The Kids Aren't Alright: An Argument to Use the Nation Building Model in the Development of Native Juvenile Justice Systems to Combat the Effects of Failed Assimilative Policies
KeywordsIndian youth -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- North America
Juvenile justice, Administration of -- United States
Indians of North America -- Criminal justice system
Assimilation (Sociology) -- North America
Nation-building -- North America
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
AbstractChildren are the future of any society. And, in many cases, their first interaction with their own government is through a juvenile justice system. Thus, these systems are not only important for their role in curtailing crime and reforming juvenile delinquents, but also for their ability to shape values and norms within a community. Unfortunately, for many Native American reservations, this means that juvenile justices systems are little more than assimilative tools used by states or the U.S. Federal Government to promote principles and values that do not align with those of the Native communities that they "serve." The question is: Does this have to be the case? Is there a way for Native American reservations to take control of their own juvenile justice systems and shape them to fit their own needs? The answer is a resounding "yes," and some Native American reservations have begun to do just that. Specifically, this article examines the current legal framework of juvenile justice on Native American reservations. This analysis begins with a historical look at how Native children have long been the intended victims of assimilative policies and, in a very real sense, how juvenile justice on many reservations continues to be an assimilative process. This, however, does not have to be the case. There is jurisdictional space within which Native Americans can take control of juvenile justice on their lands. Furthermore, there is an ever-increasing body of evidence demonstrating that as Native American nations exercise more control over their day-today lives, their overall quality of life-whether measured in terms of economics, health measurements, or other social factors-improves as well. The analysis closes with several case studies demonstrating the variety of methods that Native nations are currently employing to take back control over their own youth, and thus, over their community's own future.