Skip to main content

Welcome to FCNL’s Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL’s Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.

Congress Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

On March 15, President Joe Biden signed the FY2022 omnibus spending bill into law (P.L. 117-103). Notably, the spending bill included the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Joni Ernst (IA), and Dick Durbin (IL) introduced a bill to reauthorize VAWA in the Senate last month, after the House approved its reauthorization in March 2021.

The spending bill also includes increased funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to support tribal climate resilience, fund the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Initiative, and implement the Indian Boarding School Initiative.

The tribal title in this new reauthorization of VAWA expands tribal jurisdiction over certain crimes to more tribes, including Alaska Native villages. It also expands the list of crimes that tribes can prosecute and removes the requirement that a non-Native perpetrator have significant ties to the tribal community. Non-Native defendants will be required to exhaust all tribal court remedies before appealing to federal courts, and tribal nations will be able to place offenders in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities when sentenced to a year or more.

These provisions, which will take effect on Oct. 1, 2022, are essential to achieving justice for victims and protecting tribal communities from further violence.

“Living a healthy life, free from fear and intimidation, is a basic human right,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “I am thankful that Congress passed and the president signed a bill that protects this right. For Indian Country, VAWA is one of the most important pieces of legislation in modern history…The renewed law is a victory for tribal citizens everywhere.”

White House Recommends Actions to Strengthen Native Voting Rights

On March 24, the Biden administration released a report on the state of voting in tribal communities. The report detailed the obstacles Native voters face, and outlined recommended actions for federal, state, and local policymakers.

Language barriers, lack of accessibility for the disabled, cultural disrespect, outright hostility, extreme physical distance, and persistent poverty are some of the key barriers identified in the report. Specific electoral practices like access to voting information, redistricting, voter registration, address issues, and identification requirements have all severely hindered the voting process for Native voters.

Key recommendations in the March report include calling on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747), the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), and the Native American Voting Rights Act (H.R. 5008).

The report urged the U.S. Postal Service to evaluate its services to Native communities and prioritize assigning postal addresses to homes on tribal lands. It was also recommended that county and municipal election officials locate voting offices and polling places to better serve Native communities and staff sites with bilingual assistance.

Bill Tracker

Senate Resolution 555

On March 22, the Senate passed a resolution to recognize the heritage, culture, and contributions of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women as a part of National Women’s History Month.

Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Effective Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act (H.R. 3587)

House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3) announced that a full committee markup of the RESPECT Act will take place on April 6. This bill would codify into law that federal agencies must consult with tribal governments before taking federal actions that will impact tribal lands, rights, resources, or citizens.

What We’re Reading  

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.