Tribal law officials talk with area leaders

by Mark Arehart on September 25, 2012

In 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, a piece of legislation set on enhancing tribal sovereignty. Out of the act came the Indian Law and Order Commission, the group charged with meeting with tribal leaders nationwide and reporting back to congress. Two officials with the commission were in the YK Delta this week meeting with tribal leaders.

The Indian Law and Order Commission has sent representatives across the United States to meet with tribal governments. And Alaska is the last stop.

“We’re not coming out there with an agenda of recommendations without hearing what the problems are first,” Commissioner Affie Ellis said.

She and other officials met with representatives with the Association of Village Council Presidents Monday morning to talk about tribal sovereignty in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. This week they will travel to Napaskiak, Hooper Bay, Emmonak, St. Mary’s and Mountain Village to meet with local governments.

“We’re hoping to kind of get their perceptions on what they want their communities to look like in 50 years, in 100 years–long term, big picture ideas. But in the meantime, do they have recommendations that we can take to congress and the president to make their communities more safe in the short term?,” Ellis said.

Helping to strengthen tribal sovereignty and safety in native communities is key to the Commission. “Well it all rests with Tribal Sovereignty,” Commissioner Jefferson Keel said. “We want to make sure that those criminals that are perpetrating crimes in Indian country are not only prosecuted, but the families and victims are also taken care of.”

Both Keel and Ellis stress that the importance of the Tribal Law and Order Act is to help native communities.

About 20 communities throughout the YK Delta have tribal courts.

The commission has sent other representatives throughout the state, including Anchorage, Barrow and the southeast.

The commission will be in Dillingham Friday. A report on the commission’s findings should be sent to congress this spring.

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