Resolution 2020-02: Support for Legislation to Recognize the Public Safety Crisis in Alaska Native Communities Through Recognition of Criminal and Civil Jurisdiction

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WHEREAS, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) is an Alaska Native tribal health and social services consortium established by the Interior Alaska tribes and tribal communities, to provide a unified voice in advancing sovereign tribal governments through the promotion of physical and mental wellness, education, socioeconomic development and culture of the Interior Alaska Native; and

WHEREAS, Alaska domestic violence rates are ten times the national average, sexual assaults against Alaska Native women are 12 times the national average, and many offenders are non-Native; and

WHEREAS, Alaska Native women are over-represented by 250 percent among domestic violence victims, considering that Alaska Natives comprise just 19 percent of the state population yet are 47 percent of reported
rape victims; and

WHEREAS, Every 18 hours an Alaska Native woman is sexually assaulted; and

WHEREAS, One out of every 4 Alaska Native youth suffers post-traumatic stress (PTSD) due to childhood exposure to violence-the same rate as Afghanistan War veterans; and

WHEREAS, The suicide rate in Alaska is 6 times the national rate, alcohol-related mortality rate is 3.5 times the national rate, and 95% of rural crimes are alcohol related; and

WHEREAS, State-based law enforcement is virtually nonexistent in most Alaska Native villages, because state troopers are only present in hub cities and state- funded Village Public Safety Officers are only present in 42 out of 229 Alaska Native villages; and

WHEREAS, Tribal jurisdiction in Alaska, while concurrent with the State of Alaska, was effectively eliminated by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and most crimes do not occur on the few remaining lands that constitute “Indian country” under federal law (i.e., allotments, town site lots, and trust lands); and

WHEREAS, Effective tribal jurisdiction in Alaska has been further eroded by gravely insufficient resources directed towards tribes in Public Law 280 States for tribal law enforcement and tribal courts; and

WHEREAS, The Supreme Court in Alaska v Native Village of Venetie held that lands conveyed to Native corporations under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act do not qualify as “Indian country” under federal law; and
WHEREAS, The Tribal Law and Order Commission found that “Alaska Department of Public Safety (ADPS) officers have primary responsibility for law enforcement in rural Alaska, but ADPS provides for only 1.0-1.4 field
officers per million acres.” Without a strong law enforcement presence, crime in Alaska Native villages occurs with impunity; and

WHEREAS, The 2013 Indian Law and Order Commission report states: ”The strongly centralized law enforcement and justice systems of the State of Alaska … do not serve local and Native communities adequately, if at all. The Commission believes that devolving authority to Alaska Native communities is essential for addressing local crime. Their governments are best positioned to effectively arrest, prosecute, and punish, and they should have the authority to do so-or to work out voluntary agreements with each other, and with local governments
and the State on mutually beneficial terms,” and;

WHEREAS, To be effective and to avoid tragic loopholes, tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction in Alaska must apply to all persons, Native and non-Native alike; and

WHEREAS, Most federal jurisdictional, data gathering and other public safety laws reference application of the laws to a tribe’s “Indian country,” which often effectively leaves out Alaska Native Tribes and their communities, and;

WHEREAS, Alaska tribes wish to work in collaboration with state and federal authorities to best exercise effective concurrent tribal, federal and state jurisdiction; and

WHEREAS, Congress in 2011 considered a bill that would have recognized tribal jurisdiction in Alaska Native villages over drug and alcohol and related matters, and over any tribal member or person having consensual
relations with a tribal member in the village; and

WHEREAS, In 2019 the House sent to the Senate amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1585) which, as amended at the request of Congressman Don Young (AK-R), would authorize a pilot project for Alaska Native tribes to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over certain domestic and sexual violence-related offenses against all persons present within a participating Alaska Native village; and

WHEREAS, The population of over 100 Alaska Native villages is 70% or more Alaska Native; and

WHEREAS, Recognizing tribal territorial jurisdiction in Alaska over all persons continues the Nation’s commitment to maximizing tribal selfdetermination and self-governance; and

WHEREAS, Recognizing tribal territorial jurisdiction in Alaska over all persons continues the Nation’s commitment to addressing dangerous public safety concerns in Alaska; and

WHEREAS, Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires states to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy full protection against all forms of violence and discrimination.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tanana Chiefs Conference Full Board of Directors calls upon Congress promptly to enact legislation recognizing the public safety crisis in Alaska Native communities and recognizing concurrent criminal and civil jurisdiction of federally recognized Tribes in Alaska over all lands and persons within Alaska Native villages in connection with matters concerning cold cases, domestic and dating violence, sex trafficking, sexual violence, stalking, obstruction of justice, and assault upon law enforcement and
corrections officers and drug-, alcohol- and child-abuse-related offenses; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tanana Chiefs Conference Full Board of Directors supports and advocates for the passage of the Alaska Tribal Public Safety Empowerment Act, S. 2616 – sponsored by Senator Murkowski to recognize the authority of Tribal governments in Alaska to battle violent crimes against women and children in their communities and represents a significant recognition of Tribal jurisdiction in Alaska to protect Alaska Natives and reduce the disproportionate violence they experience.

Submitted by: Executive Board and Nulato Tribal Council


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