Progress Made Based on the VAWA Annual Consultation Process

The 2018 VAWA consultation marks 13 years of annual consultations between Indian tribes and federal departments on issues concerning violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. These annual consultations have driven federal legislative and policy reform for more than a decade, providing a consistent dialogue between tribal governments and the federal departments on the highest priorities to be addressed. The 12 years of annual consultations during which tribal leaders raised their concerns and recommendations have resulted in major changes needed to increase the safety of Indian women.

Major Victories

Since 2006, tribal leaders have raised at the annual consultation the most serious roadblocks to the safety of Native women and issues impacting the ability of Indian tribes to protect women.

The barriers identified are often legal ones—existing laws passed by Congress, U.S. Supreme Court rulings from decades ago, or administrative policies of federal departments. Removing certain barriers identified by tribal leaders at the annual consultation has required ongoing discussions and national advocacy which has occurred over many years.

Changes and reform of federal law and policies is complicated due to the layers of federal Indian law. As a result, addressing certain barriers requires Congressional action and the reforms occur through amendments to existing federal law or passage of new federal law. Other changes or reforms require changes by a federal department in administrative policies that do not require Congressional action.

The amendment under VAWA 2000 increasing the amount of the dedicated tribal fund to 10% required amending the original amount of 4% under VAWA of 1995. The creation of a separate tribal title under VAWA in 2005 required amending VAWA 2000. And the numerous amendments made by Congress under VAWA 2013 stem from difficult and challenging conversations at consultation over years and amending the Indian Civil Rights Act and other federal laws.

Understanding that this government-to-government consultation process on violence against Indian women has resulted in major legislative and administrative victories is important in preparation for the 2018 annual consultation. This progress must continue until safety and justice for Native women are achieved.

  • 2007 OVW Policy Change—Allowing children to be present at OVW-funded events.
  • 2010 Congressional Act—Increase in sentencing limitation on tribal courts from a maximum of 1-year incarceration per offense to up to 3 years for a single conviction under the Tribal Law and Order Act amending the Indian Civil Rights Act.
  • 2011 DOJ Policy Change—28 Indian tribes allowed direct access to National Crime Information Center through the USDOJ.
  • 2013 Congressional Act—Return of jurisdiction over certain non-Indian domestic violence abusers; increase in funding for the tribal coalition grant program; and other important amendments.
  • 2015 State of Alaska Policy Change—The Alaska Attorney General published a formal opinion concluding that federal law preempts the Alaska state order of protection registration law and that local and state law enforcement must enforce tribal orders of protection as a result of DOJ action.
  • 2015 DOJ Policy Change—Launch of the Tribal Access Program for Indian tribes to submit criminal and civil information to and access the National Crime Information Center databases.
  • 2016 OVW Administrative Response—OVW-coordinated listening session with Alaska Native villages attended by DOJ, HHS, and DOI held in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • 2018 Congressional Budget Appropriations—Funding appropriated for a dedicated tribal victims of crime program including services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

Past consultation reports from 2009–2017 are available at https://www.justice.gov/ovw/tribal-consultation.