Native American

Native Americans Left Out of Public Discourse About Race and Justice, Despite Criminal Justice’s Deep Impact on Native People, Says Report

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

America’s indigenous people are “consistently affected,” by the criminal justice system, “yet continuously excluded from broad public discourse” about race and justice, according to a report from the Lakota People’s Law Project.

Native Americans, the report says, face incredible discrimination in the justice system. For example, while Native youth comprise just one percent of the nation’s total youth population, they make up 70 percent of kids admitted to federal prisons. Native kids are often criminalized for low-level status offenses, many of which involve alcohol possession and consumption.

The report points to data from 2009 that revealed Native American men were admitted to prison at four times the rate of white men, and that Native women were imprisoned at six times the rate of their white counterparts.

On any given day, 4 percent (or 1 out of every 25) Native Americans adults is involved in the criminal justice system.

Additionally, Native Americans are more likely to be killed during encounters with law enforcement than any other racial group proportional to their overall population, Mike Males, of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice highlighted in a 2014 report.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Males found that from 1999 through 2011, Native law enforcement officers killed 4,531 people, 96 percent by firearms and 96 percent of them men. While Native Americans comprised just .8 percent of the population, they made up 1.9 percent of police killings. (Police in the U.S. killed a far higher number of members of other racial groups, but not at rates more than twice their overall population percentage, as was the case with indigenous people.)

While these studies may seem a bit old, data collection and research surrounding how indigenous people experience the criminal justice system — including data surrounding the epidemic of violence against Native women, most of which is committed by non-Native people — has been appallingly scant.

Bureau of Justice Statistics data shows that indigenous people are violently victimized at more than twice the rate of the general U.S. population.

An incredible 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Justice.

And 88 percent of all violent crimes against Native women were committed by non-Native individuals.

A 2018 report conducted by the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute looked at hundreds of cases of missing and murdered native women in urban areas (not on federally defined tribal lands) over the last decade, and going back as far as the 1940s.

And in the course of its research, the UIHI team struggled to collect relevant data, scouring multiple missing persons databases, news and social media sites, speaking with members of Native American communities, and filing public records requests to law enforcement agencies. Of the 71 city police agencies from which UIHI requested data, a startling 59 percent of departments either failed to provide any data at all or provided “partial data with significant compromises,” according to the report. Some agencies only agreed to confirm cases that UIHI had already found, or shared what they could, from memory.

According to the National Crime Information Center, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls in 2016, on and off federally recognized tribal land. By contrast, NamUs, the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing persons database, logged just such 116 cases.

While Native individuals and groups have had a strong presence at rallies in support of Black Lives Matter in recent weeks, “local organizing must continue in our community,” the Lakota People’s Law Project writes. “We must speak in unison, explicitly to these issues.”

Additionally, the federal government must “begin reallocating resources directly to the tribes,” the report says. “The tribes must begin to manage their own child and family service programs, their own juvenile detention facilities, and also healing programs. The continual support of Tribal Title IV-E programs and court training will provide an opportunity for this type of development to occur, and should be encouraged by all necessary Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services.”

Image by Peg Hunter, Flickr: Black Lives Matter protestors, Coast Miwok Indigenous people, youth and grandmothers, rallied Wednesday at the Marin County statue of Sir Francis Drake, calling for the removal of the statue and the renaming of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.


  • Sorry according to the BLM website, they unapologetically advocate for “Black Lives”. I guess indigenous people can lend their voice to the BLM movement but they do exist to help others. Just themselves. Don’t trust me read their website….

  • Taylor how can we get more white men to break the law? That’s the only solution. It’s a game of stats and percentages and we need more white criminals.
    What do you suggest?
    Maybe we can have Chicago style shootouts in the suburbs?
    On my way home from my corporate job I’ll knock off a 7-11!
    Everyone needs to participate or it won’t work though.

  • Ms. Taylor Walker, I can appreciate you writing articles which pertain to the criminal justice system, how ever can you be just a little more biased? Further, the stats you provided are antiquated. Maybe you could spend a little more time to do some more in depth research, while providing more up to date stats?

    At the rate you are “progressing,” every ethnic group in this country will be a victim of the criminal justice system and the bad white man will continue to flourish, while imposing his strict, draconian methods on every minority.

    If the criminal justice system, along with every other system here in the U.S.A. is that bad, maybe you should consider relocating to a country that will cherish and value your rights as a human being and provide you with due process and fair justice. Good luck with that.

    I am frustrated, angry and appalled, that individuals such as yourself have the audacity to continually snivle about how bad things are here in America. Yet individuals such as yourself are the first ones to seek protection under the same system you disparage.

  • The purpose of Indian reservations is long outdated. They’re only good for buying fireworks for people from Democrat run states.
    California “indians” should be terrified of this ruling. I’d rather be prosecuted in NoCrimafornia than a federal court.

  • The purpose of Indian reservations is long outdated. They’re only good for buying fireworks for people from Democrat run states.
    California “indians” should be terrified of this ruling. I’d rather be prosecuted in NoCrimafornia than a federal court.

  • I concur. Interesting that some tribes have flourished. Others haven’t – kinda makes you wonder why they can’t come together and channel their hate for the white man/ our country for the greater good of each and every Native American. You know, like BLM looking out for all those black lives that matter. NOT!!!
    In the words of Colonel Jessup, “I would rather you just thank you and move along.”

  • Void of an oppressed proletariat class to recruit as the American worker is not being harshly treated and living a fine lifestyle (air conditioning, autos, cell phones, flat screens, washing machines, etc.) with access for opportunity to pursue what makes them happy and industrious, Socialists have morphed their pitch and invented Identity Socialism. They are superior word-play experts using their widespread propaganda campaign to convince the passive and docile into believing they have been left out, dominated, abused and mistreated. Notice the proliferation of identified groups who are told that they are oppressed (the latest proletariat): Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Women, LGBTQ…, Illegal Immigrants, Atheists, Artists, Criminals, Inmates, those with a student loan, those subjected to global cooling or global warming or climate change, and last but not least, Polar Bears and Penguins. Now, in addition to the wealthy, including inherited wealth, business men and women, bankers, financiers, we add he latest evil oppressors as older White, Christian, heterosexual males and to a lesser extent even black and female heterosexuals, unless they’re kneeling and washing the feet of the oppressed. Socialists (Bernie, AOC, Omar, Warren, Tlaib, BLM, ANTIFA, Pelosi, care not how insane all their claims and manufactured reality sounds because they’re driven to topple the American society and industrial complex and convert it to a centrally run Socialist State, headed by a group of folks (see above) who have never created anything you can hold in your hand, and have never been off the public dole. And don’t forget, if you disagree with the new socialist campaign, you are a hater, a RACIST, a homophobe, a transgenderphobe, and I’m sure they will create additional labels to further their campaign.

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