During the annual State of Indian Nations address today, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Jefferson Keel called on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with tribal provisions - which have been one of the primary sticking points for House Republicans.
Citing safety concerns of tribal citizens, NCAI President Jefferson Keel said one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime; four in ten will be abused by their partner; and that Native women are murdered at rates nearly 10 times the national average.
Currently tribes can pursue justice against Native men who commit crimes on tribal lands, but cannot prosecute non-Natives on those same tribal lands.
President Keel says the solution is to allow tribes to protect their communities like any other government, regardless of the perpetrators race.
“So if we believe that a Native woman’s life is worth the same as every other woman’s, if we believe that justice should not stop at the border of a reservation, if we believe that tribes are truly sovereign, then it’s time for the House of Representatives to step up, put partisan politics aside, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with expanded protections for all victims of violence,” said Keel.
Republican opponents of VAWA in the House say expanded protections for Native women would empower tribal courts that are often underfunded and ill-equipped to prosecute non-native defendants, and that those same courts could deprive suspects of their constitutional rights. Proponents say the removal of these amendments give more rights to perpetrators than the Native women they abuse.
On Tuesday the Senate passed the reauthorization of VAWA with tribal provisions in tact on a 78 to 22 vote. It now heads to the House.