Archive for August, 2013

VAWA 2013 -Part 3

August 22, 2013

I usually enjoy the depth and breadth of articles in the Alaska Journal of  Commerce but this one was just weird.

Publishing an article in Alaska about the new provisions for tribes in VAWA 2013 with nary a mention of how it might play out here ?

Alaska has the highest percentage of Native peoples, full blood and mixed race, to the overall state population in America and not one thing was said about effects of this legislation  here? In an Alaskan publication?

Oy. Some dropped balls bounce pretty high on the horizon. This one did.

Anyway, here’s the  kicker for Alaska :


a) Definitions- In this section:

(3) INDIAN COUNTRY- The term ‘Indian country’ has the meaning given the term in section 1151 of title 18, United States Code.


18 USC § 1151 – Indian country defined Except as otherwise provided in sections 1154 and 1156 of this title, the term “Indian country”, as used in this chapter, means

(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation,
(b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state, and
(c) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.

VAWA 2013 ties its provisions to Indian Country.

Alaska has a peculiar situation as regards “Indian Country”

This paper by Geoffrey D Strommer and Stephen D Osborne looks at that situation quite clearly

Today Alaska Native tribes face one of their most difficult challenges since the days of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Ever since the United States Supreme Court ruled in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520 (1998), that ANCSA largely extinguished “Indian country” in Alaska, and thus the
tribes’ territorial jurisdiction, the extent of Alaska tribal sovereignty and authority has been shrouded in uncertainty.
and is well worth the read.
We have very limited uncontested Indian country here- the Metlakatla Reservation and Native Allotments (the Indian Country status attached to them have been a bone of contention with the state regarding multiple issues) are Indian country under law.
VAWA 2013 included a special rule for Alaska , reported to have been added by our Senator Murkowski :


(a) Expanded Jurisdiction- In the State of Alaska, the amendments made by sections 904 and 905 shall only apply to the Indian country (as defined in section 1151 of title 18, United States Code) of the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve.

(b) Retained Jurisdiction- The jurisdiction and authority of each Indian tribe in the State of Alaska under section 2265(e) of title 18, United States Code (as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act)–

(1) shall remain in full force and effect; and

(2) are not limited or diminished by this Act or any amendment made by this Act.

(c) Savings Provision- Nothing in this Act or an amendment made by this Act limits or diminishes the jurisdiction of the State of Alaska, any subdivision of the State of Alaska, or any Indian tribe in the State of Alaska.

At first glance , it is merely an exemption for Alaska , from the VAWA provisions which confer tribal jurisdiction in domestic violence and sexual assault cases and feels like a slap in the face to the deep and abiding problems we have here.

Looking at it more carefully, it seems more like an at-least-hold-the-line-we-have-now dealie.

(There are some concerns it might lose some ground as regards concurrent jurisdiction of State and Tribes as regards the State enforcing Tribal Protection Orders but I can’t find a reasoned argument as to how and why  that may be so.)

The line-we-have-now is pretty messy and vulnerable Alaskans are being harmed everyday we fool around trying to tidy it up.



If you are  still hanging in here , there are some the-line-we-have-now issues to look at as well as Senator Begich’s Safe Villages Act which he has reintroduced with Senator Murkowski as co-sponsor.

Listening to the Aunties

August 17, 2013

8-16-2013 7;46;12 PMWhen I was small, I loved to sit very still (until they forgot I was there) and listen to the Aunties talk and tell stories.

They talked of all things, their families, their homes, food, their dreams, their beginnings.   They laughed a lot, they cried every little once in awhile.

Always around a kitchen table. Sometimes relaxing with coffee, sometimes preparing and cooking food, sometimes canning, but always at a kitchen table.

Someone would eventually realize I was there  and send me off to play with the other children, to get more canning jars or out to the garden for more strawberries.

I grew into the family as well as the world with a rich sense of membership, a knowing of the where and what I had come from.

It has always been hard  for me to describe the where, what and all to others though.

Now one of the Aunties who can describe it all has invited any folks who wish to join us to the family table.

in Kodiak July 1982

Please -join us. There is room at the table for all.

Pioneer Peak Cover

Joy Harjo’s  Perhaps The World Ends Here
(one of my favorite poems ever )