Upon The Back of a Turtle...

A Cross Cultural Training Curriculum for Federal Criminal Justice Personnel


Introduction to Indian Country

Upon the Back of a Turtle there are many stories…

Storytelling was the form of transmittal for how things were and why things happened. There were winter stories and summer stories, stories for days that the rains fell, and stories for early mornings. Creation stories were told and retold many times in the growing years. The telling of the tale was not only to re-create the beginning of the tribe but the stories would have different significance as children matured through the developmental stages. Storytelling gathered families together to share recreation time and to improve listening and oratory skills. Stories provided the answers to when, where, how, and how come.

Non-Indian youth have Dr. Seuss, Charlie Brown and other stories to grow and mature by. Indian youth have turtle stories, songs, and games they listen to as they mature from youth into adulthood. Each turtle story has a lesson and is used as a teaching tool for American Indian youth.

Upon the Back of a Turtle… comes from the rich oral tradition that Native people have for storytelling to teach principles and to convey ideas. Upon the Back of a Turtle uses the same concept of telling a variety of stories. The stories are not meant to portray a specific tribe or Native group, but are told to present different concepts used by Native families and their extended family members. These stories express family relationships, the viability of traditional ceremonies, the use of traditional teachings, methods of communication and other relevant themes. The vignettes are only short tales and are not one consistent story line, but they are the portrayal of concepts to generate discussion among the viewers and to convey a bit of teaching with the telling of the tale.

In recent years, federal employees have been working with Native American victims of crime in increasing numbers. In 1989, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) within the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, began funding on-reservation programs through the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) discretionary grant program. As increasing numbers of Indian victims of crime have come into the criminal justice system, U.S. Attorneys, Federal Victim/Witness Coordinators, FBI Agents, and other federal personnel who are predominantly non-Indian, have encountered cultural differences in working with Native American crime victims.

Historical Overview of Federal Policies and Events

Historical Trauma and Present Impact

History of Federal Victim Assistance Services in Indian Country

Issues and Cultural Considerations in Service Delivery in Indian Country

Justice in Indian Country
Suggested Readings