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Thune Participates in Standing Rock Hearing

--Senate Indian Affairs Committee Receives Testimony on Operation Dakota Peackeeper--

August 4, 2008

Fort Yates, ND —  Senator John Thune today participated in a Senate Indian Affairs Committee Field Hearing, which dealt with the progress being made by Operation Dakota Peacekeeper, a joint effort by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to combat crime on the Standing Rock Reservation. The hearing was conducted at the Standing Rock Tribal Headquarters in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

"The policing surge on Standing Rock has not been in effect for very long, but tremendous improvements are being made and I am glad to learn that the operation will be extended until the end of September," said Thune. "Today's hearing was an opportunity to hear directly from tribal leaders, BIA officials, and state law enforcement personnel on how the added police presence on the reservation has lead to the arrest of dangerous criminals and an overall improvement in public safety.

"Operation Dakota Peacekeeper has changed the environment on Standing Rock, and I believe the success here can be duplicated elsewhere."

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) chaired the hearing which featured testimony from Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Tribal Judge William Zuger, BIA Policing Director Patrick Ragsdale, and South Dakota U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley.

Director Ragsdale described the pre-surge environment on Standing Rock as, "highly conducive to lawlessness." In his testimony, U.S. Attorney Jackley hailed the surge as a "great success story," while Judge Zuger testified that "life on the reservation is finally becoming safe." Chairman His Horse Is Thunder said that the surge has indeed reduced crime and that the community is now able to sleep at night.

Operation Dakota Peacekeeper commenced in June and has already resulted in 1,000 arrests.

Last week, President Bush signed into law Senator Thune's legislation authorizing $1 billion to fight reservation crime and to improve tribal justice systems as well as improve tribal health care. The legislation also authorized $1 billion for water projects on reservations across the nation.

Senator Thune recently joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in introducing the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008, which would provide for the appointment of special U.S. Attorneys to prosecute violent crime in Indian Country as well as strengthen tribal justice systems and police forces