Published June 18, 2016
ALBUQUERQUE – Looking at ways to aid tribes and pueblos with education, training and information about the complex tribal, federal and state response and laws involving domestic violence and sexual assault on tribal lands, the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) will host the3rd Annual Tribal Leaders Summit June 21-22 at the Sandia Resort & Casino.
A National Institute of Justice research report on violence against Native women released last month showed that four out of five Native women are affected by violence, with 56 percent of Native women experiencing sexual violence and 55 percent of Native women experiencing domestic violence.
CSVANW Executive Director Deleana OtherBull said the Coalition hosts the summit to provide a forum for education, training and brave conversations with tribal leaders, domestic violence and sexual assault victims, advocates, tribal law enforcement, judges and other professionals in the field.
“It empowers those doing the work to learn about promising practices working in the tribal domestic and sexual violence field, and it engages tribal leaders as they further gain understanding of the challenges and complexities in the profession and the changes being made, and proposed, in regards to response and legislation,” OtherBull said.
This week, a case re-affirming the authority of tribal courts and tribal jurisdiction transpired when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal prosecutors could use tribal court domestic violence convictions to request tougher prison sentences for those repeatedly convicted of domestic violence in tribal courts. Federal courts are able to use two domestic violence tribal court convictions to invoke a habitual offender felony charge on the third incidence of domestic violence, which can come with athree-year prison sentence.
Tribes may also gain further extended jurisdiction with a proposed bill, S. 2785, the Tribal Youth and Community Protection Act introduced in May by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Al Franken (D-MN), that would expand tribal jurisdiction to cover drug-related crimes, violence against children and crimes against tribal law enforcement.
Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013 to cover gaps in the law protecting Native American women and other victims. Under VAWA, tribes could use their sovereign power to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence both Indians and non-Indians who assault Native women or dating partners, or violate a protection order in Indian Country if certain provisions were met, including having law-trained judges and instituting a jury pool in during trials.
Fives tribes in the nation have implemented VAWA under a pilot project. Among the tribes that have adopted the enhanced sentencing authority, the implementation has varied, considering prosecution and incarceration costs, tribal traditions and cultural punishment. In New Mexico,the Pueblo of Santa Clara has worked for the past three years to implement VAWA and plans to apply for a newly created federal grant to convict non-Indian offenders under the act.
Santa Clara Pueblo Chief Judge Frank Demolli said applying VAWA not only fixes jurisdictional gaps but also protects the community.
“It also allows the Pueblo to determine what is appropriate when people come inside their boundaries,” Demolli said. “With some acts of domestic violence, there is a feeling from non-Natives that I’m free to do what I want in Indian Country. The message has to be the Pueblo will protect the women.”
Violence, including intentional injuries, homicides, and suicide, account for more than 75 percent of all deaths among Native American youth, according to the Center on Native American Youth. Native women are 2.5 times more likely to experience rape or sexual violence than other women in the nation, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
During the summit, a panel of tribal court chief judges and chief justices will discuss ways that tribal courts are working to improve the safety of Native women and children in their communities and how VAWA and the Tribal Law and Order Act can assist tribal leaders in policy decision-making. Other panels include a tribal domestic and sexual violence survivor panel, a Native youth panel and a tribal president and governor panel.
For more information about the 3rd Annual Tribal Leaders Summit, Implementation, Impact and Empowerment, at the Sandia Resort & Casino, go to www.csvanw.org.