Missing Figures in Indian Country

Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma. Photo by jonathanw100 courtesy of Flickr

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Native American crime statistics are notoriously scattered or simply non-existent, so luckily for me, Mac McClelland, a former fact-checker, neatly annotated her investigative steps behind this issue’s “A Fistful of Dollars.” The stirring piece highlights Indian Country’s fragmented justice system and the services offered by a Pawnee man, who is routinely hired to avenge crimes that have gone unpunished. Melissa Tatum, research law professor and associate director of the University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program, explained to me that many available stats are based on national surveys, which fail to carve out the realities of the Indian demographics.

Currently, tribes have little penalizing authority, and most crimes just go unpunished. And though Tatum confirms the federal government’s efforts to make culturally sensitive legislation (as seen in the recently penned Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) [PDF], she foresees a problem in trying to make a one-size-fits-all policy for Indian nations. She explains that tribes vary in geography, history and culture, and therefore, crime problems. To complicate matters, she says there are varying degrees of cultural retention among tribes which affects their justice systems similarly.

“The federal government needs to look to each tribe and each geographic area [and let them] decide for themselves what is appropriate,” Tatum explains. “It’s listening to each tribe and each culture about what would work for them. And realizing that there’s not going to be an ability to find one nationwide solution, but there’s going to have to [be] flexibility.” Tatum believes the TLOA has potential to fill some of the data gaps and could work to prove Indians’ competence to maintain law and order in their own communities, because it seeks to standardize crime-gathering in Indian Country, and encourages data-sharing within the tangled maze of bureaucracies that oversee tribal lands [pdf]. So, if nothing else, at least it could create some reliable data set so tribal, and federal, authorities know what they’re dealing with.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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