Eugenia Tyner-Dawson, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General for Tribal Affairs, Executive Director-Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs
Office of Justice Programs
24th Annual National Indian Health Board Consumer Conference
September 25, 2007
Good morning. Thank you, Val, for inviting me and for that wonderful introduction. I am glad to be here with Beverly Watts Davis and Mirtha Beadle. It is a particular honor to follow Joe Garcia, Linda Holt, and Dr. Eric Broderick, with whom I have worked closely.
I would also like to thank the NIHB staff, the Department of Justice staff, the staff from our federal partners, of course, our Tribal partners, and the wonderful people that planned the session.
Last, but by no means least, I want to thank you, the Tribal leaders who are helping us to moderate and lead the discussion, and to all of you in attendance today for bringing your issues forward. Thank you for your hard work and commitment, and for taking time out of your busy schedules this week.
Let me emphasize that we are committed to improving law enforcement and criminal justice in Indian country, to combating substance abuse, and to ensuring that federally recognized Indian tribes are full partners in this effort.
Coordination and cooperation with tribes has been a priority of our Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield long before she came to the Department of Justice. During her time at HHS, she was closely involved in helping to improve the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government. One of her proudest accomplishments at HHS was the development of the Tribal Consultation Policy that is now in effect.
Once she moved to OJP she worked to expand our outreach to tribes and to improve tribal access to our resources. I have had the pleasure of working for AAG Schofield at HHS and at DOJ. She has been quite a leader and inspiration for all of us, and certainly for those of us who work in Indian country.
As you are probably aware, Ms. Schofield will leave OJP effective this Friday, September 28, 2007. However, she has not left Indian country.
She will soon begin employment with the Casey Family Programs, and she is excited to become a part of their leadership team at this national foundation. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, they work on the nation’s foster care system; and they definitely reach into Indian country. AAG Schofield is already talking about how these efforts must expand for tribal communities, so I know we will see more of her, just in a new role.
Whether in Indian Country or elsewhere, she feels really proud of the contributions we have made at OJP over the last two years. We helped protect kids from online predators and released some exciting new statistics and research into the field.
We helped advance the conversation on information sharing in law enforcement and linked together 50 state directories of sexual offenders. We helped crime victims through Katrina and watched new successes in Weed and Seed sites across the country.
In these broader efforts, Ms. Schofield’s success was in how she made sure Indian country was included. Without any doubt, tribal issues have been a priority at OJP.
She learned so much from many of you. She sat through tribal consultation sessions and she listened, responded, engaged, and most importantly, she sought out solutions wherever they could be found.
At OJP, her focus on the importance of tribal consultation never changed. She didn’t believe in meeting for the sake of meeting. Those of you who know her are fully aware that when we consult with you we are sincerely looking for common ground and opportunities to address the issues raised if they are within our purview.
Let me list some of what AAG Schofield accomplished while working with all of you, much of which was a direct result of consulting with Tribal leaders over the past several years.
When she first came to OJP, you wanted greater access to information and better coordination of our resources available to tribes. We responded by launching the Tribal Justice and Safety Web site, dedicated to providing you up-to-date relevant information for Indian country, which you have heard much about this past year.
We responded through our Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs that she established, which is working hard to improve OJP’s and the Justice Department’s coordination and policy efforts on behalf of tribes.
You stated your needs included building the capacity of tribal public safety and criminal justice infrastructures by creating opportunities for more information sharing on grants opportunities, training and technical assistance specific to Indian country.
She responded by establishing national training and technical assistance sessions around the country, another key part of our effort to improve our service to you.
We conducted four sessions in fiscal year 2007 and the feedback we have received encouraged us to set up more for fiscal year 2008. SAMHSA has presented at our sessions and has been full partners in this effort to collaborate on tribal training & technical assistance.
You said that Tribal governments have needs beyond the walls of OJP, and law enforcement cannot be addressed by DOJ or BIA alone, complex jurisdictional issues exist and everyone must work together.
You shared that your issues are not limited to law enforcement,but must include better health, safety and welfare for all of your community members.
We responded by inviting other federal partners to the table, and we are very pleased to be joined by five federal departments, including HHS, that were willing to come together to address these issues with you.
At our first session in Palm Springs, CA, held last December, Tribal leaders in attendance asked us to include formal consultation.
Ms. Schofield met with Dr. Broderick, and they discussed the need to respond to this tribal issue by including consultation as a part of our remaining sessions.
Through the consultations, we have learned from you about the greatest challenges to your community in providing public safety and public health for your members.
You informed us in consultation sessions that we must improve access to our resources, and address the issues you consider as public safety and public health priorities.
During the consultation sessions we held in March and June, 2007, we solicited your input on how we can improve our grants policy.
I am pleased to announce that Regina Schofield signed a new Tribal Grants Policy on September 20, 2007 that is responsive to our consultation with you.
Several changes are going to be implemented for Fiscal Year 2008:
OJP will send e-mail notices about grant solicitations to all of our stakeholder listserves, including our tribal listserve.
We will have a link to all of our tribal grant awards through our Tribal Justice and Safety Web site.
We will also offer specialized training for all OJP staff that work with tribes.
We will specify that tribes are eligible for all of our grants unless we are directed otherwise. If tribes are not eligible for a particular grant we will specify why that is the case.
All tribal-only grant programs will have at least a 60-day application period, barring exigent circumstances.
Those are just a few examples she implemented in response to consultation with you.
I would also like to announce that AAG Schofield approved the planning for three new training and technical assistance sessions in Fiscal Year 2008, as always, contingent on appropriations.
These sessions also will include tribal consultations.
