Native American youth and justice

  • Dr.Sc. Laurence A. French
  • Dr.Sc. Haris Halilović
  • Dr.Sc. Goran Kovačević
Keywords: racial groups, Native American, youth, delinquency, POSIT, Justice,


Youth and delinquency issues have long been problematic among Native Americans groups both on- and off-reservation. This phenomenon is further complicated by the cultural diversity among American Indians and Alaska Natives scattered across the United States. In address these issues, the paper begins with a historical overview of Native American youth.

This history presents the long tradition of federal policies that, how well intended, have resulted in discriminatory practices with the most damages attacks being those directed toward the destruction of viable cultural attributes – the same attributes that make Native Americans unique within United States society.

Following the historical material, the authors contrast the pervasive Native American aboriginal ethos of harmony with that of Protestant Ethic that dominates the ethos of the larger United States society. In addition to providing general information on Native American crime and delinquency, the paper also provides a case study of Native American justice within the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe, in both size and population, in the United States. The paper concludes with a discussion of issues specific to Native American youth and efforts to address these problems.


Adams, W., & Samuels, J. (2011). Tribal Youth in the Federal Justice System (Final Report – Revised). Washington, DC: Urban Institute – Justice Policy Center.

Bachman, R. (1992), Death and violence of the reservation. New York: Auburn House.

Cobell v. Babbitt, Summers, and Gover. (1996). U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, 30 F. Supp. 2d 24.

Ditton, P.M. (2000). Jails in Indian Country, 1998-1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (NCJ 173410).

Flowers, R.B. (1988). Minorities and criminality. New York: Praeger.

French, L.A. (1977). A cultural perspective toward juvenile delinquency. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 2 (Fall), 111-121.

French, L.A. (1982). Indians and criminal justice. Totowa, NJ: Allanheld Osmun.

French, L.A. (1987). Psychocultural change and the American Indian: An ethno-historical analysis. New York: Garland.

French, L.A. (1994). The winds of injustice: American Indians and the U.S. government. New York: Garland.

French, L.A. (1997). Counseling American Indians. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

French, L.A. (2003). Native American justice. Chicago: Burnham, Inc.

French, L.A. (2007). Legislating Indian Country: Significant milestones in transforming tribalism. New York: Peter Lang.

French, L.A., & Picthall-French. (1998). The role of substance abuse among rural youth by race, culture and gender. Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, 16 (3), 101-108.

Frey, H. (2002). Tribal Court CASA: A Guide to program development. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, OJJDP, FS 99105.

Fung, D., & Wyrick, P.S. (2001). OJJDP’s program of research for tribal youth. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, OJJDP, FS 200110.

Gordis, E. (1994). Alcohol and minorities. Alcohol Alert, 23. 1-4. (PH 347).

Greenfield, L.A., & Smith, S.K. (1999). American Indians and crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (NCJ 173386).

IHS (2011). Indian Health Service Fact Sheet. Affairs/IHSBrochure/Disparities.asp

Jorgensen, M., & Wakeling, S. (1998). Fighting crime in Indian Country. In John F. Kennedy School of Government (Ed.). Indian Country Today. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Kluckholn, C., & Leighton, D. (1946). The Navajo. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Munn, N. (1973). Symbolism in a ritual context. In J. Honigmann (Ed.), Handbook of social and cultural anthropology. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Nielsen, M.O., & Silverman, R.A. (1996). Native Americans, crime and justice. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

OJJDP (2011). Tribal Youth Program. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Park, R.E. (1950). Race and Culture. New York: Free Press.

Pearson, S. (2009). Strengthening Indian Country through tribal youth programs. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum.

Public Law 101-630. (1990). Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act, Title IV. 25 USC 3210.

Puzzanchera, C., & Adams, B. (2011). Juvenile Arrests 2009: National Report Series Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice (NCJ 236477).

Sellin, T. (1938). Culture, conflict and crime. New York: Social Science Research Council.

Stonquist, E. (1937). The marginal man. New York: Russell.

TLOA. (2010). Tribal Law and Order Act. Washington, DC: 25 USC 2801 (Pub. L. No. 111-211, 124 Stat 2261 (2010).

United States Senate3 (1989). Part One- The executive summary: A new federalism for American Indians. Final report and legislative recommendations: A report of the Special Committee on Investigations of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs (101st Congress, 1st Session). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, Second Printing, 9-10, 60-101.

Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Original Research Articles