EL PASO, Texas - The Tigua tribe's Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo attracts a lot of outside visitors, and is even home to many who aren't Native Americans. Yet tribal police have never been able to arrest, or protect their people from, non-native felony lawbreakers. That all changed Thursday.
Officer Celina Candelaria is training to patrol the streets of the Yselta Del Sur Pueblo.
She will will be the first and only woman in the Tigua Nation Tribal Police Department, and unlike officers before her, she will have the ability to investigate crimes committed by non-natives.
"It makes me feel good to know that now we don't have to just arrest them and release them and just cite them, now we can actually prosecute them and they have to go through a jury," Candelaria said.
Candelaria says that Native American women are raped three times more than any other ethnicity, and the majority of attackers are non-natives who come on the Ysleta reservation. Now she can arrest those men.
"It's a dream of dreams," Chief Raul Candelaria said at the Tigua's ceremony. "It's something that's been on the back burner for years and years."
The U.S. solicitor general granted the Tigua Police Department a special law enforcement commission to apprehend potential felons, where before they would have to rely on Soccorro or El Paso PD to investigate a crime, and and could only hope justice would be served. Tribal Police Chief Raul Candelaria, Celina's uncle, says not being able to protect the Pueblo made him feel like 2nd class citizens.
"El Paso has encroached on the land of the res, and now a lot of the indians living on the pueblo are married to non-indians," said Chief Candelaria. "We also have visitors coming into the reservation that are non-indian and unfortunately we cannot enforce any penalty or law on them."
The new law enforcement recognition though, changes that for the ten officers that make up the tribal police department.
"Now we have the ability to enforce our own laws, tribal laws and US laws," Chief Candelaria said, and for Officers like Celina Candelaria, the power to protect their people.
"Now any crime that's under the felony list, we can actually go ahead and convict them of that," Candelaria said.
Chief Candelaria tells ABC-7 domestic violence, rape, drug abuse and theft are the most common non-native crimes on the reservation, and the ones tribal police will be pursuing.
(Oct. 2012 story)