June 28, 2019

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bill To Empower Tribal Communities to Prosecute Domestic Violence, Protect Native Children

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored legislation today to close gaps in tribal jurisdiction that fail to shield Native children and Tribal law enforcement officers from violent offenders. Introduced by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act restores tribal jurisdiction over crimes against children and strengthens existing laws to ensure that tribes can prosecute domestic violence.

“It’s unacceptable that Native children and tribal law enforcement officers are falling through the cracks of laws meant to stem violence perpetrated on reservations. We must work to empower tribal communities so they have the tools and jurisdiction necessary to prosecute violent offenses being committed by non-Native individuals. I’m proud to support legislation that protects tribal members in Nevada, and across the country, from domestic violence and provides critical avenues to uphold justice in tribal communities.”

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto and Udall, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) also cosponsored the bill.

Full text of the bill is available here.


Current tribal law does not permit tribes to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction (SDVCJ) to prosecute non-Indian defendants who commit violence against children. Tribes are also currently unauthorized to prosecute crimes against tribal law enforcement officers that co-occur in domestic violence situations. Current tribal law also fails to empower tribes to prosecute attempted or threatened domestic violence because of definitional uncertainty. The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act addresses these gaps by clarifying definitions and restoring tribal jurisdiction over crimes against children and crimes against tribal law enforcement exercising tribal VAWA jurisdiction.