1. Legislative Ask
  2. Native Americans

Tribal Provisions in the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

By Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco , July 31, 2018

Native women experience violent crimes at significantly higher rates compared to other women in the United States. Most of these crimes involve non-Native perpetrators which tribes have limited jurisdiction over. While the federal government has jurisdiction in Indian Country, it lacks the resources to effectively prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands. Non-Native offenders regularly avoid prosecution for crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence.

The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) included profound changes and improvements for Indian Country with the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction. This allowed tribal courts to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of Domestic Violence. However, this jurisdiction is extremely limited in the protections it provides tribes. Tribes are not able to prosecute non-Natives for sexual violence, instances of stalking, or even sex trafficking. While children are also victims of domestic violence, the Special Jurisdiction does not include cases of child abuse.

Last week, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and fellow House Democrats introduced their bill H.R. 6545 reauthorizing VAWA. This version extends tribal jurisdiction to include sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, child abuse and violence against tribal law enforcement who are harmed when carrying out these provisions. This bill also includes important aspects of Savanna’s Act (S. 1942/H.R. 4485), a bill that FCNL supports as it addresses the crisis of missing and murdered Native women. This VAWA reauthorization will improve the coordination and collaboration between tribal, local, and federal jurisdictions as they respond to missing or murdered Native cases. It also improves tribal access to federal databases that track missing cases. The tribal provisions in H.R. 6545 are huge steps forward in protecting Indian Country’s most vulnerable and is a tremendous win for Native victims of violence.

VAWA is set to expire on Sept 30th. We need to use this reauthorization to address the gaps in safety that Indian Country faces. We must let Congress know that we cannot let VAWA expire and we cannot let victims in Indian Country go without protection.

Please contact your member of Congress to let them know you support H.R.6545 and the provisions it provides Indian Country.

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.