Category Archives: Native Americans

Laxalt Wading in the Waters

Sometimes it’s  a good idea to read all the way to the end of an article.  A point illustrated in this discussion of Adam Laxalt’s latest:

He participated in a conference call with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on July 13, as part of a briefing over the Waters of the United States rule. Laxalt in 2015 entered Nevada into a lawsuit with 12 other states challenging the Obama administration’s expansion of the rule, which covers federally protected waters under the Clean Water Act.

Previously (2015)  the states won a TRO against the EPA’s expansion of the waters subject to the Clean Water Act:

“The States here have demonstrated that they will face irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction,” he said. “Once the Rule takes effect, the States will lose their sovereignty over intrastate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act.”

“The Rule allows EPA regulation of waters that do not bear any effect on the ‘chemical, physical, and biological integrity’ of any navigable-in-fact water,” Erickson said.

As of 2017, Laxalt joined litigation involving groundwater rights, and the priority of states to exercise control, in one instance at the expense of Native American water rights:

A Native American tribe sued in federal court claiming that, as part of its federal reservation of land, it has a priority right to use groundwater in the valley. Relying on Supreme Court cases involving implied reservations of surface water rights, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a priority right to use groundwater under federal reserved land is included as an implied right with the reservation, and that that right necessarily pre-empts state water law.

[…] The brief, in support of writs filed by two Southern California water agencies, asks the Supreme Court to clarify whether the federal reserved water right doctrine extends to groundwater and, if so, under what circumstances, so as to guide all states on managing groundwater resources.

And, there’s another sticky legal wicket, as illustrated by the case of property owners in Pahrump who feel they will be harmed by a State Engineer’s office decision about drilling on private property:

“It is factually impossible for petitioner to be irreparably harmed if a stay of Order #1293 is not issued as it does not own any land or otherwise have an interest that is affected by the order,” Laxalt’s opposition filing stated. “Petitioner does not have any legal interest in the basin.”

The argument of legal standing revolves around a technicality, with Laxalt noting that as a limited liability company that did not exist until after Order #1293 was issued, Pahrump Fair Water LLC is not affected by the order. The filing read, “…a limited liability company is an entity distinct from its managers and members.”

Laxalt’s opposition contains various other arguments as well, including his belief that a stay of Order #1293 would harm the public. In addition to declarations regarding potential negative impacts to water supply, Laxalt predicted a rash of drilling if a stay were granted.

Laxalt may be on more solid ground in this case, but calling the input from resident members of the plaintiffs “impertinent,’ ‘immaterial’ and ‘irrelevant’ probably isn’t the best way to make friends, influence people, and get individuals to the table to negotiate a settlement.

Granted, water rights may not be a crucial element in the outcome of Nevada’s 2018 elections, but Laxalt’s relationship with the ethically challenged EPA director could raise eyebrows and questions in this political climate.

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Filed under ecology, Native Americans, Nevada politics, Politics

The Trump Budget Steps Toward The End Of The Trail

The Trump Administration assault on America’s own citizens is replicating, in its own way, past assaults on Native Americans.

“Members from tribes in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho and Alaska called on Congress to restore funding to tribes during budget negotiations. The cuts ignore the treaty responsibilities to federally recognized tribes, they said, and put a stranglehold on programs that have been chronically underfunded.” [PBS]

And the administrative response?  The Office of Budget and Management didn’t respond to the e-mail asking for comments.  Wondering why the tribes are worried?

“The proposed budget would slash $64 million in federal Native American funding for education, $21 million for law enforcement and safety, $27 million for natural resources management programs run by tribes plus $23 million from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act, said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in Oregon.

It would also eliminate funding for tribal work on climate change and cut block grant programs that provide housing assistance for Native Americans, she added.”

Cutting $64 million for funding Native American schools is an illustration of why the old “backlog” attacks are usually phony.  The current funding for school construction and maintenance is already “backlogged” to an alarming extent: (pdf)

Despite some improvement and temporary relief, BIE schools lack adequate funding for construction to address documented needs. At the end of 2015, BIE school buildings had almost $400 million in deferred maintenance, with 55 elementary and secondary schools (30 percent of all BIE schools) in poor condition. The total backlog, including both schools and employee housing, was about $600 million.

So, there’s a backlog of $600 million which will be solved by adding another $64 million cut?   Now, a word about law enforcement cuts:

“Take public safety and justice. Although Trump has fashioned himself as being tough on crime, particularly when it comes to immigration and terrorism, he’s seeking a huge cut of $30 million to programs that help tribes address high rates of crime in their communities.Tribal Justice Support, for example, would lose a whopping $10 million, according to the budget justification. That’s a direct rebuke to tribes in California and Alaska, whose justice systems were hobbled by Congress during the termination era, when the federal government was eager to shed its trust and treaty responsibilities.'”

These cuts are underpinned by a philosophical statement that is reminiscent of an excuse in years past to justify cutting services and programs for Native American citizens.  “Self Determination,” and “Termination.”  Here’s a statement that contains some of these elements:

“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  “Working carefully with the President, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands.  The budget also allows the Department to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places.  Being from the West, I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

Points to notice:  (1)  The “statement opens with the presumption that government spending is by default wasteful, and therefore cuts are always justifiable.  Not so fast, when there are backlogs in such basic services as education and law enforcement we’re not talking about bloated budget line items; we’re discussing elements that are already underfunded.  (2) Notice that Native Americans were certainly not a priority in Interior Department discussions about the administrative budget — national park maintenance and “domestic energy policy” were front and center.  Let’s guess the latter being placed in greater proximity to center stage than the former.

(3) There’s a clue to this placement in the phrase “multiple use management”  as in — let energy development take precedence over Native American interests in how tribal lands are utilized.  There’s nothing particularly “traditional” about multiple use management, except perhaps for admirers of the administration’s capacity to gaslight and rewrite history for its own propaganda purposes.

