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Native American communities were decimated by disease, genocidal episodes, and deprivation of lands on which their subsistence depended. The impacts of cultural genocide, structural racism, discrimination, and oppression continue. Federal policies and laws must conform to the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and recognize that Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives retain aboriginal rights.

Treaties and trust agreements contain solemn and binding promises that must be honored. The sanctity of land, water, air, and all forms of tribal lands should be respected. Tribal police and courts should have primary authority over all criminal activity on reservation lands.

Since 1976, FCNL’s Native American advocacy program has worked to hold the federal government accountable to tribes and to American Indian and Alaska Native people by advocating for legislation that will protect tribal sovereignty and treaty rights.

Violence Against Native Women

Native American and Alaska Native women experience violence at disproportionate rates due the impacts of colonization and the jurisdictional challenges currently facing tribes.

Without jurisdiction over these crimes, tribes are unable to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of violence against Native women.

A study by the National Institute of Justice found that 84% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or stalking in their lifetimes. Without jurisdiction over these crimes, tribes are unable to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of violence against Native women, which means many victims are unable to seek justice.

In 2013, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with provisions that restored tribal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence. But cases involving stalking, child abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, and assault on tribal law enforcement still remain under federal jurisdiction. Therefore, many victims and survivors still fall through these jurisdictional gaps in Indian Country.

FCNL, in line with the priorities set by Native-led organizations throughout the country, currently advocates for a reauthorization of VAWA with provisions that would expand tribal jurisdiction. Restoration of tribal authority over tribal lands is essential to tackling this crisis of violence in Indian Country. Tribal police and courts should have primary authority over all criminal activity on tribal lands, and FCNL will continue to work towards affirming and upholding this inherent sovereign authority.

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