Indian tribes cheered when President Barack Obama signed a new Violence Against Women Act last week, expanding the power of tribal courts to try non-Indians for crimes of domestic violence committed on reservations. There was a big exception, McClatchy Newspapers report: It did not apply to most Alaskan tribes, prompting complaints from many tribal officials.
Faced with a torrent of criticism that Congress had not done enough to protect Native women, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) is frustrated. She broke ranks with her party to support the new prosecutorial powers, but they can't be used by most tribes in her state because the 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska have only one reservation, Metlakatla, in the southeast part of the state. Congress intended to grant the power to Indians who live in “Indian country,” or on reservation land. “These provisions apply to Indian country – and nothing other than Indian country. [ ] I don't think it is clear to folks back home,” Murkowski said.