Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence and the Tribal Coalitions

By Germaine Omish-Lucero, Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, Special Projects Director, Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence

Point 3: Ensure Adequate Resources for Advocacy and Services for Indigenous Women

The Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA) created and the VAWA 2013 amended the Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions (Tribal Coalitions) Grant Program administered by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The Tribal Coalitions Program builds the capacity of survivors, advocates, Indian women’s organizations, and victim service providers to form nonprofit, nongovernmental Tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions. Coalitions advocate for the social changes needed at the Tribal, state, regional, and national levels to end violence against American Indian/Alaska Native women. A few Tribal Coalitions were established before 2000, and have been working at the grassroots level for over 30 years. As of 2022, there are now 20 Tribal Coalitions across Indian Country.

The statutory purposes of the Tribal Coalitions program are:

  • increase awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault against Indian women;
  • enhance the response to violence against Indian women at the Tribal, federal, and state levels;
  • identify and provide technical assistance to coalition membership and Tribal communities to enhance access to essential services for Indian women victimized by domestic and sexual violence, including sex trafficking; and
  • assist Indian tribes in developing and promoting state, local, and Tribal legislation and policies that enhance best practices for responding to violent crimes against Indian women, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.

The mission of the Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence (ATCEV) is to work to advance Tribal sovereignty and safety of American Indian/Alaska Native women by providing support to Tribal coalitions and Tribal communities in their efforts to address equal access to justice for survivors of violence.

ATCEV was born in November 2013 as a non-profit corporation in the state of Washington and received its 501c3 status in February 2014. All the Tribal Coalitions are members of ATCEV, including members serving on the Board of Directors. ATCEV was born out of discussions among Tribal Coalition Executive Directors to deliver a collective, unified voice of the Tribal Coalitions into national discussions. Over the years, it has become a peer-to-peer networking group by providing a format for sharing information and strategies for addressing issues specific to Tribal Coalitions and the programs/Tribes they serve. ATCEV assists with sharing and responding to funding opportunities as well as training and technical assistance to help build the capacity and sustainability of the Tribal Coalitions.

As a collective voice, Tribal Coalitions have established local, state, national, and international agendas of service, policy, and strategies to eliminate violence against Native women. Their work on policies, including with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) VAWA Task Force, and the United Nations, have become models of collective influence for others. Tribal coalitions’ advocacy helped to create the NCAI VAWA Task Force in 2003 in partnership with Tribal leadership, NCAI, and other Tribal organizations. The work of the Tribal Coalitions with the Task Force is reflected in NCAI Resolutions that have been the seeds for strengthening federal legislation such as VAWA 2013. The Task Force celebrates 20 years in 2023 of united grassroots organizing with Indian tribes, Tribal coalitions, and other Tribal organizations, including ATCEV, to restore sovereignty and increase the safety of Native women.

Since ATCEV’s birth, it has grown in promoting the work of the Tribal Coalitions. ATCEV sits on several national working groups that are comprised of both Native and non-Native organizations working on policy issues that affect victims of violence, including the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s MMIW National Partners Workgroup that in 2021 released our 6-Point Action Plan titled Advocacy in Action: Restoring Safety of Indigenous Women. ATCEV has received grants and Foundation awards that work with several national organizations on technical assistance to Tribal Coalitions, state coalitions, and Tribes, as well as internationally.

ATCEV recently created the Indigenous Ancestral Healing Collective, which consists of two Tribal coalition directors, two ATCEV staff (from Turtle Island/USA), along with a cadre of Indigenous people, including the Kānaka Maoli (Hawai’i), the Māori (Aotearoa or New Zealand) and the Aboriginal (Australia). The collective represents subject matter experts, professionals, academia, a radio broadcaster, artists, and social workers, committed to the overarching goal to better understand where we are similar, where we differ, and how the healing of our ancestral trauma can benefit everyone.

The Collective convened monthly web-based meetings spanning 11 time zones, sharing stories of celebration, hardship, trauma, and healing. The Collective shared how violence impacted their lives, families, communities, and countries. Most importantly, we shared the importance of healing modalities. These conversations are vital for Indigenous peoples’ continued journey toward healing and being whole again.

The Collective created a healing journey booklet- Indigenous Anthology, that is free for all. The healing booklet was designed as a tool for our member programs, Tribal communities, and Tribal Coalitions to disseminate throughout these communities to help in the healing process.

The Murdered/Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) has recently been a topic that has garnered national attention. ATCEV and the Tribal Coalitions have been working at the national level and in our Tribal communities to bring awareness of the MMIW for many years. We have helped spur this attention, including in partnership with other Indigenous organizations since 2021 for the National Week of MMIW Action. Tribal Coalitions have been organizing Tribal summits, community events, rallies, marches, 5k runs, and various functions to promote cooperation with law enforcement for quick action when one of our loved ones goes missing.

Tribes have spoken out about MMIW at tribal government-to-government consultations. Many of our Tribal Coalition Executive Directors, staff, and Tribal program directors have been designated to speak at consultation on the issue of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking, and MMIW. They are subject matter experts and, through their testimony, have shifted the focus from discussion to action.

Through the grassroots efforts, Tribal coalitions and the Tribal communities they work with have received the attention from the Senate and White House to make proclamations on recognizing May as the month to bring awareness to MMIW and the 5th of May as the national day of awareness and action. While these are steps in the right direction, many obstacles still exist. The Tribal Coalitions and ATCEV continue to work the grassroots efforts to make necessary changes, especially to ensure adequate resources for advocacy and services for Indigenous women.