By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Chippewa Cree tribal council has launched a concentrated effort to prevent juvenile violence, gang-related activity and the sale and use of illegal drugs on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
The tribe's strategies, including a mandatory curfew, were discussed at a meeting Wednesday of council members and representatives from Tribal Court and Tribal Law Enforcement, tribal officials said today.
"All the tribe is asking is that we adhere to existing policy, and we expect existing policy to be carried out," tribal chairman Alvin Windy Boy Sr. said in a phone interview this morning.
Windy Boy said the strategies discussed in the meeting were a result of interagency sessions with local law enforcement organizations.
At the meeting the council reinstituted a mandatory curfew for juveniles, which has been set for 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and midnight Friday through Sunday, according to a letter sent out to community members on Thursday.
"We started with that curfew and I think it's a good start" to preventing gang activity, said tribal vice chair Bruce Sunchild, who said the tribe needs parental cooperation to make sure youth abide by the curfew.
Sunchild said the tribe has always had a curfew in place, but that it has not been enforced strongly enough.
"We ask the parents of our tribal juveniles to strictly adhere to and enforce this curfew as an initial effort to combat increased violence and drug presence on our reservation," the letter said.
Windy Boy said it is not clear whether gang activity is beginning to occur at Rocky Boy, but the tribe wants to be prepared if it is.
"Whether or not we have that here, we want to make sure we have a plan," he said, adding that he will rely on tribal law enforcement to carry out that plan.
New procedures may include expelling repeat offenders from the reservation and enforcing existing penalties for parents who fail to control their children, the letter said.
"Intervention is going to be key in this," Windy Boy said. "Parents need to be accountable for their children's actions."
The curfew will apply to youths under 18 years of age.
Tribal Judge Gilbert Belgarde said the Tribal Court will determine whether that means placing parents under house arrest or on probation or fining them if they are found to be negligent.
But he said he wants to make sure parents are not punished unfairly.
"When (parents) sleep, these kids could be crawling out the window," he said. "To hold (parents) accountable would be a miscarriage of justice. These are the sorts of things the court has to consider."
Windy Boy said the tribe is also trying to create more activities for youth on the reservation.
"We at the tribe are doing our best to create activities to keep our youth busy," he said, adding that the tribe will emphasize developing existing programs like 4-H and the Boys & Girls Club.
Belgarde said the meeting was called after a gang-related incident involving two groups of youth during Rocky Boy's Pow-Wow last weekend. Belgarde said the two groups were dressed like rival gangs, but he would not go into detail about the incident.
Windy Boy said no specific incident led to the meeting.
Gang activity is not listed as a separate offense in the tribe's law and order code, which has a categorized system of offenses that specify monetary fines and jail time for given crimes, Belgarde said.
In the code, class A offenses, which include violent behavior and selling and using illegal drugs in some circumstances, call for six months in jail, and can include a $500 fine. Class B offenses call for three months in jail and a $300 fine, while class C offenses call for 30 days in jail and a $100 fine.
Belgarde said he thinks the tribal council will add a new classification for gang-related crimes at the next council meeting.
Belgarde said that at the meeting the council criticized tribal judges for sometimes overriding the code's sentencing requirements and letting offenders go. Often juveniles are only held for 72 hours for serious offenses, he said. In order to try minors 14 and older as adults for violent crimes, prosecutors must file a petition to transfer minors to adult court. In the future, he said, prosecutors will file the petition more regularly.
"We're going to try to hold (their) feet to the fire," Belgarde said.
The possibility of expelling tribal members was also discussed at the meeting, according to the letter.
In cases of repeat violent offenders and drug dealers or users who commit a violent act, Belgarde said, the tribal chair, the council, or tribal judges can make a ruling that a juvenile is a danger to society and remove the individual from the reservation by handing the person over to the FBI. That is allowed in the tribal constitution under an article governing regulation of tribal enrollment, he said.