The cover art for the report, Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men. Illustration by Sam English via National Institute of Justice
A new study from the Department of Justice confirms that Native American women and men continue to face extremely high rates of violence.
Based on data from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, researchers found that 84.3 percent of Native women and 81.6 percent of Native men experienced violence in their lifetimes. That accounts for more than 4 out of 5 Native Americans, according to the report.
"Overall, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime," the report stated, adding that more than 1.4 million Native men have suffered.
When looking at more recent incidents, the study also uncovered alarmingly high rates.
More than 1 in 3 Native women, or 39.8 percent, and more than 1 in 3 Native men, or 34.6 percent, suffered violence in the past year, researchers at the National Institute of Justice determined.
And both Native women and Native men were more likely to be victimized by people of another race, according to the study. That's one of the reasons why the push to restore tribal jurisdiction over all offenders has been a big issue in Indian Country.
"Information about the race of the perpetrator is particularly important for American Indian and Alaska Native victims because it impacts the criminal jurisdiction," the report stated. "Until recently, Indian tribes had no authority to criminally prosecute non-Indian offenders, even for crimes committed in Indian Country."
The new data in fact paints a picture that appears to be worse than the statistics
that tribal advocates cited when Congress was considering the
Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
According to the report, both Native women and Native men are "significantly more likely" to have experienced sexual violence by a non-Native perpetrator than non-Hispanic White-only victims.
"Among American Indian and Alaska Native victims, 96 percent of women and 89 percent
of men have experienced sexual violence by an interracial perpetrator," the report stated.
Conversely, both Native women and Native men are "significantly less likely" to have experienced sexual violence by a Native perpetrator than White victims, according to the data.
carry signs reading Project Our Penojek (Children) during a rally at the U.S.
Supreme Court on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com
Similar findings arose when researchers looked at physical violence, stalking and psychological aggression. In all three situations, Native women and Native men are more likely to have been victimized by a non-Native partner when compared to non-Hispanic White victims.
"While the results on interracial and intraracial victimizations in this report are not surprising, they provide strong support for Indian nations’ sovereign right to prosecute non-Indian offenders," researchers wrote.
The 2013 update to VAWA recognizes the "inherent" authority of tribes to arrest, prosecute and try non-Indians. But the law limits which offenders can be held accountable -- for example, the non-Indian perpetrator must have ties to a tribe -- and it doesn't cover crimes against children or law enforcement personnel.
To address some of those loopholes, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Sen. Al Franken
(D-Minnesota) introduced the Tribal
Youth and Community Protection Act last month. Like VAWA, the bill recognizes the
"inherent" authority of tribes over any person -- regardless
of race -- who commits domestic violence against children and crimes against
The measure goes further and also recognizes tribal jurisdiction over anyone who commits drug related crimes. The lawmakers say the provision will help fight the "growing drug epidemic" in Indian Country.
"This bill gives tribes certainty and provides tribal law enforcement with the tools they need to police and prosecute every criminal in their community," Tester, who serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian
Affairs, said in a press
release when S.2785 was introduced. A hearing has not been scheduled on the measure.
The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, a leading voice in the campaign to restore tribal jurisdiction, will host a webinar on May 18 to discuss the new DOJ report.
National Institute of Justice Report:
Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men (May 2016)
Indian Law and Order Commission Report:
A Roadmap For
Making Native America Safer (November 2013)
Supreme Court case prompts
spirited defense of tribal judiciary systems (04/19)
Bill in Senate expands tribal
jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders (04/14)
Capitol Hill briefing on
Violence Against Women Act in Indian Country (02/22)
Cherokee Nation working to
prosecute non-Indians under VAWA (01/07)
Supreme Court agrees to
review yet another Indian law dispute (12/14)
DOJ asks Supreme Court to
hear Indian domestic violence case (11/11)
Vice President Joe Biden
reflects on triumphs of Obama's Indian policies (10/28)
Tribes still waiting on funds
from Violence Against Women Act (10/16)
Pioneering tribes share
experiences with prosecuting non-Indians (10/07)
DOJ awards $97M in grants for
public safety in Indian Country (09/16)
Nez Perce Tribe hosts
conference to combat violence and abuse (09/09)
Alaska to recognize tribal
domestic violence protection orders (07/31)
Congress fails to provide
funds to help tribes comply with VAWA (07/29)
Ambassador Harper discusses
violence against indigenous women (07/09)
Native Sun News: Oglala
leader blames deaths on domestic violence (07/06)
Appropriations bill adds $10M
for tribal courts in PL280 states (07/01)
Eastern Cherokees assert
authority in all domestic violence cases (06/16)
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate ready
to exercise VAWA jurisdiction (05/22)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe hosts Violence Against Women Act
Native Sun News: Tribes meet
to discuss VAWA implementation (04/10)
California Indian Legal
Services announces new VAWA project (04/06)
US Attorneys host tribes for
Violence Against Women Act session (04/02)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe prosecutes
19 non-Indian cases with VAWA (03/20)
LTBB News: Little Traverse
Bay Bands to exercise VAWA power (03/19)
Eastern Cherokees make
changes to exercise VAWA authority (03/18)
Tribes in Montana still
looking at jurisdiction provisions in VAWA (03/13)
Fort Peck Tribes ready to
exercise VAWA power over non-Indians (03/12)
White House Blog: Tribes make
communities safer with VAWA (03/11)
Tribes in pilot project filed
26 VAWA cases against non-Indians (03/10)
Tribes reach key milestone with jurisdiction
provisions of VAWA (3/9)
Updates from National
Congress of American Indians winter session (2/26)
Tribes in Maine face
opposition to jurisdiction over non-Indians (02/24)
Bill requires law degree to
join Navajo Nation Supreme Court (02/03)
Obama signs measure to extend
VAWA tribal provision to Alaska (12/19)
VAWA jurisdiction provision
poses special issue for Alaska tribes (12/15)
Congress clears bill to
extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/12)
Senate backs measure to
extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/09)
Vice President Biden calls
for inclusion of Alaska tribes in VAWA (12/04)
PBS: VAWA helps tribes go
after non-Indian domestic offenders (11/24)
Republicans hold up action on
Alaska tribal jurisdiction measure (11/19)
Eric Holder: Responding to
sexual violence in Indian Country (11/18)
DOJ task force calls for
tribal jurisdiction in child abuse cases (11/18)