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I am a Native American woman. Yes, I may have a lot of European heritage in me and I am non-status, but I am still proud of who I am (I am descended from the Lenape people, who were indigenous to what is now eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and southern New York State). Recently, the issue of violence towards indigenous women, an issue that has been long brushed under the rug, has been gaining in awareness.

According to the Indian Law Resource Center:

“According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, the U.S. Congress should make legislation protecting Native women an “immediate priority.”  Following a month long tour to hear from indigenous peoples and tribal Nations within the United States, the Special Rapporteur presented his report in September on the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  The report recommended that the United States immediately address violence against women through legislation.”

This has come in the form of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which is a multifaceted bill in Congress to overhaul the way we treat violence against women.

The tribal provisions proposed in Section 904 of S. 1925 and H.R. 6625 would restore concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit a limited set of misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence, dating violence and violations of protection orders and who have significant ties to the prosecuting tribe. Tribal courts exercising such specific domestic violence jurisdiction must provide all defendants, whether Indian or non-Indian, with the same protections they would get in a federal or state court. Nothing in the bill would alter or diminish existing federal or state jurisdiction. Its aim is simply to help tribes end the epidemic levels of violence against Native women—something to provide long overdue justice to Native women.

So, as it stands right now, a white male who has no ties to Native heritage whatsoever could go onto a reservation and engage in an unprecedented rapefest, get caught by tribal police, and said tribe WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PROSECUTE THE RAPIST. This is an outrage that must be remedied, us indigenous peoples have had our land and our livelihoods taken away from us, and we deserve self-determination in how the reservations, as a governing body, prosecute sexual assault, and to be able to do so no matter who the perpetrator is.

However, the passage of VAWA faces a procedural snag:

The House and the Senate have each already passed their own bills to reauthorize VAWA, but they differ in one major way: The bipartisan Senate bill includes new protections for members of the LGBT community, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans, and the House bill, which passed with only Republican votes, does not.

The Republican majority is claiming that the new protections are “politically driven”. I am somebody who is part of two out of three affected communities which are mentioned in the Senate bill but not the House bill, and it makes me mad that some of our elected officials believe that some people are political footballs to be thrown around in some demented, morbid game.

Currently, several Republicans have broken from Cantor and Boehner to support the inclusion of these provisions, and the only thing that people can do right now is speak out before time runs out.

I am Native American, I am a woman, I am transgender, I am human, please do not let this issue be swept under the rug.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis