Wednesday, August 15, 2007

AG Alberto Gonzales in Michigan Indian Country

Yesterday afternoon, Alberto Gonzales participated in a round table discussion with leaders of the 12 federally recognized Michigan Indian tribes at the offices of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The event was hosted by the Bands and the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan, which has shown enormous leadership in developing relationships with Indian tribes within its jurisdiction.

The focus of the meeting, of course, was law enforcement. AG Gonzales announced several DOJ grants to Michigan tribes. Several tribes asked DOJ to improve information sharing with and training for tribal law enforcement. The question of the extremely high rates of domestic violence and sexual assaults against women in Indian Country came up repeatedly. Some tribes floated the notion of an Oliphant-style fix for domestic violence - and were not immediately shot down. One tribe suggested authorizing tribal prosecutors to bring misdemeanor DV cases against non-Indians in federal court, but that appeared to have little chance of happening.

Other questions included requests for information about the investigation into Jack Abramoff and the firing of the eight US Attorneys. Mr. Gonzales stated that he was personally upset by the implications that some of the USAs were fired due to their work in Indian Country, arguing that he was surprised that there seemed to be a connection. He did not offer alternative explanations, however.

In all, the event offered relatively little substance and also little controversy. Given that the Bush Administration has so little time to complete any new initiatives and given the AG's newfound interest in Indian Country, this may be a chance for some legislation like an Oliphant-fix for domestic violence or something related to homeland security.

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