Press release, National Congress of American Indians
Washington, DC – Today marks the one year anniversary of a great victory for tribal nations and Native women. On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). At the signing ceremony, the President underscored the “inherent right [of tribal governments] to protect their people.”
For the first time since the 1978 Oliphant decision, VAWA 2013 restored tribal authority to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence non-Indians who assault their Indian spouses or partners in Indian country. The law created a pilot project that enabled three tribes to begin exercising this authority last month.
Reflecting on the progress over the past year, NCAI President Brian Cladoosby remarked, “Today is a day to celebrate what we have achieved together and commit ourselves to ensure the ongoing success of this important law. It acknowledges that tribal nations are the best equipped to ensure public safety in our communities and provides the tools we need to protect Native women.”
“VAWA 2013 is a tremendous victory. I am grateful to those who have stepped up to take the lead in the implementation phase,” stated Terri Henry, Chairperson, Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Co-Chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women. “I want to congratulate the three tribes participating in the Pilot Project and remind everyone, we still have work to do.”
Juana Majel Dixon, Councilwoman, Pauma Band of Indians and Co-Chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women added, “To all our Native sisters throughout Indian Country, we have given a decade of our lives’ work—and this could not have been done without all of you. We hold a sacred trust as sovereign Native women to our people.”
NCAI Executive Director, Jackie Pata added, “VAWA 2013 does not mark the end of our efforts to combat domestic violence in Indian Country, it is an important step along the way. Tribal nations remain steadfast In the important work of protecting our Native women and securing our communities.”