What an exciting day! The Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, staff from the US Department Justice and tribal justice experts from around the nation visited Tulalip. They took a quick tour of our reservation and learned how Tulalip administers law and justice our way. They met our tribal court staff and our elders’ panel. They learned about our alternative sentencing program, juvenile diversion panel and domestic violence program. Then they toured our police department and beda?chelh facilities before heading to the board room.
The Department of Justice has committed to partner with tribes to improve law and justice delivery to Native American communities. Today they announced that the Department of Justice is awarding more than $5 million in grants from Recovery Act funds to Washington State Tribes. What does that mean for Tulalip? It means that the tribe is receiving $899,999 for the creation of a safe house for victims of domestic violence. Those funds include five full-time jobs, to operate and oversee the program. Tulalip will also receive $423,170 from the 2009 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant. That money will fund two additional tribal police officers for three years.
Currently, Tulalip funds 97% of tribal court operating and staffing costs. These grants mean that we’ll be able to free up some of those funds to strengthen other services that we provide to our tribal members. But, it’s not only the funds that are important. During this tour we really showed the Department of Justice that tribes know what we’re doing. That we are capable and that we are already making a difference for our people.
It made me really proud to see all of our staff and some of the groundbreaking programs that we provide. Sometimes when you work with the programs on a daily basis, you forget just how effective and innovative our team members are. Then to have the Department of Justice see the programs and understand that we are making the right choices for our people, that was really exciting. Showing them that in Indian country we are doing the right thing, we’re finding ways to protect our vulnerable populations and we’re rehabilitating community members that have made some poor choices in their lives.
I just can’t say enough how proud I am of the staff and the leadership (past and present) that got us to where we are today. And I also want to commend our Board of Directors. I know when you live a small community, it’s really easy for our leadership to micromanage. Our Board has been very careful to stay out of court and police proceedings. They really work hard to keep politics out of our law and justice system.
But mostly, it’s our tribal members. Our community works very hard to stay true to our teachings. To uphold our people, instead of tearing them down. Today, I really remembered why I’m proud to be a Tulalip tribal member.
Shelly L. Lacy