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Celebrating 50 Years of American Indian Self-Determination

By Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan
RED WING - CROW APSAROKE TRIBE, Staff Sgt. Brittinie Alvarez, 50th Security Forces Squadron, Jim Thorpe

Today marks a milestone in relations between the federal government and Indian nations. Fifty years ago today, President Richard M. Nixon delivered a special message to Congress announcing a new era of self-determination for American Indian tribes. “The time has come to break decisively with the past,” he said, “and to create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.”

The Trump Administration has taken bold steps and unprecedented action to deliver on this half-century commitment to America’s tribal communities. I am especially proud of the work the Department of Justice and the Office of Justice Programs have done to support American Indian leaders and officials as they work to protect native people. With our partners in the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, OJP has awarded historic amounts of funding to support tribal public safety efforts and victim service programs – more than $273 million in fiscal year 2019 alone.

Under our Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, we recently awarded grants to almost 150 tribes to carry out a wide range of tribal justice and safety initiatives, from law enforcement and corrections activities to tribal youth programs and services to address violence against Indian women. And a first-ever tribal victim service set-aside program is helping tribes tap a rich cultural tradition of healing ceremonies and spiritual practices that offer a bridge to recovery for crime victims and survivors. We continue to expand and refine these programs through government-to-government consultations conducted in the spirit of tribal self-determination.

I am also humbled to join officials from across the federal government as we address the twin tragedies of missing and murdered indigenous persons. Under the banner of Operation Lady Justice, I am part of a federal task force that is consulting with tribal officials on how to strengthen investigations, improve information sharing and raise public awareness about this dual challenge, which President Trump has called “sobering and heartbreaking.” We continue to hold virtual hearings and listening sessions to obtain input from tribal officials and will submit a report to the President in November outlining a plan to address this crisis.

Arguably, no segment of our society is more vulnerable to the acts and predations of criminals than American Indians and Alaska Natives. Generations of injustice and adversity have left a legacy of trauma that cannot be ignored. Yet Indian nations have shown not only resilience and a capacity for survival, but an indomitable spirit that has enabled them to face and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Today, we honor this spirit and celebrate it by reaffirming our commitment to the sovereignty of Indian nations and to the safety and well-being of all Indian people.

Date Created: July 8, 2020