Today, U.S. Congressman Dan Boren (OK-02) introduced H.R. 4154, the Stand Against Violence and Empower (SAVE) Native Women Act, which would improve the ability of Native American tribes to respond to violent crimes committed against Indian women. Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) is the lead Republican on the bill.
The SAVE Act would give tribes jurisdiction to prosecute instances of violence carried out in Indian country. Currently, when a non-Indian assailant commits a crime against an Indian on most tribal lands, the federal government, rather than local tribal courts and police, has the exclusive authority to investigate and prosecute the crime. Tribal courts and law enforcement agencies do not have jurisdiction over crimes committed on local tribal land. That means federal agents must respond to a crime that could be taking place hundreds of miles away.
"The SAVE Act would allow tribes to exercise their sovereign authority to ensure that perpetrators of violent crimes committed against Indian women are held accountable for their crimes," said Boren. "The current law does not provide adequate recourse for Native American women who have been victims of domestic violence, which is occurring at levels that are simply unacceptable."
"The high levels of domestic violence on tribal lands must be addressed," said Cole "This important legislation will ensure that tribes can provide the protection tribal women need against the tragedy of domestic violence."
According to the Department of Justice, Native American women experience the highest rates of domestic violence of any group in the United States, at rates 3.5 times the national average.
In addition to addressing issues of jurisdiction, the SAVE Act directs the Attorney General to submit an annual report containing recommendations by Indian tribes as well as the actions taken to respond to recommendations from years prior, in order to facilitate cooperation and consultation between tribes and law enforcement agencies.