Alaska Ain’t Got Time for That

How Alaskan Tribes Were Successful in Obtaining Tribal Jurisdiction in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

By Concetta Tsosie de Haro

Student Staff Member
One of the most important policies that affect Native American women is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  According to the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than any other minority.  Moreover, one in three Native American women will be raped within her lifetime.  Though VAWA was enacted to protect Native American women, it included an exception that did not extend tribal jurisdiction to the Alaskan Tribes. 

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) believed the state of Alaska was doing enough to protect Native women and children.  For this reason, she advocated for the inclusion of Section 910 in VAWA.  Section 910(a) provides that, “[i]n the State of Alaska, the amendments made by sections 904 and 905 shall only apply to the Indian country (as defined in section 1151 of title 18, United States Code) of the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve.“ See VAWA.  This language excludes all Alaskan villages except for one: the Metlakatla Indian Community.  Because of the controversial language that removes Alaskan tribal jurisdiction, Senator Murkowski suggested that her Facebook followers read the committee reports to understand the original intent of Section 910.

After spending several hours attempting to locate the committee reports, my colleagues and I realized…  Alaska ain’t got time for that. 

According to the Business Insider, Native Alaskan women make up 61% of the rape victims within Alaska.  Moreover, between 2000 to 2003, only 11% of rapes that were reported to the Anchorage Police Department lead to conviction.  Anyone who sees these statistics should feel outrage for the inclusion of Section 910.  Wasn’t VAWA enacted to help tribes protect their women?  Many letters were written to Congress to remove Section 910 from VAWA.  These documents can be found at the Native American Rights Fund website

It wasn’t until December 2014 that the House and Senate repealed the controversial Alaska exception.  Both Senators from Alaska worked hard to remove the Alaska exception from VAWA.  Senator Murkowski stated she heard the Alaskan Tribes loud and clear to remove Section 910.  Senator Murkowski also stated she will press Congress for Alaskan tribal court funding to take advantage of criminal prosecution against non-Indians.  When Alaskan Tribes will be able to exercise this authority has yet to be seen.

#Repost from @reesesruffrescues with @repostapp — By @michsygold “NOW WE ARE TALKING! In a huge step forward for our nation’s companion animals, U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have come together to introduce the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (H.R. 5267), landmark legislation extending existing federal protections to pets of domestic violence victims.

The connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence is a well-documented one and, sadly, many pets are often used as pawns in domestic disputes. Seventy-one percent of women entering domestic violence shelters have reported that their abusers also harmed, threatened, and in severe cases, killed their pets. What’s more, as many as half of those victims delay seeking help and remain in these dangerous environments because they fear for the safety of the pets they are forced to leave behind.

If passed, the Act would prohibit abusers from crossing state lines to harm a domestic partner’s pets, making it a punishable offense under the #ViolenceAgainstWomenAct (VAWA). It also adds veterinary care to the list of restitution costs recoverable by victims, authorizes federal grant funding to provide assistance and housing to victims’ pets in need of emergency shelter and recommends states extend legal protections to include pets in court-issued protective orders in domestic dispute cases.

While twenty-seven states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have passed laws allowing pets to be included in protective orders, no such legislation currently exists at the federal level, making the PAWS Act the first of its kind to explicitly address this need.
By ensuring strong protections and valuable resources at the federal level, the #PAWS Act gives victims the security they need to get help and protects their beloved pets from the hands of abusers. We are so thankful to Reps. Clark and Ros-Lehtinen for their strong leadership in taking this important step in the fight against #animalcruelty and #domesticviolence. #ihavechills #greatnews #changelaws #aspca” via @PhotoRepost_app

Feature Friday: Violence Against Women Act


Before I dive in to my first Feature Friday, I want to share this disclaimer: while I have very strong political beliefs, I do respect others’ beliefs, and Feature Friday is not meant to be a time for me to shove my opinions on others. All I am trying to do here is make my readers aware of the issues, legislation and new developments that affect us as a whole. It is strictly educational.

The Violence Against Women Act

President Obama recently signed a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, originally enacted in 1994. I’m not going to get started on the War on Women, but the renewal of this extremely important act gives me hope that women are still moving forward in our country and more is being done to protect us.

If you haven’t heard much about the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, here are a few details about it, according to this USA Today article from March 7, 2013:

  • Makes it easier to prosecute crimes against women in federal court
  • Provides services such as domestic abuse hotlines and shelters for battered women
  • The new bill extends coverage to women of Native American tribal lands who are attacked by non-tribal residents, as well as immigrants, gays and lesbians

One of the most encouraging things about the renewal of this act is that it won votes from both democrats and republicans in the House and the Senate, according to USA Today. Now, if only we could get them to agree on more (we can keep hoping!).

If you want to read more about the Violence Against Women Act, check out this Fact Sheet provided by the White House. Also, here are a few more articles I found interesting:

The Violence Against Women Act Started with One Woman: Ludy Green

Violence Against Women Act Shines Light on Same-sex Abuse

This one provides more insight on the vote and other implications: House Renews Violence Against Women Measure

And for a different perspective: What’s Wrong with the Violence Against Women Act?

xoxo – Becca