A Republican state official who has opposed tribes on land-into-trust, jurisdiction, voting rights and
sovereignty has set his sights on long-held statistics about crime in Indian Country.
In two studies, the Department of Justice
reported that up to 70 percent of violent crimes against
Indian victims were committed by non-Indians. The data has been used by tribal
advocates to call for more law enforcement funding and to restore tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians.
But South Dakota attorney
general Larry Long
, who earlier this year opposed
tribal jurisdiction in a critical U.S. Supreme Court
case, claims the numbers are wrong.
In a new article, he says the Bureau of Justice Statistics
, the agency that authored
the DOJ reports, has misstated the true nature of crime in Indian Country.
"We suspected that, at best, the BJS studies
may be generally accurate at the national level, yet too broad to reflect the reality of
violent crime in the context of the northern plains in and near reservation communities
where many American Indians live and work," wrote Long and his co-authors from the state
and the University of South Dakota. "At worst, we feared, the BJS studies are
flawed and fuel misconceptions about American Indians and violence nationwide."
Long's first complaint about the BJS studies is that they don't include data from
the federal justice system. He also notes that
studies were based on a national crime victim's survey and not on actual data.
So Long looked at crime data from state and federal
agencies in South Dakota "to deliver a more accurate sense of crime in the state." His findings ended up being completely opposite from the ones
in the BJS studies, according to the article.
Based on state data, nearly 73 percent of Indian homicides were committed by other Indians, Long wrote.
From the U.S. Attorney's Office
in South Dakota, the authors said 97 percent of homicides were Indian-Indian crimes.
"From our analysis, we found that intentional homicide is predominantly intra-racial in South Dakota, contrary to the BJS
findings," the article stated.
Despite arriving at a different conclusion than BJS, Long acknowledged that the homicide
rate on reservations in South Dakota rivals metropolitan Chicago and is even higher
than Los Angeles and New York City.
Moving onto rapes, Long said state data showed 69 percent of Indian victims were
assaulted by other Indians. The federal data showed 99 percent were intra-racial rape cases,
according to the article.
"Contrary to the BJS's national findings, rape is
predominantly intra-racial in South Dakota," Long wrote.
At the same time, the state data showed that Indian victims were 37 percent of all
first and second-degree rape victims despite being only 8.3 percent of the
population. This disparity was comparable to that found in the BJS study, which showed that American Indians
were five times as likely be the victims of rape.
"South Dakota reservations had a forcible rape rate of 25.4 per 100,000 inhabitants
in 2004; a rate that was lower than Los Angeles, but higher than New York City," the article
Long further stated that Indians in South Dakota are 10 times more likely to be
targeted for crime by other Indians than by non-Indians. Most Indian victims
know their perpetrators, he added.
The article acknowledges that Indian crime statistics in South Dakota are unique in some
critical ways. The biggest factor is that the overwhelming majority of the Indian population
in the state resides on reservations.
Most, but not all, of reservations in the state are majority Indian. So crimes like homicide
and rape are more likely to occur among Indians, the article stated.
"In the rural context within and
around Indian country, American Indian violent victimization rates tend to be opposite of
the urban setting," Long wrote. In most other states, the urban Indian population outweighs
the rural Indian population.
The majority Indian presence on reservations also means crimes involving Indians
end up in the federal justice system. So the data from the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota
reflects nearly exclusively Indian-Indian crime patterns.
Since being elected attorney general in 2002, Long tried to invalidate
the land-into-trust provisions of the Indian
of 1934 in order to
block the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
from acquiring trust lands. The effort was unsuccessful.
Long also unsuccessfully tried to force the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe to serve state subpoenas on
its members as part of an investigation for alleged crimes that occurred off the reservation.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In another dispute, Long tried to keep the state from refunding gasoline taxes to tribal
members. The courts found that the state illegally imposed the tax as far back as the 1920s.
Long supported a non-Indian bank that challenged the jurisdiction of the Cheyenne River
. The Supreme Court sided with the bank in a decision released in June.
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