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So I've written a few diaries pushing for people to put the pressure on congress to pass the updated Violence Against Women Act which now covers LGBT and Native American couples.  Diane Millich, a 26 year old Native American woman from Colorado, talked about how she was abused by a white male in 1998 and her story eposed the loophole that excludes Native American women from being protected under the VAWA:


Because her husband was white, the Southern Ute Tribal Police could not touch him, and because she was a Native American on tribal land, La Plata County sheriff’s deputies were powerless as well. She said she tried going to federal law enforcement, which did have jurisdiction, but that went nowhere.

After one of his beatings, she said, he even called the county sheriff himself to prove to her that he could not be stopped. Only after he stormed her office at the federal Bureau of Land Management and opened fire, wounding a co-worker, was he arrested. And even then, law enforcement had to use a tape measure to sort out jurisdiction, gauging the distance between the barrel of the gun and the point of bullet impact to persuade the local police to intervene.- New York Time, 2/10/13

Of course the GOP controlled House has been stalling on the bill but Senator Tom Udall (D. NM) pushes on for the case to reauthorize the act and protect Native American women:


But in the House, Republican negotiators are still struggling over a 10-page section that would, for the first time, allow Native American police and courts to pursue non-Indians who attack women on tribal land. Supporters and opponents of the language acknowledge the plight of women like Ms. Millich. Native American women are two and a half times more likely to be raped. One in three will be assaulted, and three out of five will encounter domestic violence, said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico.

“It was just crazy, now when I think back on how insane it was,” Ms. Millich said in an interview.

If a Native American is raped or assaulted by a non-Indian, she must plead for justice to already overburdened United States attorneys who are often hundreds of miles away.

“Native women should not be abandoned to a jurisdictional loophole,” Mr. Udall said. - New York Times, 2/11/13

Udall has long argued for the reauthorization of the VAWA to include protection of Native American women:


“Since its passage in 1994, domestic violence has decreased by over 50 percent,” he said on the Senate floor. “And the victims of these crimes have been more willing to come forward. Knowing they are not alone. Knowing they will get the support they need. Knowing that crimes against women will not be tolerated.”

“Unfortunately, not all women have received the full benefits of the Violence Against Women Act,” Udall added.

Native American women are more than twice as likely than other women in the United States to be raped, and three out of five Native American women will experience domestic violence, he explained.

To make matters worse, many of those crimes “go unprosecuted and unpunished” because tribes cannot prosecute non-Native Americans for domestic violence crimes committed on tribal land. Only federal prosecutors have the authority to prosecute non-Native Americans for domestic violence crimes against their Native American spouses or partners. More than half of Native women are married to non-Native husbands. - Raw Story, 4/25/12

Udall is absolutely right.  This loophole allows Native American women to become victims of physical and sexual abuse and allows the abusers to walk away free:


“They don’t report because they don’t believe that anything will happen, that it doesn’t matter to anyone particularly in the justice system that they’ve been violated,” said Dorma Sahneyah, a program specialist at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center who works with tribes around the Southwest. “It’s very different to get them to believe again that it’s going to be worth the effort.” She has heard often of non-Native men taking advantage of the impunity they’ve been indirectly allowed: “If you’re doing something and you know you won’t be held accountable, you’re going to keep doing it.”
“We know these rape cases are hard to prosecute anyway, much less getting defendants to the federal courts, which are often hundreds of miles away from tribal areas,” says Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state and herself a survivor of and witness to sexual abuse. “Those living on the reservation and have domestic partners know that there’s a jurisdictional issue. They know that the law essentially doesn’t apply to them. They walk away without any repercussions.” - Salon, 12/13/12
Now get a load of this crazy bull shit coming out of Senator Chuck Grassley's (R. IA) mouth about his hesitation to reauthorize the VAWA:
**FILE** In this May 22, 2008 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, listens to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., ranking Republican on the committee, not shown, speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, accusing Democrats of partisan delays in dealing with judicial nominees. Kenneth Copeland is one target of a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability at six large televangelist organizations that preach health-and-wealth theology. Copeland has fought back the hardest, refusing to answer most questions from the inquiry's architect, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)
Though Indian-specific provisions have been in every version of VAWA, which historically has passed on a bipartisan basis, the issue of Indian jurisdiction over non-Indians has been of particular concern to Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, who in February said on the Senate floor that it was among the “provisions that I cannot support.” He added, “Why would Congress, should it decide for the first time to make such a change, do so on a bill to reauthorize VAWA? Why should domestic violence cases be the first criminal cases to be treated in this way?” - 12/13/12
President Obama has long called for renewing the VAWA with the provisions to protect Native American women.  He even selected Senator Tim Johnson's (D. SD) son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to help the Department of Justice figure out ways to surpass this loophole and help develop the new provisions to the VAWA:
The Justice Department responded with a series of recommendations, and according to South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who chairs the department’s Native American Issues subcommittee, increased funding to ramp up prosecutions. That’s helped strengthen prosecutions within the tribal authorities, Johnson told Salon: “When I started three years ago, Rosebud Indian Reservation had one licensed attorney prosecuting about 5,000 cases a year. You can’t do justice with one attorney doing 5,000 cases a year. In the last three years, because of Justice Department and Interior Department funding, they now have five licensed attorneys.” He said a women’s advocate on the reservation had told him that women have begun reporting cases more frequently “because they believe there will be some accountability in tribal court.”

