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Native American Legislative Update

July 2020

By Kerri Colfer, July 28, 2020


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 Kerri Colfer (Tlingit).

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Tribes in McGirt v. Oklahoma

In a landmark decision handed down on July 9, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that treaty rights designate most of eastern Oklahoma as reservation land. Because these lands were never ceded to the U.S. government, they fall under the definition of “Indian Country” under U.S. law.

This decision has significant implications for matters of criminal jurisdiction. Tribes generally have very limited jurisdiction over non-Natives who commit crimes on tribal land. But in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Congress determined that certain tribes do have jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence in Indian Country.

In McGirt v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s “Indian Country” status, and consequently reaffirmed the tribe’s ability to prosecute non-Native perpetrators under VAWA’s restored criminal jurisdiction.

Map of five tribal reservations in eastern Oklahoma.

The court ruled that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation was never disestablished by Congress. The ruling could also apply to the four other tribes with reservations in eastern Oklahoma. Chipermc

Funding for a Native Hawai‘ian Resource Center

The grassroots organization, Pouhana O Na Wāhine (Pillars of Women), is requesting $500,000 from Congress for a Native Hawai‘ian Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Pouhana O Na Wāhine is dedicated to addressing domestic and sexual violence against Native Hawai‘ians, who experience high rates of intimate partner violence. Native Hawai‘ians also make up 64% of sex trafficking survivors in the state.

A Native Hawai‘ian Resource Center was first authorized under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) in 2010, but it was never funded. Funding will allow Native Hawai‘ians to develop culturally relevant training and technical assistance to address the disparate rates of domestic and sexual violence in their communities.

Funding of the center would follow a similar model to the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC), which was funded by Congress in 2017. AKNWRC advocates for the unique challenges that face tribes, victims, and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Alaska.

FCNL supports the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and Pouhana O Na Wāhine in their funding request. To learn more, listen to NIWRC’s podcast on the topic.

Addressing Domestic and Sexual Violence in Indian Country

As the Senate negotiates the next COVID-19 relief package, FCNL continues to advocate for funding for tribal domestic and sexual violence programs. This includes funding for FVPSA and VAWA grants, as well as grants through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Read FCNL's letters to House and Senate leadership outlining specific funding asks. Then take action by calling on your lawmakers to prioritize victim services for Indian Country.

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:

Passed in the House (H.R. 1585), two versions introduced in the Senate (S. 2920 and S. 2843).

Savanna’s Act (H.R. 2733/S. 227) and Not Invisible Act (H.R. 2438/S. 982):

Passed in the Senate and advanced in House.

Special Diabetes Program for Indians:

Extended through Nov. 30, 2020.

What We’re Reading


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Kerri Colfer

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Kerri manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.