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Native Sun News: Rep. Noem does about-face on VAWA measure
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Filed Under: Law | National | Politics
More on: 112th, house, kristi noem, native sun news, republicans, south dakota, vawa
The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

WASHINGTON, DC –– Initially citing the provisions concerning Native American tribes as her reason to vote against the Violence Against Women Act, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) recently changed her mind in an apparent attempt at damage control.

Speaking on the House floor on May 16, just prior to that legislative body’s passage of the VAWA, Noem noted that Native American women experience abuse at a higher rate than non-Native American women and curiously discussed provisions she claims she included in the act to ensure Native victims can obtain federal protection orders.

The congresswoman, however, continues to lose allies in Indian country due to her original stance against the act.

Studies show that the majority of perpetrators of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women are not tribal members.

"The fact is we're helpless because they're non-members," Devon Boyer, a council member for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho, said in a statement issued in Washington before for House vote, "We have no way of prosecuting them."

The revised bill, which passed by a Republican-infused vote of 222-205, was introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams, (R-Fla.). It eliminates Senate language that would have provided major tribal court jurisdiction and protection order provisions for tribes in the lower 48 states meant to curb the epidemic of violence that exists on many reservations.

Section 904 of the approved Senate bill recognized tribal court jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence offenders. Section 905 allows for tribal protection orders involving “any person,” including non-Indian offenders. The bill also strengthened federal authority to address violent felonies on reservations.

Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.

In a statement issued by Gillette previous to the House vote, she stated, “Unfortunately, Republican leaders in the House have taken a different approach, with the introduction of a VAWA reauthorization bill (H.R. 4970) authored by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) which excludes these common-sense provisions that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems in combating violence against Native women. “

“On Tuesday, on a narrow vote of 17-15, House Republicans passed this measure out of the House Judiciary Committee, with one Republican voting with Democrats to oppose this because of the exclusion of these tribal protections," Gillette stated

U.S. Department of Justice officials have said these provisions are constitutional and would help curb high crime rates facing many reservations.

The data indicate that 34 percent of Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes and 39 percent will be the victims of domestic violence. Under the current VAWA law, tribal protections are lacking.

Initially, during the Senate debate of the bill, Noem promised to co-sponsor a bill that did not contain the tribal provisions. While she has previously said she is a supporter of Native American issues and her district includes many Native constituents, she originally said after a press event on April 25 that she doesn’t support Native inclusions in the VAWA because she has concerns about consistency with federal criminal laws that govern tribes.

The Senate version of the VAWA passed along bipartisan lines, with a vote of 68-31 on April 26. U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) voted to defeat the bill, while South Dakota’s Democratic senator, Tim Johnson, supported it.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

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