FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Debra O’Gara, AKNWRC Senior Policy Specialist
AKNWRC Stands with Tribal Chiefs Hill and Chilcoat to protect Native women through strengthening Tribal Sovereignty
(Alaska, July 22, 2020)—The Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) stands in solidarity with Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill’s and Seminole Nation Chief Greg Chilcoat’s decision to stand for sovereignty and safety for Native women which are being threatened by the Oklahoma Attorney General. On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic decision affirming the long-established treaty boundary of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The significance of the McGirt decision is that the Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right of Tribal Nations to exercise jurisdiction over perpetrators who commit domestic violence against Native women and children within Tribal lands. Nothing is more important for a government than to protect its citizens.
Within one week, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter, without full consultation or agreement from all, announced progress on an “agreement” with the Five Tribes of Oklahoma (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Seminole Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, and Cherokee Nation). Under this agreement the Five Tribes would voluntarily surrender the sovereignty the Supreme Court confirmed in McGirt. In addition, the “agreement” proposes that all five Tribes would work with the state of Oklahoma to ask Congress to pass a law limiting tribal civil jurisdiction over non-Indians by legislating the Supreme Court’s 1981 decision in Montana v. United States. The Montana provisions severely limit civil jurisdiction over non-Indians on Indian lands, requiring a “consensual relationship, such as contracts” with the Tribe.
“The Oklahoma Attorney General is attempting to take away all criminal and civil authority of the five Oklahoma Tribes to protect their citizens from violence recognized by the Supreme Court in McGirt and the Violence Against Women Act,” explained Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director of AKNWRC. “This move would set back decades of protective legislation and collaboration with federal law enforcement aimed at recognizing the important role that local, tribal responses play in immediately protecting Native women from domestic and sexual violence on Tribal lands. This is especially significant for tribes, such as the 228 Alaska tribes, that are forced to share concurrent criminal jurisdiction with the state who has been unsuccessful at meeting the justice needs of tribes.”
“The 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Section 905, clearly provides tribal courts full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders involving any person to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence,” states Debra O’Gara, AKNWRC Senior Policy Specialist and Tribal Court Judge. “However, many state courts and law enforcement agencies have refused to recognize the validity of Tribal Court Protection Orders. The McGirt decision upheld this authority for all Tribes.”
“There will be serious consequences if Oklahoma succeeds in getting this agreement passed as legislation in Congress,” explains Dawn Stover, Executive Director of the Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence. “Non-Native domestic violence perpetrators routinely rely on Montana to argue that Tribal Courts do not have civil jurisdiction to issue protective orders against non-Indian men who beat Native women. If we are going to ask Congress to do anything with the Court’s decision in Montana, we should ask them to overturn it. Not codify it.”
It has been further reported that AG Hunter announced an agreement with the Five Tribes of Oklahoma before an agreement was reached. On July 17, 2020, Seminole Nation Chief Chilcoat responded: “To be clear, the Seminole Nation has not been involved with discussions regarding proposed legislation between the other four tribes and the State of Oklahoma. Furthermore, the Seminole Nation has not engaged in any such discussions with the State of Oklahoma, including with the Attorney General, to develop a framework for clarifying respective jurisdictions and to ensure collaboration among tribal, state and federal authorities regarding the administration of justice across Seminole Nation lands.” Soon after Chief David Hill released a similar statement. (Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill echoed these sentiments).
“AKNWRC applauds the Supreme Court upholding the treaty rights of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma and stands firmly with both Chief Chilcoat and Chief Hill for their commitment and leadership to take a stand for sovereignty as a means to protect Native women and children from violence,” said Truett Jerue.
Find Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center at www.AKNWRC.org
Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska’s 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members and staff are Alaska Native women raised in Alaska Native Villages and have over 250 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national and international levels), and other social service experience. AKNWRC’s philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations and thus dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government’s responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes against domestic and sexual abuse and violence.