This week we were honored to have the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Jim Cole, visit the District of North Dakota on a singular mission: to meet with tribal leaders, tribal youth, and all of our law enforcement partners to discuss what we can all do as partners to strengthen public safety in Indian country. This mission is a top priority of the Department of Justice and a clear mandate from Attorney General Holder, who has committed each U.S. Attorney District with Indian country jurisdiction to develop an operational plan and to meet annually with tribal leaders to find ways to reduce violent crime.
Here in North Dakota we are seeing dramatic changes that raise both hope and concern. At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, since 2009 I have dedicated more prosecutors to this mission, resulting in a 78 percent rise in cases. We have cross-commissioned a tribal prosecutor who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Assistant US Attorneys from my office to bring cases in federal court. We are working closer than ever with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI.
We have also started a unique anti-violence strategy at the Standing Rock Reservation by engaging with students to encourage positive behaviors and wise life choices.
On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Cole visited with many of these students at Standing Rock Community High School. These remarkable youth not only asked smart and tough questions. They showed great concern and awareness of some of the issues facing their communities, and also a startling hope for their own futures and the future of their community.
We also met with tribal leaders, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and police, who showed a living example of a criminal justice system that is doing its absolute best to keep a community safe and pursue justice for victims.
On Thursday, the Deputy Attorney General Cole gave remarks to tribal leaders and law enforcement from across North Dakota at the 2nd annual U.S. Attorney’s Tribal Consultation Conference, held at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. At this conference, a direct result of the Attorney General’s focused attention on crime in American Indian communities, we are marking another year of progress in Indian country, evaluating where we stand and the plotting the path we will take into the future.
In his remarks, Deputy Attorney General Cole said:
“In the three years since the beginning of the Department’s initiative, we have used what we learned from tribal leaders to develop goals and priorities, and we have sought to ensure that all our efforts are guided by respect for tribal sovereignty and Indian self-determination, engagement on a government-to-government basis, and coordination and cooperation with tribal governments. We have worked hard to improve tribal public safety, enhance tribes’ ability to receive federal support, and strengthen coordination and collaboration with our tribal law enforcement partners.”
I am proud of the progress we have made over the past year in Indian country and am more excited than ever about what is possible when we work together, when we engage tribal youth to make good choices, when we work together to protect women and girls from what Attorney General Holder has called an unacceptable status quo of sexual and domestic violence. I am proud and today I can also say I am extremely hopeful about the future because we are starting to see a tangible impact from our efforts.