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Capitol Hill briefing set on violence against Native women and men






Native women carry signs reading Project Our Penojek (Children) during a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

Indian organizations are hosting a briefing on Capitol Hill this week to discuss violence against Native women and men.

The National Congress of American Indians, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the Indian Law Resource Center will discuss a new report from the Department of Justice that once again confirmed the high rates of violence in Indian Country. It showed that Native women and men are more likely to be victimized by someone from another race.

"The report confirms what we see at the grassroots level every day,” Lucy Simpson, the executive director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, said in a press release. “Native women suffer terribly disproportionate rates of violence, and it is usually non-Native men who are committing these crimes. We need to make sure that our tribal governments have all the tools they need to respond to this epidemic of violence.”

Those tools include the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The landmark law recognizes the "inherent" authority of tribes to arrest, prosecute and sentence non-Indians for committing domestic violence offenses against their partners.

But Native women and tribal prosecutors point out that the law comes with some limits. Crimes against children are not covered nor are Native women and men who are victimized by strangers.

"The law needs to be expanded to protect additional victims and all tribes should be provided with the proper resources to implement the law," said Terri Henry, the co-chair of NCAI's task force on violence against women and the chair of the Indian Law Resource Center's board of directors.

To address some of those loopholes, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) introduced S.2785, the Tribal Youth and Community Protection Act in April. 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 tribal officers.

The measure goes further and 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.

The National Institute of Justice also endorsed the idea of expanding jurisdiction in light of the data presented in its report on violence in Indian Country.

"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," the report stated.

The Capitol Hill briefing will take place from 1:30-3pm on Thursday in Room SVC 203-02 of the Capitol Visitor’s Center. It's being held in cooperation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York).

National Institute of Justice Report:
Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men (May 2016)

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