IGNACIO, Colo. – U.S. attorneys and prosecutors say they want to help Native American communities bring more cases to court and cut down on crime following a surge of drug abuse, violence, sexual assault and other crimes plaguing their communities.
Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery and Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter heard reports of insufficient funding, a lack of full-time prosecutors and problems during a meeting in Ignacio.
Tribal leaders say there are not enough victim advocates serving the Navajo Nation, and the Southern Utes are also asking for more help.
"It's good that they have the federal resources and representatives to speak to opportunities that exist, but I didn't see the cultural considerations and use of our resources to address trauma and violence in our communities," said Loren Sekayumptewa, director of tribal services for the Southern Utes.
Patrick Woods, a tribal prosecutor in Utah, said some cases, like sexual assault, are hard to prosecute.
"It's embarrassing. We don't get people that want to talk about it. We need to address this when they're young, and actively have the conversation that it's not OK. We're losing generations of mothers and daughters, and that's the lifeblood of most of our tribal communities," Woods said.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice launched the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation to help with the grant-application process for tribal communities to improve public safety and address other needs. Other programs include the Drug Endangered Children program and an initiative to address the needs of veterans in tribal communities.
Yates spent 27 years working in the Justice Department, but she admitted she had little knowledge of problems in native communities until she was appointed to her current position this year and she visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Durango Herald reported (http://tinyurl.com/ozw2fg6 ).
Yates said she was surprised to learn about the frequency of sexual assault on reservations. She said new solutions must be found because of cultural differences among the tribes.
"What may work and be important for one tribe is not the approach that will necessarily work somewhere else," Yates said.
Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com