Mar 30, 2013 - Spirit Lake Nation Official Response to Kevin Cramer (ND Congressman)



Spirit Lake Tribe

March 29, 2013

Spirit Lake, North Dakota – Spirit Lake Tribal representatives were disheartened today to learn of the comments made by Congressmen Kevin Cramer on March 26, 2013 at the North Dakota Council on Abused Women Services (NDCAWS) state coalition meeting. The Congressmen is reported to have expressed his concern with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), S. 47, which President Obama signed into law just this month. Congressmen Cramer reportedly stated that he is now afraid to enter an Indian Reservation for fear of prosecution and unfair treatment in the Tribal Court system. Mr. Cramer’s remarks clearly stem from a lack of understanding of the legislation.

The landmark legislation reaffirms the inherent right of Indian tribes to protect their members with respect to crimes involving domestic violence. Until this legislation was enacted tribes could not exercise authority to prosecute domestic violence cases within their borders, which meant that the majority of offenses went unpunished. The Tribal provisions of VAWA amend the Indian Civil Rights Act and contain strong provisions that recognize and acknowledge that the powers of self-government of Indian tribes includes the power to exercise domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all persons, including non-Indians who commit acts of domestic violence on Indian lands and have ties to Indian country (live or work on Indian lands or who marry or are intimate partners or dating partners of tribal members or Native Americans who live on Indian lands). Tribes are also given express authority under VAWA to issue and enforce protection orders.

Moreover, the Act includes safeguards that address the concerns the Congressmen expressed with regard to due process. The Act requires Indian tribes to have adequate safeguards to protect a defendant’s rights, consistent with the Indian Civil Rights Act (lCRA), and to demonstrate the presence of those safeguards to the Attorney General. In sum, tribal provisions of the VAWA provide the best solution to the rampant number of domestic violence and sexual assault acts on tribal lands while also maintaining defendant rights in tribal courts.

In addition, to his misinformed comments about the VAWA, Congressmen Cramer reportedly stated his belief that Tribal governments are dysfunctional and that he wanted to “ring the [Spirit Lake] Tribal council’s neck and slam them against the wall.” The Tribe takes these threats of violence seriously and finds them particularly inappropriate given the audience Congressmen Cramer was addressing. A threat of violence is exactly the wrong way to send a message- His comments are beneath the dignity of his office and the relationship that his government has with the first Nations of this country, who are among his constituents. The Tribe is concerned that the Congressmen’s intemperate statements reflect his negative views of his Tribal constituents as a whole.

The Spirit Lake Tribal Council will be launching a full investigation on this incident. A report will follow. Any questions should be directed to:

Marissa K. Flannery

Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Munson, LLP 900 West 5th Avenue, Suite 700

Anchorage, AK 99501

Phone: (907)258-6377

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