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Task force to look at violence exposure of Alaska Native children

November 22nd, 2013 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

Alaska Native children are exposed to violence on a level far beyond that of non-Natives in the state. While recent studies have criticized the state law enforcement's failure to curb those statistics, a federal task force has formed to take a closer look at the problem on a national level.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week at the White House Tribal Nations Conference that the 12-member task force would begin holding its first public hearings in December.

"We must not accept the shameful reality that American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately likely to be exposed to crime and violence - and that many who suffer exposure are children," said Holder. "By bringing together federal officials, tribal leaders, and local partners to focus on the unique challenges that Indian children face, this task force will enhance public safety. And these leaders will strengthen our communities by ensuring that every child can have the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to thrive — free from violence and fear."

The task force includes Valerie Davidson of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium as well as representatives from around the nation and is co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah.

They will be aided by tribal members and national experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma, and child welfare and law.

The goal of the task force, which is scheduled to meet in Anchorage early next year is to prevent and reduce children's trauma.

The task force was created in response to a recommendation in the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence December 2012 final report. The report noted that American Indian and Alaska Native children have an exceptional degree of unmet needs for services and support to prevent and respond to the extreme levels of violence they experience.

For more information about the Defending Childhood initiative, visit

To submit oral or written testimony to the committee, contact the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's technical assistance provider to the committee, at; or 323-650-5467.


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