Violence in Indian Country
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JUNE 15, 2000

A 1999 report issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics was none too complementary about violence in Indian Country. Among other findings, the report stated that American Indians are the victims of violent crimes at more than twice the rate of the rest of the population.

At the time, Jan Chaiken, director of the BJS, said "The findings reveal a disturbing picture of American Indian involvement in crimes as victims and offenders."

Since Native Americans represent about 1% of the US population, the report, the first ever on crime in Indian Country, brought to light some important issues facing tribes and Native Americans today. Some of those issues include funding for law enforcement and violence against women.

An increase in law enforcement funding is one of the major focuses of the year 2001 Bureau of Indian Affairs budget. The $2.2 billion budget calls for an additional $18.9 million for the law enforcement division, bringing the total for public safety and justice to $160 million.

A key concern is the lack of reservation officers, many of whom patrol alone. In 1999, Ted Quasula, head of the BIA Law Enforcement division, reported that seventeen officers have been killed while on duty in the last 10 years.

On large reservations like the 1.6 million acre Fort Apache reservation in Arizona or the Navajo Nation, which covers many rural areas in three states, the risk can be deadly. Tenny Gatewood was killed last year at Fort Apache; Hoskie Gene on the Navajo reservation in 1998.

More recently, the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe of South Dakota reported they are worried about losing more than half of its police force due to an end in funding from the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program.

The COPS program encourages community policing and the tribe's participation has helped contribute to its lower crime rate.

According to the BJS, American Indian women experience violence at more than twice the rate of the general population. The violent crime rate for Indian women was 98 per 1,000 females, compared to 40 per 1,000 for white females and 56 per 1,000 for black females.

The rate of sexual assaults and rapes for Indian victims was 7 per 1,000, compared to just 2 per 1,000 for the general US population.

While the BJS reported that intimate and family violence account for 9% of all crimes, the same rate as the general population, Indians were victimized by a member of another race more than the general population.

75% of intimate victimizations among Indians were committed by someone of another race, compared to just 11% for the rest of the population. Intimate violence is defined as victimizations involving current or former spouses or partners.

Last year, the Justice Department held a conference to talk about ways to address violence against Indian women. Part of the conference involved the STOP (Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecution) Violence Against Indian Women grants program.

Since its inception in 1995, STOP grants have provided over $30 million to tribal governments. The grants are authozied under the federal Violence Against Women Act.

Tribes like the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and the Hopi Tribe of Arizona are using STOP grants to develop better resources and programs to address their concerns about violence against women.

Relevant Links:
From the Department of Justice: American Indians and Crime (February 1999)
From the Bureau of Indian Affairs: School Construction, Trust Management Improvement, Law Enforcement and TPA lead FY 2001 Budget Request for BIA (February 7, 2000)
BIA Law Enforcement:
From the Department of Justice: Community Oriented Policing Services
Stop Violence Against Women Office of the DOJ:
From the VAWO: STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grants
From the VAWO: Domestic Violence Awareness Manual