Special Feature: Justice in Indian Country
American Indian and Alaska Native communities have long had formal and informal law enforcement systems to protect their people. But since the 1800s, when American Indians were relocated onto reservations, they have experienced high crime rates and inconsistent legal protections.
Studies have shown that more than 80 percent of adults in Indian Country have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. The high rates of crime are, in part, due to changes in state and federal law, jurisdictional misunderstandings by local or state law enforcement, and a lack of financial resources for law enforcement.
Native American and Alaska Native survivors of crime and abuse face additional barriers that can include navigating a complicated system that includes federal, state, tribal, and private actors; identifying services available on and off the reservation; and encountering gaps in services that meet their unique needs.
With these high rates of violence among adults, youth in Indian Country are also at risk. Native youth are 2.5 times more likely to experience trauma compared to their non-Native peers. Native youth also experience posttraumatic stress disorder at a rate of 22 percent, triple the rate of the general population.
Additionally, tribal youth are more likely than their white peers to be arrested, adjudicated, and incarcerated in juvenile justice systems across the United States.
For women in Indian Country, the prevalence of intimate partner abuse is substantial. Research from the National Institute of Justice shows that American Indian and Alaska Native women are significantly more likely than others to experience stalking and physical violence by an intimate partner. These women are also at a higher risk of being a victim of psychological aggression by a partner.
Across Indian Country, tribal services for crime victims vary widely. These services are sometimes located within tribal organizations that serve women and children, promote child and family welfare, and sponsor tribal community-based programming that focuses on safety and accountability. There are also tribes that sponsor coalitions to address violence against women and children and provide victim assistance services.
To learn more, see the below pages for information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies: