Consultation Concerns and Recommendations: Excerpts of Tribal Testimony Addressing Specific State Barriers

In order to clarify the application of VAWA 2013 and all of its provisions for the benefit and protection of all the federally recognized Wabanaki Tribes in Maine, we recommend the inclusion of the following language in the next reauthorization of VAWA: The tribal provisions of the 2018 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, all previous tribal provisions, and all subsequent tribal provisions shall apply within the State of Maine.” —Jane Root, Executive Director of the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition, Tribal Designee for Edward Peter Paul, Tribal Chief, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, and William J. Nicholas, Sr., Tribal Chief, Indian Township Passamaquoddy

“The Wabanaki Tribal Courts already met most of the requirements set forth to exercise the special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction when VAWA 2013 was passed only to have the Attorney General of the State of Maine determine that Maine would not recognize the Wabanaki Tribes’ right to exercise the tribal special DV criminal jurisdictions of VAWA 2013 because it would impede the sovereignty of the state. The Wabanaki Tribes have asked year after year that attention be given to the unique barriers we face. We come yet again this year to implore both the federal government and our tribal brothers and sisters to hear us and support the fix we ask for in the 2018 reauthorization of VAWA.

The Maine Implementing Act and the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (The Acts) of 1980 have created barriers to the safety of Native women in Maine and the full application of the tribal provisions of VAWA 2013. It is the interpretation of these provisions by the state that prevents full implementation of VAWA by Indian tribes in Maine.

Further, these Acts articulate a jurisdictional relationship between the tribes and the state of Maine that impede the full implementation of VAWA and prevent Indian tribes from fully safeguarding the lives of women within tribal jurisdiction. The Acts delineated a framework for the application of federal Indian law for Indians, Indian nations, or tribes or bands of Indians and created a mechanism for overriding the framework.

“Historically, tribes have been deemed ineligible to access state STOP funds by our state administrator. Unfortunately, Michigan statute regarding the administration of STOP funds explicitly excludes tribes as eligible entities. After continued advocacy and efforts to educate both tribal and state leaders, it was announced just recently that tribes for the first time ever will be eligible for this funding. While the process is yet unclear, it does not appear that a legislative fix is being considered. Thus, we still believe tribes could potentially at some point be at risk for being restricted from accessing funds. We have recommended, and will continue to do so, a legislative fix to add tribes as eligible entities to receive STOP funding from the state of Michigan.” —Rachel Carr, Executive Director, Uniting Three Fires Against Violence, the Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition in Michigan
“We have murders of our women that are too difficult to discuss. There may be tribal leaders at the table that also face murders and disappearances day by day. We want to make a clear statement to every federal employee at consultation this year. The murders and disappearances of women and girls in Alaska are connected to the lack of protections from the state and federal government. They are connected to the government disputing the authority of our tribal government to respond to the violence our women and girls face every day. And the murders and disappearances are connected to the failure of the federal government to provide resources to our tribes and other tribes to establish a comprehensive response.” — Catherine Moses, Tribal Administrator, Asa’carsarmiut Tribe