Native American women suffer domestic violence and dating violence at epidemic rates, often at the hands of non-Indian abusers.
Following the Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in Oliphant v.
Suquamish Tribe, however tribes lacked criminal jurisdiction to prosecute domestic violence and dating
violence committed in Indian Country by non-Indian abusers.
Prior to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013), if the victim was Indian and the perpetrator was non-Indian, the crime could be prosecuted only by the United States or, in some circumstances, by the state in which the tribe’s Indian Country is located.
On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed into law VAWA 2013, which included an historic provision recognizing the authority of participating tribes to exercise “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction” (SDVCJ) over certain defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, who commit crimes of domestic violence or dating violence or violate certain protection orders in Indian Country.
The Act also specifies the rights that a participating tribe must provide to defendants in SDVCJ cases.
The Tribal Jurisdiction Program is designed to assist Indian tribes in exercising SDVCJ.
Through this grant program, Indian tribes will receive support and technical assistance for planning, developing and implementing changes in their criminal justice systems necessary to exercise SDVCJ.
The program encourages collaborations among tribal leadership, tribal courts, tribal prosecutors, tribal attorneys, tribal defenders, law enforcement, probation, service providers, and other partners to ensure that non-Indians who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders are held accountable.
The Tribal Jurisdiction Program encourages the coordinated involvement of the entire tribal criminal justice system and victim service providers to incorporate systemic change that ensures victim safety and offender accountability.