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The Violence Against Women Act – Title IX: Safety for Indian Women

Website Resource for Implementing the Tribal Provisions of VAWA:

October 6th panel presentation on Implementing VAWA 2013: Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction

The U. S. Department of Justice held a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event on October 6, 2015 which featured a panel discussion with representatives from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.  On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) into law.  VAWA 2013 included a historic provision recognizing tribes' inherent power to exercise "special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction" (SDVCJ) over certain defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, who commit acts of domestic violence or dating violence or violate certain protection orders in Indian country.  The Department of Justice was instrumental in securing passage of this provision, which has fundamentally changed the landscape of tribal jurisdiction and promises to expand safety for victims.  Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington were two of the first three tribes to implement the SDVCJ.  

A video of the event is available at: (Please note that this event starts 22 minutes into the video.) An unedited transcript is available while this video is being close captioned. 

The following event resources are available:

Justice Department prepared remarks are also available:

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized for the third time on March 7, 2013. (Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, S. 47, 113th Congress, 2013-2015.) VAWA of 2013 includes Title IX—Safety for Indian Women.

Among its provisions, Title IX of VAWA of 2013 authorized “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction.”  This jurisdiction authorizes tribes to criminally prosecute non-Indians for the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, and the violation of protection orders.  However, in order for tribes to utilize this criminal jurisdiction, tribes must provide certain enumerated due process protections, including most of the protections required in the Tribal Law and Order Act.


Tribal Law and Order Act Signing Ceremony, July 29, 2010

Video of Deborah Parker, Vice Chairwomen for the Tulalip Tribes, Advocating for Tribal Provisions of VAWA, April 25, 2012

Video of President Obama Addresses Tribal provisions in VAWA signing Ceremony – March 7, 2013

NCAI – Reflections on Passage of VAWA and Tribal Provisions, March 7, 2013

Video of President Obama and Vice President Biden Speech Prior to Signing VAWA 2013

