Tribes across the country face a critical deadline if
they want to prevent state governments from asserting
jurisdiction on their reservations.
Under a little-noticed provision of a new federal law,
tribes have to pass a resolution by July 27 to join a national
offender registry and notification system.
If tribes don't act by that date, the state will automatically
have jurisdiction to enforce the Adam Walsh Child Protection and
Safety Act, which became law last year.
The provision was drafted with almost no input from tribes.
"There wasn't any consultation or really any recognition of
how tribes have been addressing this issue," said Virginia Davis
of the National Congress of American Indians at the recent
Federal Bar Association's Indian law conference.
NCAI has drafted a model resolution for tribes to consider
as the date approaches. Davis said all tribes, even in
Public Law 280 states where states already have
civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, should take action
"It's a hard and fast deadline," Davis said. "We have a
window of opportunity that will close on July 27 and if
a tribe hasn't taken action by that date, they will
be left out of the system ... forever."
At the same time, NCAI is working on Capitol Hill on potential
changes to the law. A resolution passed at the group's
recent winter session in Washington,
D.C., called the provision an "unprecedented diminishment
of tribal sovereignty."
"It's been a long time since I've seen Congress write that
kind of a law," Juana Majel Dixon, the secretary
of NCAI, said at the time.
But even if the law isn't changed, Davis said tribes will have
two years from July 27 to develop and maintain a sex offender registry.
The Department of Justice can extend the deadline and is authorized
to make grants to help tribes comply with the act, although
no money has been appropriated so far.
Citing high rates of child abuse and domestic and family violence,
tribes have been working to address the issue of sex offenders.
One achievement came with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
in 2005, which contained a tribal-specific title.
Title IX authorized a national tribal sex offender registry
and authorized tribes to enter information about their
cases into a national criminal information database.
NCAI says the proposed system, which has not been funded by the Bush
administration, is more consistent with tribal sovereignty than
the provisions in the Adam Walsh Act.
Separately, tribes have been passing their own laws to implement
sex offender registries and have entered into agreements
Tribes in Minnesota, which falls under Public Law 280, have
been cooperating with the state since last year,
after a court case raised doubts about the state's
jurisdiction on reservations.
"Far from being an abdication of tribal sovereignty,
we believe this was an extension of our cooperative law enforcement
agreement and was the ultimate expression of government-to-government
relations," Robert Bohn, a lawyer for the Leech Lake Band of
Ojibwe in Minnesota, said at the Federal Bar conference.
If the tribe hadn't acted, a sex offender could live on the reservation
without reporting to tribal or state authorities, Bohn said.
"You are creating safe haven for child molesters, kidnappers and
the worst predatory offenders," he said.
The Adam Walsh Act contains some language on cooperation.
The section recognizes the right of tribes to develop
their own offender systems or to "arrange" for a state or local
jurisdiction to carry out such a system through a
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
Violence Against Women Act of 2005
White House Fact Sheet: The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006
President Signs H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
Related Court Decision:
v. Peter John Jones
(March 22, 2007)
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org
Office of Violence Against Women, DOJ -
'No one cares' about violence against Native
(4/30) Editorial: Injustice for indigenous women
(4/27) Editorial: U.S. fails to protect
(4/26) BIA ties violence
against women to meth abuse
(4/26)Violence against Native women a 'national disgrace'
(4/25) Report details 'maze' Native
women victims face
(4/25) Amnesty report
on violence against Native women
Court allows state offender registry on reservations
Opinion: Tribes and national sex offender registry
NCAI 2007: Updates from winter session in
Minnesota tribes work with
state to track offenders
(08/02) Editorial: State shouldn't fight tribal sovereignty
(8/1) Pawlenty wants jurisdiction ruling
(7/29) State may seek
agreements with tribes on registry
(7/28) Minnesota appeals court limits state jurisdiction