The DOJ also recommended expanding tribal authority over cases that include non-Indian perpetrators, which was adopted in the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. “If we prosecute a domestic violence case in federal court,” said Johnson, “they have to travel hours to a court they’re not familiar with, with people they’re not familiar with, take time away from work. There are all sorts of challenges that go into that.” - Salon, 12/13/12  

There's absolutely no excuse for Republicans to be stalling this bill.  Not only is it morally comprehensible but it's also political suicide for their members who hail from states with large numbers of Native American constituents.  If Republicans were smart, they would get reauthorize the act with the provisions to protect Native American women.  They clearly didn't learn their lesson from 2012 when they blocked the reauthorization of the VAWA with the same Native American provisions and they ended up paying for it at the polls.  Lets not forget that high Native American turn out helped secure Democratic victories in states like Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota:


American Indian voters scored some big victories for politicians on election night in America. In the days leading up to the November 6 election, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he was relying on the Native American vote to help him defeat challenger GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg. Just as in 2006, Tester pulled out a close victory, where the margin of votes from reservations in his state likely put him over the edge, according to Native political observers. American Indian organizers, including Tom Rodgers, a Blackfeet citizen and tribal lobbyist with Carlyle Consulting, worked hard to secure Indian votes, canvassing the state and expressing support for Tester’s efforts on behalf of Indians. Several tribal citizens also filed suit in Montana to have satellite-voting offices opened on reservations—a battle that goes on now that the election has concluded. “Every vote mattered,” Tester spokeswoman Andrea Telling said when asked whether the Native vote put him over the top.

One state away, Natives are taking credit for the slim margin of victory for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who defeated Republican Rick Berg in a very close North Dakota Senate race. Her win was a surprise to many national political pundits reflecting on the race. Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer who previously was a House staffer, said he campaigned with Heitkamp 12 years ago when she ran unsuccessfully for governor of the state, and he came to the conclusion then that she’s an “awesome lady.” Stearns believes Native efforts and votes for Heitkamp tipped the scales in her favor. - Indian Country Today Media Network, 11/7/12

Not to mention one of the GOP's top candidates for 2014, former Governor Mike Rounds (R. SD) has a sour history with looking out for Native American tribes in his home state:
For me, his delay in seeking a disaster declaration for aiding the SD reservations devasted by ice-storms and blizzards in Dec. 2009 and Jan. 2010, were especially hard to accept.  After filing the request in March 2010, the Presidential declaration followed and aid was given.  But the delay was tragic. - meralda's diary, 2014 Senate race - SD, 11/29/12
Here's the story meralda is referring to:
Unfortunately, there was a delayed response in the Governors office submitting the disaster declaration, for the Christmas blizzard that immobilized the entire state of South Dakota for several days. FEMA was in the field across South Dakota assessing damages, when the January ice storm and blizzard hit causing a crisis in many areas and devastating Cheyenne River Reservation. - NDN News, 3/10/10
Why would Rounds delay federal disaster relief for South Dakota's Native Americans?

That's what this is about:  The state of South Dakota, under the auspices of the Rounds administration, does not want to spend any extra state money to get federal disaster assistance for the reservations.  

And now that private aid is pouring in, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kossacks over the last two weeks, the governor's office has the perfect excuse not to move forward with the federal disaster process.  Inadvertently, we may just have given him exactly what he wanted:  Time to wait out the weather and public sentiment.  (Not that we had a choice in the matter; lives were at risk.  But the fact that some folks are now in a better position thanks to private efforts should in no way excuse the state of South Dakota from its obligations to its citizens.) - Aji's diary, Why is S.D. Gov. Mike Rounds Denying Federal Aid to Indian Reservations in Crisis?, 2/16/10

It's unclear if Senator Johnson will retire or not but Native Americans have the most to lose if Rounds wins.  Rounds should be questioned if he would vote to reauthorize the VAWA with the newest provisions or if he would join his party in preventing the reauthorization.  Because if this Tea Party congress keeps it up with it's endless obstruction, it could cost them a shot at winning a Senate seat.

It's insane that protection for Native American women from abusers falls through the cracks thanks to this loophole and it's even crazier that Republicans are blocking the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  If you haven't contacted your representative yet, please do so here:


If you want to thank Senator Udall's work in pushing for the reauthorization of the VAWA and for looking out for Native American women, please do so:

*FILE* This undated file photo provided by the Udall campaign shows Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Udall and Rep. Steve Pearce, who are battling each other for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pete Domenici, each say they are the candidate more in touch with New Mexico voters. How well these U.S. Senate candidates' employees handle constituent services could pay off at the ballot box this November. &nbsp;(AP photo/Courtesy of the Udall campaign) **NO SALES**

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Originally posted to pdc on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:30 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, South Dakota Kos, New Mexico Kossaks, and Native American Netroots.

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