(4) Emphasizing location doesn’t necessarily mean a person has any extraordinary insight or expertise.  It is perfectly possible for a non-Native person to live practically next door to a colony or reservation and have little contact and even less expertise in Native American issues.  So, if the expression “being from the West,” is supposed to indicate such insight and expertise, it’s not quite enough for the resumé.  Another point to notice is (5) That the budget comments refer to rural communities, not necessarily Native American reservations.

(6) Since Native Americans are referenced as part of the whole rural category, we need to focus on the last statement:

 I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

D.C. -centric is code for that old monster under the bed for conservatives, that the federal government is the ‘enemy’ of local or in this case tribal governments. No evidence is offered that tribal governments have been hurt by DC decisions, other than the decisions to under-fund tribal law enforcement and educational programs.

Program spending is code for cutting spending — presumably for the benefit of millionaires and billionaires who are expecting a magnificent batch of tax cuts in exchange for cutting money previously allocated for tribal law enforcement, housing, and education programs.

Shrink bureaucracy is another bit of code for cutting government staffing such that programs cannot be implemented.  This hoary old line is hauled out every time a Republican wants to cut social, safety net, or any other program for minority communities.

However, it’s the “empowering the front lines” suggestion that ought to set off the alarm bells.  This particular element goes back to the bad old days of the Dawes Act.  Under the terms of this horrific piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1887 “allowed” tribes to assign individual parcels of tribal lands into private ownership (an older version of ’empowering the front lines) with devastating results:

“The Dawes Act reduced Native American landholdings from 138 million acres in 1887 to 78 million in 1900 and continued the trend of white settlement on previously Native American-held land. In addition, the law created federally funded boarding schools designed to assimilate Native American children into white society. Family and cultural ties were practically destroyed by the now-notorious boarding schools, in which children were punished for speaking their native language or performing native rituals.”

This situation wasn’t rectified until 1934. It was the ultimate in ’empowering the front lines’ and it didn’t end well.  In more modern parlance, the Trump budget makes it quite clear that if tribal government want to improve their schools, or even perform basic maintenance on them, or support their law enforcement efforts they are “empowered” to do so by the federal government — quick translation: You’re On Your Own — the policy appears to harken back to the Republican staple, the Termination movement that prevailed from 1953 to 1968; almost but not quite.  There is no movement to terminate tribal governments, but we need to be aware that a tribal government which cannot deliver important local services because of budget restraints is operating with at least one hand, if not both, tied behind the back.

At the risk of indulging in some speculation at this point, let’s consider the possibility that as funding for tribal housing, law enforcement, health, and educational services are further reduced there is a greater likelihood the tribes will have to sell off tribal assets, or the rights to tribal assets, to sustain their own programs.  Read this as: The greater the cuts to local tribal programs the more likely the tribe is to sell off mineral rights and to allow the development of everything from mines to pipelines on tribal lands.   There doesn’t seem to be much that’s very subtle about this. Combine “empowering front lines” with “multiple use management” and the whole picture isn’t too difficult to imagine.

It’s a rather bleak picture, another step toward the End of The Trail.


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Filed under Native Americans, Nevada, Politics

Trump’s BIA Budget Massacre

1.6% of Nevada’s population is Native American, not a major demographic group when measured against the majority white (75%) and Hispanic populations (26.5%), or even the African American population (9.6%). [Census] However, that doesn’t mean this group doesn’t have some significant housing, health, education, and law enforcement needs on behalf of the Washoe, Paiute, Shoshone, and Utes (among others) who live in this State.  Worse still, the proposed Trump Budget stands to make their situation definitely more difficult.

“Overall, Trump’s proposal increases defense spending significantly and cuts deeply most programs for the poor. Trump’s budget slashes federal Indian country appropriations by more than 10 percent. For example, at $2.488 billion, Trump’s request for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs budget alone is a $300 million cut from Obama’s FY 2016 budget, which was the last full year appropriation (we have since operated on continuing resolutions). Trump’s proposal also cuts more than $50 million for the Indian country housing programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and zeroes out $8 million from the BIA budget for housing. For the Indian Health Service, Trump’s budget eliminates roughly $150 million.”  [IndC]

Consider for a moment the effects of a $300 million cut for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Drilling down, let’s look at the situation in Native American Housing, from which the administration seeks to cut some $58 million.  According to a HUD report issued in January 2017, housing needs are particularly acute in tribal areas in three major categories: System deficiencies (plumbing/electrical), physical condition, and overcrowding.

“Physical housing problems have declined enough to be negligible for the United States, on average—incidences typically of 1 to 2 percent—but not for American Indians and Alaska Natives in tribal areas. For example, 2013 American Housing Survey data show the U.S. average share of households with plumbing deficiencies was 1 percent, but this study’s household survey shows the share for AIAN populations in tribal areas was 6 percent; the share with heating deficiencies was 2 percent for the United States but 12 percent for AIANs in tribal areas; the share that was overcrowded was 2 percent for the United States but 16 percent for AIANs in tribal areas (exhibit ES.2). The only problems in which the incidences were nearly the same were electrical deficiencies (about 1 percent for both) and cost burden (36 percent for the United States versus 38 percent in tribal areas).” [HJ pdf] (emphasis added)

In summary, physical housing issues? 1-2% for most of the US population; but 16% for Native Americans.  “Heating deficiencies?” 2% for most of the US population; but 12% for Native Americans.  These numbers don’t appear to indicate a rationale for a $58 million slash in available funding.

Indeed, if we look at efforts of Native Americans to keep the furnace running in the winter is on the administration chopping block:

“The budget would eliminate programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income households pay to heat or cool their homes. In 2016, 150 tribal groups and more than 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds.”

There’s nothing like a cold house in the fall and winter to create an environment for disease, but again, Native Americans are on the losing end of the administration budget.

“The chronically underfunded Indian Health Service (IHS) offers care through a network of hospitals, clinics and health stations managed by IHS, tribes or tribal organizations, and urban Indian health programs. If the proposed budget passes, Medicaid, the national and state program that covers low-income individuals, could see its budget cut by $610 billion over the next 10 years. Mark Trahant, a journalist, academic and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes who has covered NA/AN affairs for 30 years, is concerned.

