by the National Congress of American Indians
The National Congress of American Indians passed Resolution #REN-19-011 calling upon Congress to promptly enact legislation recognizing the jurisdiction of Tribal Nations in Alaska to prosecute domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, and related crimes in Alaska Native Villages. The resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2019 Mid-Year Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Nugget Casino Resort, June 24-27, 2019, with a quorum present.
Here is the following resolution:
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, domestic violence rates in Alaska are ten times the national average, sexual assaults against Alaska Native women are 12 times the national average, and many offenders are non-Native; and
WHEREAS, Alaska Native women are over-represented by 250 percent among domestic violence victims, considering that Alaska Natives comprise just 19 percent of the state population yet are 47 percent of reported rape victims; and
WHEREAS, every 18 hours an Alaska Native woman is sexually assaulted; and
WHEREAS, one out of every four Alaska Native youth suffers post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to childhood exposure to violence – the same rate as Afghanistan War veterans; and
WHEREAS, the suicide rate in village Alaska is six times the national rate, alcohol-related mortality rate is 3.5 times the national rate, and 95 percent of rural crimes are alcohol related; and
WHEREAS, state-based law enforcement is virtually nonexistent in most Alaska Native villages because state troopers are only present in hub cities, and state-funded Village Public Safety Officers are only present in 42 out of 229 Alaska Native villages; and
WHEREAS, tribal jurisdiction in village Alaska, while concurrent with the State of Alaska, was effectively eliminated by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and most crimes do not occur on the few remaining lands that constitute “Indian country” under federal law (i.e., allotments, townsite lots, and trust lands); and
WHEREAS, effective tribal jurisdiction in village Alaska has been further eroded by gravely insufficient resources directed towards tribal nations in Public Law 280 States for tribal law enforcement and tribal courts; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court in Alaska v Native Village of Venetie held that lands conveyed to Native corporations under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act do not qualify as “Indian country” under federal law; and
WHEREAS, the Tribal Law and Order Commission found that “Alaska Department of Public Safety (ADPS) officers have primary responsibility for law enforcement in rural Alaska, but ADPS provides for only 1.0-1.4 field officers per million acres.” Without a strong law enforcement presence, crime in Alaska Native villages occurs with impunity; and
WHEREAS, the 2013 Indian Law and Order Commission report states: “The strongly centralized law enforcement and justice systems of the State of Alaska…do not serve local and Native communities adequately, if at all. The Commission believes that devolving authority to Alaska Native communities is essential for addressing local crime. Their governments are best positioned to effectively arrest, prosecute, and punish, and they should have the authority to do so – or to work out voluntary agreements with each other, and with local governments and the State on mutually beneficial terms”; and
WHEREAS, NCAI has previously recognized the urgent need for legislative reforms addressing the unique challenges to public safety in Alaska in Resolution REN 13-006 “Protect Alaska Native Women,” which recognized that tribal governments must have criminal and civil jurisdiction over all persons in their communities, regardless of land ownership, in order to permit Alaska Tribes to enforce the rule of law, provide for civil society according to tribal customs, traditions and laws, and reverse stunning rates of domestic violence, sexual violence, other alcohol- and drug-related crimes, unacceptable rates of suicide, and unacceptable rates of child abuse and neglect and address comprehensive public safety issues within their communities; and
WHEREAS, to be effective and to avoid tragic loopholes, tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction in village Alaska must apply to all persons, Native and non-Native alike; and
WHEREAS, most federal jurisdictional, data gathering and other public safety laws reference application of the laws to a tribal nation’s “Indian country,” which often effectively leaves out tribal nations in Alaska and their communities, and
WHEREAS, tribal nations in Alaska wish to work in collaboration with state and federal authorities to best exercise effective concurrent tribal, federal, and state jurisdiction; and
WHEREAS, Congress in 2011 considered a bill, which NCAI supported, that would have recognized tribal jurisdiction in Alaska Native villages over drug and alcohol and related matters, and over any tribal member or person having consensual relations with a tribal member in the village; and
WHEREAS, in 2019 the House sent to the Senate amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1585) which, as amended at the request of Congressman Don Young (AK-R), would authorize certain villages to exercise criminal jurisdiction over certain domestic and sexual violence-related offenses against all persons present within an Alaska Native village; and
WHEREAS, the population of more than 100 Alaska Native villages is 70 percent or more Alaska Native; and
WHEREAS, recognizing tribal territorial jurisdiction in village Alaska over all persons continues the United States’ commitment to maximizing tribal self-determination and self-governance and addressing dangerous public safety concerns in village Alaska; and
WHEREAS, Article 22 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires states to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy full protection against all forms of violence and discrimination.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) calls upon Congress to promptly enact legislation recognizing the urgent public safety crisis in Alaska Native communities and the concurrent criminal and civil territorial jurisdiction of federally recognized tribal nations in Alaska over all lands and persons within Alaska Native villages in connection with matters concerning domestic and dating violence, sex trafficking, sexual violence, stalking, obstruction of justice, and assault upon law enforcement and corrections officers (all as listed in H.R. 1585, the proposed House-passed VAWA amendments), and drug-, alcohol- and child-abuse-related offenses, such jurisdiction either to be automatic for any village having at least 70 percent Alaska Native population or to be recognized on an expedited pilot project basis of no fewer than five Tribes per year for the next 10 years; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.
The foregoing resolution was signed by Jefferson Keel, President and attested by Juana Majel Dixon, Recording Secretary.