Blackfeet Nation Law and Order


Last May there was semi truck parked on the edge of Browning on the way towards East Glacier.  The truck had been parked there for two or three days.  Linda Dusterhoff, nurse practioner noticed kids hanging out there all the time, out talking with two truck drivers.  So she mentioned it to her husband, Glacier County undersheriff, who reported it to the tribal police.  This report prompted an investigation which revealed the drivers were openly selling drugs right off the truck.  Linda stated,“All kinds of drugs, and it was so obvious to me.  It is weird because we do have quite a few tribal police but again they are so busy on other calls that it is not really a key thing to notice there is a truck sitting there with kids there.”



What is the jurisdiction of the Blackfeet tribal police?

The Blackfeet tribal police have jurisdiction over Blackfeet Indian reservation.  Their caseload contains mostly misdemeanors, unless they get a federal case, which involves the FBI.  Cases involving non-members of the Blackfeet nation are handed over to the Glacier County and under county jurisdiction. 

What about situations involving members and non-members?

            Situations that involve a tribal member and a non-member require tribal authority or the FBI to intervene.  In order for the federal authority to intervene the crime must be substantial.  If there is a memorandum of agreement between the tribe and the county then the county police may intervene.

What are some problems regarding jurisdiction?

The tribe doesn’t have a federal statute, and in order for the federal government to take a case then there has to be a substantial quantity of drugs.  Therefore Wayne C. Dusterhoff says, "If you are picked up with methamphetamines…on tribal grounds, if the federal government will not take that case then you're not going to get charged with the felony statute.  In order for the federal government to take that case then there has to be a substantial quantity  [of drugs such as] coke, crank, meth, LSD.  But the tribe doesn't have a felony statute like the state does.  Off the reservation, if you take one bindle of coke that is three to five years.  On the reservation, you take that same bindle of coke the tribe can only put someone in jail for one year, if that.  So there is a very substantial delineation between jurisdiction and what can be done for narcotics possession."

Because of many problems involving drugs and the low conviction rate for drug related offenses, ordinance 95 was enacted on the Blackfeet reservation in 1997.  This ordinance gives a more detailed description of the charges and punishments for drug possession.  If convicted tribal members are not dealers, they are put through the alternative court.  As Susan Spotted Bear, tribal court business office manager stated, "We try to get them into alternative so we can help them better their lives." 

Link to Blackfeet Alternative Court

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