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Department of Justice official calls ND meeting important step

Jesse Taken Alive of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe speaks in front of the Attorney General's Task Force on American Indian Children Exposed To Violence on Monday in Bismarck. (AP photo)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A tribal nations meeting in North Dakota is an early and important step in protecting Native American and Alaska Native children, a high-ranking U.S. Department of Justice official said Monday.

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U.S. Associate Attorney General Tony West, the department’s third-highest official, traveled to Bismarck for the first public hearing of a 12-member task force that will examine the impact of exposure to violence on Native children. West said tribal children are victimized and witness violence at a higher rate than non-Native children, which can lead to a cycle of abuse and societal problems, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“We know that we do not have to accept these outcomes as inevitable,” he said.

The task force, which is co-chaired by former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, is the latest effort by the Justice Department to address violence on reservations, particularly against women and children.

Federal prosecutors in North Dakota recently tried two cases involving the death of three children on Spirit Lake, which has been criticized for its ineffective child protection system. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which took over control of the tribe’s child social services more than a year ago, recently assigned seven agents to the reservation.

Chase Ironeyes, an attorney and founder of the Web site, told committee members that he was exposed to violence as a child, then perpetuated that violence as an adolescent along with other children growing up on the Standing Rock reservation.