February 28, 2013

VAWA passes over conservative objections

NCAI Praises Passage of Protections for All Women; Tribal Courts Gain Jurisdiction over Non-Indian Domestic Violence Perpetrators

Bill represents major advance for public safety in Indian Country; Legislation headed to President for SignatureToday, in a historic vote the House of Representatives passed S.47, the Senate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), sending the legislation with the tribal provisions supported by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. NCAI is praising the efforts of the House and the Senate to reauthorize VAWA and the bipartisan support of the Senate version of the legislation in both chambers with resounding votes of 286-138 in the House and 78-22 vote in the Senate earlier this month.

“It is with a glad heart and soaring spirit that I celebrate the passage of VAWA. Today the drum of justice beats loud in Indian Country in celebration of the reauthorization of VAWA and we stand in unity with all of our partners and leaders who were unrelenting in support of protections for all women, including Native women,” said Juana Majel Dixon, First Vice President of NCAI, and co-chair of NCAI’s Task Force on Violence Against Women. Juana Majel serves as a Traditional Councilwoman Pauma Band of Mission Indians located within the state of California. “500 plus days is too long to not have a bill for all women in America. For an unimaginable length of time those who have terrorized our women in our most sacred places, in our relationships, in our homes, and on our land, have gone unprosecuted. Now that time has come to an end and justice and security will flourish in these specific instances. We celebrate the protections for all women included in VAWA, including those for Immigrant and LGBT women,” added Juana Majel.

“With this authority, comes a serious responsibility and tribal courts will administer justice with the same level of impartiality that any defendant is afforded in state and federal courts,” said Jefferson Keel, the President of NCAI and Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, speaking about implementation of the new law. “We have strong tribal courts systems that protect public safety. The law respects tribal sovereignty, and also requires that our courts respect the due process rights of all defendants. My hope is that this new law is rarely used. Our goal isn’t to put people in jail. It is to create an effective deterrent so that our people can lead safe lives in our communities and nations.”

The constitutionally sound tribal jurisdiction provisions in VAWA authorize tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian defendants involved in intimate relationships with Native women and who assault these victims on tribal land. Current federal laws do not authorize tribal law enforcement or tribal courts to pursue any form of prosecution or justice against these perpetrators.
A Proud Day for Tribal Advocates of the Violence Against Women Act

By Rob CapricciosoThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization passed the U.S. House on February 28 by a vote of 286 to 138. In a major victory for Indian country, it mirrored the already passed U.S. Senate provisions that allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit violence against women and families on Indian lands.

To tribal and Native American advocates who have spent many long days and nights working through bleeding heels, seasonal sicknesses, and missed holidays with loved ones, the vote represented the end of a journey that sometimes seemed impossible.

“I’m so excited—this is overwhelming,” cried Deborah Parker, vice-chair of the Tulalip Tribes, who was out of breath and in tears immediately after the House passage.

Parker’s daze was understandable. Still catching her breath, she noted that some legal experts have said that there hasn’t been major tribal legislation that grants inherent tribal authority since the historic days of treaty times. “We’ve had other successes,” she said, “but this will have a substantial impact on our sovereign ability to govern.”
Comment:  For more on violence against women, see Grassley: Indians Can't Be Fair and Natives Criticize NCAI's Annual Address.

1 comment:

Rob said...

President Obama signs VAWA into law:


President Barack Obama's VAWA Law Signing Spotlights Native Women Warriors

By Rob Capriccioso

During the March 7 signing ceremony in the offices of the United States Department of the Interior of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Vice President Joe Biden had a difficult time remembering all of the many advocates and legislators he wanted to highlight and thank for their hard work on making the enhanced law a reality.

Similarly, it is difficult to single out all of the Native American women warriors who worked overtime to make the tribal provisions of the new law come to life.

There were tribal leaders like Terri Henry, Deborah Parker, and Fawn Sharp. There were lobbyists like Holly Cook Macarro, Kim Teehee, and Aurene Martin. National Indian organization leaders like Jackie Johnson Pata, Juana Majel Dixon, and the crew at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) led conference calls, action alerts, and legislative visits. There were advocates on the ground including Pamela Dalton Stearns, Theresa Sheldon, Jax Agtuca, and countless other Indian grassroots activists. And there were the male crusaders, too, like Wilson Pipestem, David Bean, Ernie Stevens, and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

“I felt elated,” said Henry, a tribal council member with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, in summing up the day. “I’m incredibly happy and proud of our team of strong hearts—Native women and Native nations. I am humbled and honored that our collective effort to obtain this slice of justice was supported in so many ways by Native people across America.”