“In Indian Country, more than half of all Indian kids who go through Indian Health Service have their insurance through Medicaid,” he said. “Thirteen percent of Medicaid is Indian care.” [VOA]

Medicaid is not just an issue in terms of the national health care insurance proposals, but obviously has profound implications for health care services for Native Americans.   The proposed budget is not merely “austere,” but in relation to Native Americans it is downright cruel.

“The cutbacks to tribal programs are cutting into the bone and fail to recognize very real and critically important needs,” Fawn Sharp, the president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said Tuesday at a tribal conference in Portland, Oregon. “It is so severe that it’s absolutely illogical and unreasonable.”

Logic and reason have only a very tenuous connection to the administration’s budget proposals for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and associated programs which benefit Native Americans.

There’s something particularly egregious about a budget which presumes that programs for those in need, as the case of many Native Americans, should be slashed right into the bone so that tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners in the United States can be implemented. [CNNmoney]

This is the Trickle Down Hoax on steroids.  By some magical manipulation of the tax code in favor of the wealthiest among us, “jobs” are supposed to be created in remote reservation areas; exactly those regions not favored with infrastructure, transportation, education, and resources favorable to investment.   The TDH advocates argue that the economic development problems are the result of tribal land ownership patterns, a lack of natural resource exploitation, and government “interference.”

It’s hard for a white person to understand the relationship of Native Americans to land.  To the average white person land is real estate, it can be bought, sold, transferred, and allocated at will.  It’s just another ‘thing.”  There’s no single definitive Native American perspective about land, but this comment is at least illustrative:

“Us women have been taught that this Mother Earth has taken care of us, so we have to be like her essence. She never abandoned us, she is here, she nurtures us every day, she protects us, she feeds us, she clothes us.” [ICMN]

Tribal lands can be allocated for the use of tribal members, but it’s still tribal land.  It still has “essence;” it is nurturing, protective, and sustaining.  Perhaps as close as a white person can come to understanding this concept is to imagine one is living in a church, or some sanctified property.  The property may be inhabited by specific people for specific reasons, but it is still a communal sanctified place.  Further, while the majority in our society see wealth as a measure of personal worth, this isn’t a value prized among Native Americans who frown on that which is self-serving and avaricious.  There are enterprise activities on tribal lands, but again, these are tied to the benefit perceived to accrue to the tribe, and not individuals.

The glories of the Profit Motive as maintained by the TDH advocates and other “free-marketeers” are as foreign to many Native Americans as the idea that a child should come into the world while the family conducts its ceremonies would be to them.

For all intents and purposes, the administration’s proposed budget flies in the face of basic Native American values.  While purporting to encourage ‘individual initiative’ it guts those social programs that sustain the lives of the individuals who have difficulty amassing “wealth” in the white sense of the term.  While supposing that the budget encourages ‘economic development,’ it slashes funding for communal needs (housing, health services, education, nutrition) which underpin development of any kind.  As for ‘natural resource exploitation:

It’s highly unlikely one of the TDH advocates would fully appreciate the following:

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” – Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Nor would they understand the concept expressed in this quotation, which they might even dismiss with scorn:

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.”  – Chief Maquinna, Nootka

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Filed under Health Care, Native Americans, Politics, privatization, public health, Rural Nevada

Truck Attack on Reno Protesters; Trump Attack on Everyone Else

newspapers 1 ## The lead story on the Reno Gazette Journal website concerns two chubby white guys stalking and then driving a truck through a group of DAPL protesters in downtown Reno.  The two chubbies stopped a short distance away to “give their version of events” to police; fortunately there were no critical injuries sustained by members of the protest group.

## After the Citizens United debacle of a decision is anyone surprised that outside spending is a major feature of the Nevada senate seat race?  RGJ has more details.

## Perhaps it’s a measure of how “safe” the Nevada Congressional District 2 seat has become for Republicans that Mark Amodei is still backing Donald Trump:

“In the past couple of days every negative adjective in the English language has been used to describe Mr. Trump’s comments toward women,” Amodei said in the letter. “Frankly, the harsh criticism and outrage are, in my view, appropriate and deserved. Americans, in the final analysis, expect perfection, leadership, and someone they can be proud of as the leader of their country on the world political stage. At this point, sadly, neither nominee can lay claim to any of those traits.” [RGJ]

Amodei is now the only major Republican in Nevada supporting the Trump candidacy.  Maybe it’s appropriate to ask at this point – precisely WHAT has Secretary Clinton done that puts her even remotely close to the egregious behavior and insult driven campaign waged by the “deplorable” Mr. Trump?

The Benghazi Flap was a GOP manufactured pseudo-scandal upon which the GOP wasted two years and about $7 million dollars to come up with NOTHING.  The “emails” are another exercise in sound and fury signifying nothing.  If Representative Amodei is constructing his false equivalence predicated on these two bits of bombast, it’s a thin reed to grasp for the long run.

For his part, Mr. Trump announces himself unshackled from the Republican Party of which Rep. Amodei is a proud member, and launched one of his almost-patented Tweet Storms overnight.  Thus Representative Amodei places himself in support of the Donald J. Trump Insult-O-Rama:

Trump ChecklistThis isn’t exactly a list upon which to build a credible candidacy? For anyone. 

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Filed under Amodei, Native Americans, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, sexism, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Amodei’s Land Grab

Amodei Privatization Land “Congressman Mark Amodei will give an update to the Elko City Council Tuesday on possible issues that might impact the City and Elko County, according to Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson.

Amodei’s topics have not been outlined for the City. However, past subjects have included lands issues and sage grouse.” [EDFP]

If he’s set on discussing land issues, then we might guess he’s off to thread another precarious choice between the Bundyite Bunch and the BLM.  Back in late April, 2014 Representative Amodei was praising the BLM for backing off the confrontation with the Rampant Bundys, recalling his words:

“That is a leadership-type thing where you say, ‘We are getting our butts kicked and we are taking our team off the field and getting out of the stadium,'” Amodei said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s not a win, but probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.” [LVSun]

Two years later Amodei’s tone changed, he didn’t support the Bundys and he definitely didn’t want to be labeled anti-park:

“Amodei, however, said the (1) report attempts to use the Bundy sideshow to score political points rather than take a serious look at important issues such as (2) land access, ecosystem health and local economies.

