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White House hosts meeting on violence against indigenous women and girls






Native women rallied at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, 2015, to call attention to high rates of victimization in Indian Country. Photo by Indianz.Com

The White House is hosting the first-ever meeting of the North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women & Girls on Friday.

The group was established following the North American Leaders’ Summit in June. The initiative will address domestic violence and sexual violence against indigenous women and girls in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"Across Canada, the United States, and Mexico, indigenous women and girls endure dangerously high levels of violence," the White House said in a fact sheet.

Top officials from all three nations are scheduled to participate in the event. Included is Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is the first Native woman to serve as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is overseeing a national inquiry into missing and murdered Native women and girls.

"By examining the root causes that have contributed to this national tragedy, including past and present systemic and institutional barriers, the commission of inquiry will play a pivotal role in helping all of us to define where best to continue to act to protect the human rights of all indigenous women and girls in Canada," Wilson-Raybould, who is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation, said in August as the inquiry officially began.

In the U.S., Native women are pursuing similar efforts through the recognition of May 5, 2017, as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. It would fall on the birthday of Hanna Harris, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana who was murdered in 2013 at the age of 21.

The day was discussed as the National Congress of American Indians opened its annual convention this week. Native women met for a task force on Sunday to outline their legislative, policy and legal agenda.

With the Violence Against Women Act up for re-authorization in 2018, advocates are seeking to build on the successes they achieved in the 2013 law. Tribes are able to arrest, prosecute and sentence non-Indians who abuse their partners but the provision is limited in scope.

“We’re going to try and expand the tribal jurisdiction component," Germaine Omish-Lucero, the executive director of the Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, Inc., said in an interview in Phoenix, Arizona. "It would be great to expand from just domestic violence to include all the crimes under VAWA. Right now the tribal provision only pertains to domestic violence.”

The opening and closing sessions of the working group will be broadcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live on Friday. The general schedule follows, all times Eastern:
9:00AM: Opening Remarks
· Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor & Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls
· Caroline Bettinger-López, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Senior Advisor to Vice President Biden
· Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

9:45 – 10:30AM: Opening plenary session
· Nuvia Magdalena Mayorga Delgado, Director General, National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Mexico
· Margaret Buist, Director General, Children and Families Branch, Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada
· Lawrence “Larry” Roberts, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
· Bea Hanson, Principal Deputy Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice

4:30 – 5:30PM: Closing plenary session
· Arely Gómez González, Attorney General of Mexico
· Nuvia Magdalena Mayorga Delgado, Director General, National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Mexico
· Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada
· Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
· Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior of the United States
· Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States

With additional reporting by Tara Gatewood from Phoenix, Arizona.

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