Each year the tribal nations of the United States meet with their counterparts from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Interior, to discuss federal administration of tribal funds and programs established under the Violence Against Women Act. This year the Pokagon Band was chosen to host the consultations, one of the few times the event was held in the Midwest.
The 14th annual government-to-government consultation, held August 21-22 at Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds New Buffalo, gave tribal leaders a chance to make recommendations on enhancing safety and strengthening federal law enforcement efforts to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and sex trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native women, and administering funds and programs for tribal governments established by VAWA. Indian women and girls are subject to violence at a greater rate than women of other ethnicities, and tribal leaders spoke strongly about the need for the federal government to meet its treaty responsibilities, strengthen protections, and deliver justice to victims. It is especially difficult to prosecute non-native offenders.
“We do not have parity when it comes to justice. We have to rely on others for that,” said one tribal leader during his testimony. “When I’m not able to do that regarding non-natives, it’s frustrating. There is much work left to do.”
Tribal representatives spoke about how, despite VAWA’s trust responsibilities to assist tribes, there is a lack of funding and a need for increased access for criminal law enforcement databases.
“We struggle every year at every meeting with what seems like common sense, yet we go through this same process every time,” testified another native leader. “We ask that DOJ support expanding our jurisdiction and urge the Senate to support it. We’re asking you to be that federal trustee and help us protect our people.”
Tribal Council member Andy Jackson testified on behalf of the Pokagon Band, advocating for VAWA reauthorization, especially on behalf of smaller tribes with limited budgets who could not be present at the consultation.
“We need you to have open ears. Indian women are preyed upon at a higher rate than other populations,” she said. “We are limited in our ability to address this and this has to stop. It is time for our people to stop being preyed upon.”