“They don’t speak for me on anything to do with public lands,” Amodei said of Bundy and his acolytes. (3) “I want it to be about the resources, not about some guy who is or isn’t paying his grazing fees.” [RGJ] (numbering added)

Parse with us now. (1) When faced with a report bearing uncomfortable factual inclusions, such as Amodei’s opposition to funding and maintaining national parks and monuments, deflect the issue to the Bundy Bunch – who want no federal involvement in public land administration (grazing, forests, parks, monuments, …) and announce one’s inclination to talk about substantive land issues.  The 2nd District Representative had an opportunity to vote on the SHARE Act, a privatization proposal in Congress this year, but was absent for the vote.

“Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) sponsored H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015, which contains harmful measures undermining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. The bill includes language that could allow the use of motorized vehicles, road construction, and other forms of development within protected wilderness areas, and it blocks input from public stakeholders in National Wildlife Refuge management decisions. This legislation also includes provisions that would weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic lead in ammunition, fishing equipment. Additionally, this bill would undermine international commitments to combat ivory trafficking, thwarts our ability to effectively manage marine resources, and cuts the public out of management decisions impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. On February 26, the House approved H.R. 2406 by a vote of 242-161 (House roll call vote 101). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.” [LCV] (emphasis added)

(2) Representative Amodei has the big three listed — “land access, ecosystem health, and local economies.” However, in terms of access notice the underlining in the SHARE bill – when management decisions are to be made the PUBLIC is cut out of the process. This raises the question that if we are speaking of public access to public lands and the public is cut out of the management decision process, then whose access are we talking about?  Since the GOP sponsored bill passed the GOP controlled Congress, then it’s reasonable to assume the GOP doesn’t want input from PUBLIC organizations concerning management decisions – leaving the field (literally?) to the mining, logging, privatization, and other commercial interests?

And, if rivers are dredged or fouled, forests are cut down, wildlife is endangered, hunters are denied access, fishing enthusiasts are turned away, then it must be for the sake of the “local economies?” Unfortunately, Representative Amodei’s comments as reported offer no explication of his priorities.

(3) But then, there’s Representative Amodei’s infamous quote: “…we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ] Are heavily armed men taking over a federal wildlife refuge and threatening violence just “frustrated?”  So, perhaps it would be logical to infer that Amodei’s heart is with the “frustrated” members of those “local economies” which seek to exploit public resources?

Amodei is quick to cite his support for the National Park Service budget, and his support for the hazardous fuel mitigation efforts on public lands, but part of what got him on the Anti-Park list is explained: “Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada..[RGJ]

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that cash strapped states (like Nevada) might not eventually want to capitalize on the exploitation of public lands in the state, quite possibly at the expense of small ranching concerns, outdoor sports participants, and wildlife in particular.

A sneak peak might be on display with his bill to place BLM lands in trust with Nevada tribes:

“The House Natural Resources Committee approved the Nevada Native Nations Land Act, H.R. 2733, which Amodei introduced to provide more opportunities for economic development and protection of natural resources in the regions.

“(Wednesday’s) vote puts us one step closer to placing Nevada public lands back into local control — rather than in the hands of Washington bureaucrats,” Amodei said. “My bill carefully balances the unique needs of our Nevada tribal nations with those of local ranchers, land owners and businesses.” [RiponAdv] (emphasis added)

There he goes again, getting land out from under the “Washington Bureaucrats.”  The only salvation in this legislation is that Native Americans, who generally have a better standard of stewardship than the Koch Brothers,  are the ones holding the lands in trust.  We might also safely conclude that this “one step” is the first of many in which Representative Amodei seeks to place Nevada public lands under local control.

From local it’s one more step to private.

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Filed under Amodei, Interior Department, koch brothers, National Parks, Native Americans, Nevada politics, public lands, Reservations, Rural Nevada

VAWA: Jumping off the Racial Cliff?

Native American womanLet me hear that part about the Congressional Republicans NOT being tainted with the stain of racism?  Let me hear the tautological complaint once again that accusing members of the Republican Party of racism is racism.  And, then let me hear why members of the Republican Caucus in the Congress of the United States of America aren’t taking action to extend the protections of the Violence Against Women Act to Native American women? What situation would prevent the Senate version of the bill from a quick passage?

Did you read this on the NRDC Blog?

“Today on Indian reservations, the local governments don’t have the ability to respond to domestic violence crimes in their community if the perpetrator isn’t Native. Without this ability, non-Native offenders often go unpunished on tribal land because the only ones who can bring them to justice are federal prosecutors who are often hundreds of miles away and lack local resources to properly investigate and prosecute these crimes. The result, according to a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-funded report, the offenders become emboldened, and the violence escalates to rape and in some cases homicide. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is 10 times the national average.”  (emphasis in original)

This isn’t rocket science, it certainly isn’t the stuff of which neurology lectures are composed.  Local law enforcement officers don’t have jurisdiction on tribal lands and federal officers are (1) physically located some considerable distance from the localities, and (2) understaffed and under-resourced to enforce the law on tribal lands.   The situation was discussed here, in some detail.

We’ve also heard from Nevada 2nd District Congressman Mark Amodei:

“I heard from tribes in my district, including the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Tribal Council, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe about this issue and I can assure them that this bill would not only provide increased funding for federal law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue these cases, it would also empower Indian victims to seek protective orders in U.S. District Courts against abusers.”  [Amodei] (emphasis added) [Link]

So increased funding for federal law enforcement is the “answer” to the jurisdictional issue?  No.  And, seeking a protective order from the U.S. District Court in Reno is going to be convenient for assault victims in Duck Valley? No. Again.

So, why would Representatives like Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) resist giving tribal courts jurisdiction over crimes committed against Native American women on tribal lands?

Cantor and other Republicans continue to stall the VAWA Reauthorization because of baseless constitutional concerns for those accused of abusing Native women.”  [NRDC] And, who are those accused of abusing Native women?  Who would be in this category, and not be subject to the jurisdiction of tribal courts?  Non-tribal people.

