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Set a good example

Standing Rock is now touted as being the reservation with the second-highest crime rate in the nation. The suggestions on improving the situation on Standing Rock all point to more active prosecution by the U.S. attorneys' office.

In my opinion, that is the problem here. We have to set an example for our children to follow so that they know what is right and wrong. This is not happening. Due to lack of prosecution and police to enforce prosecution and convictions in tribal court, people are committing crimes and not having any consequences. Finally, they commit a crime for which they are prosecuted in federal court. Once this happens, the person is arrested and taken off the reservation to court and, if sentenced, will serve a lengthy term in a prison off the reservation.

I doubt that anyone remembers the person is sitting in a penitentiary because, as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Eventually the person who has been held in a federal facility returns home, having learned all about gangs from others in prison that they would not ordinarily have contact with. They come home and people in the community pay attention to the person who left the reservation and returned and begin to pattern themselves after them because they are different.

All the suggestions I have read include prosecuting more crimes through federal court, but what good will that do if people are charged and hauled off the reservation to court and serve time somewhere else? Both the victim and the person who committed the crime do not benefit, many people make mistakes but once they have a felony conviction, they will not be able to qualify for a good job and the downward spiral they are in will continue.

I think the best solution to the problem is for the tribe to take over law enforcement. The Major Crimes Act should be repealed and all the tribes should enact longer sentences in tribal courts. We should be able to prosecute and sentence our own people for all crimes. The tribe should build its own detention center and its own prison; this would generate jobs and would also keep the offenders in our own community, where they will not be exposed to hardened criminals and where the community will see what happens when someone commits a crime. After all, isn't that what sovereignty is all about?

- Lola Agard

Standing Rock Siouxtribal memberSelfridge, N.D.