White House Blog: Tribes make communities safer with VAWA

President Barack Obama signed S.47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, at the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 2013. Photo by Chuck Kennedy / White House

Cecilia Muñoz and Tina Tchen of the White House share a milestone in Indian Country justice -- the tribal jurisdiction provisions of the Violence Against Women Act are in effect nationwide:
Two years later, we have reached a significant milestone. As of March 7, 2015, all tribes that meet certain criteria are now eligible, under VAWA 2013, to investigate and prosecute certain non-Indian defendants who commit acts of domestic violence or dating violence, or violate certain protection orders in Indian Country. This is an important step to address the overall public-safety challenges in Indian Country.

Women in Native communities are victims of domestic violence at higher rates than the general population, and often at the hands of non-Indian men. Unfortunately, many of those crimes went unpunished in the past because tribal courts did not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. VAWA 2013 represented a significant step in the right direction. The Act recognized tribes’ inherent power to protect their people by exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over certain defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status. In December 2014, the President signed a measure to extend VAWA’s tribal provisions to Alaska.

In 2014, the Department of Justice had granted pilot-project requests to three tribes to use special criminal jurisdiction—the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon. Two additional tribes—the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota and the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana— recently received pilot-project approval, as well.

VAWA 2013 also includes provisions to ensure that defendants have the opportunity for a full and fair trial. In order for a tribe to exercise its authority, it must extend due-process rights, such as providing access to an attorney to the defendant.

Get the Story:
Cecilia Muñoz and Tina Tchen: Making Native Communities Safer (White House Blog 3/11)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Tribes in pilot project filed 26 VAWA cases against non-Indians (3/10)
Tribes reach key milestone with jurisdiction provisions of VAWA (3/9)
Updates from day 2 of National Congress of American Indians winter session (2/26)
Tribes in Maine face opposition to jurisdiction over non-Indians (02/24)
Bill requires law degree to join Navajo Nation Supreme Court (02/03)
Obama signs measure to extend VAWA tribal provision to Alaska (12/19)
VAWA jurisdiction provision poses special issue for Alaska tribes (12/15)
Congress clears bill to extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/12)
Senate backs measure to extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/09)
Vice President Biden calls for inclusion of Alaska tribes in VAWA (12/04)
PBS: VAWA helps tribes go after non-Indian domestic offenders (11/24)
Republicans hold up action on Alaska tribal jurisdiction measure (11/19)
Eric Holder: Responding to sexual violence in Indian Country (11/18)
DOJ task force calls for tribal jurisdiction in child abuse cases (11/18)