Of Representative Cantor, “…his staff has said they’re willing to try to come up with other solutions to responding to violence against women on tribal lands, as long as the solution doesn’t give tribes jurisdiction over the matter. But proponents of the Senate bill see the limited jurisdictional change as the only realistic way to address the problem.” (emphasis added) [HuffPo] What’s the problem?  The only logical conclusion a sentient person can reach is that Representative Cantor he doesn’t want to see white men hauled into tribal courts for assaulting Native American women.   Heaven forefend non-whites might have jurisdiction over white men?

Thus far, Representative Cantor and Representative Amodei seem to be on the same page — VAWA authorization would be just fine and dandy — BUT we can’t have non-white people facing justice in tribal courts.   And, the question does, indeed, drill right down to “protecting the rights” of non-Native rapists, as explained by Rep. Tom Cole (Chickasaw) R-OK:

“There are 535 members of Congress, and 534 of them could go on the Sioux Reservation, commit a crime, and not be subjected to local jurisdiction,” Cole added. “If I did it, though, I would be, because I’m an Indian. We trust tribes to have jurisdiction over Native Americans. As long as you give people the right to appeal, they ought to be subject to tribal jurisdiction.… Most American communities have local jurisdiction; Native Americans do not. It’s not right. I will vote with the Democrats on this if an amendment or recommit is offered. I hope we can get it done this year.” [Indian Country] (emphasis added)

OK, if “we” trust Native Americans to dispense justice to other Native Americans without comment or complaint, then why are the tribal courts — which must follow the same federal regulations regarding the rights of defendants as any other Section III courts — not to be trusted to dispense justice to non-Native people, most often men.

The answers are provided by a paper authored by Bethany Berger of Wayne State University and the University of Connecticut: (pdf)

“Federal Indian Law scholars agree that U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding tribal jurisdiction over non-members are not dictated by judicial precedent. I believe that these decisions are based instead on two assumptions:
First, the justices assume that nonmembers will be placed at a disadvantage in tribal courts, which they portray as unfamiliar, biased, and ultimately inferior places. The justices, for example, repeatedly refer to “intrusions on personal liberties” if non-members are subject to tribal jurisdiction, the fact that nonmembers do not vote in tribal elections, that tribes are not fully bound by the U.S. Constitution, and that tribal law is “unfamiliar” and will be “unusually difficult for an outsider to sort out.”
Second, the justices assume that jurisdiction over outsiders has little to do with tribal self-government, because tribal self-government only concerns things that the justices think of as “uniquely tribal,” such as hunting and fishing and traditional practices untouched by time. Taxation, zoning, criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians are all outside what the justices imagine really matters to tribes. In Strate v. A-1 Contractors, for example, the Court held that a tribe did not have jurisdiction over lawsuit arising from an accident on a highway running through the reservation saying that it was not crucial to tribal self government for the tribe to exercise  jurisdiction over a “commonplace state highway accident claim.” Tribal government, somehow, does not involve the “commonplace” stuff that all governments do.”

The first argument is not supported by the actual results of the actions of tribal courts.   So, local justice of the peace courts, or municipal courts, are “competent” but tribal courts are assumed to be “inferior,” “unfamiliar,” or “biased?”  Now, what kind of thinking could automatically revert to those assumptions?  The second argument is equally absurd.

It’s acceptable for tribal courts to do Indiany-Things like take care of Mother Earth, or to protect their hunting and fishing rights — like Native Americans don’t hold construction jobs and exceed the speed limit on highways through tribal areas.  But, Heaven Forbid they’d be interested in things like zoning, contract fulfillment, and child custody?  In short, they are assumed competent to  take care of Mother Earth but not their earthly mothers.

The non-Native man who assaults, batters, rapes or abuses a Native woman is a batterer, an abuser, and/or a rapist.  Think that doesn’t put a Native woman in a place that’s confusing? Unfamiliar? Unpleasant?  Evidently, the constant conservative complaint that we don’t pay enough attention to Victim’s Rights, doesn’t apply to Native women?  What else could explain the devotion of Representatives Cantor and Amodei to the rights of the defendants?

What indeed?

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Filed under Amodei, Cantor, Native Americans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Sunday Stroll: Ladies Day

Elections have consequences.  There could be significant consequences for the Medicaid program in Nevada depending on the outcome of the 2012 election.  Here are two, improved graphics from yesterday’s post illustrating who is served by the Nevada Medicaid program — and who will be impacted by proposals from the GOP (Ryan Budget) to transform Medicaid into a block grant program, and to cut funding by approximately one-third.

The question becomes — where will we cut? From the 58% of the program which serves children?  If we cut all funding from adults, that would save only 19% and we should remember that 150,200 of the people served are adult females, some of whom are pregnant receiving pre-natal care.

Speaking of women:  Planned Parenthood Federation of America informs us there were 133,246 uninsured women in Nevada as of 2008-2009.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) 66,623 are likely to qualify for Medicaid in 2014, and  55,963 are likely to qualify for premium credits in the health insurance exchanges.

Laying aside the Republican hyperbolic hysterical generalities about Socialism, Non-existent Death Panels, and Killing Grannies — the Affordable Care Act has some definite benefits for women, which ought to be considered before voting in favor of a candidate who wants to repeal it:

#1. Preventative and wellness visits to a physician — coverage must include screenings for breast and cervical cancer.  #2. Coverage for gestational diabetes screening. #3. HPV-DNA testing for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of Pap smear results. Early screening, detection and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer. #4. STI counseling and HIV testing.  #5. Contraceptive and contraceptive counseling — and no the government isn’t paying for this, and employers aren’t paying for this — the insurance has to cover it.  #6. Breast feeding support, supplies, and education.  #7. Domestic violence screening and counseling services.  [Time]  And, by the way — health insurance corporations may no longer charge women more for an insurance policy just because they are — you know — female.

