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Action violated Navajo law

I endorse Troy Eid’s opinion that, indeed, “Federal actions speak louder than words.” The New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office chose to dishonor Navajo Nation law by taking Reehahlio Carroll into custody over objection of the chief prosecutor of the Navajo Nation and without an extradition order from the presiding Navajo Nation judge. That violates the “bad men among the Indians clause” in Article 1 of the treaty between the United States of America and the Navajo Nation of June 1, 1868. It requires a request to deliver up Indians accused of being “bad men,” and it in fact gives the Navajo Nation the option of refusing to surrender any such person. It also violated past understandings with the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation has a statute that requires all outside jurisdictions to go into court to show probable cause to justify an arrest and charge, and to give defendants an opportunity to assert that they will not get a fair trial if they are surrendered.

I followed the recent “Listening Conference” on crime in Indian country closely, as I have followed the current “law and order” bill (using a racist term that implies that Indians need both “law” and “order”) and the United States Attorney General’s assurances that he intends to do something about crime in Indian country. What we have heard is not enough.

For starters, we need to abandon the model imposed on Indian country in the Major Crimes Act of 1885. It assumes that the Great White Father will protect victims of crime when he doesn’t. The FBI sprang to action in this case, but the deterrent lesson seems to be, “Don’t kill a white person.” Someone told me the Justice Department is sincere about addressing crimes against Native women, so I’ll be sure to tell the next Native woman victim I see as a lawyer how very sincere the Justice Department is. Prosecutorial discretion belongs with Indian nations and not with federal political appointees.

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People in a position to know have been advising the Justice Department that there is a better course of action. We don’t need a repeat of the nonsense on Indian country crime the Clinton Administration gave us, or its position that American Indians shouldn’t have human rights under international law.

– James W. Zion

Albuquerque, N.M.