Congress fails to provide funds to help tribes comply 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

The Violence Against Women Act of 2013 included landmark provisions that recognize tribal authority over non-Indian offenders.

The law authorized $25 million over five years to help tribes ensure their justice systems protect the constitutional rights of non-Indian defendants. But Congress has failed to appropriate any funds for that purpose, The Oklahoman reported.

The lack of support hasn't stopped tribes from complying with the law. Five tribes participated in a pilot project at the Department of Justice from 2013 to 2015.

"We have not received one dollar for our pilot program from the federal government or the Department of Justice," Deborah Parker, a council member for the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, told the National Congress of American Indians earlier this year. “We keep asking when are going to receive our dollars. We keep getting referred back and forth."

The law went into effect nationwide in March and more tribes are taking part. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina just concluded its first domestic violence against against a non-Indian defendant.

"This case proves that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians can and will prosecute all perpetrators of domestic violence offenses occurring within their lands," prosecutor Jason Smith told The Cherokee One Feather.

The Cherokee Nation made changes to its laws to comply with the law, The Oklahoman reported. Chrissi Nimmo, the tribe's assistant attorney general, predicted more tribes will do the same in the coming years.

"The reason why the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act is so important is because there was virtually no prosecution taking place," Nimmo told the Oklahoman. "There was a rampant issue of non-Indian men committing acts of violence against Indian women."

Get the Story:
Domestic abuse law slow to take root on Oklahoma tribal land (The Oklahoman 7/26)
Tribe prosecutes first non-Enrolled Member under VAWA (The Cherokee One Feather 7/24)

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