Women on the Reservation:  While the Republican controlled House of Representatives stews about expanding efforts to extend protection for Native American women under the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, [The Hill] there’s still a major domestic violence problem on Reservations.   If one applied the GOP logic to the situation: “Suppose your sister was with you in Washington, DC, and her husband beat her up,” Moore says, “but because he was from Virginia, Washington couldn’t do anything about it.” [MJM]

There’s a little bit of help on the horizon from the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice.  Help for at least four tribes.

“Through this special initiative, OVW will support salary, travel and training costs of four tribal SAUSAs, who will work in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Districts of Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Specifically, OVW will award cooperative agreements to four federally recognized tribes to select qualified applicants in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney Offices to serve as cross-designated prosecutors.  These prosecutors will maintain an active violence against women crimes caseload, in tribal and/or federal court, while also helping to promote higher quality investigations, improved training and better inter-governmental communication.”

The ladies on the following Reservations will be a bit safer — Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico,  Fort Belknap Tribe in Montana, Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in North Dakota and South Dakota. Or, the House Republican leadership could stop hiding behind technicalities and vacation days and pass the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Twenty Three Cents Worth:   Lily Ledbetter (video) spoke to the disparity of pay in too many American workplaces, 23 cents worth on average.  Let’s play with the calculator — the median expected salary for an entry level accountant in this country is $44,456 dollars per year.   [] If a husband and wife were both entry level accountants, and the pay was equal, their combined earnings would be $88,912.   However, if her salary is only 77% of her husband’s she earns about $34,231.  Their combined earnings are reduced to $78,687.12.   Wonder what they could have done with $9,000?  Wonder what the local economy could have done if family earnings were what they should be?  Do the arithmetic.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, Health Care, health insurance, Medicaid, Native Americans, Nevada economy, nevada health, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Filibusters and Busting Fillies

Politics being cyclical, J. Patrick Coolican makes some interesting observations about Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) opinions on filibuster reform in the Las Vegas Sun.  Raw data on the use of the filibuster in the Senate since God Was In Short Pants can be found here in the Senate Virtual Reference section.    As Ezra Klein points out, strict constructionists may want to temper their current approval of Senatorial Filibustering — the framers weren’t all that pleased with the idea when it was first considered:

“In Federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton savaged the idea of a supermajority Congress, writing that “its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.”

In Federal 58, James Madison wasn’t much kinder to the concept. “In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.” [WaPo]

Klein has a much fancier chart accompanying his remarks, a chart illustrating the use of the filibuster since it became the cudgel of choice beginning around 1990 looks like this:


Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV3) is pleased all over himself for voting in favor of the Violence Against Women Act — except the following comments don’t exactly fit the bill for which he voted.

“This bill provides increased resources for criminal investigations, strengthens penalties against abusers to better protect victims, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, and funds programs that protect victims from the physical and mental scars of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and rape.” [Heck]

Heck voted in favor of H.R. 4970 — the House version of the bill — which doesn’t protect women in LGBT relationships.  Law enforcement officers called out on domestic assaults don’t ask who’s in the house, they perform their duties, and then may steer the victims to services available to assist them.  Services are not always available to victims in alternative relationships.  Secondly, the House version DOES NOT PROTECT NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN from non-tribal abusers who can take advantage of jurisdictional issues in order to avoid prosecution in state courts, and/or advantage of the lack of resources in federal courts for prosecuting the miscreants.

“Native women aren’t safer as a result of the passage of  H.R. 4970. In fact, the tribal provisions included in this bill create additional hurdles for Indian women seeking protection from violence on tribal lands, and that is unacceptable” – Juana Majel-Dixon, 1st Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women.”  [4VAWA] (emphasis added)

Finally, Heck has actually reduced law enforcement resources required to fight sex trafficking crimes against women.  Women lured to this country by “marriage” offers and then battered by abusive husbands are trapped in a bind — seek prosecution of their abusers and lose permission for residency (meaning they can be deported before they have a chance to testify) or endure the abuse to maintain legal residency.  Law enforcement officials want to offer women in these relationships special immigration status so that they can remain here to help substantiate charges of abuse.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of the vocal lobbyists against the Senate version of the bill is associated with SAVE and Encounters International. The bottom line:

“It’s shocking to me that the people who are advocating for these anti-immigrant provisions are the people who have a monetary interest in not holding batterers accountable and not holding marriage broker agencies accountable,” she told HuffPost. “These are the ones reaching out to House Republicans, and Republicans are supporting the policies they’re pushing.” [RWW]*

So, Representative Heck can assert that he “supports” the Violence Against Women Act, BUT without protecting members of the LGBT community, Native American women, and battered mail-order brides.

Nevada Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is also pleased with himself:

“As the father of two daughters, this legislation is very important to me,” said Amodei. “It increases resources for investigations, prosecutions, and victim services, while strengthening penalties and promoting educational awareness to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. And because good intentions aren’t good enough, this version of the bill would help ensure taxpayer resources go to help victims rather than Washington bureaucrats.”  [Amodei]

However, “this legislation” he is speaking of is also H.R. 4970. Well now, NO, H.R. 4970 doesn’t actually “increase resources” at least not for the victims mentioned above.  Nor does his last comment about “good intentions” make any sense other than as a toss-in line bashing federal efforts to administer VAWA efforts.  In fact, Amodei’s “good intentions” obviously don’t apply to the three categories of victims (LGBT, Native American, and Battered Mail Order Brides).

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) hasn’t yet offered an explanation for her vote in favor of H.R. 4970 in roll call 258, unless it is that she is hoping conference committee actions will retain the crucial elements of S. 1925 assisting members of the LGBT community, Native American women, and battered mail order brides.

* This entire post is highly recommended reading.  For additional information about S. 1925 and H.R. 4970  go to the 4VAWA website for fact sheets and analytical information.

