Man in a tlingit haida native vest stands facing away with an arm around a woman next to him

Faced with one of the most significant challenges to the future of America’s children, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. charged a task force to address the vast majority of American Indian and Alaska Native children that live in communities with alarmingly high rates of violence and trauma. Over the course of several months, an Advisory Committee listened to hours of testimony about the trauma and suffering that has been endured. They heard about the legacy of historical trauma caused by loss of home, land, culture, and language and the subsequent abuse of generations of Native children in American boarding schools. The Department of Justice’s Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence recently released a report with findings and recommendations. The 258-page report focuses on pinpointing the resources for change that will heal and protect American Indian and Alaska Native children.

In the 2009 National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, it was reported that more than 60 percent of all Native children are exposed to violence. Three out of five of those children are “polyvictims” or victims to a toxic combination of exposure to intimate partner violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or exposure to community violence. Often, these children experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate that rivals that of soldiers returning from Afghanistan. In fact, 22 percent of Native children experience post-traumatic stress disorder, three times the national average for children.

Therefore, the report put forth by the Task Force calls for a collective investment nationwide in defending children from exposure to violence and psychological trauma, and in healing Native families and communities. Broken systems that re-traumatize children must be transformed into systems where American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes are empowered with authority and resources to prevent exposure to violence and respond and promote healing of their children who have been exposed.

To read the executive summary click here.  

For the full report click here. 

To read the 2009 National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence full report click here.

Highlighted Recommendations from the report:

  • Jurisdictional restrictions on the tribes must be eliminated to allow Tribes to exercise their inherent sovereign authority to prevent AI/AN children’s exposure to violence. Tribes should be supported in this effort with assistance, collaboration and resources to build their capacity to fully implement and sustain tribal-controlled, trauma-informed prevention and treatment models and systems.
  • The White House should establish- no later than May 2015- a permanent fully-staffed Native American Affairs Office within the White House Domestic Policy Council. This office should be responsible for coordination across the executive branch of all services provided for the benefit and protection of AI/AN children.
  • Congress should restore the inherent authority of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes to assert full criminal jurisdiction over all persons who commit crimes against AI/AN children in Indian country.
  • Congress and the executive branch shall direct sufficient funds to AI/AN tribes to bring funding for tribal criminal and civil justice systems and tribal child protection systems into parity with the rest of the United State, and remove barriers that currently impede the ability of AI/AN Nations to effectively address violence in their communities
  • Congress and the executive branch shall provide recurring mandatory base funding, and appropriate sufficient substantially increased funding for all tribal programs that impact AI/AN children exposed to violence.
  • Congress shall end all grant-based and competitive Indian country criminal justice funding and instead establish a permanent, recurring base funding system for tribal law enforcement and justice services.
  • The federal government should provide training for AI/AN Nations and for the federal agencies serving AI/AN communities on the needs of AI/AN children exposed to violence.
  • Federal, tribal, and state justice systems should provide publicly funded legal representation to AI/AN children in the juvenile justice systems to protect their rights
  • Federal, tribal, and state justice systems should only use detention of AI/AN youth when the youth is a danger to themselves or the community. The facility should be close to the child’s community and provide trauma-informed, culturally appropriate, and individually trailered serves, including reentry services.
  • The White House Native American Affairs Office should coordinate the development and implementation of federal policy that mandates exposure to violence trauma screening and suicide screening be a part of services offered to AI/AN children during medical, juvenile justice, and/or social service intakes.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services should increase and support access to culturally appropriate behavioral health and substance prevention and treatment services for all AI/AN communities, especially the use of traditional healers and helpers identified by tribal communities.
  • Youth-serving organizations such as schools, daycares, Head Starts, etc. should be provided with resources needed to create and sustain safe places where children exposed to violence can obtain services. In addition, funding for construction of additional facilities and behavioral health services should be prioritized for AI/AN children exposed to violence.