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April 6, 2011
NCAI President Jefferson Keel’s Statement on First Meeting of Indian Law and Order Commission
NCAI President Jefferson Keel’s Statement on First Meeting of Indian Law and Order Commission

Commission Meeting Considered Milestone in Implementation of Tribal Law & Order Act

Santa Fe, NM – The President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Jefferson Keel, will be one of nine members convening the first meeting of the Indian Law and Order Commission this Wednesday April 6, 2011 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Established under the 2010 Tribal Law & Order Act, the Commission’s appointed members will make recommendations to President Obama and Congress on how to improve the administration of justice on tribal lands.

“Safe, strong tribal communities are in everyone’s interests. Tribal citizens – and our neighbors – care deeply about justice systems that work for Indian Country,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization. Keel is also the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “The members of this Commission represent deep experience in and a passion to address the issues facing tribal communities. As a group, we have the capacity and desire to ensure that the Tribal Law & Order Act is fully implemented, and exceeds expectations.”

Indian reservations nationwide face violent crime rates more than 2.5 times the national rate and some reservations face more than 20 times the national rate of violence. More than 1 in 3 American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, and 2 in 5 will face domestic or intimate partner violence. The Department of Justice has also found that non-Indians commit approximately 88 percent of violent victimizations against Indian women. Yet the complex jurisdictional scheme on tribal lands prevents tribal governments from criminally prosecuting non-Indian offenders for such violent crimes.

The Indian Law and Order Commission has the potential to be a critical driving force behind implementation of the Tribal Law & Order Act. The law itself does many things and contains several accountability measures, it: mandates Federal agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting reservation crime to produce declination reports and share information with tribal officials; provides tribes with additional tools to combat crime locally; authorizes tribal access to national criminal history databases; enhances tribal court sentencing authority; and, expands the Special Law Enforcement Commissions program, which gives commissioned tribal officers the ability to enforce federal law on the reservation. However, the Indian Law and Order Commission is in the unique position to serve as an additional accountability measure. Once funded, this oversight body will have the influence and resources to advance implementation in a way that no other body can.

Appointments to the commission were made by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Pelosi. The following individuals make up the Commission’s membership:

Appointed by President of the United States, Barack Obama:
- Carole E. Goldberg, Professor of Law at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, Director, Joint Degree Program in Law and American Indian Studies
- Theresa M. Pouley, Chief Judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court, Associate Justice of the Colville Tribal Court of Appeals, and a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Northeast Washington.
- Ted Quasula, General Manager, Grand Canyon Skywalk, member of the Hualapai Tribe in northern Arizona.

Appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
- Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and President of the National Congress of American Indians
- Troy Eid, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado
Appointed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:
- Affie Ellis, Assistant Wyoming Attorney General

Appointed by Speaker of the House John Boehner:
- Tom Gede, a principal of Bingham Consulting Group

Appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
- Earl Pomeroy, former U.S. Representative from North Dakota
- Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, former U.S. Representative from South Dakota

The Commission has already met twice via teleconference to address preliminary administrative matters. However, this week’s meeting in Santa Fe will be the Commission’s first in-person meeting, where they intend to tackle their substantive tasks and commence the difficult work that awaits them.

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