Readout of the Tribal Nations Leadership Council Meeting
October 30, 2023
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department hosted a two-day conference of the Tribal Nations Leadership Council (TNLC), where council members met with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and officials from across the Department to discuss a range of pressing issues impacting American Indian and Alaska Native people.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the TNLC participated in a roundtable discussion with Attorney General Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. Discussion topics included the Department's prioritized efforts to address the disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as the high rates of indigenous persons reported missing. Those efforts include the Department's June 2023 creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program, which provides for placement of an MMIP Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) and an MMIP Coordinator in five designated regions with Indian Country across the United States. Other topics raised included the need for additional law enforcement and other resources to address crime, substance abuse, and the needs of Native youth. Department officials also reflected on experiences and feedback gained during visits and consultations with Tribal leaders and communities this year, including in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Alaska, where the Department announced its implementation plan for the Alaska Pilot Program. This program was enacted as part of the 2022 Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization and authorizes the Attorney General to designate Alaska Tribes to exercise special Tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians within their Villages for certain crimes.
The TNLC also raised the need for increasing data sharing and cross-jurisdictional cooperation, with the potential for building on the success of the Tribal Access Program, and leveraging new MMIP resources. Earlier in the day, the TNLC met with officials from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI's Violent Crime Section and Indian Country Violent Crime Unit, among others, to discuss pressing public safety issues.
In addition, on Wednesday, the TNLC discussed civil litigation updates on issues of significant concern, such as Tribal water and natural resource rights and the Indian Child Welfare Act, with Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Civil Division. The TNLC discussed civil rights updates with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division, and issues surrounding the 2022 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Rosie Hidalgo.
On Thursday, Oct. 26, the TNLC had a breakfast with U.S. Attorneys, and a conversation with Alison Ramsdell, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota and Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee's Subcommittee on Native American Issues. The TNLC also met with top officials from the Department's grantmaking components: the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and OVW. The TNLC concluded with a meeting with Associate Attorney General Gupta focused on concrete steps related to the department's Tribal grantmaking and civil litigation work.
Established by the Justice Department by charter in 2010, the TNLC is a group of Tribal leaders from around the country selected by Tribal governments from each region. The Council is charged with providing perspective on emergent and ongoing issues across Indian Country as well as providing feedback on Justice Department activities in support of Tribes in each region. In addition to establishing a mechanism for regular insight and accountability, the structure of the group honors the United States' government-to-government relationship with Tribes.
The Department is grateful to the TNLC members who were able to attend this week's meeting:
• Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
• Frank Star Comes Out, President, Oglala Lakota Nation
• Buu Nygren, President, Navajo Nation
• Gloria Burns, Vice President, Ketchikan Indian Community
• W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chairman/Executive Director, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
• Juana Majel Dixon, Councilwoman, Pauma-Yuima Band of Mission Indians