A HUGE VICTORY for human rights happened this past Wednesday when the Senate passed H.R. 725, the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendment Act of 2010, which included the majority of the provisions in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009!
The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 is a historic, bi-partisan effort to tackle the complex jurisdictional maze that allows violent crime against Indigenous women, and in particular, sexual assault and violence against Native American and Alaska Native women, to go unpunished and unabated.
Championed by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in the Senate and Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) in the House, the Tribal Law and Order Act represents an important step forward in combating violence against Native American women. Violence that is an ongoing violation of Native American and Alaska Native women’s most fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Amnesty International detailed this violence in our 2007 report entitled Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA. The report revealed shocking statistics of violence such as the fact that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general. The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 is in direct response to concerns raised by tribal leaders, tribal organizations, Native American and Alaska Native women and the AIUSA report, which helped bring widespread attention to the high rates of crimes on tribal lands and the obstacles that victims face in securing justice.
The Act will help abate the violence in Indigenous communities by clarifying the responsibilities of, and increasing coordination and communication among, federal, state, and tribal governments with respect to crimes committed in tribal communities. The bill also provides assistance to tribal governments by arming them with the necessary authority, resources, and information to address crimes committed on tribal land. In addition, it helps shed light on the elevated levels of violence in Indian Country by increasing the standardized collection and distribution of criminal data among all levels of government responsible for responding to and investigating crimes in tribal communities, including the data necessary to establish whether or not crimes are being prosecuted.