Fairbanks Daily News-miner: Sen. Murkowski addresses Alaska Tribal Court Conference on Violence Against Women Act

On the second day of the 2023 Alaska Tribal Court Conference, US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to hundreds of tribal leaders and discussed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and how it applies to Alaska Natives.

“So many of you have been advocates for so long, advocates for others who are not able to speak for themselves,” Murkowski said. “I’m talking to those of you who are in this every day. They are not numbers. They are friends. They are relatives.”

VAWA was originally passed in 1994, but reintroduced and passed in 2022 with the VAWA Reauthorization Act. Murkowski was responsible for adding a section into the 2022 bill that gave specific jurisdiction to tribal courts in matters relating to domestic violence.

“We see Alaska Native Women continuing to suffer the highest rates of sexual assault and recorded rates of domestic violence,” Murkowski said.

According to a 2022 study by the University of Alaska Anchorage, 57% of women in Alaska reported experiencing sexual violence or intimate partner violence. The rate for Alaska Native women is higher, with 84% of American Indian or Alaska Native women reporting being victims of violence, according to the US Department of Justice.

Section 813 of VAWA gives Alaska tribal courts the power to enforce protective orders against perpetrators of violence and also establishes a pilot program where tribal courts are given special jurisdiction over non-Alaska Natives living in a predominately Alaska Native Village. Section 813 does not apply if neither the victim or the defendant is Alaska Native.

“We really worked to restore tribal jurisdiction in domestic violence and related crimes,” Murkowski said.

The pilot program allows up to five tribes per year to exercise special authority over the incarceration of people convicted in their tribal courts. If a defendant is serving a sentence of more than one year, tribal courts may incarcerate them in a tribal correctional facility that has been approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or may send the defendant to a federal correctional facility.

By:  Carter DeJong
Source: Fairbanks Daily News Miner