News Release

National Indigenous Women's Resource Center

On the morning of Tuesday, June 1, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously found in the case United States v. Cooley that a Crow tribal police officer had the authority to detain and search a non-Native suspected of committing a crime on a highway crossing through the Crow Reservation. Cooley, a non-Native, had challenged the authority of tribal law enforcement to stop and detain non-Indians who are suspected of committing crimes within the borders of an Indian reservation and asked the Supreme Court to uphold the Ninth Circuit’s decision which concluded that tribal law enforcement can only stop and detain a non-Indian suspected of committing a crime if it is “apparent” or “obvious” that a crime is being committed.

“We applaud the Supreme Court in its unanimous decision to uphold the inherent right of tribal nations to protect Native people living on tribal lands and are honored to have filed an amicus brief in this case in support of the Crow Nation and all tribal nations across the United States,” said Lucy Simpson, Diné, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center Executive Director. “Domestic violence is rarely ‘obvious’ until it turns lethal, and then it’s too late. The unworkable standard the Ninth Circuit created would have significantly impaired the ability of tribal law enforcement to address crimes of domestic violence and assaults perpetrated by non-Indians in tribal communities.”

In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court found that tribal police officers can temporarily detain and search non-Indians traveling on public rights of way if they suspect the individual is violating federal or state law. Justice Breyer noted the lack of workability in the Ninth Circuit’s standard, citing National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s brief that more than 70 percent of residents on some reservations are non-Indian, and tribal police must have the same authority as federal and state law enforcement to stop and detain all individuals suspected of committing a crime.

“National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s amicus brief in Cooley was filed pursuant to our Violence Against Women Act Sovereignty Initiative,” said Cherrah Giles, Muscogee Nation, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center Board Chairwoman. “It is our mission and goal to educate the Supreme Court on the connection between sovereignty and safety for Native women, and we are determined to defend the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) against anyone who challenges the inherent rights of our Nations to protect our women and children in our own homes. We are honored that the family of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places signed onto the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center amicus brief, along with eleven Violence Against Women Act-implementing tribal nations and 44 non-profit organizations committed to ending violence against Native women.”

“This is an incredibly critical victory for Indian country,” said Mary Kathryn Nagle, Cherokee Nation, Partner at Pipestem & Nagle, P.C. and Counsel to National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, who co-authored National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s amicus brief with Sarah Deer (Muscogee Nation). “The Court’s majority opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit’s unlawful judicial diminishment of tribal authority, and then the Court went even further. Justice Breyer’s opinion also re-affirmed the constitutional authority of Congress to restore the tribal jurisdiction that the Supreme Court previously in Oliphant erased. At a time when National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and so many others are working so hard to get a bipartisan Violence Against Women Act through the Senate, it is highly significant that the Supreme Court, once again, has confirmed Congress’ constitutional authority to restore tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants.”

This press release can be found online here.

About the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center:

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty. The filing of the Cooley amicus brief was made possible through National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center's Violence Against Women Act Sovereignty Initiative, a project focusing on the defense of the constitutionality and functionality of all Violence Against Women Act tribal provisions, as well as the inherent authority of Indian Nations to protect Native women. niwrc.org.

National Indigenous Women's Resource Center - logo