The 2013 federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act created a pilot project that gave three tribes the ability to exercise jurisdiction over non-Native offenders who committed domestic or dating violence, or who violated protection orders in tribal territories, reports Vice. Given its preliminary success, the program has been hailed as a baby step toward restoring tribal sovereignty; in March of this year, the program was opened up to all 566 tribes in the U.S.
VAWA restores tribes’ ability to go after one specific, heinous crime, but it also raises questions about whether a small legal fix can create real change, or provides too little justice. In the two years since the Pascua Yaqui tribe near Tucson has had jurisdiction to prosecute, tribal authorities have seen 21 VAWA cases. Now the big question is how can tribes continue to expand jurisdiction to cover more crimes? Many say Congress should restore tribes’ ability to police their borders, taking note that Indian Country isn’t much different from the rest of the nation.