State-Tribal Collaboration

Advocating for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs.

Tribal-State Collaboration

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.

Partnership With the National Congress of American Indians

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 the Tribal-State Collaboration and Justice Capacity Building Project, a project funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).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.

Tribal Law & Order Resource Center

The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) was signed into law on July 29, 2010 to address crime in tribal communities, placing strong emphasis on decreasing violence against American Indiana and Alaska Native women. The Act encourages the hiring of more law enforcement officers for Indian lands and provides additional tools to address critical public safety needs. Specifically, the law enhances tribes' authority to prosecute and punish criminals; expands efforts to recruit, train and keep Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal police officers; and provides BIA and Tribal police officers with greater access to criminal information sharing databases. It authorizes new guidelines for handling sexual assault and domestic violence crimes, from training for law enforcement and court officers, to boosting conviction rates through better evidence collection, to providing better and more comprehensive services to victims. It also encourages development of more effective prevention programs to combat alcohol and drug abuse among at-risk youth.

TLOA implementation requires significant coordination among federal agencies and all components of tribal justice systems. To meet this need, the Tribal-State Collaboration Project launched the Tribal Law & Order Resource Center 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.

Training Programs

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 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.

Webinar Series

The Tribal-State Collaboration Project is also engaged in a series of webinars that kicked off in July 2010 and continues today. Jointly hosted by NCJA and NCAI, with funding from BJA, this webinar series aims to enhance state and tribal collaboration and highlight the benefits of intergovernmental coordination. Each webinar in this series focuses on a different aspect of state and tribal collaboration. Browse webinars in this series.

Future Projects

Moving forward, the Project 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. These resources will be available on the NCJA Center for Justice Planning website.