February 22, 2016
A briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon will address the impact of the Violence Against Women Act in Indian Country. S.47, the 2013 law that reauthorized VAWA, includes a historic provision that recognizes the "inherent power" of tribes to arrest, prosecute and punish non-Indians for certain domestic violence offenses. Tribes must ensure their justice systems protect the rights of defendants before exercising their authority. As of January, eight tribes so far have met the requirements of the law. Together they have made 44 arrests, resulting in 18 guilty pleas, 5 referrals for federal prosecution, 1 acquittal by jury, 12 dismissals and 6 cases pending. “It is now clear that the law should be expanded to protect additional victims and tribes across the nation should be provided with the proper resources to implement the law,” Peter Yucupicio, the chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, said in a press release. “Imagine if all tribes, including Alaskan Native communities had implemented VAWA 2013, thousands of additional victims would have been protected.” The Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington were among the first three to exercise their VAWA authority under a pilot project at the Department of Justice. Representatives of both tribes will share their experiences at the briefing and will be calling for changes to address violence against children. “There is much work to be done to successfully implement this law. We have stretched our tribal resources and have engaged in advocacy for better access to national criminal databases and for children to be included," said Melvin Sheldon, Jr., the chairman of the Tulalip Tribes. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the Indian Law Resource Center and the National Congress of American Indians are hosting the briefing at 2pm in Room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building.