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Eastern Cherokees make changes to exercise VAWA authority

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians justice center houses the tribal court, a 96-bed jail and the tribal police department. Photo from Cherokee One Feather

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina is making changes to its laws and procedures in order to exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence offenders.

One issue affects jury selection. The Violence Against Women Act requires a jury to reflect the entire reservation community, Indian and non-Indian alike.

“The jury selection process has to not exclude any particular group of people, and traditionally our tribal court system has only had tribal members on the jury pool,” Bill Boyum, the Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court, told The Smoky Mountain News. He said the changes are likely to be approved next month.

Another issue involves the housing of inmates. Boyum said non-Indians will likely have to be housed in a county jail for now rather than a Bureau of Indian Affairs or tribal facility.

“At some point in time they’ll probably go in our jails, but I don’t think that time is here yet,” Boyum told the paper.

S.47, the 2013 law that reauthorized VAWA, recognizes the "inherent power" of tribes to arrest, prosecute and punish non-Indians for certain domestic violence offenses. The non-Indian defendant must be tied to the community in order to fall under tribal jurisdiction and tribes must protect the constitutional rights of defendants.

Get the Story:
Tribe gains ability to prosecute non-Indians (The Smoky Mountain News 3/18)

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