Home News Stories 2012 June Journey Through Indian Country, Part 1 Special Agent Michael Harrigan

Special Agent Michael Harrigan

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Michael Harrigan
Special Agent
Farmington Resident Agency
Albuquerque FBI

In Indian Country, you know, the reservations are considered independent entities. And the federal government’s authority through the Major Crimes Act is what gives us the ability to go in there and investigate crimes.

But we don’t just go in there an investigate crimes; we work in concert with the criminal investigators from the tribal police. That is key—just finding the scene, the support of the scene. Many times it’s just one single FBI agent out there with a complex scene. He needs the criminal investigators to assist.

We’re very competent in many instances. They actually go out there and conduct interviews, collect evidence along with us. And the patrol officers help secure the scene, locate other witnesses. So it’s a team approach to every crime scene out there.

They’re Navajo. They’re from the society on the reservation, so them being there with us helps us to cut through any type of communication barriers that might be there because of culture. If that does come up, with them being there they can really help us. Because sometimes—one unique thing—is that at times some of the older generation they don’t speak much English. They only speak traditional Navajo. So we have criminal investigators that speak Navajo. So they can ensure that a language barrier doesn’t become a barrier to getting justice done.

Again, if we tried to go out there ourselves, find these addresses, find victims, find witnesses, they just have a unique ability because they’re from the community. They get us right to it, get us right to the scene, give us unique behind-the-scenes reflections—maybe prior complaints against the subject, issues that are going on among the families involved—that makes it so much more efficient for us to do our job that we really couldn’t do it without them.


Journey Through Indian Country

About This Series
Nationwide, the FBI is responsible for investigating the most serious crimes within Indian Country and has investigative responsibilities on about 200 reservations. FBI.gov recently visited New Mexico for a firsthand look at how the Bureau and our partners fight crime on tribal lands.

- Part 1: Fighting Crime on Tribal Lands 
- Part 2: Making an Impact on the Reservation
- Part 3: Murder on the Zuni Reservation 
- Part 4: Teamwork Makes a Difficult Job Easier
- Part 5: A Zero Tolerance Approach
- Part 6: Invaluable Experience on the Reservation


The FBI in Indian CountryBy law, the FBI is responsible for investigating the most serious crimes within Indian Country. Nationwide, there are 565 federally recognized Indian tribes. The FBI has investigative responsibilities on about 200 reservations. More than 100 agents in 19 of the Bureau’s 56 field offices work Indian Country matters full time, and we’ve represented federal law enforcement on tribal lands since the 1920s.
View large map


New Mexico highway (play video)
“The work that’s being done out there, it’s truly front-line. It’s also relying on your own resources, your own wits, to get the job done, because you don’t have a lot of backup.” 
— Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge, Albuquerque FBI

In Their Own Words
FBI officials and our law enforcement partners discuss the unique challenges of working and living in New Mexico’s Indian Country.
Lee videoGonzales videoHarrigan video
Special Agent in Charge, Albuquerque Division
  U.S. Attorney, District of New Mexico   Special Agent, Farmington Resident Agency
Fortunato video St. Germaine video McCaskill video
Special Agent, Gallup Resident Agency
Investigator, The Navajo Nation
  Special Agent, Albuquerque Division
Johns video Brusuelas video Roanhorse video
Special Agent, Santa Fe Resident Agency
  Assistant Prosecutor, Mescalero Apache Tribe   Senior Prosecutor, The Navajo Nation


Indian Country Crimes page

Indian Country Crimes
The FBI investigates the most serious offenses: murder, child sexual and physical abuse, violent assaults, drug trafficking, gaming violations, and public corruption matters.
Learn More