Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good morning everyone. Welcome to both our virtual and in-person participants to the 17th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation — our first in-person consultation since 2019. We are profoundly grateful to be here with the largest group of participants in our history of consultation. I would like to thank Elizabeth Sonnyboy for the beautiful traditional prayer and blessing.
It is so wonderful to be with those of you who made the journey to join us in Anchorage, the traditional and sacred homeland of the Dena’ina and Dene peoples. It is crucial that we acknowledge the original and rightful and continuing stewards of this land. But that acknowledgment is meaningless if not accompanied by action that follows the leadership of Tribal advocates and survivors. This consultation helps us achieve that meaningful action, together.
We know that domestic and sexual violence are not traditional values, but are due to justice delayed and resources denied. As a result of this country’s jurisdictional framework, as well as other factors, American Indian and Alaska Native women have suffered some of the highest rates of violence at the hands of intimate partners in the United States.
One study found that more than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. And among these victims, 90% have experienced such violence by a non-Indian intimate partner at least once in their lifetimes. American Indian and Alaska Native women are about five times as likely as white female victims to have experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner who is of a different race and three times as likely to experience sexual violence by a perpetrator who is of a different race.
And just yesterday the Violence Policy Center released an analysis of FBI data that showed that Alaska — again — has the highest rate of women killed by men in the nation. The data shows that Alaska Native women bear the brunt of this violence: the rate of Alaska Native women killed by men in Alaska is more than 3.5 times the rate for all women in Alaska. It’s 10 times the rate for white women in Alaska.
I saw an article yesterday saying that Western Alaska saw a blight of domestic violence killings in 2020. We know from decades of research that domestic and sexual violence are exacerbated by natural disasters, and our hearts are breaking for all the villages hit by Typhoon Merbok.
And so it matters that we are here, right now, in Alaska. Thank you to Sherriann [Moore], to the OVW Tribal Affairs Division, Chickasaw, and the Justice Department leadership offices who made this consultation possible.
I would also like to thank our partners across the federal government, including the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Office of Tribal Justice, and Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, as well as the Department of Interior and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service and Administration for Children and Families.
One person who is also here fighting for you is Lane Tucker, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska. Earlier this week, Lane and several of us from the Justice Department were fortunate to make site visits in Alaska Native Villages, and so grateful to be welcomed by members of the Ketchikan Indian Community, Saxman Native Village, Klawock Cooperative Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, Hydaburg Cooperative, Craig Tribal Association and the Central Council Tlingit and Haida. Everywhere we went, Lane and her colleague Ingrid Cumberlidge, the MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons) Coordinator for the District of Alaska, talked about the meaningful work they are doing – we will get to hear from them later today.
But we are gathered together this week to hear from you. I am endlessly grateful to the Tribal leaders and citizens who will attend consultation and provide testimony over these next three days.
Your words are a gift, which we are honored to receive. Your testimony is valuable, and we do not take lightly the responsibility with which we are entrusted: to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native survivors’ voices are heard and at the very heart of OVW’s programs and policies.
Survivors know what they need. Tribes know what they need. We are here to listen and be guided by you. Your testimony helps us make changes to our funding and processes to work better for Tribal communities.
Thanks to your voices, your advocacy, your communities, your effort, the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized this year. You mobilized your broader community, and in turn the nation, to move VAWA 2022 over the finish line.
This bill, of course, will not solve all of the problems that you see. It does not rectify the devastating loss of loved ones. It cannot make up for the trauma of rape or of justice denied. But it is one crucial step on the path to ensure the safety of Native Women and girls, Two Spirit, and gender diverse individuals, prevent domestic and sexual violence and support families of the murdered and missing. It includes new Tribal provisions, as well as other new programs and funding, that we are excited about, and your feedback at this consultation will guide our implementation.
You know the issues in your community and how best to address them. We are privileged to be able to partner with you and serve in this manner.
Please know that the entirety of the Department of Justice is here to support your ongoing efforts. U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has made it a mission to end violence against women and safeguard Tribal communities. At my very first meeting with him, his first question was “what are we doing on sexual assault and domestic violence issues in Indian Country?” His commitment to Tribal communities’ safety and justice has not wavered. Therefore, it is an honor for me to introduce Attorney General Garland, joining us from Washington, D.C.