Bill proposes adding protection for Native American children, officers

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie, left, talks with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall during a Sept. 2017 visit to Shiprock. Udall introduced a bill Dec. 14 designed to further develop tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

FARMINGTON — A federal measure introduced this month proposes increasing protection for Native American children and tribal police involved in domestic violence incidents on tribal lands.

The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act would further develop the tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act by expanding protection to children and law enforcement personnel.

The bill also calls for enhancing victim resources for tribal communities.

In March 2013, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act was signed into law. It recognizes tribes' authority to exercise jurisdiction over natives and non-natives who commit acts of domestic violence, dating violence or criminally violate protection orders.

The 2013 act did not allow tribes to arrest or prosecute offenders for threatening or committing domestic violence against children or committing violence against officers responding to such incidents.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced the bill on Dec. 14 and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

"There are far too many desperate stories illustrating how Native American women, children and law enforcement are caught up in acts of domestic violence while the perpetrator goes unpunished. The failure to shield these individuals from violence should outrage us all," Udall said in a press release from his office.

"With this bill, we can close a dark and desperate loophole in tribal criminal jurisdiction," Udall said.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are cosponsoring the bill.

"I am pleased to join with my colleagues in expanding this jurisdiction to include crimes against children as well as those against law enforcement officers. We still have a long way to go in fully empowering tribes to address criminal offenses in their Indian Country, but this is an important next step," Cortez Masto said in the release.

The release states the Navajo Nation is among the entities supporting the measure.

Support has been issued also by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the pueblos of Acoma, Santa Ana and Santa Clara.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at