Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner gathered with members of the Council of the Cherokee Nation and tribal employees to officially sign into law the Cherokee Nation Family Protection and Violence Against Women Act Friday morning in Tahlequah.
The new legislation is part of Cherokee Nation’s historic and ongoing efforts to protect Cherokee families by safeguarding their mental, physical and spiritual well-being. The legislation was first proposed by Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner during the State of the Nation Address at the 70th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
“Cherokee Nation has the power and responsibility to protect Cherokees and ensure justice is served across the Cherokee Nation Reservation. That’s one of the reasons Deputy Chief Warner and I proposed this legislation. I’m proud to be signing it into law with the support of the Council of the Cherokee Nation and the amazing Cherokee Nation work family who gets up every day and commits themselves to helping protect victims of domestic violence,” Chief Hoskin said. “This new law builds on the legal authority allowed for tribes under the federal Violence Against Women Act and will strengthen our ability to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence. 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 Violence Against Women Act expands the tribe’s jurisdiction over non-Native offenders as allowed by federal law and strengthens the Cherokee Nation protective order code. Those expanded crimes include assault of tribal justice personnel; child violence, including all current crimes of child abuse under Cherokee Nation code; expanded definitions of dating and domestic violence to cover a wider range of relationships; obstruction of justice; sex trafficking; and sexual violence. It also strengthens the tribe’s ability to address stalking crimes.
“Domestic violence is a sensitive issue that must be addressed through education, conversation, victim services, and thoughtful, meaningful dialogue,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “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. Chief Hoskin and I developed this legislation with a focus on how we can serve survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in ways that are caring, timely, and most of all, effective. Cherokee Nation’s law enforcement and victim services programs represent some of the best values of the Cherokee Nation and are a critical part of the support network needed to address dangerous situations before they escalate.”
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. The Cherokee Nation VAWA relies on 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.
“As a Council member and a member of the Task Force to Protect Women and Families, I am so pleased to have helped sponsor the Cherokee Family Protection and Violence Against Women Act to maximize our ability to protect victims of domestic violence under federal law,” said District 2 Councilor Candessa Tehee.
Councilors met Thursday afternoon during a special meeting to formally approve the legislation. Chief Hoskin signed the Act into law during a ceremony held at the ONE FIRE Victim Services office in Tahlequah.
“This is a true expression of tribal sovereignty,” District 12 Councilor Dora Patzkowski said. “Cherokee Nation has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society and this legislation gives us more power to do so. I’m proud to be a sponsor of the Cherokee Nation Violence Against Women Act, 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.
Cherokee Nation’s government workforce is required to complete domestic violence training courses, which cover how to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and prevent abuse of co-workers, friends and loved ones. The sessions also walk survivors through the steps they can take to get to a place of safety and seek help for themselves and their children.
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 by calling 866-458-5399.
About Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation is the federally recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. The seat of tribal government is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. With more than 430,000 citizens, 11,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and is the largest tribal nation in the United States.
To learn more, please visit www.cherokee.org.