Sep 13, 2019 | Joanne Lewis
It takes a special person to choose a career in law enforcement. As the first responders for protection and justice, the expectation is high for an officer to be fair, discerning, and strong. But what about being a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Police Officer? What kind of heart does it take to protect a sovereign community?
In the beginning of 2019, one of our Native Hope Fellows, Nikki Lowe (Chickasaw) discovered what it takes in her journey to becoming Officer Lowe.
What Is the BIA Police Force?
Established for over 100 years, the BIA Police began as an arm of control over Native people. Despite the original purpose of the BIA Police, the organization’s goal today is to honor Native sovereignty while still upholding U.S. Federal Law. The BIA Police Academy is currently located in Artesia, New Mexico. Although non-Natives are able to apply based on experience, the academy adheres to a Native preference policy.
Nikki's MMA Background Gave Her Strength
With the encouragement of a friend, Nikki Lowe applied to the Academy. After months of the grueling enrollment process, her training began in early February 2019. Nikki endured 13 weeks of BIA Police Academy training that challenged her physically, mentally, and emotionally.
“The training involved a lot of law courses (with an emphasis on Native treaties), arrest techniques, self-defense, weapons training, active shooter training, CPR, tactical med, and so much more.”
Although the stress of leaving her children combined with the intensity of her training overwhelmed her, Nikki’s Mixed Martial Arts [MMA] career gave her strength.
“My background as an MMA fighter…helped me be more mentally, and of course, physically tough,” she said. “In MMA you are taught to have respect for your teachers, coaches, and veteran fighters, and that definitely followed over with me into the academy.”
Celebrating the New BIA Officers
Native Hope had the privilege of filming Nikki’s academy graduation. Her family anxiously awaited as dozens of cadets marching in unison approached the guests. Under a magnificent pavilion, the uniforms were inspected as families and friends watched with a glow of pride. Afterwards, the cadets paraded around the guests and led everyone to an auditorium.
Although graduations can often be a boring obligation, each guest speaker was more profound than the former. They spoke of the importance of sovereignty, culture, and family. Each cadet had a designated friend or family member present them with their badge. Nikki’s son, Nokose, pinned her badge on her uniform as her family stood beside her. On May 3, 2019, the former MMA fighter became Officer Lowe.
Experiencing Life on the Force
For the past few months, Officer Lowe has been patrolling in northern New Mexico and some parts of Colorado. Her shifts range from 8 to12 hours, and her duties entail traffic control during public ceremonies, keeping outsiders out during private community ceremonies, and responding to calls.
“Honestly, I expected more,” Officer Lowe admitted. “But that’s a good thing.”
The surrounding tribes she patrols are very traditional. When it comes to minor incidents, the tribe strives to handle the situation as much as possible.
When Officer Lowe receives a call, she remains on-duty until her assignment is accomplished, which includes conducting investigations and submitting reports to BIA Criminal Investigators. Crimes against children, in her eyes, are the most difficult cases she has had to handle. Apart from the intermittent calls, Officer Lowe enjoys the freedom of patrolling the community and assisting during events. Above all, she loves visiting the youth shelter on the reservation and chatting with the kids in foster care.
The Heart of a Native Women Is Strong
As always, Nikki seeks out new goals and challenges in her life.
After she attains more experience in her current role as a BIA Officer, she hopes to become a BIA Criminal Investigator. This requires an additional 10 weeks of training out of state. Despite the seriousness of Nikki’s role in the community, her children do not worry about her. They are so proud to see their mom take charge of and overcome a difficult challenge.
Although Officer Lowe exchanged her MMA gloves for a badge, her heart remains the same: proud to be Native, and honored to serve the community.
Native Hope Fellows like Nikki are at work with people across the country, bringing the hope of a better future to Native culture and communities. They can't do it without you and your support! Join us today.