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VAWA Play 'Sliver of a Full Moon' Will Have Staged Reading at Yale University

Yale Law School will present a reading of "Sliver of a Full Moon," the powerful play by Mary Kathryn Nagle about violence against Native women.
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The following news release was provided to ICTMN by the Yale Native American Law Students Association (NALSA):

New Haven, Conn. — On Tuesday, March 31, 2015 Yale Law School will present a reading of "Sliver of a Full Moon," the powerful play by playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle, from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The performance will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Yale Law School’s Levinson Auditorium, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, Connecticut. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public, and pre-registration is highly encouraged: sliverofafullmoon.eventbrite.com. "Sliver of a Full Moon" has been presented at theaters in New York, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, as well as the United Nations and the United States Capitol.

"Sliver of a Full Moon" is being staged at a law school for the first time ever to pay tribute to the incredible progress inherent in the partial restoration of Native nations’ jurisdiction to prosecute those who commit crimes against Native women on tribal lands in the 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”). The performance will stimulate a dialogue among law students and the broader legal community regarding how the current legal framework, where Native nations have been stripped of their inherent jurisdiction, leaves Native women unprotected and disenfranchised. As a result of these legal inequalities, Native women suffer rates of domestic violence and sexual assault higher than any other class of American citizens. Through this unique event that combines law and art, and brings together law students, professors, practitioners, artists, and survivors, Yale Law School’s community will envision how the law can be reformed to remedy to this injustice.

Mohegan Chief Lynn Malerba will offer a tribal welcome prior to the presentation of the play. Following the performance, Native women survivors Lisa Brunner (White Earth Ojibwe), Billie Jo Rich (Eastern Band Cherokee), and Diane Millich (Southern Ute), as well as tribal leaders former Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker (Tulalip Tribes) and Chairwoman Terri Henry (Eastern Band Cherokee) will participate in engage the audience in a post-show panel discussion concerning the intersections of federal Indian law, tribal sovereignty, and safety of Native women.

“We are honored to host this incredible play at Yale Law School and welcome some of Indian Country’s strongest Native women leaders to campus,” said Katie Jones, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and chair of the Native American Law Students Association. “'Sliver of a Full Moon' demonstrates with heartbreaking clarity how the U.S. legal system has subjected Native women and communities to unspeakable violence. Given the role that Yale law students will play in implementing VAWA’s tribal provisions as future legal leaders, it is critical to raise awareness about the complexities of federal Indian law and how it impacts the everyday lives of Native peoples.”

"Sliver of a Full Moon" is the story of a movement to restore safety and access to justice to American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States. It documents the grassroots movement leading up to the historic 2013 re-authorization of VAWA—an affirmative step towards restoring safety to Native women and sovereignty to Indian tribes to address certain violent crimes committed by non-Indians on Native lands. On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed VAWA into law.

The enactment of VAWA 2013 is critical for American Indian and Alaska Native women. “One in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and six in ten will be physically assaulted," said Lucy Rain Simpson, Executive Director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. Simpson added that, “Even worse, on some reservations, the murder rate for Native women is ten times the national average.”

The majority of the perpetrators of violence against Native women are non-Native. Yet, for almost four decades, federal law has stripped Indian nations of their inherent authority to protect their own women, children, and communities from such violence. In 1978, the Supreme Court declared that Indian nations could no longer exercise jurisdiction over non-Natives who commit crimes on tribal lands. (Oliphant v. Suquamish, 435 U.S. 191).

VAWA 2013 is a step in the right direction, but in the words of survivor Lisa Brunner, it is only “a sliver of a full moon of what’s needed to really protect us.” Legal barriers remain. VAWA 2013 restores to tribes’ jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians only in the context of domestic or dating violence. As re-authorized in 2013, VAWA contained a specific provision (Section 910) exempting 228 federally recognized tribes in Alaska from Section 904’s jurisdictional provision. In December 2014, Section 910’s exemption for tribes in Alaska was repealed. However, Section 904 of VAWA 2013 limits tribes’ jurisdiction to crimes committed in “Indian country,” a legal term that the United States Supreme Court has interpreted to exclude almost all of Alaska. (Alaska v. Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520 (1998). As a result, Section 904 continues to preclude 228 of the 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska from exercising the jurisdiction that has now been restored to other Indian tribes. Due to early land settlement agreements, certain tribes also face particularly complex legal barriers in regard to implementing criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under VAWA.

“This exemption is especially devastating,” explains Lenora (Lynn) Hootch, Director of the Yup’ik Women’s Coalition in Alaska, board member of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc., and Co-Chair of the National Congress of American Indians Task Force on Violence Against Women. “Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the country, and the rate of violence against Alaska Native women is more than double that of any other population of women.”

"Sliver of a Full Moon"’s cast features three courageous Native women who stepped forward to publicly share their stories of abuse by non-Indians and counter staunch opponents to the tribal provisions—Diane Millich (Southern Ute), Lisa Brunner (White Earth Ojibwe), and Billie Jo Rich (Eastern Band Cherokee). Professional actors will join them to portray Congressman Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation), Eastern Band Cherokee Councilwoman Terri Henry, and Tulalip Tribe’s former Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker. And, for the first time ever, Sliver of a Full Moon will feature the stories of women survivors and advocates from Alaska, including Lenora (Lynn) Hootch, Joann Horn, Priscilla Kameroff, Shirley Moses, Nettie Warbelow, and Tami Jerue.

In a country where Americans are more likely to witness the performance of redface than the performance of a play written by a Native playwright and performed by Native actors, Director Madeline Sayet explains the significance of this performance on the stage at Yale Law School: “The continuous representation of essentialized/stereotyped/inauthentic Native bodies on stage as symbols instead of people encourages the mindset that allows violence against Native women to occur. We are not objects of americana whose deaths should be celebrated. We are not an outfit. We are not here to be hunted. We are human beings who should be protected by the law. In "Sliver of a Full Moon" an all Native cast finally has the opportunity to step forward and open the eyes of audiences to the many complex voices of native women and the dangers of exoticizing and dehumanizing identity.”

For more information, visit sliverofafullmoon.org.