Advocating and Protecting Native Women; NCAI Violence Against Women Task Force Leads VAWA Meetings on Capitol Hill

Published on Jul 05, 2012

VAWA Rally

US Senator Daniel Akaka stands with Native women advocates during a rally for passing a comprehensive VAWA reauthorization. Standing with Senator Akaka, from left to right, are Jacqueline Agtuca, Public Policy Director, Clan Star, Juana Majel Dixon,  NCAI First Vice President, Deborah Parker, Tulalip Tribes Vice President, and Terri Henry, Co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women and Councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Washington, D.C. – Throughout last week, NCAI’s prominent female leaders and advocates for protecting Native women came to Washington, D.C. from across Indian Country to deliver a powerful message to decision makers on Capitol Hill: protect Native women and pass VAWA now.  During the week, tribal leaders and representatives, including members of NCAI’s Task Force on Violence Against Women, met with legislators and held public events to raise awareness about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) legislation. 

The group, led by co-chairs of NCAI’s Task Force on Violence Against Women, Juana Majel Dixon and Terri Henry visited members of Congress from in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle – including Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The tribal leaders delivered a simple message: “Pass a VAWA that protects all victims now!” in hopes that the Senate will resolve the procedural problems in S.1925 and bring a bill that protects Native victims to the discussion table with the House. 

The week of events also included a rally in which tribal leaders, members of Congress, advocates, and allies gathered on Capitol Hill to stand in solidarity against the House’s recent passage of H.R. 4970- a version of the VAWA that excludes protections for certain groups of victims, including Native Americans. The rally marked the start of the national “10 Days of Action for VAWA” effort, led by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. Throughout the ten day period, ally organizations and advocates promised to work to raise awareness about the importance of an inclusive version of the bill, urging Congress to support a VAWA that protects all women.

“If Native American rights and tribal provisions are not put into the current VAWA, as they were in S. 1925, we will all pay a price- not just the Native Women,” NCAI’s First Vice President Juana Majel Dixon remarked, “We can save VAWA now.”


Watch a statement from Juana Majel Dixon, NCAI's First Vice President

Members of Congress who have shown strong support for VAWA, including the tribal provisions, stood with tribal leaders. Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Representative Gwen Moore (WI-4), and U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (IL-13) all spoke at the rally, expressing support for the Senate version of the bill and demonstrating a bipartisan commitment to the protection of all victims.

Vice-Chair of Tulalip Tribes Deborah Parker was present to share her personal experiences and illustrate the grave importance of the reauthorization of the VAWA and the Senate bill’s tribal provisions.  She once again asked Congress the tough questions that she initially raised at a congressional press conference back in April: “My question for Congress was and has always been, why did you not protect me or my family?  Why is my life, and the life of so many other Native American women less important?”  Vice-Chair Parker is one of the many female tribal leaders that have come forward in recent months to stand against the injustices that occur on tribal lands.

“Congress can’t go on vacation leaving rape victims abandoned and advocates disillusioned,” added Monika Johnson Hostler, Board President for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.  “The Senate must solve the blue slip problem and the House must come to the table this week so that we can have a final VAWA this summer.”

Other speakers included Colin Goddard, survivor of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, who delivered remarks on the need for increased protection from violence on college campuses;  Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Michael Bolton, Multi-Grammy Award-Winning, Singer and Songwriter; Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever of the National Council of Negro Women; Terry O’Neill of the National Organization for Women; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. 

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