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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : features : latest news May 24, 2016

3/25/2014 10:50:00 AM
Community members voice concerns about law enforcement on reservations at Kykotsmovi and Tuba City listening sessions
Former Hopi Chairman Ivan Sidney and Bureau of Indian Affairs Hopi Police Chief Jamie Kootswatewa discuss law enforcement issues during a March 11 Department of Justice listening session in Kykotsmovi, Ariz. Photo/Tyler Tawahongva
Former Hopi Chairman Ivan Sidney and Bureau of Indian Affairs Hopi Police Chief Jamie Kootswatewa discuss law enforcement issues during a March 11 Department of Justice listening session in Kykotsmovi, Ariz. Photo/Tyler Tawahongva
Tyler Tawahongva

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - On March 11, Hopi Tribal Chairman Herman Honanie played host to Department of Justice (DOJ) listening sessions to inform the community about steps the DOJ is taking to assist reservations with law enforcement. Community members were able to voice their concerns as well.

The event was well attended. Tribal Relations Advisor Hope MacDonald Lonetree and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Schneider were on hand to make comments and take questions. A similar session took place in Tuba City recently as well where Schneider heard concerns from Tuba City community members.

In Tuba City, Schneider talked about the large number of sexual assault cases and the difficulty that victims have in reporting an assault. He mentioned that in some cases victims are taken to Page to get a medical exam. However, since a rape kit isn't considered a medical procedure they are told to go to Flagstaff to get the procedure. He advised that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is willing to pay for the exam in those cases so a victim doesn't give up after waiting hours for the exam.

Schneider said victims sometimes don't follow through with complaints and the perpetrator isn't prosecuted. Sometimes cases are not prosecuted because of a lack of evidence, but he said victims should stand up for themselves to prevent future assaults. Schneider encouraged victims to report assaults right away.

"We care about the community and welcome any questions or concerns from the community," Schneider said.

One attendee suggested using the media to report on crime in order to make the community aware for them to become more engaged in prevention.

In Kykotsmovi, MacDonald Lonetree, former Navajo Council Delegate and current Tribal Liaison to the U.S. Attorney, accompanied Schneider. Schneider said the Hopi Tribe is the first nation to exercise expanded jurisdiction, which enables the tribe to prosecute major crimes as well as non-Natives.

Congress has also enacted laws to give tribes more sovereignty to prosecute non-Natives such as the Violence Against Women Act, which enables tribes to prosecute non-Natives for sex -ual assaults. Many tribes are looking at Hopi to see how expanded jurisdiction works and looking at it thoroughly in order to make charges stick.

"This is a good step in the right direction," Schneider said.

The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) allows tribes to prosecute major crimes when before they only prosecuted misdemeanors. Now, non-Natives can be sentenced for as many as three years and if more than once charge is brought, nine years. Tribal members could only prosecute tribal members beofre TLOA.

Intervention and education are also a priority when addressing crime on the reservation.

"Incarceration isn't the only solution but rehabilitation needs to occur for individuals coming back to the community. We cannot just warehouse offenders then bring them back to the community," Schneider said.

MacDonald Lonetree echoed the sentiment.

"It is no good to warehouse offenders," he said. "Work skills need to be established for offenders." Lonetreee said she looks for grants to use and that the Hopi Detention Center Task Force helps to strategize and plan for a new facility.

One audience member pointed out that the Hopi Tribe has had difficulty performing audits and that could be an issue when trying to get grant money. MacDonald Lonetree said many tribes are in the same situation and the DOJ does provide some technical assistance to help tribes overcome issues to avoid reporting back to Congress that funds are not being used.

Work with sexual assault victims and domestic violence are community concerns as well. Protocols for sexual assault responses that will help build a solid case should be developed. It was pointed out the Hopi Health Care Center has implemented a sexual assault policy which includes faith based victim support.

"There should be no excuse for cases getting lost. When 150 cases come to the healthcare center and only 10 get to the prosecutor. What can we do to bring it together?" Schneider asked.

Former Chairman Ivan Sidney commented that the Hopi detention center is not adequate and that alcoholism is a major problem.

"A majority of the crimes are alcohol related. Village members know who offenders are but no action is taken," he said, suggesting continued meetings to address the issues of the community.

Leigh Kuwanwisima from the Hopi Cultural Preservation office, said he had concerns about snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks and the continued sale of Hopi artifacts in foreign countries. Schneider recognized this as a concern. During the recent Paris auctions his office scrambled to find out if there was possible action that could be taken. In these cases jurisdiction is a major issue.

Hopi Prosecutor Craig Daly said bootlegging and drug dealing is a major concern and asked, "How can you help villages to help play a role?"

He said "locking people up and throwing away the key" doesn't help. He noted that community members need to pay close attention to victims and that substance abuse assistance and mental health services need to be run at local levels. Building a police substation in Moenkopi also need to be addressed.

Hopi Police Chief Jamie Kootswatewa commented that the police continually needs support. He said three officers are currently in training and that five positions are open with only a handful of candidates. He noted that Moenkopi, Shongopovi and First Mesa have the highest rates of incidents and there is a need to put officers in Moenkopi to prevent transfers. He cited the arrest of 12 people on bootlegging as a step forward.

The Hopi reservation has two law enforcement entities - the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police and the Hopi Rangers - who work to protect the entire reservation including rangelands. Better communication between the two groups was something that needed to be improved according to Chief Ranger Ronald Honyumptewa.

Honanie was pleased with the turnout and happy to hear the comments. He said he would like to see more of these types of sessions take place in the future.

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