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17 Republicans Push to Pass Violence Against Women Act; Noem Ignores Indian Plight

Seventeen Republican members of the U.S. House sent Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor a letter yesterday urging them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, another piece of sensible, pro-woman legislation that the GOP obstructed last year. Republican leaders have blocked the VAWA because they don't like a provision that would allow tribal courts to prosecute white men who attack Indian women.... even though non-Indian men commit 86% of the rapes and sexual assaults of Indian women.

You'd figure that, with her commitment to Indian sovereignty, Congresswoman Kristi Noem would be all about empowering the tribes to prosecute the off-reservation SOBs who commit these crimes against Native women. But no. She did not sign the letter supporting immediate VAWA passage. She was too busy tweeting about her son's wonderful Valentine's Day box, flashing lights and all (ah, no wonder Rep. Noem was distracted).

Nice art, Booker. Too bad your mom's Valentine to Indian women is continued contempt for their suffering.


  1. Jana 2013.02.12

    John Thune voted against Native American women in the Senate. Why would Kristi go against him.

    For all of the talk from the GOP about representing women and minorities, you'd think someone would notice.

  2. WayneB 2013.02.12


    It might be helpful to state the jurisdiction to prosecute still only extends to the borders of the reservation - that is the tribes can only go after non-natives when they're on reservation land. I got the impression from your language they could go anywhere on sovereign US soil to prosecute an alleged rapist, which would be a major change in judicial policy.

    It makes sense to give power to detain & prosecute someone who remains within your borders and commits a crime. However, what affirmative rights to defense does a non-native have in a tribal court?

  3. Bill Dithmer 2013.02.12

    WAVA should have been reauthorized a long time ago. My guess is that there are still some that are thinking of legitimate rape, but then that doesn't explain our Ms. Noem.

    Cory you should know better then to print something that AI has stated as gospel. "even though non-Indian men commit 86% of the rapes and sexual assaults of Indian women."The only way that number could be correct is if they count the natives with less then 100% native blood as white.

    And yes we need reciprocating jurisdiction agreements between the tribes and the state. Remember a tribal member can still file charges against a white man on the reservation that leaves, it just has to be tried in the SD court. On the other hand if an Indian commits most crimes off of the reservation and can get back here before the law catches him it can take years to get permission to look for him depending on the law that was broken.

    There can never be true justice until EVERYONE is treated the same. That doesn't mean a nation within a nation with conflicting jurisdictions. There has to be a few trade offs for it to work. Either everyone should be treated the same or we need to build a fence around all of the reservations. I wouldn't mind that if I got to vote in the tribal elections. After all I was born and have lived here longer then 75% of the people living here today.

    Now that's the way to start the day.

    The Blindman

  4. Douglas Wiken 2013.02.12

    Hypocrisy is not solely owned and practiced by white "oppressors". Natives have stolen it and honed it to a very fine edge.

  5. Brother Beaker 2013.02.12


    In the interests of full disclosure, I do not have any idea what reasons KN has for standing against this bill. But she should oppose it as drafted. This bill would be devastating to the prosecution of sexual assault in those states (including South Dakota) where the state has no jurisdiction in "Indian Country." (Please don't take offense. The term is ensconced in federal law and has a very particular meaning that matters here.)

    To understand how this would affect prosecution, I offer a short and simplified view of the legal state of affairs.

    1. The jurisdiction of tribal courts over Indians (see above) comes from history. Any expansion of that jurisdiction would have to come from a grant by the federal government through Congress.

    2. At present, tribal courts have jurisdiction (even over Indian people), only to the extent of misdemeanor prosecution, meaning a maximum of one year incarceration, usually in a local jail.

    3. In states where the state has jurisdiction on reservation lands, this bill would allow the tribe to prosecute the offender for its (misdemeanor) charges. The state, however, would be allowed to prosecute as well. Principles of double jeopardy would not apply due to the fact that the offender is being punished by "separate sovereigns."

    4. In South Dakota (and Arizona, North Dakota), the state would not have jurisdiction over the offender, assuming, as posited, that the offender is non-Indian and the victim is Indian. Accordingly, felony charges can only be brought by the United States Attorney's Office, on behalf of the United States, under the "Major Crimes Act."

    5. At present, if an Indian is charged in tribal court, he may also be brought into federal court, since the doctrine of "separate sovereigns" still applies. Tribal jurisdiction is a historical fact unrelated to any grant of power by the federal government.

    6. Under the bill, since the tribal court's expanded jurisdiction arises through the federal government, any subsequent, felony prosecution, would be barred under double jeopardy.

    In other words, the unintended consequence of this legislation is that the offender could end up being insulated from felony charges by being found guilty of misdemeanor charges. In order to effect the change that would permit charges to be prosecuted at a felony level in tribal court would require a massive overhaul of the tribal court system or an abolition of the reservation system and tribal sovereignty, neither of which which is proposed or contemplated here.

  6. larry kurtz 2013.02.12

    ‏Leahy-Crapo #VAWA just passed Senate w. strong bipartisan vote of 78 to 22 RT @SenatorLeahy

  7. Jana 2013.02.12

    Thune voted no. He voted for it the 1st time. Must think building his street cred with Rubio is more important.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.12

    That's a great explanation of the details, Brother Beaker. Curious: is the Senate simply missing the implications for out-of-the-way South Dakota? How does South Dakota not have jurisdiction on reservation lands while other states do over their reservations?

  9. Jana 2013.02.12

    John is #3 in the Senate. He's the cheerleader for the GOP Senate. He has bigger responsibilities than looking out for women in South Dakota.

    I think his job now is to make sure that women and minorities are brought back into the GOP fold with fancy words and stuff. (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

    So this probably won't help him much...other than making sure that the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works and the pathological sexists at the Family Research Council will take his calls asking for money.

    He has no choice on how to vote...he works for someone else now.

    Spoiler alert, it's not South Dakotans.

  10. Bill Dithmer 2013.02.13

    Brother Beaker I agree with everything that you have said. I pose this question.

    Is it possible that reauthorization is just a step in the process of a jurisdictional fix? Are they in effect running it up the flag pole to see if they cant get a court case to put in front of the SC to force a change in the structure of jurisdictional disputes on our reservations?

    The Blindman

  11. Brother Beaker 2013.02.13


    The link that you provide to the Amnesty International article does a pretty good job of detailing the historical morass that is jurisdiction over Indian Country. Essentially, it revolves around decisions made in the '50's and granting SD jurisdiction over tribal lands now would be viewed by most as an attack on tribal sovereignty.

    I would be shocked if very many people understand the implications of the bill. It is a fairly convoluted problem and it may be that they are presuming that tribal jurisdiction would be exercised primarily if the federal government declined a case. The reality, in my opinion, is that tribal charges are quicker and easier than federal ones and a not-insignificant number of cases would end up with misdemeanor results for felony conduct.

    BD, I don't think that this is a mechanism to get back to the SCOTUS, since the jurisdictional fix is congressional. If they wanted to see if the SC would reverse itself, DOJ would be looking for a test case and proceeding through the courts, not the legislature. It could be that the proponents are aiming at expanding the sentences that tribal court can impose, but there are other collateral consequences to that (for example, most advocates in tribal courts in SD are not lawyers, which has constitutional implications, but would cost the tribes a boatload of cash to change).

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