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Violence Against Women Act Will Assist Native Communities to be Resilient, Safe and Healthy

Seven young women standing in front of a tipee who are part of the "Living by Sacred Colors Program" funded by ANA.As the Commissioner for Administration for Native Americans, I am pleased that Congress passed and the President has signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act containing historic new provisions protecting Native women. 

Although the Department of Justice will have the task of implementing VAWA, as a federal agency we strive to provide resources and services to vulnerable populations including some of those most impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault, Native women.  ACF Funds the Domestic Violence Resource Network through funds appropriated under the Family Violence Prevention and Service Act. 

One of the culturally specific centers funded as part of the network is the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. NIWRC seeks to enhance the capacity of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, Native Hawaiians, and Tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations to respond to domestic violence and increase the safety of Native women. The NIWRC is dedicated to reclaiming the sovereignty of Native nations and safeguarding Native women and their children.

ANA’s role in assisting American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in creating safer communities includes providing community-driven grants to:

  • Improve tribal codes and court systems
  • Fund projects for shelters serving battered women on reservations
  • Educate parents and youth about healthy relationships, free from violence

Logo of American Indian Child Resource Center in Oakland, CA, which shows the outline of a female and male with feathers in theiFor example, we recently funded the American Indian Child Resource Center in Oakland, CA to conduct a project called Living By Sacred Colors.

The purpose of this project was to increase the sense of hope among American Indian youth for the future, expand opportunities, and promote an urban Native community where young people are valued and are taught to value themselves.  This program addressed:

  • Violence prevention
  • Healthy decision making
  • Critical thinking and communication
  • Emotional awareness and personal goal setting
  • Utilizing American Indian culture as a source of strength

The weekly training was gender specific, with four groups divided by age.  Staff trainers utilized talking circles to promote dialogue, mind and life mapping exercises to illustrate positive and negative consequences of decision making, and case management services to address problems at a personal level.

A current ANA grant supporting tribal justice systems is Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation’s “Winnebago Offender Rehabilitation Strategic Plan for Incarcerated Youth and Adults” project.  The Corporation is conducting a needs assessment and developing an Offender Rehabilitation Strategic Plan to improve the current tribal system of care.  The plan coincides with the future construction of a detention center to ensure that youth and adults involved in the justice system have an opportunity for recovery and change. 

We are also funding the Home for Women and Children, located on the Navajo Nation.  The Home is the largest domestic violence service provider on the Navajo Nation.  Five hundred Navajo women, children, and elders (including grandparents) pass through their doors every year because they have been beaten, raped, or are fearful for their lives. They serve another 800 individuals in Offender Education and Domestic Violence 101 classes every year. This grant is in the first year of funding, but the goal of the project is to exponentially raise the Home’s capacity to advance the wellbeing and independence of Diné (Navajo) victims and prevent, reduce, and work towards eliminating domestic and sexual violence on the Navajo Nation.

It is important that our partners at the Tribal, state and local levels have the tools they need to help improve safety within their communities.  ANA grantees have responded to community needs with culturally specific programs that are holistic and based on raising awareness of cultural teachings on violence prevention and healthy relationships.  Although our projects fund Tribes, Tribal organizations and Native nonprofits, they often serve and impact all members in the community, Native and non-native. 

As we do with any major initiative impacting Indian Country, we look forward to partnering with other federal agencies to keep our grantees and community informed of tools and resources available to them as they implement new provisions authorized under the Violence Against Women Act.

Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.  Sparks was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010.  She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities.

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