The Language of the Violence Against Women Acts Themselves

Current VAWA 2013

Past VAWA Acts

Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Resources

Tribal Bar Association Resources

Pilot Project

Publications, Reports, and Articles

  • Chart: Tribes Implementing VAWA Criminal Jurisdiction and TLOA Enhanced Sentencing, as of September 02, 2016
  • This chart tracks which tribes are currently implementing VAWA’s special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction, and/or TLOA’s enhanced sentencing, as well as tribes that are in the planning process. These are tribes that have been made known to the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, National Congress of American Indians, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and may not represent all tribes that are currently implementing these criminal justice tools. 
  • Bureau of Prisons TLOA Final Report (May 7, 2014)
    This report to Congress, required by Section 234(c)(5) of the Tribal Law and Order Act, describes the status of the Bureau of Prisons Tribal Prisoner Pilot Program, from November 29, 2010 to November 29, 2013. The program accepted in Bureau institutions, certain tribal offenders convicted in tribal courts for committing violent crimes. Since November 2010, four tribal offenders have been housed in BOP facilities as part of the pilot program. The report recommends that the current pilot program be made permanent, so that it remains available as a resource for tribes.
  • Indian Law and Order Commission Report: A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, November 2013
    The Indian Law and Order Commission is an independent national advisory commission created in July 2010 when the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) was passed. TLOA directed the Commission to report back to the White House and to Congress with specific recommendations intended to make Native American and Alaska Native nations safer and more just. This report encompasses those recommendations, including subject matter included in the tribal provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. This report reflects one of the most comprehensive assessments ever undertaken of criminal justice systems servicing Native American and Alaska Native communities.
  • American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution Supporting the Reauthorization of VAWA that includes the Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction Provisions – August 6-7, 2012
    This report, co-authored by TLPI Executive Director Jerry Gardner and TLPI Tribal Law Specialist Lauren Frinkman, details the justification for why the ABA supports the tribal provisions of VAWA. This resolution was passed August 6-7, 2012, four months after S.1925 was passed by the Senate on April 26, 2012. Ultimately, the Title IX passed in VAWA 2013 was reintroduced in 2013 in S. 47, passed by the Senate on February 12, 2013, passed by the House on February 28, 2013, and signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013.
  • Amnesty International, Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA, Amnesty International USA (2007)
    This groundbreaking report detailed for the first time the devastating degree of sexual violence faced by Native women in the United States. In addition, the report details the complex, and subsequently inadequate nature of criminal jurisdiction in Indian country and how that failing system compounds the danger. Statistics from this report were cited in the Congressional Findings of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, and used to support the VAWA 2013 legislation.
  • DOJ Proposed Procedures for Tribal VAWA Pilot Program (June 14, 2013) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has published proposed procedures for an Indian tribe to request designation as a participating tribe under the voluntary pilot project described in section 908(b)(2) of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (“the Pilot Project”), and also proposes procedures for the Attorney General to act on such a request. This notice also invites public comment on the proposed procedures and solicits preliminary participate in the Pilot Program  and for the Attorney General to act on such a request. DATES: Preliminary Expressions of Interest from tribes are due July 14, 2013 (30 days after publication in the Federal Register, June 14, 2013). Comments on the proposed procedures are due September 12, 2013 (90 days after date of publication in the Federal Register, June 14, 2013). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Tracy Toulou, Director, Office of Tribal Justice, Department of Justice, at (202) 514-8812 (not a toll-free number) or e-mail
    VAWA Tribal Pilot Project FAQ
  • DOJ Statement on Section 904’s Constitutionality, 159 Cong. Rec. H705, 737-39 (daily ed. Feb. 28, 2013)
    Thomas J. Perrelli, Associate Attorney General testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs concerning the constitutionality of Sec. 904 under the U.S. Supreme Court precedent, United States v. Lara.  The statement was later inserted into the Congressional Record prior to the House floor vote on VAWA 2013, on February 28, 2013.
  • M. Brent Leonhard, Closing a Gap in Indian Country Justice: Oliphant, Lara, and DOJ’s Proposed Fix, 28 Harvard Jrnl. On Racial & Ethnic Justice 117 (2012)
    This law review article analyzes whether DOJ’s proposed legislative fix to allow tribes to prosecute limited non-Indian domestic violence crimes is legally permissible by closely analyzing the decisions in Oliphant and Lara. Given the closely circumscribed requirements for the exercise of such power, and past decisions of various justices, this article concludes that it is within Congress’ power to recognize the inherent power of tribes to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence crimes against Indians.
  • National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Restoration of Native Sovereignty and Safety for Native Women, Volume XX, June 2012
    The Restoration of Sovereignty & Safety magazine is a publication dedicated to informing tribal leadership and communities of emerging issues impacting the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women.  The June 2012 issue includes extensive legislative history of VAWA 2013, profiles of key advocates, as well as powerful stories regarding the survival of violence against Indigenous women and the impetus for VAWA 2013.
  • NCAI Letter to Department of Interior (July 24, 2013)
    Jefferson Keel, on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) sent this letter to Kevin Washburn and Hilary Tomkins of the U.S. Department of the Interior seeking clarification on the arrest and detainment authority of tribal and BIA law enforcement over non-Indians in Indian country. In light of VAWA's special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction provisions, NCAI is seeking clarification as to the police officer's authority in regards to the restrictions against unreasonable search and seizure in the Indian Civil Rights Act balanced against the need for police officers to ensure public safety.
  • Zachary S. Price, Dividing Sovereignty in Tribal and Territorial Criminal Jurisdiction, 113 Colum. L. Rev., 657 (2013)
    This law review article proposes a framework for resolving constitutional questions raised by the Court’s recent cases in the areas federal Indian law concerning unregulated local governmental authority. Focusing on the criminal context, this Article considers three issues: (1) whether and under what circumstances Congress may confer criminal jurisdiction on tribal and territorial governments without requiring that those decisions be subject to federal executive supervision; (2) whether double jeopardy should bar successive prosecution by both the federal government and a tribal or territorial government; and (3) what, if any, constitutional procedural protections apply when a tribal or territorial government exercises criminal jurisdiction pursuant to such federal authorization.
  • VAWA Letter from Law Professors – Tribal Provisions, April 12, 2012
    Then Dean of New Mexico Law School Kevin Washburn (now Assistance Secretary of Indian Affairs), along with Professors Stacy Leeds, Erwin Chemerinksy, Carole E. Goldberg, Robert N. Clinton, Gloria Valencia-Weber, Matthew L.M. Fletcher, along with forty-three other distinguished law professors, signed onto this letter addressed to Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley and Representatives Lamar Smith and John Conyers, Jr. The letter writes in support of the tribal provisions, as well as details the constitutionality of the those provisions.
  • Written Comments regarding Government-to-Government Consultation with the Department of Justice on Implementation of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
    On August 16, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) invited tribal leaders to participate in a government-to-government consultation regarding how best to structure and implement the voluntary Pilot Project established under Sections 904 and 908 of VAWA 2013. DOJ hosted conference calls with tribal court judges on May 8, 2013, and with tribal leaders generally on May 14 and May 17, 2013.  DOJ also accepted written comments.  Below are written comments from the National Congress of American Indians, the National American Indian Court Judges Association, and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.


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