The next Interdepartmental Tribal Consultation, Training & Technical Assistance Session will be held on November 27-30, 2007, at the Tamaya Hyatt Resort, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.
We are compiling the consultation summaries from those sessions and making sure they are available to you through our Web site. We will also be reporting out on our progress on the issues raised at those consultation sessions.
We look forward to working with National Congress of American Indians and our other tribal partners to plan quality consultation sessions that address your priorities of concern.
Just like the last session, the next one will be coordinated with our federal partners. That’s been one of the exciting aspects about what we have done this year: having many agencies participate.
The last day of our November session will be dedicated to symposium on sex offender management and accountability, hosted by Director Laura Rogers, from our Sex Offender Monitoring, Apprehension, Registry and Tracking Office (SMART).
Regarding Adam Walsh, AAG Schofield knows all of you care about protecting your communities from sexual predators and that you want to make sure the appropriate systems for monitoring, tracking, and apprehending offenders is available to you.
OJP consulted with you to gain your input on how we implement the Act for Indian country. We will work with you to help make this implementation work for your communities. She hired a full-time staff member whose sole focus is on Indian country, Leslie Hagen, and she is working closely with the new director, Laura Rogers to implement Adam Walsh for Indian country.
At the July 31, 2007 Tribal Consultation Session, Tribal leaders asked her to establish an advisory group for the AWA implementation for tribal communities, and she agreed to do so.
She didn’t limit the advisory group to AWA. She has established an advisory group to the support the Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs (JPCNAA) that I mentioned earlier. AWA will be just one issue among others that will be addressed by this new group.
I am pleased to announce that letters are going out to all 562 federally recognized tribes informing the Tribal leaders that this group has been established.
We are soliciting nominations at this time, which will close on October 22, 2007. It is our plan to convene the group for its initial organizational meeting on November 28-29, 2007 at the site of the next Consultation, Training & Technical Assistance session in New Mexico.
You have already heard Joe Garcia discuss a very important issue that is having a tremendously negative effect on families and communities—increasing methamphetamine use.
We have worked with other federal, state, and local officials and leaders to sponsor the largest, single nationwide education effort warning about the dangers of using meth. Last month we partnered with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to sponsor a Tribal Meth Summit.
We also are very concerned about possible health effects to children exposed to the toxic ingredients in meth labs, as well as about the health effects for law enforcement officers who are exposed to meth labs as a result of their duties.
Our Office for Victims of Crime has funded a new initiative to create a National Drug Endangered Children Resource Center. The resource center will provide critical information to local, tribal, state, and federal agencies, on how to help children harmed by drug abuse, including meth.
We hope that the Resource Center will also be a useful tool for tribal communities, especially in areas with methamphetamine problems.
We are working to ensure that the latest research findings related to meth exposure are available to law enforcement and incorporated in training sessions.
A comprehensive list of resources and training opportunities from across the government and across the country is available at MethResources.gov.
Another area of concern raised by Tribal leaders is the ability to collect reliable data on arrests, victimizations, and other criminal justice-related issues; it is essential. The Department has made it a priority to build the capacity of tribes to collect this critical data, realizing that the infrastructure for what can be a costly process is often lacking.
Tribes have used Tribal Criminal History Record Improvement Program (T-CHRIP) funds to purchase electronic fingerprinting equipment and train law enforcement personnel how to use it. T-CHRIP funds have also been used to improve electronic information sharing both on and off the reservations. In addition, tribes are automating DWI/DUI records, domestic violence protection orders, and ink or manual fingerprint cards.
I also want to inform you of the Tribal Violence Prevention Technology Assistance Program. Through this program BJS will work with SEARCH - The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics - to provide tribes with technical assistance for criminal record development and improvement.
This assistance will help tribes contribute to federal criminal record systems and comply with provisions in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
On September 14, 2007 – AAG Schofield announced ten Tribal sites have been selected to serve as pilot communities as part of the Department’s AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative. The ten Tribal sites will serve as demonstration sites for other Native American communities to help expand the AMBER Alert program into Indian County and bridge the gap between Tribal communities and state and regional programs across the country.
The ten pilot sites will serve as models for other Tribal communities working to develop AMBER Alert plans so that children in Indian country can benefit from the AMBER Alert network.
The AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative grew out of talks last year between Tribal leaders and the Justice Department about expanding the AMBER Alert program into Indian Country. The initiative aims to assist Tribal communities in the development and implementation of AMBER Alert plans, and support the recovery of missing and abducted children by providing interoperability, infrastructure, and equipment resources to meet the specific needs of Tribal communities.
In February and May 2007, Assistant Attorney General Schofield testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. She pledged to continue her efforts to improve public safety and criminal justice in Indian country. She was asked to work across Department lines and she was pleased to report that we were already doing this to a great degree.
The problems are difficult and the solutions are anything but easy. We know there is a long road ahead, but we have made some progress. We can work together, and federal departments can come together to address the criminal justice issues and the public safety needs of our Native communities.
Although we will soon lose the wonderful leadership and support for Indian country that OJP has enjoyed under AAG Schofield, her legacy will live on because of her many achievements during her tenure as the Assistant Attorney General.
For me, and the staff that will carry on when she departs, we will strive to maintain her level of success. She has left some big shoes to fill, but we will do our very best for you.
One of the best lessons Regina Schofield taught me is that Consultation works, collaboration works when we want to work together to make it successful, and at OJP we are committed to working with you, SAMHSA, and our many other partners in this effort.
AAG Schofield thanks you for all of the support you have given her these past several years and she asked that I convey that she tried her best to return that support to all of you. She wishes you well in all that you do.
And, so do I. Thank you for your attendance, and for your commitment to your communities.