From the Administrator
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any American Indian youth and their families face risk factors for delinquency, including multigenerational problems of alcoholism, depression, and gang involvement. This may account, in part, for the fact that tribal youth are disproportionately represented in juvenile arrest data. For example, while American Indian youth make up just 1 percent of the U.S. population ages 10 to 17, they constitute 2 to 3 percent of juveniles arrested for such offenses as larceny-theft and liquor law violations.

Character building is crucial to addressing the “Challenges Facing American Indian Youth,” and as U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, reminds us, “Developing character means showing our youngsters that they can overcome hardships.” For American Indian youth, Senator Campbell adds, developing character also means having pride in the traditions and contributions of their people.

Chryl Andrews reports on the “OJJDP Tribal Youth Program,” established by Congress in 1999 to address the rising rate of juvenile crime in tribal communities. The program is a crucial part of the Indian Country Law Enforcement Initiative, inaugurated by the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Interior that same year.

Culture has an important role to play in preventing delinquency among American Indian youth. As Ruth Sanchez-Way and Sandie Johnson note in describing “Cultural Practices in American Indian Prevention Programs,” cultural identification makes adolescents less vulnerable to risk factors for drug use and better able to benefit from protective factors than children lacking such identification.

This issue of Juvenile Justice provides a compendium of information on preventing and combating delinquency among American Indian youth, including OJJDP’s ongoing research and demonstration efforts in “Understanding and Responding to Youth Gangs in Indian Country.” Working together, we can advance justice for all Americans, including the first Americans.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator
Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention


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Juvenile Justice - Challenges Facing American Indian Youth:
On the Front Lines With Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
December 2000,
Volume VII · Number 2