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The Tribal Law and Order Act Passes the Senate!

June 24, 2010

Despite no visible action since the Tribal Law and Order Act (S. 797/H.R. 1924) passed out of committee in the Senate late last year, wheels were turning behind the scenes. Yesterday the Act was included in the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act (H.R. 725) as an amendment introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) with 10 cosponsors. Shortly thereafter the Indian Arts and Crafts bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent. This is very exciting news! Here are some major provisions of the Tribal Law and Order Act which would help improve public safety in Indian Country:

  • Evidence Sharing and Declinations: Federal officials have declined to prosecute more than 50% of violent crimes in Indian country. The bill will require the Department of Justice to maintain data on criminal declinations and share evidence with tribal justice officials when a case is declined.
  • 3-year Tribal Court Sentencing: Federal law limits tribal court authority to sentence offenders to no more than one year in prison, which limits their ability to provide justice to the victims and the tribal community. The bill establishes an option for tribes to increase sentencing authority for up to three years where a tribe provides added protections to defendants.
  • Deputizing Tribal Police to Enforce Federal Law: The complex jurisdictional scheme in Indian country prevents tribal police from arresting offenders, even when a crime is committed in plain view. The bill will enhance the Special Law Enforcement Commission program to deputize tribal police officers to enforce federal laws on Indian lands.
  • Tribal Police Access to Criminal History Records: Many tribal police have no access to criminal history records. As a result, when pulling over a suspect, the officer has no background on the person who is detained. The bill will provide tribal police greater access to criminal history databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  • Domestic and Sexual Violence: The bill will require tribal and federal officers serving Indian country to receive specialized training to interview victims of sexual assault, collect crime scene evidence. It also requires federal Indian Health Service and BIA officials to provide documents and testimony gained in the course of their duties to aid in prosecutions before tribal courts.

Want to see a more in-depth analysis of the bill? Click here.

Now that the Senate has passed the Tribal Law and Order Act, the House will take it back up. In the House the bill still needs to be passed out of the four committees to which it was referred, and then come to the floor either as a standalone bill or an amendment to a larger bill. Please urge your representative to support the Tribal Law and Order Act.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Nowel permalink
    July 1, 2010 4:27 pm

    How do traditional Native American leaders/people feel about this legislation? I still think back to Wounded Knee in 1973 and the tribal goon squads that murdered and harrassed traditional people.

    • July 1, 2010 4:36 pm


      I’m not sure about the link you’re making between Wounded Knee (of 1890) and this legislation. Is it that you’re concerned about the government’s intention considering that they took part in that massacre? It is true that the federal government has a highly checkered past when it comes to treatment of Native Americans. However, this legislation was written in consultation with tribes and passed with high levels of support from Native people. I encourage you to read the information linked to in the post about the bill.


      • L.Tallchief permalink
        July 1, 2010 6:11 pm

        As he said, he’s referring to the 1973 Wounded Knee fight, when Dick Wilson had an entourage of thugs, his so-called “goon squad”, enforce his every whim. That’s when AIM took hold and fought it out with the FBI. It wasn’t until later that the Dick was finally voted out of office. As far as I know, he never paid for his years of brutish corruption. My mother covered the story for the Indian newspaper Wassaja. But to answer the first commenter’s question, we LIKE it. Thanks.

  2. Inez permalink
    July 1, 2010 6:16 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, L.Tallchief. I was confused about the jump from the Tribal Law and Order Act to Wounded Knee, thinking of the older Wounded Knee reference.

  3. Jackie Brown Otter permalink
    July 5, 2010 9:13 pm

    The law will benefit the people as long as it is used properly and not misused by the police. This will help the women who are experiencing domestic violence in their lives. Every law that is passed has challenges and many people do not like change this is going to be a good change. Laws that are made should be made with the help of the people who actually have to live within the boundaries. Many laws that are made do not meet the needs of the tribal members. The new law will be helpful!


  1. Please call your Rep in support of Tribal Law and Order Act today! « Of Peace And Politics

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