Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - On the heels of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs' hearing a week ago called, "Native Women: Protecting, Shielding, and Safeguarding Our Sisters, Mothers and Daughters," the White House announced this afternoon the Obama administration is sending to Congress proposed legislation that will increase the punishment for violent crimes committed against American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Kimberly Teehee, Cherokee, White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs; US Department of Justice's Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; and Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women unveiled the legislative proposal.
"Currently, Indian tribes lack criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, absent express Congressional authorization. More than fifty percent of all Native American married women have non-Indian husbands. This complex jurisdictional framework has left a gap in the ability of tribes to prosecute domestic violence perpetrators," stated Teehee.
"Tribal governments - their police, prosecutors, and courts - should be essential parts of the response to domestic violence crimes. But as I mentioned under current law, they lack the authority to address many of these crimes. Under the Tribal Law and Order Act, tribal courts can now sentence Indian offenders for up to three years per offense, provided defendants are given proper procedural protections, including legal counsel. But tribal courts still have no authority to prosecute a non-Indian, even if he lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member," Teehee continued.
US Department of Justice's Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli outlined the proposed legislation:
"Today, we are proposing legislation that would address three legal gaps that require immediate attention.
Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, offered:
"We are here today because American Indian women suffer among the highest rates of violence. Research tells us that:
This data only tells part of the story - women themselves will tell you that the rates are actually higher among the women in their communities. Advocates working in tribal communities have long identified the need for better tools to hold offenders accountable. We know that the Violence Against Women Act approach of focusing on both victim safety and offender accountability works to reduce violence. This proposal is the next step in addressing that accountability.
posted July 21, 2011 7:25 pm edt
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