R. Trent Shores, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation who serves as the U.S. Attorney for Northern Oklahoma, testifies at at Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing in Washington, D.C., on October 25, 2017. Photo: SCIA

Choctaw Nation citizen taking oath of office as top federal prosecutor in Oklahoma

A ceremonial swearing-in is taking place for R. Trent Shores, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation who serves as the U.S. Attorney for Northern Oklahoma.

Shores was already confirmed to the high-level post in September. But he will be taking the oath of office in a special ceremony in Tulsa on Friday afternoon. Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, the chief jurist for the federal court in Northern Oklahoma, will be administering the oath.

Shores is one of the few tribal citizens to rise to the level of U.S. Attorney. He's also one of the few Native Americans serving in the administration of President Donald Trump.

He has significant experience in Indian issues, including a stint as the deputy director for the Office of Tribal Justice at the Department of Justice. That was his first legal job, some 15 years ago.

"In that position, he addressed a diverse array of criminal and civil legal issues facing facing American Indians in Indian Country," Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said of Shores at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on October 25.

Shores later served a prosecutor for the state of Oklahoma and as an assistant federal prosecutor in Oklahoma, and Lankford noted that he has experience in indigenous issues on an international level. As a representative of the United States, Shores helped negotiate portions of the document that later became the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples.

Since taking office in September, Shores has been focusing on public safety issues in Indian Country, including the opioid epidemic. In October, he expanded the number of tribal sites for the annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which helped contribute to a 300 percent increase in the number of potentially dangerous unused and unused prescription drugs in the Northern Oklahoma district, where 14 tribes are based.

During the October 25 hearing, Shores said Indian Country deals with significant public safety obstacles. Funding levels are inadequate, detention facilities are overcrowded and more services are needed for Native youth and Native women, he told the committee.

"We must improve our services and our programs for Native juveniles involved in the justice system," said Shores. "We need better law enforcement tools and techniques to respond to cases of missing and murdered Native peoples, especially Native women."

Last month, Shores was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, where he will be able to impact policy, procedure, and management of the Offices of the U.S. Attorneys. across the nation. He will serve a two-year term on the panel.

“I will rely on my experience as a career prosecutor who has worked on a diverse variety of cases - from violent crimes in Indian Country to public corruption to transnational human trafficking organizations - to provide counsel that helps to accomplish our core mission of serving justice, as outlined by the Attorney General,” Shores said.

Shores is currently the only sitting U.S. Attorney who is a tribal citizen. During the George W. Bush administration, Diane Humetewa, a citizen of the Hopi Tribe, served as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona. She was later nominated as a federal judge by then-president Barack Obama and is the first and only Native woman on the federal bench.

During the Ronald Reagan administration, Phil Hogen, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, served as the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota. He later served as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission during the George W. Bush era.

The ceremony for Shores takes place on Friday at 2pm Central, 4th Floor, Ceremonial Courtroom, in the Page Belcher Building in Tulsa. Those wishing to attend must show government-issued photo identification to enter the courthouse.

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