A Rocky Boy woman has received a new award created by the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office given to people who help improve public safety in Indian Country.
Brenda Top Sky Gardipee, former child support director and now interim Human Services division chief of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, received one of the three inaugural “Working Hard, Making a Difference” awards from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Gardipee said in an interview Thursday that she felt honored.
“I try hard to dedicate my time and hard work for the betterment of the community, and it really means a lot that somebody from the U.S. Attorney’s Office has taken a look at what I have done,” she said.
The other recipients for 2010 are Henry Devereaux and Algin Young.
Devereaux, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation, is a former law enforcement officer and Montana Highway Patrol trooper. He took over as acting public safety director for his Tribe this month to help in converting the Bureau of Indian Affairs police force on the reservation into a Tribal police department.
Young is chief of police and BIA supervisor special agent for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
Gardipee received the award for her work, including spearheading creation of a Tribal traditional peacemaker circle in 2009 and for her work as chair of the High Priority Performance Goal Workgroup, an initiative of President Barack Obama to try to reduce crime on reservations. The Chippewa Cree are one of four tribes in the nation participating in the initiative, which has a goal of reducing crime by at least 5 percent within two years.
“The Chippewa Cree Tribe has done a masterful job of finding resources necessary to tackle the problems of home, head on,” U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter said in the release announcing the awards. “Success comes when the right people are at the table. It is individuals like Ms. Gardipee — the thoughtful, reliable, creative, detail implementers — who provide the foundation for strong and culturally appropriate community-based solutions.”
Gardipee said both initiatives cited by Cotter in the award presentation seem to be going very well.
The peacemakers circle allows four Tribal elders to talk about and advise people in problems, such as family disputes, about using Native American traditions to resolve those problems. The agreements that come out of the discussions are then forwarded to the Tribal attorney for review and then to the Tribal judge for approval as a legal stipulation.
The circle, once the legal side of it was resolved and procedures were set, has averaged about two cases a month.
“It’s pretty time consuming,” Gardipee said.
She added that she hopes it will be expanded, particularly in helping with early intervention for the youth of the reservation. That could head off greater problems later on, she said.
Gardipee said the people choosing to use the peacemaker circle have responded well
“Every evaluation was positive, which tells me the people who come before the circle have respect for the peacemakers and for the words they pass on to them about resolving the problems.”
Much of the work of the High Priority Performance Goal Workgroup is about pooling and coordinating resources, Gardipee said.
“I think it’s working real well,” she added.
The results are showing up, Gardipee said — the reports of crime already are going down.
“The crime definitely has gone down, but property crimes are going up,” she said, adding that the property crime issue is being researched and also will be addressed.
Part of the initiative includes increasing law enforcement and the judicial system. The federal program is helping to fund an increase in police officers, which originally required hiring BIA officers to take the spots.
Gardipee said the Tribal police force has been recruiting heavily to replace those officers with local police.
“We’re finally to the point of pretty much meeting quota,” she said. “They’re now training officers hired through Tribe.”
The process also is using research, including having one staff member studying data to determine the areas where most crimes occur. That allows extra officers and patrols to be assigned, Gardipee said.
But the main component is something she had not thought about much before working on the initiative, she added — using resources of various Tribal departments in collaboration to reduce crime.
That can involve early intervention to steer youths onto the right track, parenting classes, use of Rocky Boy’s chemical dependency treatment center and mental health center, and many other social programs including plans to expand training, intervention and other family-oriented programs at the Boys & Girls Club.
“You think (crime reduction) is all about law and the judicial system, but that’s not the case,” Gardipee said.