CRP PhD Student Alex Wesaw Provides Invited Testimony to US Department of Justice

On Tuesday, October 14, first-year CRP PhD student Alex Wesaw gave oral testimony on behalf of American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) from the 566 tribal governments of the United States in two Listening Sessions held in Rapid City, South Dakota by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The sessions were a part of DOJ’s pre-conference preparations for their 9th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation, which was held on Wednesday, October 15, also in Rapid City.

Currently, Wesaw serves as the Co-President of the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Youth Commission and, this past June, he was honored as an inaugural member of the United National Indian Tribal Youth’s (UNITY) 25 Under 25 National Native Youth Leadership program.

In his role as the Co-President of NCAI’s Youth Commission, Wesaw travelled to Rapid City to deliver oral testimony on behalf of tribes across the country, as well as the 2.184 million AI/AN youth he represents at NCAI. The Administration is taking new steps focused on two of Indian Country’s most pressing challenges: education and economic development. Thus, the DOJ sought individuals to participate in a Young Adult Listening Session that would focus on the impact of violence and victimization on education and economic development for Native youth and young adults.

Wesaw also was invited to attend the 2013 White House Tribal Leaders Summit, held last November, where Attorney Eric Holder, 12 other cabinet secretaries and President Obama discussed priorities, of which education and economic development were identified as being central.

The first Listening Session’s purpose was to “improve the existing discretionary competitive grant-making process for tribal specific awards funded under the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation” (CTAS). The three major grant-making components at the DOJ are the Office for Justice Programs, the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

The second Listening Session’s purpose was to “gather the views of American Indian and Alaska Native young adults from 18-25 on public safety and justice matters.”  In the United States, there are approximately 5.2 million people that are considered AI/AN. Of that 5.2 million people, 42% are under the age of 25.