Violence Against Women Act Signed Into Law;
NCAI Begins Implementation Coordination
NCAI Members join President Obama and Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and Advocates to Celebrate Passage of Protections for All Women
Washington, DC – Native women, tribal leaders, women’s rights advocates, and survivors of domestic abuse joined President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today, along with members of Congress and the Obama Administration, to celebrate the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Members of NCAI’s Executive Committee joined in celebrating the tribal provisions of the bill enacted into law; President Jefferson Keel, 1st Vice President Juana Majel Dixon and Co-Chair of NCAI’s Task Force on Violence Against Women, Secretary Ed Thomas, and Treasurer Ron Allen. Terri Henry, Co-Chair of NCAI’s Task Force on Violence Against Women, was also in attendance.
Diane Millich, a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado, opened the event and introduced Vice President Biden, sharing her story which has been a focus of national media attention since May of last year, and most recently in a New York Times article. Deborah Parker of the Tulalip Tribe of Washington, an active and prominent voice in the VAWA advocacy efforts alongside the NCAI Task Force, also stood on stage during the signing of VAWA.
“Indian Country has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse in America. And one of the reasons is that when Native American women are abused on tribal lands by an attacker who is not Native American, the attacker is immune from prosecution by tribal courts. Well, as soon as I sign this bill that ends,” said President Barack Obama, moments before signing the bill. “Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear. And that is what today is all about.”
“Today represents a historic moment in the nation-to-nation relationships between tribes and the federal government. Now that the tribal provisions have been enacted and protection for all women reauthorized, justice can march forward,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. “Local tribal authorities have much work to do to ensure that our citizens are protected from these violent crimes. NCAI has already begun focusing on coordinating the implementation of VAWA. Today is a great day, because it marks the beginning of justice and the end to injustice that has gone unanswered for too long.”
In addition to programmatic support for Native survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, the law includes constitutionally sound tribal jurisdiction provisions authorizing tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian defendants involved in intimate relationships with Native women and who assault these victims on tribal land. Prior to the enactment of this law, federal laws did not authorize tribal law enforcement or tribal courts to pursue any form of prosecution or justice against these perpetrators.
The legislation was passed in late February by the 113th Congress. Bipartisan support of the Senate version of the legislation, S.47, and the tribal provisions, led to both chambers casting resounding votes of 286 – 138 in the House and 78-22 in the Senate. NCAI released statements of support upon the final House passage of the bill.