Law | National

Tribes ready to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence

Three tribes will be able to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence offenses as part of a pilot project established by the Department of Justice.

The jurisdiction of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon is limited to domestic violence, dating violence and violations of certain protection orders. The tribes must ensure that the constitutional rights of non-Indian offenders are protected, a requirement of S.47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

“Making the Pascua Yaqui Reservation safe and secure has been very important to the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council. The Tribal Council has made stopping violence against Native American women a top priority issue. Our judicial system, like all other judicial systems, will now have the opportunity to address offenders for wrongs committed against our most vulnerable community members,” Chairman Peter Yucupicio said in a press release.

About 50 percent of the criminal cases filed in Pascua Yaqui tribal court involve domestic violence, The Los Angeles Times reported. Non-Indians represent a small percent of the population on the reservation but the community's proximity to urban areas poses a challenge.

"It's a significant problem, and because we're so close to Tucson, we do have a lot of non-Indians on the reservation," Amanda Lomayesva, the tribe's attorney general, told the Times.

Non-Indians were involved in 14 domestic violence cases in Umatilla tribal court in 2012, The Oregonian reported. The number appears small but a tribal attorney said few cases get reported historically.

"Why would a victim tell the police if a perpetrator is never held accountable?'' Brent Leonard, from the tribe's Office of Legal Counsel, told the paper.

Nationally, non-Indians are responsible for most crimes against American Indian women, according to DOJ statistics. Beyond the pilot program, tribes will be able to take advantage of the VAWA provisions starting in March 2015.

Get the Story:
Violence Against Women Act: Tribes have new authority over non-natives (AP 2/7)
Tribes get more power to handle domestic violence cases (The Los Angeles Times 2/7)
‘A Historic Turning Point’: Native American Women Finally Gain More Protection From Rape And Abuse (Think Progress 2/7)
Umatilla tribes to become first in nation to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence (The Oregonian 2/7)
Arizona Tribe Gains Power To Prosecute Non-Indians (KJZZ 2/7)
New jurisdiction is historic change for local tribe (Tucson News Now 2/7)
Pascua Yaquis to have jurisdiction over domestic violence cases (KVOA 2/6)
Pilot Program To Give Tulalip Tribes Legal Jurisdiction Over Non-Indians (KPLU 2/6)
Tulalip project allows prosecution of domestic violence crimes (The Everett Herald 2/6)
Tribal Justice Targets Outsiders After 35-Year Ban (NBC News 2/6)

Federal Register Notice:
Pilot Project for Tribal Jurisdiction over Crimes of Domestic Violence (November 29, 2013)

Related Stories:
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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