Indian country continues to push to strengthen violence against women law

Note: The Senate Indian Affairs Committee video stream will go live shortly before 2:30 p.m. EST on December 8, 2021.

Indian country continues to push to strengthen violence against women law

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

By Acee Agoyo


Indian Country is making another effort to restore tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit violence in their communities, but this time with a more supportive President in the White House. Tribes and their supporters have attempted to re-authorize the violence against women law to hold all offenders – regardless of race – accountable for a wider range of crimes. But the previous Republican administration refused to support the effort despite pressure to do so. The landscape has changed dramatically with Democratic President Joe Biden in power. Last month, he signed an executive order to tackle the high rates of violence in the Indian country, pledging to help VAWA cross the finish line so that tribes can arrest, prosecute and punish those who indulge. to crimes such as sexual assault, human trafficking and child abuse. . “I call on federal officials to work with tribal nations on a strategy to improve public safety and advance justice,” Biden said at the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Nov. 15. “This builds on the work we did together to re-authorize the violence Against Women Act in 2013, when we granted the power to try to exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders who commit violence on tribal lands. “We’re going to re-authorize this again,” Biden said of VAWA. “We’re going to expand the jurisdiction to include other offenses like sex trafficking, sexual assault, and child abuse.”

Indianz.Com Video: President Joe Biden – White House Tribal Nations Summit – November 15, 2021
In 2013, Congress recognized inherent tribal sovereignty over non-Indians for the first time since a disastrous United States Supreme Court ruling known as the Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe. But the law is limited to a number of domestic violence crimes and only applies to offenders with ties to tribal communities. To address public safety gaps, tribes seek to update VAWA to cover violence by strangers and crimes that occur in the presence of children. They also want to fight assaults on tribal law enforcement. “I think the greatest thing that the tribal nations need and want for justice and public safety in the Indian country is empowerment,” President Whitney Gravelle of the Bay Mills Indian community said during of a political panel at the Summit of Tribal Nations. “We must give our tribal nations the capacity and resources to enable them to adequately prosecute, punish and investigate crimes committed against our people on our land. The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people, especially women and girls, is a priority and VAWA is calling for reauthorization. During the panel discussion, President Janet Davis of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe spoke about how tragedy struck near her home with the murder of her niece, Amanda davis, and the death of his niece’s unborn child. The crime of December 2020, which is still continued in the federal system, took place in front of Amanda’s young children on the Nevada reservation. “His mother, members of his tribal family and the clergy were not allowed to enter the house or near the body for more than 20 hours,” recalls Davis. “Would that have been allowed 45 miles away in Reno, Nevada?” Why was this allowed on our reservation? ”

Indianz.Com Video: Public Safety and Justice – White House Tribal Nations Summit – November 15, 2021
Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first indigenous person to head the Home Office, focuses on the crisis of the missing and murdered since his stint in Congress. After joining the Biden administration in March, she pledged to help tribes with public safety and justice needs. “In my first month as Home Secretary, I launched our Missing and Murdered Unit to help put the federal government’s full weight in investigating these cases and mobilize the resources of the law enforcement in federal agencies and throughout the Indian country, ”said Haaland, who is a citizen of the Pueblo de Laguna, said at the Summit of Tribal Nations. A hearing at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday afternoon is part of the renewed attention to VAWA. Haaland, who is the first Aboriginal in a presidential cabinet, will be represented by Senior Assistant Deputy Secretary for Indian Affairs Wizipan Little Elk Garriott, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. The Justice Department, whose chief Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the White House rally, is also sending a representative along with Allison Randall, who is the senior deputy director of the Office on Violence Against women. In her written testimony, she said that women from the Eastern Cherokee Indian Band “saved my life” at a domestic violence shelter in North Carolina. “They hugged me, taught me and encouraged me to give back to other survivors, sparking my lifelong commitment to reducing domestic and sexual violence,” Randall’s statement read. “It is because of these Cherokee women that I am sitting before you today.” The United States House of Representatives passed HR1620, the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, in March. The legislation extends recognition of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians and includes provisions to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Getting the bill through the US Senate, however, was not easy. Tribal rights organizations such as the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) stepped up lobbying efforts during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October in hopes of finally gaining VAWA reauthorization. “Violence against indigenous peoples began with European contacts and has continued to this day, totaling over 500 years of abuse,” said the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a NIWRC project, in October. “Domestic violence, which continues as a tool of colonization, represents a lack of respect for indigenous peoples.

Historically, support for VAWA has been bipartisan. But in Donald Trump’s day, Republicans in large numbers dropped their support for reauthorization, opposing pro-tribal provisions and other provisions they say go beyond the scope of the law. original. Doubts persist even though Trump is not in power. When HR1620 passed the House on March 17, only 29 Republicans voted in favor. Only two Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill. The YEA roll call included three of the four tribal citizens who sit in the chamber: Representative Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation; Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation; and Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. On the other hand, Representative Yvette Herrell (R-New Mexico), a newcomer to Congress who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, joined nearly all of her fellow Republicans in voting against the pro-tribal version of VAWA. The vote on the bill was 244 to 172.

Michelle Demmert addresses the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indian in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 22, 2019. Demmert is currently Director of the Law & Policy Center at the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center and testifies before the Senate Indian Committee on Dec. 8, 2021. Photo by Kevin abourezk
The hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. It will be webcast at Here is the list of witnesses and written testimonies:

Ms. Allison Randall – Testimonial [PDF]

Senior Deputy Director, Office Against Violence Against Women
US Department of Justice
Washington, DC Mr. Wizipan Little Elk – Testimony [PDF]

Senior Assistant Deputy Secretary, Indian Affairs
US Department of the Interior
Washington, DC The Honorable J. Michael Chavarria – Testimony [PDF]

Governor, Santa Clara Pueblo
Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico The Honorable Fawn Sharp – Testimony [PDF]

President, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
Washington, DC The Honorable Stacie Fourstar – Testimony [PDF]
Chief Justice, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes
Poplar, Montana Ms. Elizabeth A. Reese – Testimony [PDF]

Professor, Stanford Law School
Stanford, California Ms. Michelle Demmert – Testimony [PDF]
Director, Legal and Policy Center
Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center
Fairbanks, Alaska

Opinion of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Review hearing “Restoring Justice: Addressing Violence in Indigenous Communities through VAWA Title IX Special Jurisdiction” (December 8, 2021)

Previous Induction of the New Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council
Next Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Northland Indian community has highest vaccination rate in region