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VAWA tribal jurisdiction provision seen as sign of progress

PostTV: 'They come here to hunt': Surviving sexual violence on the reservation

It's taken 35 years for Congress to address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe.

In 1978, the court held that tribes lack authority to prosecute non-Indians unless authorized by treaty or an act of Congress. The situation changed in 2013 with the passage of S.47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

Section 904 of the law recognizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit certain domestic violence offenses. It was narrowly written -- crimes like sexual assault aren't covered and Alaska has been excluded altogether -- but it's seen as a small sign of progress.

“What we have done, I think, has been game-changing,” Attorney General Eric Holder told The Washington Post. “But there are still attitudes that have to be changed. There are still resources that have to be directed at the problem. There’s training that still needs to go on. We’re really only at the beginning stages of reversing what is a horrible situation.”

Native women were strong advocates for the law, which overcame Republican opposition. They say it will send a message to non-Indian perpetrators who have enjoyed immunity for decades.

“We have always known that non-Indians can come onto our lands and they can beat, rape and murder us and there is nothing we can do about it,” Lisa Brunner, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, told the Post. “Now, our tribal officers have jurisdiction for the first time to do something about certain crimes.”

“But it is just the first sliver of the full moon that we need to protect us," Brunner added.

Get the Story:
New law offers protection to abused Native American women (The Washington Post 2/9)
Pascua Yaqui gain added power to prosecute some non-Indians (The Arizona Daily Star 2/9)
Native American Tribes Begin, for First Time, to Prosecute Non-Indian Wife Abusers (AllGov 2/9)
Tulalip Tribes implement special DV criminal jurisdiction (The Arlington Times 2/8)
3 tribes authorized to prosecute non-Native American men in domestic violence cases (The Washington Post 2/7)
Umatilla tribes gain authority to prosecute for domestic violence (AP 2/7)

Related Stories:
Tribes ready to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence (2/7)
Three tribes to exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders (2/6)
Jodi Gillette: Protecting Native women from violent offenders (2/6)

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