“Tribal cultures tend to have a longer view of the relevant historical context.” Tribes and their members also are significantly different from other minorities or “interest groups,” Striffler says, because tribes are sovereign governments, vested with “the inherent right or power to govern.” But what that means, in the context of jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in Indian Country, has been the subject of legislation and litigation for hundreds of years.
(See history sidebar on page 31.) “Criminal jurisdiction in Indian country involves a complex relationship between three sovereigns: federal, state and tribal governments,” Striffler explains.
“To have some understanding of the legal status of Oregon tribes and issues of concern to them today, it is essential to have some understanding of their history and the history of federal Indian policies that have affected them,” says Senior Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Striffler, the Oregon Department of Justice’s Native American affairs coordinator.“In my experience, Anglo-American culture tends to focus on the present and the immediate issue at hand,” says Striffler, a non-Native American who assumed her coordinator position in 1997.The federal government recognizes nine tribes in Oregon, many of them “confederations” of historically separate tribes.(See sidebar on page 33.) In 2009, 1.6 percent of Oregonians identified themselves as American Indian and/or Alaskan Native, according to the U. Census Bureau, although they may not be enrolled citizens of any tribal nation.“Who is an Indian depends on what (federal) circuit you’re in,” says Billy J.
“Bill” Williams, chief of the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, who was primarily responsible for federal prosecution of violent crimes in Indian Country here between 20. § 1151) to include not only tribal land within a “reservation” but also certain other land and even some property and towns owned or incorporated by non-Indians within a reservation’s boundaries.“In the Ninth Circuit, there’s a two-prong test: whether the person has Indian blood, and whether he’s received tribal or governmental recognition as an Indian. About 875,000 acres, or 1.4 percent of land within Oregon, are held in trust by the federal government or are designated reservation lands, according to the Oregon Blue Book.It’s one of the more-critical first questions you have in determining criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.” “Indian Country” is defined by federal law (18. Perhaps no other area of law, with the possible exception of water law in the West, requires as much appreciation for history as Indian law.Our federal interest wouldn’t be satisfied if someone got less than one year for killing someone.But the tribe also has an important interest in prosecuting offenses under tribal law.” “Concurrent prosecutions work pretty well because we don’t tell tribes who they should prosecute and vice versa, but we do tell each other what we’re doing,” Williams continues.In 2007, Amnesty International published “Maze of Injustice,” in which it said that Native American and Alaska Native women suffer rape and sexual violence at a rate 2.5 times higher than non-native women in the United States.