On Tuesday, the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) announced that it would cross-designate tribal prosecutors in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, and New Mexico. This means an increased likelihood of crimes against women being prosecuted in federal and/or tribal courts.
The Tribal Special U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) program will train tribal prosecutors in federal law and investigative techniques, enabling tribal prosecutors to pursue cases with greater independence and a wider capacity for legal input. Tribal prosecutors in the program will serve as co-counsel in federal investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women.
The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project arose in response to the endemic violence against women in Native American communities. The Tribal SAUSA program is in part the product of the Justice Department’s 2009 Tribal Nation Listening Session on Public Safety and Law Enforcement, as well as yearly consultations with tribal leaders on violence against women.
OVW Director Bea Hanson said, “We know that violence against Native women has reached epidemic proportions.”
Hanson explained that “restoring safety for Native women requires the type of sustained cooperation between the federal and tribal justice systems that we see in the jurisdictions participating in our Tribal SAUSA project.”
The four tribes participating in the project include:
- Fort Belknap Tribe in Montana
- Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska
- Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in North Dakota and South Dakota
- Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico