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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are proposing the Cherokee Nation Family Protection and Violence Against Women Act as part of their administration’s historic and ongoing efforts to protect Cherokee families by safeguarding their mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
The proposed legislation was first announced by Chief Hoskin during his State of the Nation Address at the 70th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
“As Principal Chief, I frequently stress how important it is for Cherokee Nation to put a blanket of protection around victims and survivors of domestic violence. National statistics tell us that acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country, with 4 in 5 Native Americans – both women and men – having experienced violence in their lifetime,” Chief Hoskin said. “The Cherokee Nation Family Protection and Violence Against Women Act will expand our criminal codes and provide additional avenues for assisting those who are victims of domestic violence within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. As Cherokees, our culture teaches us to live in harmony and to respect one another because we all deserve to live and work without fear.”
The Cherokee Nation VAWA will expand the tribe’s jurisdiction over non-Native offenders as allowed by federal law and strengthen the Cherokee Nation protective order code.
“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw our sense of normality turned upside down. Because of the isolation that occurred during the pandemic, domestic violence rates increased and it became more important than ever to promote healthy relationships for those who live in or visit the Cherokee Nation,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “Domestic violence is a sensitive issue that must be addressed through education, conversation, victim services, and thoughtful, meaningful dialogue. This new legislation is going to be an important component of our effort to set up a support network for Cherokee families and prevent dangerous situations before they escalate.”
The proposed legislation will be considered for approval by the Council of the Cherokee Nation on Sept. 29.
“As a Council member and a member of the Task Force to Protect Women and Families, I am so pleased to help sponsor legislation to maximize our ability to protect victims of domestic violence under federal law,” said Councilor Candessa Tehee.
Councilor Dora Patzkowski has also sponsored the proposed legislation.
“This is a true expression of tribal sovereignty,” Councilor Patzkowski said. “Cherokee Nation’s most basic obligation is to protect the most vulnerable in our society. I’m proud to be a sponsor of the Cherokee Nation VAWA, a historic measure to protect victims of domestic violence and give survivors more hope.”
Last year, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner created the Task Force to Protect Women and Families and implemented new policies across the Cherokee Nation government to address domestic violence and support survivors. They also worked with the Council, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service on legislative changes to better address domestic violence, signing the Cherokee Nation Domestic Violence Lethality Reporting Act of 2021 and requiring reports of domestic violence to include a lethality assessment, which better informs the response of law enforcement, prosecutors and victims advocates.
A second Task Force to Protect Women and Families reconvened in February of 2022, meets at least monthly, and will be providing Chief Hoskin with a new report in October to make recommendations on further improving the tribe’s response to domestic violence and to highlight the Cherokee Nation’s progress since the first task force met in 2021.
Nearly all of the Cherokee Nation government’s 4,300-plus workforce has completed domestic violence training courses, which covered how to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and prevent abuse of co-workers, friends and loved ones. The sessions also walked survivors through the steps they can take to get to a place of safety and seek help for themselves and their children.
On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill. The new federal VAWA includes new, optional enhanced jurisdiction for tribes in matters involving domestic violence perpetrated by non-Indians against tribal citizens effective October 1, 2022.
Cherokee Nation advocated for the enhanced tribal jurisdiction provisions in the new federal VAWA. Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner’s proposed Cherokee Nation VAWA would take advantage of this new authority to protect victims of domestic violence and bring offenders to justice.
Cherokee Nation exercises exclusive tribal criminal jurisdiction across the 7,000-square-mile Cherokee Nation Reservation.
In 2021, the Cherokee Nation was among six tribes honored nationwide with the Harvard 2021 Honoring Nations Award, receiving high honors for its innovative ONE FIRE Victim Services office that helps support and protect victims of domestic violence. The Cherokee Nation ONE FIRE program provides resources to victims of domestic violence at its office in Tahlequah. Contact ONE FIRE by calling 866-458-5399.