NCAI encourages Tribal Leaders to urge their Lawmakers to support ‘Native Women Rights Bill’
Weekly Edition | April 3 | By: NPstaff
Washington, DC - Tribal leaders throughout Arizona and New Mexico praised the bill, in which they call it a step forward to protect Native women, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Re authorization of 2012.
The bill now goes to the House, where a Republican version of the bill, HR 4970, mirroring the Hutchinson amendment, is expected to be taken up when the House returns from recess May 7, and a vote in the House by mid-May. The Senate approved the bill 68-31 after approving a substitute amendment offered by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The nationwide “Women Unite” rallies were planned long before Thursday’s Senate vote on VAWA last week, but the atmosphere has only heated up since. The Navajo President Ben Shelly said “VAWA is an important law, providing both protections to Navajo women and children, and recognition of the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation,”
Title IX will address the epidemic of violence perpetrated against American Indian and Alaska Native women by restoring concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over all persons who commit misdemeanor domestic and dating violence in Indian country and clarifying tribal court authority to issue and enforce civil protection orders.
Additionally, it strengthens federal authority to address violent felonies on Indian reservations, said the proponents of the bill.
Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians, applauded the Senate. “It was encouraging to see our leaders in the Senate put aside partisan politics and pass a bill that protects and serves all victims of domestic and sexual violence across the country—including our Native sisters, mothers, and daughters. Today’s vote on the VAWA reauthorization represents a historic vote for Native people and tribal sovereignty. Now, we must turn our full attention to the House and count on the same good will and bipartisanship to turn this bill into law and make these protections a reality.”
Several Senators took the floor yesterday and today to champion the tribal provisions in S.1925, including Senators Boxer, Klobuchar, Murray, Cantwell, and Murkowski. Senator Akaka, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and sponsor of the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act, had this to say about the bill’s key tribal provisions: “This bill’s tribal provisions address the epidemic rates of violence against Native women — by enabling VAWA programs to more directly and promptly respond to their concerns and needs. These tribal provisions are critical to the lives of Native women and doubly important to me as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs — and a Native Hawaiian.”
After sharing a powerful story from a Native victim of domestic violence, Senator Udall said “This is just one of the daily, even hourly, stories of abuse. Stories that should outrage us all and that could end through local intervention. Local authorities that will only be made possible through an act of Congress We have the opportunity to support such an act in the tribal provisions of VAWA. I encourage my colleagues to fully support the tribal provisions in this important bill.”
Senator Murkowski spoke strongly in favor of the legislation and addressed concerns regarding violence against Native women in Alaska. She described included amendments that “ensure that Alaska Tribes lose none of the jurisdiction and authority that they have to issue and enforce their domestic violence protection orders.”
NCAI encourages tribal leaders and all others to urge their House Members to support full inclusion of Title IX of S. 1925 in any House bill.