VAWA: Tulalips Will be Among First Tribes With Power to Prosecute Domestic Abusers

Feb 06 2014

After meeting Tulalip Tribe Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker, Senator Murray led Congressional effort to include protections for American Indian victims in Violence Against Women Act

Pilot project will allow tribal prosecution of non-Indian abusers for first time in more than three decades

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray applauded an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) granting three American Indian tribes, including the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all domestic abusers, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status. The pilot project was authorized by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), which Senator Murray championed.

“For decades VAWA has allowed women to escape violence and abuse and ensure perpetrators of domestic violence are held accountable. But native women were often denied relief and denied justice,” said Senator Murray. “Today’s announcement by the Department of Justice is a major victory for the countless women who had the courage to come forward and tell painful stories about why VAWA was so vital to them. I will never forget the day Vice-Chairwoman Parker walked into my office and told me her harrowing story of abuse at a frighteningly young age. Never has one person’s advocacy or story driven me quite like Deborah’s. It’s been one of the privileges of my career to stand strong to ensure VAWA’s protections are expanded to include native women and I could not be more proud the Tulalip Tribes will serve as a leader as we work together to swiftly implement these critical protections to restore tribal sovereignty and public safety.”

WATCH a timeline of Senator Murrays’ efforts to reauthorize VAWA. (click “play” button on the right)

WATCH Tulalip Tribes Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker share story of abuse.

In March 2013, Senator Murray was presented the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2013 Congressional Leadership Award for her work on this issue, where she described her chance encounter and subsequent advocacy efforts with Vice-Chairwoman Parker.

Since the Supreme Court’s 1978 opinion in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, tribes have been prohibited from exercising criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants.  This included domestic violence and dating violence committed by non-Indian abusers against their Indian spouses, intimate partners, and dating partners.  Even a violent crime committed by a non-Indian husband against his Indian wife, in the presence of her Indian children, in their home on the Indian reservation, could not be prosecuted by the tribe.  In granting the pilot-project requests of the Pascua Yaqui, Tulalip, and Umatilla tribes today, the United States is recognizing and affirming the tribes’ inherent power to exercise “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction” (SDVCJ) over all persons, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, for crimes committed on or after Feb. 20, 2014.

For more information on the pilot program established under VAWA: