Thursday, March 30, 2017

Crow Sen. Shawn Real Bird speaks last Thursday afternoon on his resolution calling for a congressional investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services. Such an investigation, he said, might open avenues to fund tribal law enforcement or a treatment center.

Crow Legislature approves resolution for investigation into BIA

If you ask Crow Sen. Shawn Real Bird of the Center Lodge District, unreported and unprosecuted crimes are the tribe’s “primary issue” and, as of yet, there are no hard data to back up that assertion. Tribal officials, with the help of recent legislation, intend to change this state of affairs.
 
A resolution, primarily sponsored by Real Bird, passed on July 19 and calls for a Montana congressional investigation into the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services. Citing an April 17 incident where Crow Agency resident Roylynn Rides Horse, 28, was beaten and burned – and died more than two months later – he said reservation crime was rampant with few available methods to detain or treat offenders. An investigation, he continued, might open opportunities to fund tribal law enforcement or a treatment center.
 
“The primary goal is to investigate why crimes are not prosecuted on the Crow Indian Reservation,” he said, “why there’s a lack of police enforcement, why it takes so long to work through the process of hiring a police officer…and why there’s no jail house.”
 
The tribal jail is inoperative and has been condemned, necessitating the tribe’s use of outside facilities.
 
“We need to make sure our people are safe on the Crow Indian Reservation,” Real Bird told the assembled senators, “not only the enrolled membership, but all other individuals.”
 
As part of the congressional investigation, Real Bird said, the legislature will accumulate data on crimes committed against all people on the reservation and whether they’re being prosecuted.
 
Speaking with Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote last Thursday, he stressed that the Executive Branch should also pass a resolution in this regard. The Executive and Legislative branches, he continued, should support each other.
“This issue is on the forefront of every Indian tribe,” Real Bird said. “This is a big crisis and it’s hurting all of these communities, districts and people.”
 
In response, Old Coyote said the tribe needed stronger laws and a capacity for tribal court to enforce those laws. Tribal members in possession of drugs, he said, were often held only for days at a time and “easily” bonded out by wealthy drug dealers – sometimes for thousands of dollars.
 
As one example of a law that worked, he cited the vagrancy regulations in Gallup, N.M. – known as both the “Indian Capital of the World” for its Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and other tribes; and “Drunk Town, USA.”
 
“They did away with their court system, they did away with the jail,” Old Coyote said. “They went around and picked up everyone who were drunk on the streets, and took them to [a “drunk tank”]. The first offense was 24 hours, the second offense was 48 hours, the third time one week.”
 
One person who was picked up every evening, Old Coyote said, eventually reformed and became a counselor.
 
“I don’t think [Sen. Jon Tester] or the U.S. attorney or anybody will solve the problems until we start changing the law,” Old Coyote said.
 
As his final question for Old Coyote, Real Bird asked for final confirmation as to whether the Executive Branch would support the resolution.
 
“Why wouldn’t we?” Old Coyote answered.
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