Tribe Strongly Opposes Exclusion from
April 23, 2012
The United States Congress will be voting on a law that is intended to protect women, particularly Native American women from domestic violence. However, Central Council says S.1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, excludes Alaska Native women from this protection. The State of Alaska and Representatives and Senator in the Alaska Legislature are being asked to support Central Council and urge Congress to include Alaska Native women in this Act.
Members of the Tribal Assembly and other supporters stand united against domestic violence, while Pamela Dalton Stearns shares her story.
As presently written, VAWA allows Alaska Native tribal courts to issue civil domestic violence protection orders to provide culturally appropriate intervention in family crises. It also allows significant cooperation between tribes and the State of Alaska, State Troopers and the Judicial System. Central Council says the current versions of the re-authorization of VAWA (H.R.4154, H.R.4271, and S.1925) discriminates by singling out all Alaska Native tribes with the exception of the Metlakatla Indian Community located near Ketchikan, and removes the pre-existing authority of Alaska Native tribes to issue civil protective orders.
Bob Loescher, Tribal Judiciary Committee member stated, “We believe the way Congress is addressing the law is a challenge to the sovereignty to our Tribe and all tribes in Alaska. There’s no need to do that. We have the inherent right under the U.S. Constitution to protect our children and families, and our women, and that right should be upheld by the Congress. We believe that Congress should eliminate this amendment to the Violence of Women Act on behalf of all tribes and all women in Alaska.”
The State of Alaska contains nearly half the federally recognized tribes in the United States. This legislation, Central Council says if enacted, would prevent Alaska tribal courts from protecting its people from the plague of domestic violence and takes the unprecedented step of extinguishing the well-recognized and inherent authority to adjudicate domestic violence issues. Although Alaska Natives comprise only 15.2% of the state’s population, they comprise 47% of the victims of domestic violence, and 61% of the victims of sexual assault.
“I am shocked and outraged that a bill intended to protect Native American women does not protect Alaska Native women. I had to flee Alaska and I know many other women who did the same,” said Seattle Delegate and Civil Rights Liaison Pamela Dalton Stearns.
Strong support came from male delegates who came forward and swore under oath to the Chief Justice to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
Stearns stated in her testimony, " The message I have for Alaska and for Congress is that we cannot let domestic violence take away our culture. We need our traditions and the wisdom of our ancestors to survive." To do that, Stearms said the Violence Against Women Act being voted on by Congress must be reauthorized and it must protect Alaska Native women.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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