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The Government Shows No Mercy to Native Women


Submitted By kribyrd
Words 1766
Pages 8
Ever since I was a little girl, my grandmother always taught me the responsibilities of a Native American woman. Although I did not grow up on the Navajo Reservation like she did, she made sure my sisters and I understood what our ethnicity entitled us. As a Native woman, I was expected to learn our language, because our language defined our tribe. I was expected to respectfully follow our beliefs and traditions, because our beliefs and traditions made us distinct and allowed us, as woman, to keep the tribe in order. It was the woman’s job to make sure our tribe or family represented well. And lastly, I was expected to always fight for what I believed in. I was always afraid about the responsibility of fighting back and standing up for my beliefs. Nevertheless, when it comes to my people, I believe it is my place and my right to inform American citizens of the effects caused by the United States Government.
Native Americans aren’t as prosperous as they used to be and being contained on reservations has only deteriorated our people, our land and our entitlement to justice and protection. There has been a rise of many destroying factors on reservations, such as abuse of alcohol and the rise of brutal crimes, but the most important and overlooked is the crimes against Native women. Justice on Native American reservations requires a fight. The backbones of most tribal communities are continually and increasingly being taken advantage of. With tribal authority ranging from little to none, Native women on reservations have become targets of attack by non-Natives. To protect and reestablish Justice on reservations, Congress must be ready to change the Supreme Court’s previous decisions on jurisdictional laws. These limitations on tribal jurisdiction laws have caused women lose of protection and this issue is bigger than many Americans can see. Tribal jurisdiction is what the tribal courts, on reservations have authority over. According to Lindsey Trainor Golden, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and a member of the Associate General Counsel of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, when the Major Crimes Act of 1885 was enacted, crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to commit murder, arson, burglary, and larceny, fell under federal jurisdiction. And tribal jurisdiction was left will smaller crimes to prosecute (Golden 1039). This law made it clear that tribal courts do not have the right to prosecute non-Indians. With nearly 90% of rapes and sexual assaults committed by non-Indians against Native women, tribal courts aren’t allowed to prosecute their committed crimes and this is jeopardizing protection on reservations (Golden 1040). The Major Crimes Act became the start of major justice and protection problems on reservations.
Due to the Major Crimes Act and the Oliphant versus Squamish Indian tribe case, there is a loophole that is allowing non-Indians to get away with crimes that are harming both women and children. In “Reservations Beyond the Law”, Gavin Clarkson, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan school of Information, School of Law and Native American Studies, explains that this was the start of “an epidemic of violence against Indian women and Children” (Clarkson par. 4) and the inherent assumption that non-Indians could get away with anything on reservations. Indian women are repeatedly taken advantage of nearly 2 ½ more than the national average and at least 1/3 of all Indian women are raped at least once in their life (Clarkson par. 13). To ensure justice for Indian women and children, congress must be willing to fix the Supreme Court’s jurisdictional void.
With United States policies being seen as a major problem in the Native women crisis, there is a sense that nothing can be done to help protect them. This is showing that the justice system is the main suspect for loses of protection for Native women. In “Tribal Jurisdiction with Gender Parity”, by Manuela Picq, an Indigenous women expert, Picq explains that the harsh treatment given to Native women “echoes the disregard for Indigenous authority at large, from self-government to tribal sovereignty over land and resources”(Picq par. 11). The justice system is giving non-Natives the authority to come on reservations and makes things worse for Natives.
As stated by Duane Champagne, a Sociology professor in American Indian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the United States Government never planned for United States citizen to be put under tribal jurisdiction. After the Oliphant versus Suquamish Indian Tribe cases, the federal government wanted to make it known that U.S. citizen were not under the restriction of tribal jurisdiction because “Indian culture and justice institutions are alien to U.S. citizens, and do not always provide protections found in the Bill of Rights” (Champagne par. 1-2). Because Indian courts “do not have to provide a defense attorney to a defendant in court” (Champagne par. 3), the United States feels the need to try non-Indians in U.S. courts to protect constitutional rights rather than have them be possibly ignored in tribal courts. This is showing that the government does not necessarily perceive Native Americans as fellow citizens. At one time tribes had the power to try all crimes committed in their territorial boundaries. With many Indian