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On Oct. 26, the House voted to reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2021 (FVPSA) (H.R. 2119) by a bipartisan vote of 228-200. This vote represents a significant step towards progress for tribal communities and Indigenous women, who face some of the highest rates of violence in the country.

FVPSA, last reauthorized in 2010, is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to domestic violence shelter and supportive services. It also serves as the primary source of funding for these services in tribal nations. The Senate version of its reauthorization (S. 1275) now awaits action by the full chamber.

This vote represents a significant step towards progress for tribal communities and Indigenous women.

More than four in five Native women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or stalking in their lifetimes, yet more than one in three face unmet service needs. There are 574 federally recognized tribes but less than 60 tribal shelters and less than 300 tribal domestic violence programs across the country.

“These shelters offer not solely bed space but can be the difference between a Native woman going missing and being murdered,” said Michael Williams, Sr., chief of the Akiak Native Community in Alaska. “They offer the immediate and long-term support a woman and her children need. If we want to prevent [violence against Native women] and stop further trauma of our children and grandchildren, Native women and their children need shelters, housing, and the range of crisis and long-term supportive services that advocates and shelters provide.”

The reauthorization passed by the House includes tribal enhancements to help bridge the gap in domestic violence resource disparities. It would increase the percentage of funding tribes receive, dedicate authorized funding for an Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence and a Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence, and codify permanent and separate funding for a National Indian Domestic Violence Hotline.

Tribal nations and their citizens deserve adequate resources to address violence in their communities.

“I am proud we were able to pass legislation that funds shelters, state domestic violence coalitions, a national domestic violence hotline, and national resource centers,” said Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-6). “This bill helps provide survivors a way up, a way out, and a way forward.”

Legislation to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons is desperately needed—legislation that both upholds the federal trust responsibility to tribes and supports tribes so they can better address the crisis in their own communities. Supporting tribally-run prevention and treatment efforts provides tribal citizens with culturally-appropriate and life-saving resources.

To advocate in solidarity with tribes, FCNL recently joined national tribal organizations in a letter sent to both House and Senate leaders in support of FVPSA’s tribal enhancements. FCNL also joined an interfaith coalition letter to House leaders in support of the bill’s non-discrimination clause, which clarifies that services cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Now that the House has passed this key legislation, it is time for the Senate to pass its own FVPSA bill (S. 1275). Violence is not a partisan issue, and tribal nations and their citizens deserve adequate resources to address violence in their communities.

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program
Portia manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.