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Following up on countless reports from Native women and tribal leaders, the Administration, led by the Department of Justice, consulted formally with the tribes and then developed and submitted to Congress a proposal to address the jurisdictional barriers that have allowed crimes of domestic violence in Indian country to go unprosecuted. Because the Justice Department's proposal was ultimately included in the VAWA reauthorization bill, tribes will now be able to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence against Native American women in Indian country. The new law also clarifies that tribal courts have full civil jurisdiction to provide Native American women the safety and security of protection orders. And the new law gives additional tools to federal prosecutors to combat severe cases of domestic violence.
These provisions were included in the VAWA reauthorization along with other victims who face additional barriers to escaping violence. The strengthened VAWA reminds us that a victim is a victim, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or tribal affiliation, and all are worthy of protection. A broad coalition of advocates joined in championing those victims' voices to Members of Congress. As active members in that coalition, tribal leaders and advocates worked with Senators and Representatives of both parties to ensure the victimization of Native American women did not fall victim itself to Washington politics. In the end, the bill passed with broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.
Passage of VAWA's tribal provisions is a critical piece of the President's larger agenda to make Indian country a safer, more prosperous place for the next generation of Native Americans. The Obama Administration looks forward to partnering with Indian tribes to implement all of the new provisions included in the VAWA reauthorization law.
Jodi Gillette is the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs
Charles Galbraith is an Associate Director in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
posted March 8, 2013 9:40 am est