Tribes see improvements, hurdles as they charge non-Natives

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/15/2018 04:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – American Indian tribes have taken greater control over prosecuting non-tribal citizens who commit some violent crimes in Indian Country five years after Congress passed a key law, a new report shows.

But gaps remain after the Violence Against Women Act allowed tribes to bring criminal charges against non-Natives in domestic violence cases. For example, it doesn’t extend to violence against children or other family members, and tribal prosecutors are urging lawmakers to expand the law to cover everyone in a household.

Tribal land was long known as a safe haven because U.S. authorities would only prosecute the most serious offenses and tribes lacked the ability to charge those who weren’t Native Americans. Since the law passed in 2013, tribal communities are empowered to report wrongdoing, governments are better collaborating and tribes are updating their laws, public safety advocates say.

“It really has changed the culture in some of these tribes around domestic violence in a way that many people there report as overwhelming evidence,” Elizabeth Reese, a project attorney for the National Congress of American Indians, said.

The group released a report in March that shows the impact of the tribal provisions of the VAWA: 143 arrests of non-Natives, leading to 74 convictions and five acquittals among 18 tribes in 11 states. About 90 percent of the victims are women.

The majority of cases are being tried within four tribes: Pascua Yaqui near Tucson, Arizona; the Eastern Band Of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina; the Tulalip Tribes north of Seattle; and Fort Peck Tribes in northeastern Montana. The United States has 573 federally recognized tribes.

The VAWA allows tribes to charge non-Natives for domestic violence against intimate partners or spouses and when protection orders are violated. The authority doesn’t extend to violence against children, family members or law enforcement and doesn’t include crimes by non-Natives who don’t know their victims or crimes by tribal citizens against non-Indians.

“If you arrest a non-Native for domestic violence and the guy fights the cop, I wouldn’t be able to charge that,” said Scott Seifert, Fort Peck Tribes’ chief prosecutor. “And I wouldn’t be able to charge if he had a baggie of dope in his pocket, or if he beats his child.”

Tribal prosecutors also cannot charge property crimes, sexual misconduct, false imprisonment, threats, trafficking or stalking – things they say limit their ability to make plea deals with offenders.

Legislation pending in Congress seeks to address some of those holes and ensure tribes have the financial resources to implement the law – the most substantial hurdle for tribes, Reese said.

The EBCI, for example, had to pay an unexpected $60,000 in medical care for a defendant in tribal custody, the report said. At Pascua Yaqui, unexpected costs came in funding Spanish interpreters and transporting defendants to detention facilities.

The NCAI and others have called on Congress to give tribes full authority over all criminal offenses on land, regardless of the ethnicity of those involved.

A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision stripped tribes of criminal authority over non-Natives. Which police agency responds depends on whether the victim, suspect or both are Native American – creating a complicated jurisdictional maze that sometimes results in no response, tribal officials say.

“It seems to be that perhaps our federal partners want to take more of a piecemeal approach – that’s evident by what’s occurring here and consistent with some of the concerns that were initially voiced,” said Oscar “OJ” Flores, Pascua Yaqui’s chief prosecutor. “I’m anticipating it will probably happen in that fashion. Hopefully the increased pieces of jurisdiction will get larger as we go along.”

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said about 85 percent of the Justice Department’s Indian Country investigations relate to violent crime. He said domestic and sexual violence against women and children is pervasive.

“But it is not a reality that we are willing to accept,” he said in an address to the NCAI earlier this year.

Giving tribes some criminal authority over non-Natives wasn’t easy to push through Congress, with Republicans worrying about the fairness of tribal courts and not having impartial juries for trials on reservations.

Under the tribal provisions, defendants could seek recourse in federal court but none have, and juries have been made up of both Natives and non-Natives, according to the NCAI report.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY STAFF REPORTS
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Mary Mead Volunteerism Award – Greater Wichita Area Cherokees Most Improved Award – Marble City Activity Organization Best in Technology Award – Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club Best in Technology At-Large – San Diego Cherokee Community Continuing Education Award – Spavinaw Youth and Neighborhood Center Hunger Fighters Award – Tailholt Community Organization Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Mt Hood Cherokees Strong Hands Award – Mid County Community Organization Strong Hands Award – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Grant Writer of the Year Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Technical Assistance Award – Cherokee National Historical Society Best in Reporting Award – Stilwell Public Library Friends Society Best in Reporting At-Large – Kansas City Cherokee Community Community Partnership Award – Tailholt Community Organization Community Partnership At-Large – San Antonio Cherokee Township Community Inspiration Award – Noweta Cherokee Community Foundation Community Inspiration Award – New Mexico Cherokee Community Cultural Perpetuation Award – Washington County Cherokee Organization Cultural Perpetuation At-Large – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Webbers Falls Historical Society Museum Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Youth Leadership Award – Boys & Girls Club of Adair County Youth Leadership At-Large – Valley of the Sun Cherokees Conference Attendance Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Conference Attendance Award – San Antonio Cherokee Township Above & Beyond Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Above & Beyond Award – Capital City Cherokee Community Community Leadership Award – Orchard Road Community Outreach Community Leadership At-Large – Cherokee Society of Greater Bay Area Lifetime Achievement Award – Gary Bolin (Brushy Cherokee Action Association) Lifetime Achievement Award – Dude Feathers (Oakhill Piney Community Organization) Organization of the Year Award – Mid County Community Organization Organization of the Year At-Large – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Sponsor Award – Cherokee Nation Businesses
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2018 04:00 PM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
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NORMAN – The Native American Journalists Association announced the winners of its 2018 National Native Media Awards and the Cherokee Phoenix won four awards, which includes its ninth first place General Excellence award for a print publication. The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the United States and Canada. In addition to the General Excellence honor, the Cherokee Phoenix took first place in the Best Layout – Print category and Best TV Feature Story with former Reporter Stacie Guthrie’s “Remember the Removal” video, which can be viewed at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330</a>. Former Reporter Brittney Bennett won a third place award in the Print/Online – Best Health Coverage category with her “CN health providers want higher base pay” story, which can be read at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450</a>. “As the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix I am beyond pleased and honored anytime we receive recognition from our peers,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Everyone on our staff takes our role in keeping the Cherokee people informed to heart. I would personally like to thank everyone on the Cherokee Phoenix staff for all their hard work, and the members of the Native American Journalist Association for recognizing our dedication to providing thorough and prompt news coverage to our tribe nationwide.” Cherokee Phoenix staff members will have an opportunity to collect their hardware during a banquet at NAJA’s annual conference on July 18-21 in Miami, Florida. With the exception of 2011-13, the Cherokee Phoenix has entered the NAJA awards every year since 2001 and has won 99 total awards, including the prestigious Richard LaCourse Award for investigative journalism in 2003 and the Elias Boudinot Award in 2001 for becoming an independent news organization. Overall, the Cherokee Phoenix has won 32 first place, 37 second place, 21 third place and nine honorable mention NAJA awards.