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Native American Legislative Update

September 2018

By Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco , September 26, 2018


Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! The NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage your members of Congress. FCNL's Congressional Advocate for Native American policy is Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco (Shinnecock/Kiowa).

Appropriations Wins for Tribes:

Monthly action:

Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with increased protections for Native women.

Act Now 

The FY 2019 appropriations bill provides $50 million in grant funding to tribes or tribal organizations to address the opioid crisis. Tribal Behavioral Health Grants to address the high incidence of substance use and suicide received $40 million, a $10 million increase compared to FY18.

The bill also includes $12 million for Native American language preservation, with $3 million for the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, and $4 million for language immersion programs.

Savanna’s Act:

Savanna’s Act (S.1942/H.R.4485) is named after Savanna Greywind, a Dakota woman who went missing and was found brutally murdered. Native women and girls face a murder rate that’s 10 times the national average, and more than four in five Native women have experienced violence.

Candles in the shape of a medicine wheel at vigil for murdered and missing indigenous women.

On Sept. 11, advocates gathered for a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women. It was a powerful ceremony in which advocates shared their personal experiences with violence and stories of missing loved ones. We remembered those we have lost to violence, and reflected on the urgent need for policy change.

VAWA Reauthorization:

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) seeks to improve criminal justice responses for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The last reauthorization in 2013 included the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ). Prior to the SDVCJ, tribes could not prosecute non-Indians who committed crimes on tribal lands.

The SDVCJ affirms tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians in domestic violence cases, but is limited to intimate partner violence. It does not include jurisdiction over sexual assault, stalking, or sex trafficking, or protect children who are also victims of domestic violence.

VAWA was set to expire on Sept. 30. The reauthorization bill in the house, H.R. 6545, includes provisions that expands the SDVCJ and protect tribal officers. It also includes Savanna’s Act.

Despite the introduction of H.R. 6545, and letters of support from Republican Congressional members, there has been no real action to reauthorize VAWA. Instead, it was temporarily extended through Dec. 7 as part of a recent budget continuing resolution.

Urge Congress:

Congress must address this crisis by passing VAWA by Dec. 7. Ask your member of congress to support the needed tribal provisions in VAWA.

Bill Tracker

Reauthorization of the Violence Aganst Women Act (H.R. 6545):

Continues to gain momentum with more than 160 cosponsors.


Continuing Resolution:

Extends VAWA through Dec. 7.


What We're Reading:

  • Hate in America: Native women are 10 times more likely to be murdered.

  • AP News: Recent series on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

  • The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline will cross the ancestral lands and sacred sites of the tribes of Fort Belknap and the Sicangu Oyate branch of the Lakota people.

  • In January 2016, 150 acres in the town of Mashpee, Mass., and another 170 acres in the city of Taunton, Mass., were declared the Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs rescinded the declaration, marking the first-time lands have been removed out of trust since the termination era of the 1950s and 1960s.

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Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco manages the Native American Advocacy program lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities. She builds connections between tribes, tribal organizations, and non-Indian allies, particularly among a wide range of faith groups, to ensure tribal needs are addressed.