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Pascua Yaqui Tribe awarded grant to support domestic violence prosecution efforts

$100,000 will defray costs of cases against non-Native defendants

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has received a grant for more than $100,000 to support their rights as a sovereign nation to prosecute non-Native offenders of domestic violence-related crimes committed within their community.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) provides grants through the Tribal Jurisdiction Program, which provides support and technical assistance to Tribal Nations for planning and implementing changes in their criminal justice systems necessary to carry out Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ).

The costs could include incarceration and medical costs for non-Native defendants, trial costs, defense counsel costs, empaneling a jury for a trial costs, batterer’s intervention costs and related training and technical assistance.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe Attorney General Alfred Lopez Urbina said the funding helps the tribe with the considerable cost that comes when prosecuting these cases.

“You need these grants to continue the funding for different parts of the system that are required for this type of prosecution,” Urbina said.

When the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reautorized in 2013, tribal nations were granted inherent power to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all persons.

This provision is known as Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction, and it creates the framework for tribal nations to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Native people who commit these selected domestic violence crimes.

The types of crimes that are covered under SDVCJ include: domestic violence, dating violence and criminal violations of protection orders.

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The Pascua Yaqui Tribe was one of the first tribes to implement SDVCJ, and since then they have conducted 101 investigations, with 80 cases charged in the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Court, resulting in 37 convictions.

“It’s important for us to continue the programming that we’ve had going on here since 2014,” Urbina said, and this funding will help them do that.

The only way SDVCJ can be utilized by tribal nations is if the victim of the crime is Indigenous, the crime took place on tribal land of the prosecuting tribal nation and the non-Native defendant has sufficient ties to the tribe.

Qualifying ties include residing on tribal land of the prosecuting tribal nation, employment on tribal land or being a spouse, intimate partner or dating partner of an Indigenous citizen who resides on the tribal nation.

Prior to the reauthorization of VAWA, if a victim was Indigenous and the perpetrator was non-Native, the crime could only be prosecuted federally or, in some circumstances, by the state in which the tribal nation is located.

As of December, there are 28 tribal governments that maintain SDVCJ over non-Natives, according to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Wizipan Garriott, and many more tribal governments are in varying stages of planning to implement SDVCJ.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is one of 11 tribes awarded a grant by the OVW through the Tribal Jurisdiction Program.

“We heard from tribal leaders that they need access to funds to support the day-to-day costs of SDVCJ,” OVW Principal Deputy Director Allison Randall said in a press release.

These grants are a way for these tribal nations to defray these costs, Randall added, and how “OVW is dedicated to working with tribes to address challenges in protecting victims and responding to offenders in their communities, as well as supporting tribal sovereignty.”

The other tribes awarded under OVW’s Tribal Jurisdiction Program include the Chickasaw Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Fort Peck Assiniboine, Sioux Tribes, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Port Gamble S’klallam Tribe, Pueblo of Santa Clara, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.

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This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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