Help Bring Justice to Alaskan Native Women by: Matt Remle
On March 7th, 2013 President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Re-authorization into law. The VAWA re-authorization included new language to provide protections for Native American women living on reservations who faced the threat of domestic violence from non-Native partners or spouses. Tribal courts will now be able to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence against Native American women in Indian country. The historic victory came after countless Native advocates from across Turtle Island lobbied congress and shared often heart wrenching personal stories of how the justice system failed to protect them.
Despite the victory for Native women, the VAWA re-authorization, thanks to the “Special Rule for the State of Alaska” added by Alaskan State Senator Lisa Murkowski (R), failed to provide protection for Alaskan Native women. Alaska is home to 229 Alaskan Native villages and makes up roughly 40% of tribes in the United States. The exclusion is seen as a part of a larger strategy that prevents Alaskan tribes from being treated like other tribes in the United States. Alaskan exclusions are actually common in many bills, but the VAWA re-authorization exclusion is perhaps its most glaring discriminatory example.
Now, one of the leading advocates for the VAWA re-authorization, Deborah Parker Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip tribes, and the Tulalip Tribes are pushing tribes across Turtle Island to stand in solidarity with Alaskan Native women and are calling for the repeal of Section 910 of engrossed S. 47 of the 133rd Congress.
The Tulalip Tribes recently passed Resolution No. 2013-438, a Resolution in Support of Tribal Equality in VAWA Legislation, and are encouraging other tribal councils to do the same.
The resolution reads follows:
THE TULALIP TRIBES
Resolution No. 2013-438
Resolution in Support of Tribal Equality in VAWA Legislation
WHEREAS the Board of Directors is the governing body of the Tulalip Tribes under the Constitution and Bylaws of the Tribes approved by the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior on January 24, 1936, pursuant to the Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 984, 25 U.S.C. §476); and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the Tulalip Tribes Constitution Art. VI. Section 1, the Board possesses the authority to safeguard and promote the peace, safety, morals, and general welfare of the Tulalip Reservation; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the Tulalip Tribes Constitution Art. VI. Section 1 the Board possesses the authority to adopt resolutions;
WHEREAS, the Tulalip Tribes recognizes that domestic violence within all Indian Communities, damages and impacts all those within the community; and
WHEREAS, the Tulalip Tribes has a compelling interest in promoting and maintaining the health and well-being of not only victims of Domestic Violence on the Tulalip Reservation, but supporting other tribes that were left out of, or excluded from recent legislation as it impacts all sovereign Indian Nations; and
WHEREAS, the United States Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Act (VAWA 2013) in March 2013; and
WHEREAS, the legislation included a special provision for Alaska Native Tribes and a disclaimer provision related to the law and the status of Alaska Natives (Section 910); and
WHEREAS, with the exception of the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve, VAWA 2013 does not grant expanded jurisdiction to Alaska Native Tribes, and essentially maintains the status quo situation for women and families and
WHEREAS, VAWA 2013 denies Alaska Native Women equal protection where a native woman is married to a non-native person and an incident of violence occurs; and
WHEREAS, VAWA 2013 continues to limit Alaska Tribal Courts and their court orders from recognition, and maintains the prohibitions for these Tribes to adjudicate non-Indian criminal defendants where violence against women and families has occurred;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Tulalip Tribes hereby finds that the Violence Against Women Act of 2013:
1. Diminishes and violates the sovereignty and inherent rights of the Alaska Native Tribes to protect their women, children and families;
2. In an integrated society where tribal members are married to non-tribal members, violence and abuse against native women is no less impacting to the family and community and is not different than within the American community at large – no person whether a tribal member or not should be able to violate another person and escape prosecution because of race. The United States Constitution assures equal protection for all citizens, the VAWA 2013 denies equal protection rights to Alaska Native women and clearly discriminates and creates a separate class of tribal citizens, and;
3. Perpetuates policy that does not recognize all federally recognized Indian Tribes with the same governance authority jurisdiction, and their courts.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Tulalip Tribes hereby encourages our federal delegation in Washington D.C. to support repeal of Section 910 of engrossed S. 47 of the 133rd Congress.
ADOPTED by the Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington
Wakinyan Wa’anatan (Matt Remle)