Tester hears from tribal leaders on public safety in Native American communities

Senator voices support for a new fund to fight crime in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate) – After hearing directly from tribal leaders, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Jon Tester today voiced his support for improving victim services in Native American communities.

During a committee hearing today, Chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes asked Tester to consider establishing a tribal set-aside from the Crime Victims Fund. Tribes then could access these resources to increase assistance for survivors of violent crimes, crime prevention, and crime prosecution in Indian Country.

“Current public safety resources in Indian Country don’t exist, are often fleeting, or are anchored to temporary grant funding,” Tester said. “This set-aside fund will provide important resources in creating safer communities in Indian Country.”

Tester committed to working with Chairman John Barrasso and other members of the Indian Affairs Committee on legislation that will create a designated stream of funding for Native American communities.

“Too often federal resources don’t get to the ground in Indian Country. This fund will provide a reliable stream of resources for my tribe and many others,” said Chairman Stafne. “Senator Tester has been a strong partner for Indian Country and I thank him for his commitment to increasing safety resources for Native American families.”

The Crime Victims Fund pays for itself by collecting criminal fines, forfeited appearance bonds, penalties, special assessments, gifts, and donations. Currently, every state in the country has access to a set-aside fund from the Crime Victims Fund, but unfortunately these state funds almost never reach Native American communities, despite significant need in these areas.

Building on the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibility, tribal leaders suggested creating a ten percent set-aside fund from the Crime Victims Fund for Indian Country, which would be just over $230 million annually.

According to the Indian Law and Order Commission’s report “A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer,” one in five Native American children experience PTSD due to violence, and are over two times more likely to suffer violent trauma that non-Native American children. Today there are only 26 domestic violence shelters across Indian Country.

Earlier this year, and following up on his listening session from last summer, Tester sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting further investigation and more resources to eliminate human trafficking in Indian Country.