Congress Strikes a Blow to Tribal Law and Order Act

According to the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, American Indians experience almost twice as much violence as other Americans. Among tribal members age 23 to 34, the rate of violent crime victimization is over 2.5 times the rate for all persons the same age. This is particularly true for Native American women, one-third of whom will be raped in her lifetime, most likely by a non-Indian. The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 ("TLOA") was Congress' official recognition that the federal government's approach to law and order in Indian country had absolutely failed. Indeed, it is federal law and policy alone that is primarily to blame for these statistics.

One way the TLOA sought to remedy the epidemic was to mandate that federal law enforcement cooperate and coordinate with tribal law enforcement. The TLOA sought to immediately increase tribal law enforcement funding levels. Because Indian country crime is local, these consultation and tribal funding mandates were deemed crucial to the effectiveness of the TLOA.

Most recently, on November 14, 2011, Congress released the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Programs Report, striking a major blow to the TLOA. The report indicates funding cuts for tribal justice programs across the board, and did not include a tribal set-aside for discretionary Office of Justice Programs needed to implement the TLOA. The Report also proposes $15 million cuts to both the COPS Tribal Resources Grant Program and the Tribal Youth Program. Funding for tribal assistance within Office of Justice programs was also cut, receiving only $28 million – $62 million short of the approximate $100 million initially proposed in President Obama's FY 2012 budget request.

In order for the TLOA to have any effect, federal agencies must comply with the law and Congress must provide adequate funding. Unfortunately – and in violation of the federal government's trust and treaty obligations – it appears that neither of these obligations are being fulfilled.

Ryan Dreveskracht is an Associate at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm. His practice focuses on representing businesses and tribal governments in public affairs, energy, gaming, taxation, and general economic development. He can be reached at 206.909.3842 or