I'm probably just another imperial colonialist. But...
One of my legally-minded commenters worries that reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, as passed by the U.S. Senate and now headed to the House for consideration tomorrow, would undermine our ability to prosecute non-Indians committing sexual crimes against Indian women. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson does not share that concern:
"I think a big part of the argument on behalf of tribal jurisdiction is that local control over criminal justice matters is always preferable," Johnson said. "When victims and witnesses have to travel a significant distance to appear in federal court, you are going to lose some cases" [Kevin Woster, "Brendan Johnson Looks at Tribal Courts, Reauthorizing Violence Against Women Act," Mount Blogmore, 2013.02.26].
Author Louise Erdrich explains further why Kristi Noem needs to get off her high-horse and vote for the Senate VAWA:
The Justice Department reports that one in three Native women is raped over her lifetime, while other sources report that many Native women are too demoralized to report rape. Perhaps this is because federal prosecutors decline to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse cases, according to the Government Accountability Office. Further tearing at the social fabric of communities, a Native woman battered by her non-Native husband has no recourse for justice in tribal courts, even if both live on reservation ground. More than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indian men, who are immune from prosecution by tribal courts.
The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center says this gap in the law has attracted non-Indian habitual sexual predators to tribal areas. Alexandra Pierce, author of a 2009 report on sexual violence against Indian women in Minnesota, has found that there rapes on upstate reservations increase during hunting season. A non-Indian can drive up from the cities and be home in five hours. The tribal police can’t arrest him [Louise Erdrich, "Rape on the Reservation," New York Times, 2013.02.26].
Erdrich notes that voting for VAWA would help Rep. Noem and her fellow Republicans win back some of their dwindling credibility. But that's window dressing to the real reason to support VAWA: doing right by the Indian women suffering at the hands of white predators.