Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin got an important piece of legislation through Congress this week. Her Tribal Law and Order Act got amended into another bill, HR 725, on Indian arts and crafts, passed the Senate by unanimous consent, then passed the House yesterday 326–92.
What does the SHS's bill do? Let the Congresswoman explain:
Not bad. Amnesty International sees this bill as a huge step for Native women's rights, as it will clear away some of the legal bureaucracy that hinders investigations of rape and sexual assualt against Native women (86% of which crimes, says Amnesty International, are committed by non-Native men).
So who could be against strengthening prosecution of rape and assualt, improving interagency cooperation, and boosting recruitment and training of BIA/tribal cops? Only 92 House Republicans, including Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, for whom it must just be too hard to admit that sometimes government can and should act to solve problems.
Of course, Kristi Noem, SHS's GOP challenger and a Bachmann clone in many ways, wouldn't have voted against this legislation, would she? Since the primary, Noem has added a "Native American Issues" page, where she says, among other vagueries, "I am committed to working to ensure there is basic law and order in Native American communities."
Nice statement. Too bad Noem doesn't back it with a plan... like the legislation that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin just passed.
Update 12:20 CDT: Read more!
- Indian Country Today points out that the new law will require some tribes to spend more to get properly licenses attorneys and judges.
- President Obama digs it.
- So does the National Congress of American Indians: "This historic legislation is an opportunity for tribes and the federal government to work together to make our communities safer, and it supports the sovereignty of tribes to investigate and prosecute serious crimes on our lands."