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Vice President Biden calls for inclusion of Alaska tribes in VAWA

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 3, 2014. Photo from VP Biden / Twitter

Vice President Joe Biden called for the inclusion of Alaska tribes in the Violence Against Women Act on Wednesday.

In 2013, Congress passed S.47 to reauthorize VAWA. Landmark provisions recognize the inherent authority of tribes to arrest, prosecuted and punish non-Indians who commit domestic violence offenses in Indian Country.

But Alaska tribes were excluded. Speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., Biden said the oversight needs to be corrected.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Vice President Joe Biden at White House Tribal Nations Conference

"We need to give the nations of Alaska the same authority," Biden, who was an original co-sponsor of VAWA as a member of the Senate in 1994, said to loud applause.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are sponsoring S.1474, the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act. The bill repeals Section 910 of S.47 in order to treat Alaska tribes the same as those in the lower 48.

Time, however, is running out to address the exclusion. Both Begich -- who won't be returning to Congress next year -- and Murkowski have said Republicans in the Senate are holding up the bill even though it only affects one state.

The 113th Congress is due to end before Christmas and Murkowski likely will continue to push for the bill if it doesn't pass this year. But her new colleague will be Republican Dan Sullivan, who has opposed tribal court jurisdiction and who has refused to say whether he supports VAWA.

In addition to calling for a repeal of the Alaska exclusion, Biden said VAWA needs to be expanded in other ways. It currently does not recognize tribal authority over sexual assaults and rapes -- Native women are more likely to be victimized at rates far higher than any other racial or ethnic group.

"Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people," Biden said at the conference.

Get the Story:
Biden: Violence against women is an ‘epidemic’ (The Washington Post 12/3)

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