Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women tribal consultation meeting. (Photos courtesy of Tribal Public Affairs)
By YVETTE TUELL
Tribal Public Affairs
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Arizona — The Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), held their annual tribal consultation meeting on October 3 and 4 in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Nathan Small attended and offered the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes comments to the federal officials present. The OVW heard over 70 requests from tribal leaders to offer comments on their administration of programs and funding. Thirty-eight tribal leaders attended the meeting to offer testimony. Federal agency representatives present included Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Interior.
The meeting was hosted by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The meeting opened with a Shawl Ceremony, with empty chairs draped with shawls that represented the missing, the murdered, the disabled, the other vulnerable members of a tribal community, in stark reminder to the tribal and federal leaders of who they are speaking of during the meeting.
The meeting was opened with a Shawl Ceremony.
Chairman Small advocated for protection of women from domestic violence and the difficulties of holding offenders accountable. However, with the Tribes commitment to construct and operate a Tribal Justice Center, our community is now able to increase enforcement of offenders. Chairman concluded, “It is not a conclusion but it’s a beginning. It is time to protect our women, our giver of life.”
Mary Thomas, a new political appointee of the Trump Administration, offered opening comments to the tribal leadership. She welcomed an open and honest exchange between the federal administration and tribal officials, and committed to continue to work in partnership with tribes. Thomas also encouraged tribes offer their concerns to the OVW and other federal agencies and reported that a 7 percent tribal set aside has been established, along with tribal grant funding to provide for law enforcement, victims services and courts.
Rachel Brand, the new Associate Attorney General with the DOJ, also spoke to the Tribal leaders, stating the DOJ’s commitment to fight domestic violence and to work with tribes and their communities. She spoke of the ongoing consultation with tribes, and reported that DOJ has awarded over $55 million in grants to tribes to address tribal priorities. A seven percent set-aside of over $90 million dollars will also provide flexibility to tribal grants to break the cycle of domestic violence.
Individual tribes offered their comments directly to the federal agencies, expressing their concerns about domestic violence issues and the inequalities tribes must address to ensure for the safety of their community members.