By John Stark
Lummi Nation officials expressed satisfaction Friday, March 1 over recent congressional approval of a new version of the Violence Against Women Act that makes it easier to prosecute domestic violence offenders on Indian reservations.
Among other things, the law is expected to make it easier for tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indians who abuse their domestic partners on reservations.
Here is the press release from Lummi Nation:
Lummi Nation joined tribal leaders from across the United States praising congressional leaders for passing S.47, the Senate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with a a 286-138 vote in the House of Representatives today. The passage of VAWA now sends the legislation to the desk of President Obama.
“This is a victory for all women,” says Candice Wilson, Vice Chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council. ”No woman should be subject to violence on or off the reservation. Native or non-Native. This reauthorized legislation also provides tribal court systems the legal ability to administer justice at the same level of the state and federal courts,” Wilson added.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) led tribal efforts to ensure that a constitutionally sound tribal jurisdiction provision in VAWA authorize tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian defendants involved in intimate relationships with Native women and who assault these victims on tribal land. Current federal laws do not authorize tribal law enforcement or tribal courts to pursue any form of prosecution or justice against these perpetrators.
Findings show that 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes* and 39% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be subjected to violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes**. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46% of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Natives (single race) and 59% of American Indian women in 2010 were married to non-Native men**
Tribal court systems are strong, but with authority comes responsibility. The Lummi Tribal Court along with the hundreds of tribal court systems across the country, will administer justice with the same level of impartiality that any defendant is afforded in a city, county, state or federal court system.
“Women have always had a sacred place in our families,” Wilson said. ”Today’s historic vote renews our hope and strengthens our community, empowers our court system and protects all women.”
* Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey.
** Centers for Disease Control. (2008). Adverse health conditions and health risk behaviors associated with intimate partner violence.
End press release