Department of Justice Tribal Initiatives

In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno convened the first National Tribal Conference, sponsored jointly with the Department of the Interior (DOI). This conference led to numerous Indian Country initiatives, including major funding for tribal police, jails and courts.

NIJ's tribal portfolio was strengthened with the launch of the Comprehensive Indian Country Law Enforcement Initiative in 1997. The initiative was an $89 million plan to improve criminal justice services and reduce the rate of crime among American Indians living on or near Indian lands.

The Department of Justice's (DOJ's) efforts have increased substantially since that time.

Tribal Crime Data Project. Since 2010, DOJ has had a number of projects under way to close the gaps in tribal crime data and research.  DOJ's Tribal Crime Data Project seeks to ensure timely and accurate crime data reporting in Indian Country through funding, training and technical assistance. The Tribal Crime Data Project helps tribes meet reporting and eligibility requirements to apply for Justice Assistance Grant funds. This project is administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Tribal Justice, the FBI and the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) of 2010 requires BJS to establish and implement a tribal data collection system and support tribal participation in national records and information systems. TLOA also requires the FBI to collect data for all 56 field divisions regarding decisions not to refer to an appropriate prosecuting authority refer cases in which investigations were opened into an alleged crime in Indian Country. The data to be reported annually include the types of crimes alleged, the status of the accused and the victim as Indians or non-Indians, and the reasons for deciding against referring the investigation for prosecution.

Similarly, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) is now required to compile annually, and by federal judicial district, information regarding all declinations of alleged violations of federal criminal law that occur in Indian Country that are referred for prosecution by law enforcement agencies. Required data elements include the types of crimes alleged, the status of the accused and the victim as Indians or non-Indians, and the reasons for deciding to decline or terminate the prosecutions. BJS[1], the FBI and EOUSA[2] are all required to report annually to Congress on the status of any tribal data collection activities as required by TLOA.

DOJ has a legal and trust responsibility to support tribal justice systems and expects to be better able to carry out this critical function through improved data collection, research, analyses, and reporting on crime and justice administration in Indian Country and Alaska Native villages. NIJ's research and evaluation efforts in tribal communities are particularly crucial in the wake of the signing of TLOA, which changes how federal government agencies are expected to deliver law enforcement, prosecution and correctional services in Indian Country.

TLOA also aims to increase American Indian and Alaska Native victims' access to justice system resources in Indian Country and imposes higher standards on tribal nations for reporting crimes to federal law enforcement and prosecution, including crimes of violence against women.

For more information on DOJ's efforts addressing TLOA, see its Web page on TLOA and read the report Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA): Long Term Plan to Build and Enhance Tribal Justice Systems (pdf, 49 pages).

Read the Tribal Law and Order Act (pdf, 44 pages).

Learn more about the Tribal Crime Data Project.


[note 1] Bureau of Justice Statistics, Compendium of Tribal Crime Data, 2011 (pdf, 44 pages), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2011, NCJ 234459.

[note 2] Offices of the United States Attorneys, “United States Attorneys' Annual Statistical Reports,” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Offices of the United States Attorneys.

Date Created: February 19, 2013