The Dirty Secrets of United States Colonization: The Maze of Injustice That is Tribal Law Enforcement

The atrocities committed against Red Nations on the North American Continent can be endlessly listed throughout history. What’s not as often discussed is what is intentionally being perpetuated by the United States Government today. Most Americans, which at one point included myself, buy into the myth that our history of cruelty against the native people of this country remains buried in the distant past.

Currently, rates of sexual assault and domestic violence among native women are more than double the national average. A disturbing statistic of one in three native women will be sexually assaulted and 40 percent will be victims of domestic violence. Police follow-through on reports of sexual assault are pitifully nonexistent. 

The way law enforcement works on the reservations works against justice in every way. Tribal law enforcement are pawns, with nearly no real authority. Among the native population, they are only allowed to persecute minor crimes. Federal crimes, such as rape and murder, are required to be investigated by the FBI. This is just one way that the United States Government treats indigenous sovereignty as a big fat joke. What often happens is the FBI receives these cases and says “not my department”, leaving people with no sense of justice. According to this article,

“When you look at the whole country, the Justice Department says that arrests are made for 35 percent of rapes reported by black women and 32 percent of those reported by white women. The rate for Native American women? Just 13 percent.”

Considering there is concrete evidence that native women are sexually assaulted in astonishingly higher numbers than the rest of the country, that statistic is 100 percent unacceptable. 

Apart from that, federal law continues to favor the white man. Federal law does not allow tribal law enforcement to prosecute non-native people for most crimes. The most they can do is either drop the non-native off at the border of the reservation, or hold that person for up to 72 hours, in hopes that the FBI will show up (but they most likely won’t, considering it’s “not their department”) before letting that person go.

In other words, the reservation is free reign for any non-native person. A non-native is free to come and go and wreak havoc as they wish, because there is essentially no legal repercussion to come from it. 

So with this new information, and considering how many racial conflicts exist on areas bordering reservations– i.e. considering how many racists consider themselves superior to natives in those areas, who do you really think are committing these crimes?

Why was the law written this way in the first place? Why has it remained this way? As recently as 2012, House Republicans axed provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that would extend Tribal Authority to protect women assaulted by non-natives, because they felt it was a “dangerous” extension of tribal authority. Where is the justice there? Recently, it was decided that non-natives could be prosecuted for domestic violence IF they live on the res. So “tourists”, modern day cowboys, can still do whatever they darn well please. If this upsets or disturbs you, good. That means you are a decent and reasonable person.

So for all of those who think that abuses against natives ended back in the colonial days ought to know that this only scratches the surface of United States injustices against natives, and that colonization is alive an well.