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Filed under Amodei, Berkley, Filibusters, Heck, Native Americans, Nevada politics, Politics, Reid, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

The Republican War On Women Hits The Rez

Passing the Violence Against Women Act should be a no-brainer.  However, the House Republicans — May we include Nevada Representatives Amodei and Heck in that number? — are intent on stripping from the bill some important improvements which benefit woman and law enforcement.  [The Gavel] The House Republican version of the measure has some serious flaws as described by the National Network to End Domestic Violence:

“…(H.R. 4970) that was introduced April 27, 2012.  It weakens or deletes entirely some of the vital improvements in the Senate bill, including the strong provisions that are designed to increase the safety of Native women and the needs of the LGBT community.  The bill also contains extremely dangerous provisions that would jeopardize the safety and often the lives of immigrant victims seeking to report crimes by eliminating important confidentiality protections, undermining effective anti-fraud protections, and rolling back years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant victims.  Finally, it grows excessive and costly bureaucracy that will divert resources which could be used for victim services.”

Let’s focus for a moment on the plight of Native American Women.   The statistics are appalling.

“Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the United States. A report released by the Department of Justice, American Indians and Crime, found that Native American women suffer violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average. National researchers estimate that this number is actually much higher than has been captured by statistics; according to the Department of Justice over 70% of sexual assaults are never reported.” [NOW]

There are obviously two problems here.  First, the violence rate is totally unacceptable. Secondly, the rate of non-reporting is equally unacceptable.  And, the current system isn’t helping solve either problem:

“Police and courts tend to ignore cases of violence involving Native American women due to alleged confusion between federal and tribal jurisdiction. Law enforcement and attorneys often are not schooled to deal with the cross-over in dealing between jurisdictions. Eileen Hudon, a sexual abuse counselor from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, said there is a “basic ignorance in the whole justice system.” This causes blatant violations of the rights of Native American women. Technically, cases involving a non-Native American perpetrator and Native American victim fall under federal jurisdiction. According to the Department of Justice, 70% or more of violence experienced by Native American women is committed by persons not of the same race.”  [NOW]

The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 made some small improvements toward addressing domestic violence against Native American women in subsection F.

“Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will now more often encounter authorities who have been trained to handle such cases. The Act expands training of tribal enforcement officers on the best ways to interview victims of domestic and sexual violence and the importance of collecting evidence to improve rates of conviction. The Director of Indian Health Services will coordinate with the Department of Justice, Tribes, Tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations to develop standardized sexual assault policies and protocols.

Special Assistant US Attorneys will be deputized under the Act to prosecute reservation crimes in Federal courts, and tribes will be given greater authority to hold perpetrators accountable. These provisions help to increase communication between tribal law enforcement, Federal authorities and the court system. As numbers of convictions grow, more women may be willing to report the abuses against them so that their abusers may be prosecuted.” [WH]

This was a good start, but definitely not the end of the road.  The jurisdiction issues still place many Native American women in jeopardy, as Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) explained:

“…many of those crimes “go un-prosecuted and unpunished” because tribes cannot prosecute non-Native Americans for domestic violence crimes committed on tribal land. Only federal prosecutors have the authority to prosecute non-Native Americans for domestic violence crimes against their Native American spouses or partners. More than half of Native women are married to non-Native husbands. “Native women should not be abandoned to a jurisdictional loophole,” Udall said. “In effect, these women are living in a prosecution-free zone.” [RS]

Thus, we have more than 50% of Native American women married to non-Native husbands, who are NOT subject to the jurisdiction of the federal prosecutors provided for in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.  These women are, if their husbands choose to be abusive and violent, totally vulnerable.

“Current law does nothing to address the jurisdictional gap in Indian Country that leaves Native women without equal access to justice.  In short, an Indian woman raped or beaten by her non-Indian husband often has nowhere to turn for protection under existing law.  Tribal law enforcement has no authority to intervene because the perpetrator is a non-Indian; the State has no authority to intervene because the victim is an Indian; and the Federal Government—the body with exclusive jurisdiction—has neither the will nor the resources to intervene in misdemeanor level domestic violence cases.”  [4VAWA]

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI4) made the point as clearly as possible:

“…this bill would recognize the tribes’ authority to prosecute non-Indians or Indians who abuse their American Indian spouses or dating partners on tribal lands. Fifty-two percent of women who are beaten, battered, raped, or stalked on tribal lands are not prosecuted because tribes have no authority. And on tribal lands, there is no follow-up and no prosecution.  […] We’re actually sanctioning the abuse that occurs on tribal lands and providing a sanctuary for assailants who commit these crimes on native lands by not providing this authority to tribal nations.. [Rep. Moore (D-WI4) CR pdf]

Why would House Republicans remove protection for Native American women when the jurisdictional issues are patently obvious and painfully real?  Why would House Republicans support a measure which deliberately leaves Native American women vulnerable to abuse by non-native men?

Perhaps they’ve bought into some of the mythology surrounding the proposal.  When we look carefully at some of the more popular myths spread by opponents of S. 1925 there’s a discernible theme:  Fear that non-Native (Should we dare suggest “white?”)  people will be subject to tribal jurisdictions.

Fear Number One: “The tribal provisions in S.1925 would strip jurisdiction from federal or state authorities.” Wrong – there is NOTHING in S. 1925 that alters or removes state or federal jurisdiction, “Rather, S.1925 restores concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over a very narrow set of crimes that statistics demonstrate are an egregious problem on Indian reservations.”

Fear Number Two: “The Senate version of VAWA gives tribes criminal jurisdiction over all crimes committed by non-Indians on or off the reservation.”  Wrong – “S.1925 provides a limited jurisdictional fix to address a narrow set of egregious crimes committed in Indian country: domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders.  It does not extend to other crimes or to crimes committed beyond reservation boundaries.”

Fear Number Three: “The Senate version of VAWA would allow tribes to prosecute crimes between two non-Indians with no ties to the reservation.” Wrong – “Non-Indian on non-Indian crime that occurs on the reservation is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the State.  The new tribal provisions in no way alter this century-old rule established by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. McBratney, 104 U.S. 621 (1881)

Fear Number Four: “Section 904 would permit tribal prosecutions of all non-Indians.” Wrong – “Section 904 of S.1925 is limited to only crimes of domestic violence or dating violence committed in Indian country where the defendant is a spouse or established intimate partner of a tribal member. It does not permit tribal prosecutions unless the defendant has “sufficient ties to the Indian tribe,” meaning he/she must either reside in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, be employed in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, or be the spouse or intimate partner of a member of the prosecuting tribe.”

