a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, includes landmark provisions to recognize tribal authority over non-Indian offenders but the measure leaves out of a significant state: Alaska.
Alaska Natives make up 15 percent of the population in the state, according to the 2010 Census
. And Alaska is home to more than 220 tribes, the most of any state.
But S.1925 wouldn't allow Alaska Native tribes to exercise the same authority over non-Indian offenders as tribes in the lower 48 states.
And, if enacted as written, it would revoke an existing provision of VAWA that allows Alaska Native tribes to issue civil protection orders.
“I am shocked and outraged that a bill intended to protect Native American women does not protect Alaska Native women," said Pamela Dalton Stearns, a delegate to the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes
who lives in Seattle, Washington. "I had to flee Alaska and I know many other women who did the same."
Tlingit and Haida leaders aren't the only ones concerned about the exclusion of Alaska Natives from the bill.
The Alaska Federation of Natives
and the National Congress of American Indians
are urging members of Congress to address the inequity in the current version of S.1925, which is debated by the Senate
"[T]his bill absolutely cripples the ability of Alaska Tribes to intervene even in an emergency. We cannot state this more clearly: these Alaska exemptions must be removed from these bills," AFN said in a draft letter to Alaska's Congressional delegation.
According to a University of Alaska Anchorage report
from May 2010, Alaska Native women represent 47 percent of the victims of domestic violence and 61 percent of the victims of sexual assault.
As currently written, "SEC. 204. TRIBAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE" of S.1925 states:
(3) APPLICABILITY- Nothing in this section --
(C) shall apply to an Indian tribe in the State of Alaska, except with respect to the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve; or
(D) shall limit, alter, expand, or diminish the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the State of Alaska or any subdivision of the State of Alaska.
Additionally, "SEC. 905. TRIBAL PROTECTION ORDERS" of S.1925 states:
(2) APPLICABILITY- Paragraph (1)--
(A) shall not apply to an Indian tribe in the State of Alaska, except with respect to the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve; and
(B) shall not limit, alter, expand, or diminish the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the State of Alaska or any subdivision of the State of Alaska.
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