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Alaska Natives seek more authority in domestic violence cases

With domestic violence rates at epidemic levels, Alaska Natives say they shouldn't be treated differently than tribes in the lower 48.

Studies show that Alaska Native women are the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at rates far higher than the general population. But tribes in Alaska lack authority to prosecute non-Indians and their courts are often treated as less than equal by the state government.

"No one can argue the population that is hardest hit by family violence is Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Hands down. It's an epidemic," David Voluck, a tribal judge, told Alaska Dispatch.

The Senate attempted to address the issue by recognizing the authority of tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence offenses. But sometime between November 2011, when S.1925 was introduced, and February 2012, when the bill was cleared for the floor, Alaska tribes were excluded from the provision.

"Why would they not want Alaska tribes to have the ability to detain or order the arrest -- even if it's by the troopers -- of someone who was beating a tribal member?" Natalie Landreth of the Native American Rights Fund told the Dispatch.

Alaska's two Senators say they will look to address the issue in the future.

Get the Story:
Federal bills offer little hope to Alaska villages with high rates of family violence, sexual abuse (Alaska Dispatch 5/28)

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