Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today announced the introduction of an amendment to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (S. 1200) which would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete an in-depth study of the tribal justice systems in North and South Dakota. The goal of the legislation is to find methods of improving the tribal judicial system, which currently is overburdened by the high incidence of crime on reservations.

"Violent crime is a growing problem in many of our reservation communities and tribal justice systems need to be able to address it effectively," said Thune.

"The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is one of the most central bills for improving quality of life in Indian Country and this amendment will aid federal, state, and tribal authorities in understanding the various options that are available to strengthen the tribal justice system and improve public safety on the nation's Indian reservations. It is my hope that the Senate will adopt my amendment as a major step toward improving security on reservations by providing effective law enforcement."

Senator Thune's amendment would direct the GAO to study how tribal courts currently function and to identify weaknesses that need to be addressed. If signed into law as part of S. 1200, the GAO study would be due to Congress one year after enactment.

In addition to this amendment, Senator Thune has taken several other steps to address the problem of crime in Indian Country:

  • Introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill that would provide $20 million to U.S. Attorneys to prosecute Native American crimes;

  • Co-sponsored an amendment to increase law enforcement presence in Indian Country;

  • Passed Thune meth hot spots amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 budget resolution to provide $99 million for COPS meth hot spots grants;

  • Requested that President Bush increase Fiscal Year 2009 funding for tribal detention centers;

  • Requested that Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne ask the BIA to commit more resources to law enforcement on South Dakota's Indian reservations;

  • Pushed the Department of Justice to hold a training course in Pierre in 2007 for tribal law enforcement which focused on combating meth.

  • In recent years, the reports of growing crime in Indian Country have been published at an alarming rate. A recent New York Times investigation noted a "violent but largely overlooked wave of trafficking and crime that has swept through the nation's Indian reservations in recent years." (Sarah Kershaw, "Drug Traffickers Find Haven in Shadows of Indian Country," New York Times, February 19, 2006)