Fear Number Five:  Is honestly one of the silliest,”S.1925 is unconstitutional because tribal courts are not bound by the U.S. Constitution.”  Wrong – “Under Section 904, tribal courts must provide defendants with the same constitutional rights in tribal court as they would have in state court. Defendants would be entitled to the full panoply of constitutional protections, including due-process rights and an indigent defendant’s right to appointed counsel (at the expense of the tribe) that meets federal constitutional standards. This includes the right to petition a federal court for habeas corpus to challenge any conviction and to stay detention prior to review, and explicit protection of “all other rights whose protection is necessary under the Constitution of the United States.”

Fear Number Six:  But wait, it’s really does get sillier — “It is “un-American” to subject non-Indians to prosecution in tribal court because they are not allowed to participate in tribal political processes through the ballot box.”  Really wrong – “Political participation has never been considered a necessary precondition to the exercise of criminal jurisdiction under the concept of due process of law. For example, Indians were subjected to federal jurisdiction under the Federal Major Crimes Act of 1885 almost 40 years before most of them were made citizens or given the vote by the Citizenship Act of 1924. Moreover, due process certainly does not prevent either the federal government or the states from prosecuting either documented or undocumented aliens for crimes committed within the United States, despite the fact that neither can vote on the laws to which they are subjected.

Fear Number Seven: Here’s where the inklings of “reverse discrimination” mythology come into play, “Section 904 of S.1925 would subject non-Indians to tribal courts that systematically exclude non-Indians from the jury pool.”  Wrong again – “Section 904 of S.1925 contains explicit language that tribes exercising authority under these new provisions must draw from jury pools that reflect a fair cross-section of the community and do not systematically exclude any distinct group of people, including non-Indians.”

Fear Number Eight:  Big Government, or we don’t need to do anything because “The amendments to Title IX in the Senate VAWA are not needed because existing law—namely the Tribal Law & Order Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act—are sufficient to solve the epidemic of violence against Native women.” Wrong – “Current law does nothing to address the jurisdictional gap in Indian Country that leaves Native women without equal access to justice.  In short, an Indian woman raped or beaten by her non-Indian husband often has nowhere to turn for protection under existing law.  Tribal law enforcement has no authority to intervene because the perpetrator is a non-Indian; the State has no authority to intervene because the victim is an Indian; and the Federal Government—the body with exclusive jurisdiction—has neither the will nor the resources to intervene in misdemeanor level domestic violence cases.”  [More at this link from 4VAWA]

What do these eight bits of mythology and misinformation have in common?  Perhaps it’s the haunting fear that somewhere, somehow, some non-tribal man will have to face justice in a tribal court for violence perpetrated upon a Native American woman?   Why else would so much verbiage be tortured and twisted into providing dubious issues regarding jurisdiction?   In our current system we have all but granted that “sanctuary for assaults” about which Representative Moore was speaking, and the House Republicans would strip protections from Native American women while giving non-tribal men all but a  license to abuse, batter, assault, and rape them.

And, now the question — which version of the VAWA will Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) support?

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Filed under Amodei, Heck, Native Americans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

VAWA S. 1925: The Sooner The Better

Finally, Nevada’s appointed Senator Dean Heller makes 60.  That would be the 60th co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act (S. 1925), to which Senator signed on as of March 20th saying:

“This is the type of legislation that should be brought to the floor in a bipartisan manner, not used as a political wedge.  The fact that some in Congress are more interested in playing games than solving problems goes to the heart of what is wrong with Washington.  Let’s start solving our nation’s most pressing issues and pass this important legislation immediately,” said Senator Dean Heller.” [Heller]

Right, now perhaps the Senate Republicans will stop filibustering this bill and allow a vote.

It’s costing the United States of America some $5.8 billion annually for domestic violence, $4.1 billion for direct medical costs, and another $1.8 billion in lost productivity.  Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.  Domestic partner violence was a significant factor in 18.5 million mental health care visits as of 2007.  [DVFS pdf]  And, probably worse still: Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents. [DVS]

The issue is particularly important for Native American women who are victimized at a rate 2.5 times greater than the general population.  34.1% of all Native American women are projected to be likely victims of such violence during their lifetimes — compared to a 1 in 5 likelihood of similar violence in other demographic groups.  There is also a crucial jurisdictional issue faced by Native women.

Approximately 86% of the reported cases of rape and sexual assault on Native American women were perpetrated by non-Native men.  (65.1% of assaults on white women were by white men, and 89.8% of assaults on African American women were by African American men.) [AI report pdf]  This can insert jurisdictional conflicts into the prosecution of the victimizers in the case of Native American women.

“For different reasons and in different ways none of the three justice systems – federal, state and tribal — are responding adequately to Indigenous survivors of sexual violence. The US government has interfered with the ability of tribal justice systems to respond to crimes of sexual violence by underfunding tribal justice systems, prohibiting tribal courts from trying non-Indian suspects and limiting the custodial sentences which tribal courts can impose for any one offense.”  [AI report pdf]

While the proposed bill will not solve all the problems it does improve the situation for Native American women, and is as good a starting point as any.

The 2008 Domestic Violence reports for Nevada show 22,141 domestic violence cases in Clark County, another 2,177 in Washoe County, 287 in Carson City, 294 in Elko County, and 222 in Douglas County. [DPS pdf]

Unfortunately, the attention given the issue described in the statistics doesn’t rise to the level necessary as suggested by a 2011 report from the NNADV:

“NISVS results estimate more than 770,000 Nevadans have experienced rape, other forms of physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime and more than 240,000 had an injury or needed medical care. “These are staggering numbers,” says Ms. Meuschke, “and emphasize the need for stronger intervention and prevention efforts.”  [NNADV pdf]

What’s needed are, indeed, stronger intervention and prevention efforts, along with an enhanced Violence Against Women Act from the 112th Congress.   The sooner the better.

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Filed under 2012 election, Filibusters, Heller, Native Americans, Women's Issues