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Native American Legislative Update

August 2019

By Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco , August 26, 2019

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).

First-Ever Native American Presidential Forum

The Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum was held on August 19-20 in Sioux City, Iowa. This historic event brought presidential candidates together to speak about their policy priorities for Indian Country, as they responded to questions from panels of tribal leaders and youths.

Bernie Sanders speaking at Native American Presidential Forum

Sen. Sanders answering questions at the forum. Four Directions / Vimeo

Topics such as healthcare, infrastructure, housing, and missing and murdered Indigenous women were discussed. Candidates who attended included Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar; former Rep. John Delaney; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Marianne Williamson; and Mark Charles, a tribal citizen of Navajo Nation.

The organizers saw the forum as an opportunity for candidates to voice their commitment to Native American people. "It was a chance for candidates to demonstrate [that] they understand our issues and will work for the betterment of our people and our communities," said OJ Semans, co-executive director of Four Directions, a Native voting rights organization.

The powerful Native American vote plays a key role in several states crucial to the 2020 presidential race, and this event ensured that it will no longer be ignored by candidates.

Congressional Recess is Time for Action

Members of Congress have returned to their home districts for August congressional recess, making this the perfect time to schedule a lobby visit or simply drop by their offices. These visits have a significant impact, and serve as an ideal opportunity to advocate for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Take Action in Your Community

Put faith into action by dropping by your local congressional offices.

Learn how 

The House passed the reauthorization of VAWA (H.R. 1585) this spring, which included strong provisions for Native American communities. The Senate, however, is still negotiating their version of the bill.

When VAWA was most recently reauthorized in 2013, it restored tribal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans who commit crimes of domestic violence. This measure has effectively protected Native women from violence, but it offers limited protection for the community as a whole. The Senate reauthorization bill should expand the current tribal jurisdiction to protect children, tribal law enforcement officers, and victims of all forms of violence including sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking, and child abuse.

Please take the time this August to meet with your senator and ask them to expand tribal jurisdiction in the reauthorization of VAWA!

Please take the time this August to meet with your senator and ask them to expand tribal jurisdiction in the reauthorization of VAWA!

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585):

Awaiting introduction in the Senate.

SURVIVE Act (S. 211/ H.R. 1351):

On the Senate calendar and ready for consideration. A five percent tribal set-aside was provided in the House Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill.

What We're Reading:

  • States are passing policies to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
  • The Indian Child Welfare Act was ruled to be constitutional in a recent court decision.
  • “Exposure to indigenous culture and community through stores like Birchbark has helped people become more curious and aware of perspectives outside the mainstream.”
  • First-ever Native American Presidential Forum offers presidential candidates a chance to voice their commitment to Native issues.

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Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco managed the Native American Advocacy program from 2017-2019. In that capacity she lobbied on legislation that affects Native communities and built connections between tribes, tribal organizations, and non-Indian allies, particularly among a wide range of faith groups, to ensure tribal needs were addressed.