Natalie Landreth: Alaska Native women excluded in new VAWA

Natalie Landreth, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, explains why S.47, which reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act, erodes protections for Alaska Native women:
Last Thursday, March 7, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Nationwide, many celebrated the new provisions allowing tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault. It was a long overdue fix for a jurisdictional loophole. Absent from the press coverage however, was the fact that Alaska was left out.

Yes, it’s true. Alaska tribes, and therefore Alaska Native women who are battered or sexually assaulted by non-Natives, were excluded from protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Senator Murkowski inserted an Alaska exclusion euphemistically called “the Special Rule for Alaska.” Only there’s nothing special about it. The exclusion is part of a larger strategy to prevent Alaska’s tribes from being treated like all other tribes in the United States. There are Alaska exclusions in numerous bills, most inserted by a previous senator, and this is yet another. This one, however, cuts the deepest.

This past weekend, Senator Murkowski posted on her Facebook page that she had created an “inclusion,” suggesting that all she did was to make sure that Metlakatla (which is the only tribe in the state with a reservation) “would receive the same rights and jurisdiction granted to Lower 48 reservations.” It’s not my usual practice to write a direct response, but the Alaska exclusion was being reported as an inclusion, so I decided to set the record straight based upon the information that I have been privy to throughout this debate.

Get the Story:
Alaska Native women lose in Violence Against Women Act renewal (The Alaska Dispatch 3/12)

Related Stories
Column: Alaska politicians oppose protections for Native women (3/12)

Join the Conversation