Annually, hundreds of native American children who are victims and witnesses to crimes in Indian Country must testify in Federal and Tribal courts across the country. Experience has shown that if we prepare children who testify in court proceedings, so that they know what to expect, the stress often associated with the testimony is minimized. "B.J. Learns About Federal and Tribal Court," is a new resource designed to prepare native American child victims and witnesses to testify in criminal courts. The video attempts to answer questions frequently asked about the courtroom, courtroom procedures, and the people who participate in court proceedings. By learning what to expect in a trial setting, children will become more confident and many of their fears about testifying will be alleviated.
"B.J. Learns About Federal and Tribal Court," was developed with the assistance and guidance of a committee of experts who represent several disciplines. They include native American advocacy organizations, tribal representatives, victim/witness advocates, Tribal and Federal prosecutors, psychologists, social workers, law enforcement officers and educators.
The committee recognized that there are many complex legal, psychological, and social issues involved when a child is victimized or must appear in court as a witness. However, the focus and intent of this video is specifically to provide information to native American child witnesses about Tribal and Federal court in order to minimize the potential trauma involved in giving testimony. The video is non-threatening and intended to be utilized with children from tribes across the country. Since it is not unusual for a case in Indian country to be prosecuted in both Federal and Tribal court, general information about both court systems is provided. It is important to remember that this video should be used in a case only after it has been determined that the child witness will testify in a court proceeding, and during the period of time in which the child and his or her parents or guardian are preparing for such participation.
As the video is intended as a source of guidance for the adults who supervise its use, please take the time to review this supplemental material along with the video. Showing the video without the supervision of a knowledgeable adult is not recommended, as children may have important questions or may not understand all of the material.
Very few materials specifically created for native American children now exist. Our hope and intent is that this video and the enclosed material will assist you in preparing native American children to testify in criminal court proceedings. We believe that this resource will help generate further discussion of issues and practices among professionals who work with child victims and witnesses.
Sincerely,Brenda G. Meister
Office for Victims of Crime
Linda A. Akers