The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step they say, that’s the way I view the recent announcement of 2-6-14 made by the Justice Department that will allow the prosecution of non indigenous domestic violence offenders.
A step long overdue, though there are limitations.
The Tulalip, Yaqui, and Umatilla nations have been selected to participate in what is being referred to as a pilot program in keeping with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA as commonly referred to, and passed only last year.
I’m somewhat surprised by the fact that only six nations have filed an application to address an issue that is epidemic considering that nearly half of all indigenous women have been victims of rape and or domestic violence.
Hopefully this will lead to an increase in prosecuting those within our communities of our nations who commit such crimes as well.
We’ve long railed about the federal governments tepid enforcement, their apparent lack of desire to pursue such cases, but another truth is our communities have been just as lax in addressing these issues, in tolerating them.
This about face by the government can be a defining moment for us as a people, a moment that will be further defined by the approach we take in confronting these and other crimes within our communities.
Rape and domestic violence are just that, neither minimized by the ethnicity of the victim or the perpetrator, a reality that obliges our tribal courts and communities to adopt a zero tolerance position….hopefully we will arrive at that point.
Everyone I know and spoke to of this immediately upon learning of it were elated, a lot of discussion took place and I wanted to hear the voices of others before blogging about it.
Several points were made, concerns were expressed – concerns about whether the government would set the bar to high to allow an across the board inclusion of all the nations, though that is exactly what is supposed to take place beginning next year – whether this would somehow be linked to appropriations held hostage by Congress, or if approved actually arrive.
Considering the history they are valid questions.
The question of whether this would lead to increased prosecution within our tribal courts of indigenous offenders was raised on several occasions, with an aside that if not it was a half empty cup , considering the history another valid question.
So on the surface we have reason to celebrate, an incremental step has been taken, it’s important in doing so that we don’t take two steps back.
That we don’t concentrate our efforts singularly on prosecuting offenders not of our nations at the expense of a failure to do so related to those of our own.
It’s been a difficult and often brutal road traveled by our women,the time is long overdue to recognize, appreciate, and defend their birthright. To celebrate and honor the differences.
Somewhere my mother and sister are surely smiling, I hope they feel a sense of justice, a justice denied them in life just as it has been for so many others.