Skip to main content

I have searched and did not find any reference to the following murder of a Native American woodcarver by a Seattle police officer last August. In the video, shot by a police car dash-cam, the man John T. Williams is seem walking across the street carving a piece of wood. People walking past him and near him show no concern or fear whatsoever. However, when a police officer sees him, John T. Williams' world ends within seconds. The video shows much of what happened, although you can only hear the shooting. Then you see how Williams dead body is handcuffed and flopped around by other cops responding to the scene.
If you watch the video, which is truly disturbing, you will have some idea of why I, as a Native American, find the racism in this country and against our President so disturbing.

The safety, health or life of a Native American is not worth much these days. Never was actually. The officer who shot John T. Williams was never prosecuted. In fact relatively few people who assault or even kill Native Americans are prosecuted. And in case you think we are assaulting each other, studies have shown that about 70% of the attacks are by non-natives. Part of the problem is that people just don't care. Serious crimes on reservation lands (Indian Country) cannot be prosecuted by the tribal nations and tribal police could not even arrest non-native offenders. If the State and tribe had an agreement to allow local police to make arrests on tribal land, the state or local police could be called to make the arrest. If not, Federal Marshals or the FBI could be called in. Guess how excited they were about investigating assaults or even rapes on tribal lands?  Not very. Often nothing is done.  Native Americans are victims of crime more than any other group and until recently nothing was done about.

In the case of John T. Williams, The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing his death (murder) and will decide whether to file federal criminal charges in the case. This is at least a small step forward. In addition they are launching a formal civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department after years of police abuse in this "liberal city."

Justice Department Opens Investigation into the Seattle Police Department

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation into allegations of use of excessive force and discriminatory policing by members of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), pursuant to the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Justice Department will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by officers of the SPD.   During the course of our investigation, the Justice Department will consider all relevant information, particularly the efforts that Seattle has undertaken to ensure compliance with federal law.   The Justice Department has taken similar steps in a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, both large and small, in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and California.

Today’s announcement is separate from any ongoing federal criminal investigation involving the Seattle Police Department.

Read more:

Another step forward is reported here:

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, which provides greater law enforcement powers for tribal authorities on Indian reservations.

At an emotional White House ceremony, Obama comforted a rape victim who broke down while trying to introduce him, by coming out early and offering her reassurance as she struggled to tell her story.

Lisa Marie Iyotte of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe wept openly in describing the assault in 1994 by an attacker who was later convicted of another rape, but never prosecuted for the crime against Iyotte.

Obama said the law he was signing would help prevent something like that from happening.

"I think that the provisions in this legislation are going to be enormously helpful in strengthening law enforcement in these reservations that have huge problems," Dorgan said. "We have gang issues and drug cartels targeting reservations. Rape and sexual assault are prevalent."

He said a major concern was the number of cases that simply were not prosecuted.

"The serious crimes on reservations are supposed to be prosecuted by U.S. attorney's offices," he said. "Rates of declining prosecutions, what are called declination rates, are up to 50 percent for murders and 70 percent for rape and sexual assault. We need better law enforcement."
Under the new rules, the Justice Department will have to maintain data on the cases it does not pursue to prosecution. It will also have to share with tribal justice officials any evidence in cases not prosecuted.

The act also aims to clear up jurisdictional loopholes that allow some crimes to slip through the net. It will allow selected tribal police officers to enforce federal laws on Indian lands, whether or not the offender is Indian.

The National Congress of American Indians says it hopes the measure will mean that more sexual assaults carried out on the reservations by non-tribal members will be punished.

That is very important when you consider the following:

About 7 in 10 violent victimizations of
American Indians involved an offender who was
described by the victim as someone of a different
race--a substantially higher rate of interracial
violence than experienced by white or black
victims.  About half the violent victimizations
experienced by American Indians involve an
offender with whom the victim had a prior
relationship, about the same percentage as found
among other victims of violence.

Do I wish we had complete sovereignty over all people who commit crimes on Reservations? Of course I do. But I am thrilled our President is taking big steps in that direction.   I am also thrilled by little things he does, such as when he personally came out early to comfort Lisa Marie Iyotte as she tried to tell her story. He is a good man.
So yeah, I do get pissed when I see the attacks on our President because many people only consider the things they think he has not done and overlooking his accomplishments and his reaching out to my people and others who are usually overlooked.

I will do my best respond to comments. However I am caring for a gentleman with brain cancer in my home I need to attend to his needs as they occur.

Originally posted to jennybravo on Wed May 25, 2011 at 02:37 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site