The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Sovereignty Initiative, launched in the fall of 2015, is well underway with the filing of three amicus brief in cases under review before the United States Supreme Court. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and Pipestem Law joined forces to establish the Initiative with the goal of defending the constitutionality and functionality of all VAWA tribal provisions. The Initiative is the NIWRC’s next step forward in defending the 2013 VAWA reauthorization and other important advancements in federal law and policy related to the protection of Native women and children.
“We hope that through the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative to protect the legal and policy gains we have achieved through VAWA,” said NIWRC Board President Cherrah Giles.
What NIWRC has done so far:
On October 22, 2015, the NIWRC filed an amicus brief (filed by a party not involved in a particular litigation but allowed by the court to advise it on a matter of law or policy directly affecting the litigation) in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in the United States Supreme Court. In this case, the Dollar General Corporation has asked the Supreme Court to strip Indian tribes of all civil jurisdiction over non-Indians. Dollar General has argued that civil and tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians violates the United States Constitution.
On January 25, 2016, the NIWRC filed an amicus brief in support of the United States Department of Justice, asking the United States Supreme Court to affirm the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Voisine v. United States. Collectively, the NIWRC and fellow amici urge the Supreme Court to uphold the application of federal firearms prohibition to individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes against Native women.
On February 1, 2016, the NIWRC filed an amicus brief to support the United States’ position in the U.S. v. Bryant case. The brief argues that Congress did not intend to make the application of the habitual offender provision dependent on whether the defendant in the underlying tribal court domestic violence conviction received assistance of counsel. It further advocates that federal courts have no authority to dictate to tribal governments how they will treat their own members in their respective tribal courts.
Watch a recent webinar: on U.S. v. Bryant to learn more details about the case
What NIWRC would like to do:
Because many tribes lack adequate resources to assess all of their legal vulnerabilities in implementing VAWA, a national Sovereignty Initiative is necessary to protect VAWA and tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians nationwide. NIWRC has launched a fundraising campaign to support the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative and will in partnership with Pipestem Law Firm monitor all cases related to VAWA nationwide to ensure nothing relevant is missed. NIWRC has significant history working in collaboration with the attorneys at Pipestem Law and is confident that the firm has the skills, expertise, and commitment necessary to prepare for the defense of VAWA and tribal sovereignty.
Please support the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative:
- Contact Executive Director Lucy Simpson (LSimpson@niwrc.org) for a funders portfolio if you’d like more information
- Share this page widely with your tribal leaders and organizations.
- Share this page on your social media accounts urging others to support.
You can make tax-deductible contributions payable to “NIWRC Sovereignty Initiative” & mail to PO Box 99, Lame Deer, MT 59043
Thank you for your support! We look forward to keeping you updated about our progress and accomplishments in this important fight for Indian country.