May | June 2014

Final Public Hearing of Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence Held in Alaska
Task Force Holds Second Public Hearing on American Indian and Alaska Native Children's Exposure to Violence, Defending Childhood 'Protect, Heal, Thrive'

On June 11–12, 2014, a task force advisory committee appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder held its final public hearing to examine the impact of violence on children in Indian country.

Photo of Associate Attorney General Tony West at hearing.
Associate Attorney General Tony West offered keynote remarks at the final public hearing of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. The hearing was held in Anchorage, AK, on June 11-12, 2014.
The hearing, which took place in Anchorage, AK, gathered expert testimony from Alaska Native leaders and tribal judges. It featured panel discussions on the prevalence of violence; recommendations in A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, the Indian Law & Order Commission report, that are specific to Alaska Native youth; and the impact of the court system on these youth. Additional panels discussed specific ways Alaska Native children are affected by violence in their homes and communities and considered recommendations to improve how these children are identified, assessed, and treated.

The advisory committee will draw on research and information gathered through this hearing and three previous hearings to draft a final report of policy recommendations to present to Attorney General Eric Holder by late 2014.

"We have come to Alaska, where the realities of geography and jurisdiction make this a place like no other; where the challenge of reducing the exposure of children to violence is particularly unique, particularly complex, and particularly hard," said Associate Attorney General Tony West.

Associate Attorney General West cited disturbing statistics: Alaska Native women make up less than 20 percent of the state's overall population but represent nearly half of all reported rape victims. Alaska Natives are two-and-a-half times more likely to die by homicide than white Alaskans. As recently as 2011, Alaska Native children made up more than half of all maltreatment reports substantiated by Alaska’s child protective services, and more than 60 percent of all children removed from their homes.

The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is composed of a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts on American Indian/Alaska Native studies, child health and trauma, victim services, and child welfare. The 13-member advisory committee is co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah. The Tribal Law and Policy Institute is providing technical assistance support for the task force.

The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is a key component of Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative to prevent and reduce children’s trauma from experiencing violence as victims or witnesses.

Previous hearings addressed domestic and community violence in Indian country; the pathway from victimization to the juvenile justice system; the roles of juvenile courts, detention facilities, and the child welfare system; gang violence; and sex trafficking. The first public hearing was held in Bismarck, ND, on December 9, 2013; the second in Scottsdale, AZ, on February 11, 2014; and the third in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on April 16–17, 2014.

Resources:

A press release about the hearing, Associate Attorney General West's remarks, and more information about the Attorney General's Defending Childhood Initiative and the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence are available online.