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It wasn’t until December 2014 that the House and Senate repealed the controversial Alaska exception.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.