For American Indians, living nearly invisible lives on archipelagos of native culture, irrational Republican philosophy has been particularly cruel. There are more than 300 reservations throughout the land — nations within a nation, sovereign to a point.
Non-Indians are responsible for most of the domestic violence in Indian country. The tribes can’t prosecute them — without the blessing of Congress — and the distant and detached feds usually won’t. Thus, the need for the change written into the renewed Violence Against Women law.
“We have serial rapists on the reservation,” Charon Asetoyer, a Native rights health advocate in South Dakota, has pointed out, “because they know they can get away with it.”
Oh, but bringing these brutes to justice in the jurisdictions where they commit their crimes would be unconstitutional, says Representative Eric Cantor, the House Majority leader. A jury of Indians, well — they’re incapable of giving a white man a fair trial. Such was the view expressed by Senator Charles Grassley, the mumble-voiced Iowa senator known for his 19th-century insight.
Both men voted against the act, and both are flat-out wrong in their interpretation. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused a right to a jury trial in “the state or district” where the crime was committed. It says nothing about ethnicity. The latest census found that almost half of people living on reservations were non-Indians. And more than half of Indian women are married to men who are not tribal members by blood.