It is important that both tribes and states recognize the benefits of understanding intergovernmental processes and potential avenues for collaboration, although direct nation-to-nation relations remain a fundamental principle of the federal government’s trust relationship with tribes. Recent policy trends toward increased devolution of federal programs, and the constrained resources available at all levels of government, highlight the need for and benefits of intergovernmental coordination between tribes and states. Effective tribal-state relationships are essential to building a better tomorrow for all Americans.
Given the complex jurisdictional scheme on tribal lands, intergovernmental coordination is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement in Indian Country. That is why in 2009, NCJA began partnering with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) on a Tribal-State Collaboration and Justice Capacity Building Project, a project funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The goal of the Tribal-State Collaboration Project is to increase awareness among tribal and state government officials of the benefits of intergovernmental coordination on justice issues and to replicate promising practices for improving public safety in tribal communities through tribal-state collaboration methods and to replicate promising practices for improving public safety in tribal communities through tribal-state collaboration methods. Since enactment of the Tribal Law & Order Act in July 2010, NCAI and NCJA have used the Project as a vehicle to help implement the Tribal Law & Order Act while still staying true to the project’s original focus on intergovernmental collaboration.
Over the past two years, the Tribal-State Collaboration Project has launched a Tribal Law & Order Resource Center website to disseminate information about tribal justice, track implementation of TLOA, post upcoming events, and create a network of key criminal justice stakeholders. The Project also intends to convene and facilitate national working groups around key tribal justice issues to facilitate intergovernmental cooperation, share promising practices, analyze relevant provisions of the TLOA, and develop recommendations for its implementation.
Additionally, the Tribal-State Collaboration Project conducts training programs in separate states using a team approach, with teams from states led by the state agency administrators (SAA) and tribal teams led by elected tribal leaders, as well as justice system stakeholders from each. The first of these trainings took place in Minnesota in September 2011 and was a resounding success. That training brought together the tribal nations in Minnesota, with the state criminal justice planning agency (SAA), state leaders, local leaders, and federal representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI. The dialog was unprecedented and the need for these discussions was emphasized by the participants even on topics often difficult to raise and resolve. The agenda was driven by the tribal nations with state and local input and recommendations from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The Tribal-State Collaboration Project is also engaged in a series of webinars that kicked off in July 2010 and continues today. All previous webinars are posted for viewing on the Tribal Law & Order Resource Center website.
The Project will also be providing an online toolkit in the future with innovative program descriptions, examples of MOUs and cross-deputization agreements, full faith and credit agreements, and project findings to elected tribal and state leaders, policy-makers and criminal justice practitioners in both state and tribal public safety agencies.