When President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) in 2013, he enacted legislation that allows Native American tribes to use their own courts to prosecute non-Natives accused of committing dating and domestic violence against Natives on tribal land. The jurisdictional changes take effect in March 2015 but a pilot program, coordinated by the Department of Justice (DOJ), has authorized three tribes to exercise the prosecutions starting this week. Tribal authority over non-Natives is not new but was completely halted in 1978. But the pilot project—and VAWA itself—is a big acknowledgement of tribal sovereignty. And, because non-Native attacks on Natives on the reservation are so prevalent, it’s expected that its first case under the pilot project will emerge soon.
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