NIWRC Applauds Congress for Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

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(LAME DEER, Mont., March 11, 2022)Last night, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA) through the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (H.R. 2471), the omnibus government funding bill for fiscal year 2022. The bill, which would reauthorize VAWA through 2027, includes historic provisions that restore critical categories of Tribal criminal jurisdiction necessary to protect Native women and children, including sexual assault, stalking, sex trafficking, child violence, obstruction of justice, and assault of Tribal justice personnel. 

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) thanks Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) and their staff for their leadership and dedication to addressing the needs of victim-survivors throughout the country.

“The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is an important step forward in addressing jurisdictional gaps that leave Native women and children vulnerable,” said Lucy R. Simpson, Executive Director of the NIWRC and a citizen of the Navajo Nation. “By strengthening and restoring Tribal jurisdiction and providing necessary resources to Tribal governments through VAWA, Tribes will be better equipped to keep their communities safe and ensure justice for Native women.”

In addition to restoring Tribal jurisdiction over certain crimes, the bill would:

  • Codify the Tribal Access Program (TAP) to enhance Tribes’ ability to access and obtain information from national criminal information databases;
  • Establish a reimbursement program, through which the U.S. Attorney General may reimburse Tribal governments for expenses incurred in exercising special Tribal criminal jurisdiction (STCJ);
  • Permanently reestablish the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Tribal Prisoner Program to allow Indian Tribes to place offenders convicted in Tribal Courts of violent crimes in federal facilities if the sentence includes a term of imprisonment for one or more years; and
  • Increase resources to Tribal governments exercising STCJ.

The VAWA reauthorization bill also establishes an Alaska pilot project, which will enable a limited number of Alaska Native villages to exercise STCJ, and clarifies that Tribes in Maine are also eligible to exercise STCJ.

“We owe this victory to the groundswell of support from survivors, families, grassroots advocates, Tribal leaders, and allies who have spent years advocating for these historic Tribal provisions and who have urged their members of Congress to do the same,” said Cherrah Giles, NIWRC Board Chairwoman and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. “We look forward to continuing this work to increase safety for Native women and our communities.”