National Native American Heritage Month

imageDuring the month of November, communities across the country honor and celebrate the traditions, culture, and history of American Indians. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994.

On November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama, by official proclamation, called on all Americans to commemorate National Native American Heritage Month with appropriate programs and activities.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) marked Native American Heritage Month with a special program, "Indians and the Law: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" on November 8, 2011, at the Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building's Great Hall. The event included a cultural presentation and a Memorial Song by Dennis W. Zotigh, a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan. A traditional opening was provided by Laura Ansera, OJJDP's Tribal Youth Program Coordinator and a member of the San Felipe/Isleta Pueblos.

Photo of Laura Ansera, OJJDP's Tribal Youth Program Coordinator.
Laura Ansera, OJJDP's Tribal Youth Program Coordinator and a member of the San Felipe/Isleta Pueblos, provided a traditional opening at the U.S. Department of Justice's program, "Indians and the Law: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," held in honor of National Native American Heritage Month.

Speakers included Hilary C. Tompkins, Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior and a member of the Navajo Nation, and James C. Cole, Deputy Attorney General. Among the federal activities highlighted by Deputy Attorney General Cole was the DOJ-wide initiative on tribal justice and public safety to address the significant public safety challenges facing many tribal communities.

Photo of Morgan Fawcett, keynote speaker at the Office of Justice Programs' event marking National Native American Heritage Month.
Morgan Fawcett, keynote speaker at the Office of Justice Programs' ceremony commemorating National Native American Heritage Month, plays the American Indian flute and has released three CDs. He holds flute workshops with youth to encourage participation in music as a way to cope with their challenges and as a healing and positive alternative to drugs and alcohol.
On November 29, 2011, the Office of Justice Programs held a ceremony, "Native Youth: Overcoming Challenges," which featured, among other highlights, keynote remarks by Morgan Fawcett (see photo at right), founder of a nonprofit organization, One Heart Creations, which aims to raise public awareness about and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Fawcett, who has FASD, travels across the country speaking at colleges, middle schools, high schools, detention centers, treatment centers, and hospitals.

On December 1, Fawcett and 10 other American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth leaders were honored at the White House as Champions of Change. These youth were recognized for innovative programs that help their communities and raise awareness about important issues impacting tribal youth.

The ceremony also included a viewing of a public service announcement (PSA), That's My People, which was filmed onsite at the National Intertribal Youth Summit in July 2011 and disseminated via the DOJ Web site and You Tube. The PSA explores the issues tribal youth identified at the summit as important to address with their tribal leaders.

OJJDP's Tribal Initiatives

The Administration and DOJ are working vigorously on numerous fronts to support comprehensive and innovative programs and services that foster public safety, honor native traditions and culture, and help build a better future for those who live in Indian country. These programs and services have been developed in close consultation with tribal leaders. OJJDP, a component of DOJ's Office of Justice Programs, has a long history of commitment to addressing the challenges faced by tribal youth. These challenges include limited access to quality education, health care, youth development activities, and meaningful employment.

Between 1999 and 2011, OJJDP provided 452 grants to 218 federally recognized tribes in 27 of the 34 states where tribes reside. From January through June 2011 alone, OJJDP's Tribal Youth Program funded services to more than 12,300 youth.

Following are a few highlights of OJJDP's tribal youth initiatives:

  • Tribal Youth Program (fiscal years [FYs] 1999–2011)
    • Prevention services, interventions for court-involved youth, tribal juvenile justice systems improvements, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, and access to mental health services.
  • Tribal Juvenile Accountability Discretionary Grants Program (FYs 2004–11)
    • Programs that increase accountability for delinquent tribal youth and strengthen tribal juvenile justice systems.
  • Tribal Youth National Mentoring Program (FYs 2008–11)
    • Capacity building and strengthening of tribal youth mentoring programs.
  • Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green Demonstration Program (FY 2009)
    • Programs and services with an environmental focus targeted toward tribal youth residing within or reentering from tribal juvenile detention centers.
  • Tribal Youth Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation Programs (FYs 2009–2011)
    • Practitioner- and policymaker-oriented research and evaluation studies of effective programs, policies, and strategies for the prevention and intervention of tribal youth delinquency.
  • Defending Childhood (FYs 2010–11)
    • Addresses children's exposure to violence in eight communities, including specific AI/AN communities (the Chippewa Cree Tribe in Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota). The initiative supports communities' efforts to improve their systemic response to prevent and intervene in children's exposure to violence and to enhance agency collaboration efforts to mitigate the effects of violence on children and youth.

OJJDP also offers comprehensive training and technical assistance (TTA) to tribal initiatives grantees and all federally recognized tribes to increase AI/AN communities' skills and knowledge about programs and strategies, and build tribes' capacity to develop effective and sustainable programs for reducing juvenile crime. OJJDP-sponsored TTA also helps improve services to tribal youth in detention or reentry, improve tribal justice systems, protect children from abduction and related victimization, and enhance state and law enforcement agencies' investigative response to technology-facilitated crimes against children.

Resources:

The Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, and other federal partners have created a Web site in honor of this year's National Native American Heritage Month. In addition, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service invites users to view its Web page "Justice in Indian Country," which includes links to related topics of interest, including juvenile justice, tribal law, tribal justice systems, and law enforcement.