Published on Nov 18, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Congress of American Indians called for a national mobilization of government and civil society resources to address high rates of violence experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native children. The organization’s swift response comes on the heels of the release of the report - Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive– authored by the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. Former NCAI President Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, served as a member of the committee, along with a diverse group of nine tribal leaders and scholars, and chair of the Committee, former Senator Byron Dorgan (ND).
NCAI’s current President Brian Cladoosby released the following statement:
“The report provides a very strong set of recommendations for action by the Obama Administration and by Congress. This grabs the heart. We call on the federal government, and tribal governments, as well as civil society to ensure that we are putting our children’s needs first.
“NCAI calls on Congress to hold hearings in early 2015 to address the Report’s recommendations. Additionally, the challenges and opportunities facing our Native youth should be a central focus during the President’s upcoming Tribal Nations Conference this December.
“Without action, our Native youth will remain vulnerable and they will continue to be exposed to harm. We must address this severe problem as an American family of governments – federal governments, state and local governments, and tribal governments. Even more importantly, we must address this as communities, families, parents and grandparents, and as adults, who know all too well the challenges of growing up in difficult environments. “
Over the past two years, the Attorney General and the Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence examined the current epidemic of violence facing Indian Country and in their report advanced recommendations to heal and protect American Indian and Alaska Native children—to create environments where they can thrive and reach their full potential. At the core of the matter is the need to reduce the barriers that restrict tribal sovereignty in the protection of Native children.
The Advisory Committee has identified the following areas of need:
A Permanent Voice for Native Children
- The Committee recommends that no later than May 2015 that a permanent fully staffed Native American Affairs Office within the White House Domestic Policy Council, including a staff person focused on Native youth.
Supporting Tribal Self-Determination in Combating Violence
- Tribal self-government must form the foundation for protecting Native children. The Advisory Committee recommends that Congress should restore the inherent authority of tribal governments to assert full criminal jurisdiction over all persons who commit crimes against children in Indian Country. It is important to build on the success of the Violence Against Women Act, and extend the law to protect Native children.
Intergovernmental Cooperation in Child Welfare Provision
- Encourage tribal-state ICWA collaborations- ICWA provisions seek to keep Native children safely in their homes and provide AI/AN children with civil protections as members of their respective tribes.
Building Legal Infrastructure in Indian Country
- Tribal courts must be enhanced and sustained; where absent, they must be developed.
- There is an identified need to fund tribal criminal and civil justice systems. This is a crucial investment for our children.