American Indian leaders who criticized the federal government for years over the way authorities handled major crimes on reservations will soon mark progress with the release of newly tracked statistics from the U.S. Justice Department, the Associated Press reports. Federal prosecutions of cases from Indian Country increased by 54 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2012. “They’ve taken their responsibility much more seriously than before,” said Brent Leonhard, an attorney with Umatilla tribe in Oregon.
The report scheduled for release today is the first look at government investigations and prosecutions on tribal lands. It comes as a result of the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act. The report shows that nearly 6,000 Indian reservation cases were referred to the federal government between calendar years 2011 and 2012. Arizona, home to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, had the highest number with more than 2,000, followed by South Dakota with nearly 1,000 and Montana with more than 500. Of the 5,985 cases referred from reservations across the country over the two years, about two-thirds led to convictions, while about one-third were declined for prosecution.