OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, United States Attorney Robert J. Troester named Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Arvo Q. Mikkanen to serve in a newly created role as Senior Counsel for Tribal Relations for the Western District of Oklahoma, as part of the office’s strong commitment to Indian country.


“Arvo Mikkanen has 30 years of federal prosecution experience and is one of the foremost authorities in the Department of Justice on the law related to Indian country,” said U.S. Attorney Troester.  “It is only fitting that he serves in this newly created role as Senior Counsel for Tribal Relations to further solidify the commitment, service, outreach, and collaboration by my office with the Tribes in the Western District of Oklahoma.”


“I am extremely excited to accept this new position and look forward to utilizing my experience in the courtroom and knowledge of state, tribal, and justice systems to build upon what we have already accomplished,” said AUSA Mikkanen. “I also hope to improve the understanding regarding the complexities of providing justice in Indian country and strengthen the cooperation among the federal government, the 21 tribal governments in the district, and the various state and local law enforcement agencies. Ultimately, the goal is for both tribal and non-tribal citizens to feel an added sense of public safety across the Western District with law enforcement agencies working together more closely in a cohesive fashion.”


This position is historic—the first of its kind at the U.S. Attorney’s Office—and will be instrumental in coordinating Indian country law enforcement and public safety throughout the district, including training, management of law enforcement priorities, consulting with tribal leadership and justice officials, and strengthening relationships between federal, tribal, and state law enforcement partners. As Senior Counsel for Tribal Relations, AUSA Mikkanen will play a unique and crucial role in the Department of Justice’s effort to prevent and respond to violent crime in Indian country, as well as address such important issues as cross deputization, jurisdictional concerns, outreach to tribal communities, and improved strategies regarding Missing or Murdered Indigenous People. 


The following Tribal Nations have land located within the Western District: Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Caddo Nation, Cherokee Nation, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Comanche Nation, Delaware Nation, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Kaw Nation, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa Tribe, Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Sac and Fox Nation, Shawnee Tribe, Tonkawa Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.


Today’s announcement follows the announcement last week of the U.S. Attorney’s adoption and implementation of Savanna’s Act Guidelines to improve the response and investigation of cases involving Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons, which Mikkanen was instrumental in drafting.  More information on the guidelines can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdok/pr/united-states-attorney-issues-guidelines-part-new-federal-strategy-cases-involving.


AUSA Mikkanen is Kiowa/Comanche and an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe.  He has served in both the civil and criminal divisions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has served as a tribal liaison, and has been counsel of record in more than 750 cases in the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City.  AUSA Mikkanen has also served as a federal judicial law clerk, civil practitioner, tribal judge, tribal prosecutor, and law professor during his legal career.  He received an A.B. magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1983, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1986.


AUSA Mikkanen has been well recognized throughout his career.  He received the Gold United States Congressional Award from the U.S. Congress in 1985; the Oklahoma Bar Association's Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award in 1992; the Equal Access to Justice - Pro Bono Publico Award from Oklahoma Indian Legal Services in 1992; the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award in 2004; and the Sonja Atetewuthtakewa Award for Distinguished Service in the Protection of Native American Children in 2003.  In 2011, the National Association of Former United States Attorneys presented AUSA Mikkanen with the Exceptional Service Award. In 2012, AUSA Mikkanen received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service in Indian Country during the 60th Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony, which recognizes department employees and others for their outstanding dedication to carrying out the Department of Justice’s missions.


Additional information about Indian country resources in the Western District of Oklahoma is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdok/programs/indian-country.