Law | National

Al Jazeera: Pascua Yaqui Tribe looks for justice under VAWA





The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona is one of the first tribes to exercise authority over non-Indian domestic violence offenders:
For many of the women on the Pascua Yaqui reservation, life before the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act brings up one very common memory.

“The offenders knew nothing would be done,” said Gloria Zazueta. “So when they were arrested, they would just be like, ‘OK, give me a ride to the Circle K.’”

The Circle K is a small four-pump gas station located just feet beyond the northern border of the reservation. For many years, it was a common destination for tribal law enforcement officers to take non–Native Americans accused of domestic abuse because the officers often lacked the jurisdiction to do anything more.

“That was our remedy back then for law enforcement,” said Alfred Urbina, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s chief prosecutor. He explained that until recently, their tribal courts did not have criminal jurisdiction over non–Native Americans, so that trip to Circle K was the most an officer could do in that situation unless the case was severe enough to be prosecuted by a federal court.

But, he added, after dealing with years of jurisdictional limbo, things are finally beginning to change.

The ability to prosecute these offenders was granted to tribes on March 7, 2013, when President Barack Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The legislation included a provision that would give many federally recognized tribes the authority to prosecute non–tribal members for these crimes, as long as their criminal justice systems met certain requirements.

Get the Story:
For one Arizona tribe, a chance for justice after decades of legal limbo (Al Jazeera 4/23)

Related Stories:
Pascua Yaqui Tribe faces a test of jurisdiction under VAWA (4/21)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe exercises VAWA jurisdiction in five cases (04/01)