A New Initiative to Reduce Tribal Disparities: The Alaska Native Women's Resource Center

Tami Truett Jerue and Tribal elder Mary Ann Wilson in Kotzebue, AlaskaThe Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Program coordinated with the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) in FY2013 to host a statewide meeting on domestic violence in Alaska. This meeting brought together the FVPSA state administrator, state domestic violence coalition, the Alaska (AK) Native tribal coalition, many AK Native villages, and AK Native organizations to begin dialogue about the challenges AK Natives face when addressing domestic violence.

Also that year the Indian Law and Order Commission Report to Congress and the President, A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, reported Alaska Native women in Tribal villages and Native communities experienced rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than women in the rest of the United States; and, Alaska Native women were over-represented in Alaska’s domestic violence victim population by 250 percent. These statistics supported what was heard at the statewide meeting.

Due to the unique circumstances Alaska faces in their efforts to provide services to Native victims of domestic violence, additional training and technical assistance is needed to enhance state-wide capacity to respond to domestic violence affecting tribal and Alaska Native populations. To address this need, a $1 million increase was proposed in FVPSA’s Congressional Justification for FY2017. FVPSA was appropriated the increase in May 2017.

By July 2017, FVPSA published its funding opportunity to support one Alaska Native Tribal State Resource Center, in accordance with the provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017. The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) made a 3-year cooperative agreement award to the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) in September 2017 to serve as the state resource center to reduce Tribal disparities and enhance the capacity of Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal organizations to respond to family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence in a culturally sensitive and effective manner.

The AKNWRC is part of a nationwide network of emergency shelters, crisis hotlines, prevention programs, resource centers, and state, local, and tribal partners receiving support from FYSB’s Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Program. Under this program, FYSB supports the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs and projects to prevent incidents of family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence and to provide immediate shelter and supportive services for victims of family violence. Every year, FVPSA-funded state and tribal programs serve more than 1.3 million victims and their dependents and respond to 2.7 million crisis calls.

Tami Truett Jerue, AKNWRC Executive Director, noted that the organization applied for the funding to turn the tides that have exempted Alaska tribes and Alaska Native peoples from national policy change addressing domestic violence. She continued, “Such historic and long overdue support upholds the federal government’s trust responsibility to assist all Indian tribes in safeguarding the lives of Indian women.”

The AKNWRC will address an array of issues including lack of village-based shelter and comprehensive victim advocacy services, and support development of village-based responses to domestic violence, which will help reduce and prevent murders of Native women that are “all too common,” Jerue said.

“This funding gives us the opportunity to break the deafening silence surrounding victims and bring healing to our people with laws, policies, and local responses rooted in Alaska Native voices, languages and teachings,” said Joann Horn, AKNWRC Board Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Emmonak Women’s Shelter.

“With such support,” added Shirley Moses, AKNWRC Board Co-chair and Executive Director of the Healing Native Hearts Coalition, “we can address domestic violence by working closely with Alaska Native tribal governments, and identify and remove barriers to victim safety and abuser accountability, especially in rural, remote Alaska Native villages.”

With this funding, the AKNWRC can provide direct outreach to 40 percent of the nation’s federally recognized tribes. Activities will include providing information, technical assistance, and training on laws, policies, and resources addressing domestic violence to increase Alaska Native villages’ understanding and capacity to organize and respond to domestic violence. Outreach efforts will include organizing onsite village engagement sessions; providing training and technical assistance at local, regional, and statewide meetings; conducting needs assessments and roundtable discussions; and developing culturally-specific materials addressing domestic violence.

Three Alaska Native villages have already engaged with the resource center for assistance in developing safe communities for victims of domestic violence taking their unique needs and challenges into consideration. The AKNWRC is providing individualized technical assistance and training that will assist the villages in their efforts to provide adequate responses to domestic violence victims and help Tribal citizens feel safe.

For domestic violence statistics, factsheets, and resources specific to Native populations and tribes, visit the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

To speak with a StrongHearts Native Helpline advocate, call 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), Monday through Friday, 9 am -5:30 pm CST. StrongHearts is a culturally-appropriate, confidential service for Native Americans affected by domestic violence and dating violence.

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