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Indian Times: Republicans quietly amend VAWA Act (Feb 23, 2013)

This week on Indian Times…The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) remains a controversy to some, and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) reacts. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States Federal Law signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.  VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005.  The Act’s 2012 renewal was opposed by conservative Republicans who objected to extending the Act’s protection to same-sex couples, to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and allowing tribal courts to try non-Native alleged abusers and rapists.  Native women are at higher risk for abuse and rape than any other ethnic group, and more than 80 % of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indians.
Native protestors at the Hickory Creek Tribal Town in Wetumpka, Alabama arrested. A delegation from the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma had requested construction halt for one day so they could pray over the land that once was a sacred burial ground, but the Poarch Band of Creek Indians never responded. They had decided to build a casino on the land, land which they had received a grant for in 1980 to buy so that they could protect it.  Hence, much controversy has ensued between those in favor and those opposed, resulting in arrests.


SUSAN SHANNON, HOST:  On mid-day Friday the House of Representatives quietly unveiled the Republican proposal for the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization on the House rules Committee website. Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole, Co-Chair of the House Native American Caucus, made a statement regarding his concerns about the proposed legislation. Cole said, “The House VAWA bill introduced today represents considerable progress in the right direction for protecting Native women. I appreciate the efforts of all involved, particularly majority Leader Cantor. However, the legislation still falls short in providing tribes the authority they need to secure their territory and protect their citizens. I intend to offer an amendment to address these shortcomings and I’m hopeful that the final bill will include stronger tribal protections.” This week Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) was shown on a video from a town hall meeting gin Iowa questioning the tribal provisions and the ability of Native Americans to fairly extend justice to all people.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY:  One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court and and why is that such a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it…for two reasons: 1) you know how the law is, that you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society, so a non-native or maybe I’d better back up, say we’re dealing...this is trying to deal with a real problem and I don’t deny that there’s a problem there  You get non-native or you get, you get non-Indians let me say, to make it easy. You get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman. They need to be prosecuted, they aren’t getting prosecuted, so they idea behind this bill is we’ll try them in tribal court, but under the laws of our land you’ve got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole but on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial”

SHANNON: The National Congress of American Indians responded swiftly. In a statement released to the media, the NCAI called Grassley’s comments “fear mongering” and was an example of “the mis-informed rhetoric and fear-based language being used by those who have an ill-conceived notion about the constitutionality of the tribal provisions, tribal courts and the protections developed in VAWA to ensure victims and defendants are provided their constitutional rights.” The NCAI called on Grassley to retract his statements. The National Congress of American Indians was founded in 1944 and is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country.


SHANNON: What had started out as a peaceful attempt to have a prayer service on the Hickory Ground Tribal Town earlier this month ended in four arrests. Members of the Hickory Ground Tribal Town in Oklahoma, part of the Muscogee Creek Nation, traveled to Wetumpka, Alabama to the sacred site where the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (also members of the Creek Nation) are building a casino. The group, which included members of the Poarch Band, had requested that construction be halted for one day so that they could pray over the ground where their ancestors had once been buried. They were immediately arrested when they walked onto casino property.  All were released except for Hickory Ground Tribal member Wayland Gray. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians allege he had made terrorist threats and was being held on a $30,000 dollar cash only bond. The casino construction project has been denounced by the Muscogee Creek Nation for its desecration of what once was the capital of the Creek Nation before removal and a sacred burial ground. 57 sets of remains were excavated in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Gray was released last Tuesday after Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger and other tribal officials traveled to Alabama to negotiate a lower bond, which did happen, and Gray flew back to Oklahoma with Tiger. On the same day the State of Alabama filed a lawsuit against the Poarch Band Gaming Authority and their tribal council citing state laws that prohibit slot machine gambling. The Poarch Band owns two other casinos that combined have 2500 electronic games.

Upcoming events in Oklahoma’s Indian Country:

The 2013 American Indian Festival of Words will take place in Tulsa starting Thursday, February 28 with a 7pm showing of “Barking Water”, a film written and directed by Sterlin Harjo. That will be on the University of Tulsa campus. Saturday March 2nd Harjo , who is Seminole and Muscogee Creek, will receive the Festival of Words Writers Award.  For more information on everything going at the festival go

On March 2nd, Saturday, there will be a Caddo Festival, entitled “Balance and Order in Traditional Ways.” This will be at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. There will be traditional crafts demonstrations along the hallways of the Center, a symposium called “Harmony in Mind, Body and Spirit” featuring speakers Dr. Delores Bigfoot and Dr. Moira RedCorn. Traditional Caddo dances will also be performed in the Devon Energy Hall.  For more information call 405-522-0765.

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