Highlights of the 2019 Consultations

By Elizabeth Carr Senior Native Affairs Advisor, NIWRC

Office of Violence Against Women Consultation August 21,22, 2019
New Buffalo, Michigan

The 2019 annual consultation held in New Buffalo, Michigan marked 13 years of annual consultations between Indian tribes and federal departments on violence against Native women. These consultations have driven federal legislative and policy reform for more than a decade and resulted in major changes to increase the safety of Indian women. This nation- to-nation engagement provides an avenue for Indian tribes and the United States to discuss matters that at a foundational level prevent tribal governments from providing safety for women.

At the 2019 consultation in New Buffalo, Indian tribes presented the legal, policy, and administrative issues preventing their tribal governments from safeguarding the lives of Indian women. Many of the barriers identified by tribal leaders were legal ones—existing laws passed by Congress, U.S. Supreme Court rulings from decades ago, or administrative policies of federal departments. Tribal leaders highlighted priority concerns including:

  • Amendments to 25 USC 1304 that will address jurisdictional gaps and help ensure that the tribal domestic violence criminal jurisdiction provision included in VAWA 2013 can achieve its purpose;
  • improving the justice response to cases of missing and murdered women in tribal communities;
  • improving the OVW consultation process, reporting, and response; and
  • legal barriers, in conflict with the purposes of the VAWA, preventing certain Indian tribes from protecting Native women such as in the states of Maine and Alaska.

Office of Victims of Crime Consultation August 20, 2019
New Buffalo, Michigan

In addition to OVW conducting consultation as mandated by VAWA 2005, the Office of Victims of Crime held their own one-day consultation.

After years of advocacy, Congress in 2018 included Tribes in the disbursements of the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) for the very first time. In Fiscal Year 2018, the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill directed 3% of overall CVF disbursements to Indian tribes to address the needs of crime victims in Indian Country. This amounted to $133.1 million. In Fiscal Year 2019, the tribal set-aside was increased to 5%, totaling $167 million. (The SURVIVE Act (S. 211) is pending authorizing legislation that would similarly direct 5% of CVF disbursements to tribes for a 10-year period).

While the establishment of a tribal set-aside in the CVF represents a long-overdue recognition of the needs in this area, Tribal leaders throughout the one-day consultation expressed significant concern regarding OVC’s capacity and commitment to ensuring that the funds reach the tribal communities where they are needed.

In 2018, DOJ chose to administer the program as a competitive grant despite the fact that tribes had urged DOJ to adopt a formula to distribute the funds among all eligible tribes. Numerous tribes, reported during the consultation that their requests for 2018 funding were denied or drastically reduced, resulting in nearly 20% of the funding being returned to the CVF and not to Indian Tribes. In 2019, DOJ chose to alter the application process and included the tribal set-aside program as Purpose Area 7 of its CTAS application despite Tribal objection resulting in a drastically low number of applications. A second stand-alone solicitation was eventually released. Tribal leaders voiced their concerns with much needed funding for Indian Country again being returned to CVF as a result of DOJ’s choice to administer grants in a confusing, ineffective manner.

Throughout the consultation with OVC, Tribal leaders reiterated to DOJ that moving forward they do not want the tribal set-aside funding administered as a competitive grant and that they want flexibility in how they use the funds.

Top 3 recommendations for OVC:

  1. Create a tribal workgroup to develop mutually agreed upon formula for OVC funding.
  2. Establish a Tribal Unit within OVC.
  3. For formula funding, OVC should use Tribal population data, not census data.