Sep 5, 2014 - Crimes against women addressed in Bakken By Brandon Ecoffey*

*This article was first published in the Native Sun News

FLADSTAFF, Ariz.— Speaking to tribes from across the Four Corners area, Associate Attorney General, Tony West, announced last week a release of $3 million in grants from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, designed to increase the capability of tribes to implement the tribal specific provisions of the Violence Against Women Act.

As sexual assaults and crimes against women have increased in the Bakken region of the northern plains local authorities have been overwhelmed and stretched thin financially by the influx of people and crime to the area. To address the unique situation that the oil boom has brought to tribal communities in the area the Department of Justices’ office on Violence Against Women created a special Bakken Region Initiative. As part of the initiative seven new grants, totaling nearly $3 million, were awarded to seven tribes in the region.

The Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine tribe; the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services; the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota; and the First Nations Women’s Alliance in North Dakota were all awarded funds to help fund, “Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys – attorneys who are cross-designated tribal-federal prosecutors – as well as victim service providers who are working to prevent violence and support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.”

West was speaking to a crowd in Flagstaff, Arizona where he was unveiling a report from the DOJ on prosecutions in Indian Country at The Four Corners Indian Country Conference

. When the Violence against Women Act was re-authorized by Congress last year several tribal specific provisions were included and granted tribal law enforcement officials more leeway to prosecute non-members in the local tribal court system. The increased control of law enforcement on the reservation by tribes was also bolstered by the Tribal Law and Order Act that increased the capabilities of tribal courts to sentence offenders to longer sentences.

According to the Department of Justice 39 other tribes have “joined the Department’s Intertribal Technical-Assistance Working Group, working with Department officials and other tribes in an effort to exercise effectively the new special criminal jurisdiction in 2015.” “What’s essential to our long-term success is for us – at the federal, tribal, state and local levels — to takes steps that will institutionalize our commitment to Indian Country public safety, such that the best practices you are sharing, the promising pilot projects you’re launching, the interdisciplinary collaborations your spearheading – they need to become part of the routine work we do to pursue effective law enforcement in Indian Country so that the impact you are having will continue to be felt for years, even generations to come,” said Tony West on behalf of the Justice Department.

“Our dedication to Indian Country must be transformed from an initiative defined by the contours of any one Administration’s commitment and ingrained into the DNA of federal law enforcement practice. It must be part of the yardstick by which we measure our own success or failure as federal law enforcement professionals,” he said.

Brandon is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who earned his education at Dartmouth College. He is the managing editor of Native Sun News and a contributor to He has been published globally and also works as the Life and Current events editor at Native Max Magazine.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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