General Mato Standing High. “There needs to be criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians in Indian Country for domestic violence offenses.”


“There needs to be tougher prosecution against white collar crimes,” continued Standing High. “People don’t get prosecuted for these crimes. If we continue to let white collar crime slide, the people who are committing these acts will believe they will always be able to get away with it.”


“Grant based funding for the development and maintenance of tribal justice systems does not work, we need direct funding,” stated RST Prosecutor Matthew Rappold, who also serves as a Special Assistant US Attorney. “We have to have needs based, non-competitive funding to fund tribal justice systems.”


“The average Todd County School student misses 40 days per year,” stated RST Truancy Prosecutor Jamie Ayers. “So an 8th grade graduate actually only has a 5th grade education. Students are exposed to abuse, alcoholism, hunger, poverty, lack of transportation and violent crimes. Some have parents who are involved in gang activity. Some are being raised by grandparents or great-grandparents on fixed incomes.”


“We learn in law school that treaties are the supreme law of the land,” added Attorney General Standing High. “We are still talking about treaty promises that are not going to come through. We don’t have high arrest rates because of our people; we have high arrest rates because of the system.”


“There is no way of validating protection orders issued by our tribal court in other jurisdictions,” stated Nicole Witt who serves as Executive Director of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Shelter. “Why don’t we implement a national tribal protection order registry? This would enter a protection order into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) so local police officers can find out quickly it is valid.”


Faith Spotted Eagle spoke on behalf of the Brave Heart Society who traditionally “brought back the dead from the battlefield. Today they are bringing back the spirits of our people who have suffered layer upon layer of trauma. The United States is a post-conflict society and we have personalities that are essentially numb.”


In the past 14 years, the Brave Heart Society has helped 90 girls complete the Isnati ceremony on the Yankton Sioux Reservation. “The majority of those girls are doing better than their counterparts are,” stated Spotted Eagle. Cultural activities and ceremonies like the Isnati are one way of “healing traumatic events.”


Child abuse and neglect are both forms of violence on the Rosebud Reservation,” stated Natalie Stites, Project Manager of the Defending Childhood Initiative. “At least two children per day are a victim of a crime. Our children and youth are incredibly vulnerable.”


The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), signed into law by President Obama last summer, created the ILOC, an independent, all-volunteer advisory group, to help with the challenges to securing equal justice for Native Americans living and working on Indian lands. TLOA directs the Commission to report back to the White House and Capitol Hill next year with specific proposals to make Indian Country safer and more just, so that Native Americans may finally receive the full protections guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the Constitution.


Commissioners include: The Honorable Troy A Eid (Chairman), Affie Ellis, Tom Gede, Carole Goldberg, The Honorable Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, The Honorable Jefferson Keel, The Honorable Earl Raphy Pomeroy III, Theresa Pouley, Jeff Davis, Eileen M. Garry and Ted Quasula. For more information please visit:


Published by Vi Waln


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