Chehalis Tribe Earns Approval to Prosecute Non-Native Domestic Violence Offenders

  
Via:  1stwarrior  •  2 months ago  •  6 comments

Chehalis Tribe Earns Approval to Prosecute Non-Native Domestic Violence Offenders
JUSTICE: Tribe Meets Department of Justice Requirements, Rewrote Criminal Code to Qualify for New rights

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


For decades, a loophole in federal law has made it difficult for Native Americans to seek justice for many crimes on tribal lands. A 1978 Supreme Court ruling found that tribal courts did not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-natives, meaning that tribes could do little about crimes committed on their reservations, as long as the offender was not a member of their tribe. When allegations are forwarded to off-reservation jurisdictions, they’re mostly ignored, according to the Chehalis Tribe.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, they're too busy to prosecute the case, and most of the crimes go unprosecuted,” said Jeff Warnke, director of government and public relations for the Chehalis Tribe.

In 2013, Congress made a first step toward addressing that issue, including a measure in the Violence Against Women Act to allow tribes to earn criminal jurisdiction for domestic violence offenses — one of the most pressing concerns for tribes.

“Especially domestic violence cases, there's a whole lot of folks who are non-tribal members (living on the reservation),” Warnke said. “They will marry native women, and what we found out is that they can beat up their wives, and nobody can do anything about it. … We think this is a pretty important issue for the safety of tribal women.”

Tribal Court Administrator Jerrie Simmons said such situations have been frustrating.

“It was hard to deal with,” she said. “There's been instances of this kind of situation on this reservation that we haven't been able to prosecute. I know that our current judge has had some cases before her whereby this was the exact situation. she would feel very frustrated, because there was not much the tribe could do except refer out. It makes the tribal government and the tribal members unhappy. They don't feel safe and protected. the perpetrators can't be prosecuted, and often it's very threatening to them to go into a county or state court.”

Since 2016, the Chehalis Tribe has been working to comply with Department of Justice requirements to earn that jurisdiction. Using grant funding, leaders rewrote the tribe’s criminal code to comply with federal civil rights law. The process involved many other requirements as well.

The tribe had to create a process for seating non-tribal jurors. It needed to ensure it provided public defenders and trained judges — requirements it already met. It needed to install an appeals process to federal court and provide medical care in its jail.

“It's a pretty rigorous deal,” Warnke said. “A lot of it is policing regulations, courtroom regulations, record-keeping. Then there's certainly liability issues, like if you arrest a non-tribal member and they get sick in your jail, you have to provide healthcare for them.”

In March, the tribe was determined to have met all of DOJ’s requirements, clearing the way for it to prosecute future domestic violence offenses committed on the reservation. For those who worked on earning that status, the long process was worth it.

“The tribe feels very good and very positive about having this jurisdiction and having gone through all the steps to regain it,” Simmons said. “We say we've always had it, but it was just removed from us. We're all comfortable, and we know we can do this and we can do it fairly and justly.”

The Chehalis Tribe is just the 24th of nearly 600 federally-recognized Indian tribes who have earned clearance to regain domestic violence jurisdiction. Leaders are hoping that’s the start, that by demonstrating success with this program, they’ll open up more opportunities for justice on the reservation.

“If you assault a police officer on the reservation, we don't have jurisdiction to do anything about it,” Warnke noted.

In a release noting the the tribe’s approval, Janet Stegall, who was responsible for writing the initial grant, said the decision was a sign of progress.

“I am overwhelmed with the relief that an unforgivable injustice is going to be able to be brought to justice in the future,” she said.

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1stwarrior
1  seeder  1stwarrior    2 months ago

“It was hard to deal with,” she said. “There's been instances of this kind of situation on this reservation that we haven't been able to prosecute. I know that our current judge has had some cases before her whereby this was the exact situation. she would feel very frustrated, because there was not much the tribe could do except refer out. It makes the tribal government and the tribal members unhappy. They don't feel safe and protected. the perpetrators can't be prosecuted, and often it's very threatening to them to go into a county or state court.”

Way to go.  The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 started this impetus and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 gave it more teeth.  Glad to see that the tribes are working to remedy an age-old problem of crime and abuse against Native peoples by non-Natives. 

Let the prosecutions begin.

 
 
 
Enoch
2  Enoch    2 months ago

Dear Friend First Warrior: Well past about time for this. 

People, all people should feel safe, secure and free on their own land.

No one group more or less than any other.

Another way to address this problem carries a Federal DOD precedent.

At Ft. Drum, NY you need to pass through a guarded gate to enter the post during certain maneuvers.

You must sign a form, which is witnessed by the guard and captured on a video tape saying you agree to abide by the post, DOD and other relevant Federal laws.

That you accept violations of such will be addressed by a post Court. 

Once you do that, you have agreed to a binding contractual arrangement where you follow their rules or else.

Perhaps this should be employed on tribal land as well as legislation which respects the equal protection clause of the Constitution for all, including Native Americans who were here first. 

Its a thought which may well need exploration by those in charge of such things.

P&AB.

Enoch.

 
 
 
Kavika
3  Kavika     2 months ago
In 1978, the Supreme Court caseOliphant v. Suquamishstripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on Indian land.

One of the worst SCOTUS decision ever. It allowed non Indians criminals free reign on Indian reservations. 

The new law, although it doesn't cover all situations'' it's a start and as each tribe moves forward with their court system.

 
 
 
1stwarrior
3.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Kavika @3    2 months ago

I sure hope the Cacieri Fix goes through.

 
 
 
Kavika
4  Kavika     2 months ago
I sure hope the Cacieri Fix goes through

Ditto

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5  dave-2693993    2 months ago

This is good news. I was worried about this, as some things have been going backwards lately.

Also ditto on the Cacieri Fix.

 
 
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