Native Americans are getting a jump-start on lobbying the new 113th Congress for passage of tribal provisions passed last year by the Senate but stalled in the House involving the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Already, Deborah Parker, vice-chair of the Tulalip Tribes, and others have visited several members of Congress, asking that they immediately pass bills including tribal jurisdictional provisions over non-Indians who commit crimes on tribal lands.
The early efforts have paid off to date, with both chambers introducing legislation that would continue the momentum of last year’s unsuccessful Senate bill.
The new Senate legislation, S.47, was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Mike Crapo, D-Idaho, and has several co-sponsors, including a few Republicans.
"This reauthorization will allow us to make real progress in addressing the horrifying epidemic of domestic violence in tribal communities, where one recent study found that almost three in five Native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners," Leahy said in introducing the bill.
Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., and John Conyers, also recently introduced companion legislation, H.R.11. Its path is the more unsure of the two pieces of legislation, given Republican hold-ups on the tribal provisions in the last session.
Some Republican supporters in the 112th tried to get their leadership to pro-actively move on the tribal provisions in December, but a final compromise that tribal leaders could support was never achieved even with intervention from Vice President Joe Biden.
Given the steep hill to climb, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is starting quick on organizing Indians and advocates to call Congress to urge support of these bills.
“NCAI is encouraged by this bi-partisan step to act on VAWA in the 113th Congress, and it is clear there is support across the board for a VAWA that includes the tribal provisions,” NCAI President Jefferson Keel said in a statement. “These narrow provisions are vital to the safety of our Native women and to the Native and non-Native communities where violent offenders are left unchecked if they commit specific crimes of domestic or sexual violence on tribal land. This is a clear sign that members of both sides of the aisle support this legislation and we are urging both the House and Senate to work together.”
“In partnership with the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, NCAI commits to the common goal to get 60 co-sponsors by January 31 so that VAWA can get to the Senate floor for a bipartisan victory,” according to an action alert issued by the organization.