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Published May 14, 2013, 09:44 AM

BIA sets abuse training for tribal court staff

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has scheduled a series of legal training seminars for judges, prosecutors and defenders who work in tribal courts, including a four-day session in Grand Forks June 17-20.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has scheduled a series of legal training seminars for judges, prosecutors and defenders who work in tribal courts, including a four-day session in Grand Forks June 17-20.

The Grand Forks training will focus on the handling of cases involving sexual assault on children, which has been the subject of intense debate and investigation at the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation south of Devils Lake. Critics have challenged how tribal authorities including tribal court personnel have handled such cases and related matters, such as foster care and child custody.

Other training sessions are scheduled this week in Missoula, Mont., concerning domestic violence; Reno, Nev., in July on illegal narcotics; Philadelphia, Miss., in August on domestic violence, and Oklahoma City in December on sexual assault on adults.

Times and locations for the Grand Forks training were not provided in a BIA news release issued Monday, and a BIA spokeswoman could not be reached immediately.

Each seminar will include a roundtable discussion on the Violence Against Women Act, a reauthorization of which was signed by President Barack Obama on March 7. The act includes new provisions encouraging federally-recognized tribes to combat violence against Indian women.

The training is offered through the BIA’s Office of Justice Services and is mandated by the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The training program, which was offered at other locations last year, is a joint effort by the Interior and Justice departments.

The objective, according to the BIA release, is “to strengthen tribal sovereignty over criminal justice matters on federal Indian lands by sharpening the skills of those who practice within the tribal court system.”

The training for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and others will be conducted by working law professionals “using instructional materials prepared by experts knowledgeable about tribal court issues.”

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