NCAI and Senator Akaka Team Up to Protect Native Women

Published on Nov 01, 2011

The Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women (SAVE Native Women) Act would empower tribes to prosecute violent crimes and better serve victims

Portland, Oregon – The nation’s leading American Indian and Alaska Native advocacy organization, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), announced today its full support for the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women (SAVE Native Women) Act. The SAVE Native Women Act was introduced on Monday October 31, 2011 on the Senate floor by Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. 

“We stand with Senator Akaka in full support of this legislation, there is no time to delay in taking immediate action to stem the tide of violence against our Native women,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel from NCAI’s 68th Annual Convention being held this week in Portland, Oregon. “The epidemic rates of violence and sexual assault against Native women are tied directly to the limitations that the United States has placed on tribal authority to prosecute non-Native offenders. When perpetrators go unprosecuted, they are free to reoffend with impunity. This legislation aims to address these problems and enhance the safety of our women.”

The bill would strengthen the tribal title of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in a number of ways. If enacted, the bill would restore tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes of dating violence and domestic violence on tribal lands, as well as those who violate protection orders.  It would clarify tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders, strengthen tribal coalition programs, and improve the response to sex trafficking of Native women.
According to a study by the Department of Justice, two-in-five women in Native communities will suffer domestic violence, and one-in-three will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  To make matters worse, four out of five perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian and, under current law, cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments.  This has contributed to a growing sense of lawlessness on Indian reservations and a perpetuation of victimization of Native women.

“We cannot let the next generation of young Native women grow up as their mothers have—in unbearable situations that threaten their security, stability, and even their lives,” said Senator Akaka.  “Violence against Native women affects each and every one of us.  We need to work on finding ways to keep women safe, empower them, and help them heal.”

“This is an epidemic.  It is unacceptable.  And, we must stand against it,” said Senator Akaka. “I am committed to working with NCAI to protect at-risk Native women, to pass this much needed legislation.”

Many of the proposals in the SAVE Native Women Act were drafted in close collaboration with the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women.  “These proposals didn’t just appear overnight—they are the product of more than two years of meetings, strategy sessions, and drafting calls with our task force members and national advocates,” stated Juana Majel-Dixon, Co-chair of the NCAI Task Force.  “They have been carefully crafted and thoroughly vetted,” she added. 

The NCAI Task Force will continue to work closely with Senate staff to ensure passage of this new bill. "Senator Akaka's SAVE Native Women Act has the potential to restore safety and justice for American Indian and Alaska Native women.  It offers American Indian tribes the opportunity to increase life-saving protections for women living within tribal jurisdiction,” said Terri Henry, Majel-Dixon’s fellow Co-chair on the Task Force. 

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