UND Law Expert Participates in Task Force to Examine Impact of Violence on Native

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School of Law


Michelle Rivard-Parks, Assistant Director of the Tribal Judicial Institute at the University of North Dakota's School of Law, served as an expert witness in the first of a series public hearings of a new task force examining the impact of exposure to violence on American Indian and Alaska Native children.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined President Obama and other officials at the Department of the Interior for the White House Tribal Nations Conference, on Nov. 13, to announce the task force hearings to leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes. Holder emphasized the Justice Department's long-standing collaboration with leaders in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve public safety. For the full press release visit: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/November/13-ag-1213.html.

Rivard-Parks is a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois and in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota and is an appointed member of the North Dakota Supreme Court State and Tribal Court Committee. In January 2011, Rivard-Parks was appointed by U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to serve on the U.S. Department of Justice Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force. She served as the Chief Prosecutor for the Spirit Lake Nation for approximately four years and served the tribe as Tribal Attorney until the fall of 2012.

In the fall of 2003, Rivard-Parks joined the staff at the UND School of Law as an Adjunct Professor and has since taught courses on federal Indian law, tribal economic development and the law, and tribal law. Also in 2003, Rivard-Parks was hired to serve as a Tribal Justice Specialist for the Tribal Judicial Institute to provide technical assistance to tribal courts in conjunction with a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

In 2005, Rivard-Parks became the Associate Director of the Tribal Judicial Institute at the UND School of Law.

In 2008, Rivard-Parks was appointed as a Special Judge in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa jurisdiction.

The new task force, for which Rivard-Parks will provide expert testimony, is anchored by both a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts appointed to examine the scope and impact of violence facing American Indian and Alaska Native children and make policy recommendations to Attorney General Holder on ways to address it.

The advisory committee will convene four public hearings across the country, focusing on violence in children's homes, schools and communities in Indian country. Associate Attorney General Tony West will join the task force at the first hearing in Bismarck. The other hearings will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska early in 2014.

The advisory committee will be co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah. They will be aided by tribal members and national experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma, and child welfare and law. There are currently 12 advisory committee members:

  • Dolores Subia Bigfoot, Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, Director, Indian Child Trauma Center, University of Oklahoma
  • Rear Admiral Eric Broderick, former Deputy Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Eddie Brown, Pasqua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O'odham Nation, Executive Director of the American Indian Policy Institute and Professor of American Indian Studies, Arizona State University
  • Valerie Davidson, Orutsararmiut Native Council Member and Senior Director, Legal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
  • The Hon. Byron Dorgan, Chairman, Board of Advisors, Center for Native America Youth; former U.S. Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Anita Fineday, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Director, Indian Child Welfare, Casey Family Programs
  • Matthew Fletcher, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Director, Indigenous Law and Policy Center, Michigan State University
  • Alicia Lieberman, Director, Child Trauma Research Program, University of California at San Francisco
  • Joanne Shenandoah, Iroquois, composer and musical artist
  • Chaske Spencer, Lakota, actor
  • Ron Whitener, Squaxin Island Tribe, Executive Director, Native American Law Center, University of Washington School of Law
  • Marilyn J. Bruguier Zimmerman, Assiniboine-Sioux/Fort Peck Reservation, Director, National Native Children's Trauma Center, University of Montana

This new task force is a key part of Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood initiative to prevent and reduce children's trauma from experiencing violence as victims or witnesses. The task force was created in response to a recommendation in the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence December 2012 final report. The report noted that American Indian and Alaska Native children have an exceptional degree of unmet needs for services and support to prevent and respond to the extreme levels of violence they experience.