by Jennifer Bendery
WASHINGTON -- Two years after Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, Native American tribes can finally take advantage of one of the law's most significant updates: a provision that allows tribal courts to investigate and prosecute non-Native men who abuse Native women on reservations.
Starting Saturday, tribes can claim jurisdiction over non-Native men who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence or who violate a protection order against a victim who lives on tribal land. Until now, that jurisdiction has fallen to federal or state law enforcement, who are often hours away from reservations and lack the resources to respond. The result has effectively allowed non-Native abusers immunity from punishment.
For the first time, tribal law enforcement will now have the ability to intervene.
"I want to encourage all tribal governments to get this law on their books," said Juana Majel of the National Congress of American Indians. "On most reservations, there are a handful of bad actors who have figured out how to slip between jurisdictional boundaries. They need to get the message. If they continue to assault our women, we will prosecute and put them in jail."