November: National Native American Heritage Month
During National Native American Heritage Month, we affirm our commitment to working toward a society that fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diversity of culture and history of the 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native nations in our country.
—President Donald J. Trump,
Presidential Proclamation on National Native American Heritage Month, 2019
Every November, communities across the country celebrate the significant contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives to our nation and renew their commitment to the well-being of youth and families in Indian country. Through its tribal youth programs and services, OJJDP works to promote public safety, reduce risk factors for delinquency, and promote positive life outcomes for youth. Following are a few examples of OJJDP’s work.
Supported by OJJDP’s Intertribal Youth Development Initiative, United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), Inc., has launched a Peer Guide Program that recently selected 12 young people to provide direction on OJJDP’s training and technical assistance efforts, work as project advisors on youth-developed projects, and serve as role models to their peers. The peer guides are currently developing and preparing to lead regional learning events and webinars focused on promoting positive youth development in Indian country.
Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts
With the goal of reducing substance abuse and related delinquent behavior, juvenile healing to wellness courts use a team approach that brings together community healing resources with the tribal justice process. While holding youth accountable for delinquent behavior, the team provides structured and phased substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services. A system of rewards and consequences (also called sanctions and incentives) may be used to support youth behavior change; this approach can be helpful for youth as they work toward developing new habits on their path to wellness.
Tribal Youth Program
OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Program supports the efforts of tribal governments to prevent juvenile delinquency and respond to and care for justice-involved youth. The program includes prevention services (e.g., school dropout prevention programs, afterschool programs); interventions for court-involved tribal youth (e.g., graduated sanctions, restitution, diversion); improvements to the tribal juvenile justice system (e.g., indigenous justice strategies, tribal youth courts, advocacy programs); and substance abuse prevention and mental health services.
Training and Technical Assistance
The OJJDP Tribal Youth Resource Center offers training and technical assistance to Tribal Youth Program and Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts grantees, as well as to all interested federally recognized tribes. Through the center, OJJDP helps tribes develop effective and sustainable programs for reducing juvenile crime and promoting positive youth development. Support for new grantees includes a new grantee orientation webinar and a required initial strategic planning meeting.
The Resource Basket offers trainings, online resources, phone consultations, and community-based assistance to tribes and youth organizations that serve Alaska Native youth. The organization’s mission is to help rural communities foster the healthy development and well-being of Alaska Native youth.
Missing Children Cases in Indian Country
On July 30–August 1, 2019, OJJDP’s National AMBER ALERT in Indian Country Symposium brought together tribal leaders and representatives of OJJDP, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program, and state AMBER Alert coordinators to exchange information and share best practices for implementing AMBER Alert plans in Indian country. OJJDP has supported the recent development of a website that features one-stop access to information and resources to help tribal communities coordinate their response to missing children cases.
Through the Mentoring Opportunities for Youth initiative, OJJDP promotes positive behaviors and the reduction of risk factors associated with delinquency and juvenile justice system involvement, such as alcohol and drug abuse, poor school attendance, and school failure. Mentoring activities include direct one-on-one, group, peer, or a combination of these types of mentoring services. OJJDP has directed grantees in the National Mentoring Programs category to develop and implement a plan to specifically provide mentoring services for tribal youth, and as a part of the Mentoring Opportunities for Youth initiative, tribes are eligible to apply for $1.25 million to support mentoring services for youth impacted by opioids.
Children's Advocacy Centers in Indian Country
On June 28, 2019, Attorney General Barr announced emergency funding to address the public safety crisis in rural Alaska. Recognizing that Alaska has the highest per capita crime rate in the country and the unique circumstances of Alaska’s geographical and jurisdictional landscape, the Attorney General authorized additional funding and several long-term measures to support village public safety and victim services. OJJDP has identified $14 million to support the development, expansion, and enhancement of Children’s Advocacy Centers to provide wraparound services, forensic interviews, and medical exams for American Indian and Alaska Native child victims. This will include an intentional focus to support rural Alaska as well as federally recognized tribes in the continental United States.
The President's proclamation of November as National Native American Heritage Month is available on the White House website.
To learn more about OJJDP’s tribal youth initiatives, visit the Office’s website.
Read UNITY Peer Guide Rory Wheeler’s reflections on his experience volunteering at the Native American Presidential Forum.