reservations containing more non-Indians than tribal citizens, tribal courts are still not allowed to bring non-Natives to justice and this often jeopardizes the protection of Native women rights. Even though the government protects non-Indian U.S. citizens who commit on-reservation crimes, U.S. citizens who are also tribal member do not have the same benefits. Any tribal member who is a U.S. citizen must be “held accountable in U.S. courts and to U.S. laws, if they commit a criminal act off the reservation (Champagne par.6). This type of contradiction has brought much confusion to tribal courts and the reason tribal court systems chose to alienate U.S. court systems. Champagne believes that Indians “should have the option to have their cases heard within their relevant tribal courts or traditions” (Champagne par. 7) to help restore justice and protection to Indian citizens, just as the United States has done for other citizens. Depending on the intensity of the crime, I believe that if a non-Indian has the opportunity to have their cases tried under the federal government, then any Indian should have the opportunity to have their cases tried under tribal government. The laws that were made by the justice system were seen as the government’s way of helping Native Americans. Because Native Americans are perceived to be rich and healthy people, many Americans don’t see how federal laws have affected reservations. Reservations are some of the poorest nations in the country and the only attraction that reservations have are for their casinos and what heritage they have left. PBS published author and GlobalPost editor, Sarah Childress, explains how the lack of resources the reservations have made tribal courts lack the ability to create efficient justice systems and most “struggle even to staff qualified judges” (Childress par. 17). Because the government provided tribal courts with little access to the justice system, U.S. attorneys are regularly ignoring the widespread of domestic abuse cases form Native reservations.
After loss of jurisdiction on many horrendous crimes, prosecution by United States Attorneys has decreased substantially for crimes committed on reservations. They simply don’t have time to deal with assault cases because they have terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking cases they are needed for (Clarkson par. 8). U.S. attorneys are known “to decline cases they clearly can’t win” (Clarkson par. 10). Due to the rise in crime rates on reservations, U.S. attorneys are continually presented with domestic violence and other non-tribal jurisdiction crimes and “Indian women and children are denied any meaningful protection under the law, and the criminals know it” (Clarkson par. 11). The protection of Indian people are being endangered by the non-Indian people who know their chances of ever being prosecuted.
However, there are some federal attorneys, like Gretchen C.F. Shappert that have showed some compassion to Native American women. After the United States vs. Oglesbee case, the North Carolina U.S. attorney office made itself dedicated to prosecute any of these awful crimes—Oglesbee was a non-Native man who “terrorized his Indian wife and children for years with physical and sexual abuse” (Shappert par.2). In North Carolina the U.S. attorneys are holding up their commitment and have prosecuted “every meritorious domestics-violence crime committed by a non-Indian against an Indian… and has done so for years” (Shappert par. 6). Although this district has shown help to Native women, they are a rare find and many attorneys still don’t pursue cases dealing with non-Natives on reservations. One district in one state does not alleviate the issue in anyway and Native women, as well as their children, are being denied meaningful protection under the law.
Native Americans have simply been left in the dark by the U.S. government. Their relationship with the government has changed their way of life and has changed their vision for future generations. With horrible crimes continually being pushed away by federal courts, the Native people have lost faith and their trust in the American Government. The only way to help Native women is to push congress to amend judicial laws and for tribal law enforcement to allow Native women into their law enforcement businesses. There is no reason for the unknowingly unequal representation of tribal courts to cause such horrendous effects in the Indian community. All Native Americans are citizens of the United States and should be entitled to justice, just as the many non-natives who have help the crime statistics go up on reservations. No Native women should ever be able to say they have been raped and their perpetrator got away with it.

Works Cited
• Childress, Sarah. "Will the Violence Against Women Act Close a Tribal Justice “Loophole”?" PBS. PBS, 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 5 Aug. 2013. .
• Clarkson, Gavin. "Reservations beyond the Law." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 3 Aug. 2007. Web. 30 July 2013. .
• Golden, Lindsey Trainor. "Embracing Tribal Sovereignty to Eliminate Criminal
Jurisdiction Chaos." Academic Search Complete. EBSCO Host, n.d. Web. 18 July 2013. .
• Picq, Manuela. "Tribal Jurisdiction with Gender Parity." Aljazeera. Aljazeera, Feb. 2013. Web. 5 August 2013. .
• Shappert, Gretchen C.F. "Justice in Indian Country." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 30 July 2013. .

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