DeKalb, IL — A bipartisan group of senators is hoping to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act for the first time in almost a decade to include provisions to expand protections for Native women.
The Violence Against Women Act is up for renewal every five years, though it lapsed in 2019 when the Republican-dominated Senate didn’t pass it. Indigenous legal scholars and activists say the Act fails to “respect tribal sovereignty or the rights of tribes to govern themselves by their own laws and courts,” according to The Lily.
Over 84% of Indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 National Institute of Justice report.
Wenona T. Singel, an associate professor of law at Michigan State University’s College of Law and an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, mentioned the 1978 Supreme Court case Oliphant vs. Suquamish Indian Tribe that ruled tribes are unable to prosecute non-Indians who committed crimes in their territories. Singel said it has “allowed non-Native perpetrators to commit violence” against Indian victims.
Singel said she supports the bill's passage, but it is only a partial restoration of a power that never should have been taken in the first place.
“Native women have suffered profoundly in terms of the experience of sexual violence in this country, and it’s time that we do something about that,” Singel said, according to The Lily.