Melissa Harris-Perry | April 28, 2012
HARRIS-PERRY: Before the break, we discussed that house Republicans are crafting their own version of the violence against women 's act. And the new Senate version includes new provisions and not everyone is in agreement of those like the one giving native American nations more authority to tackle domestic violence for of course on their lands. But what could be wrong with that? Back at the table are youth organizer, Jessy Talkon , Abby Phillip of "Politico," former governor, Buddy Roemer and columnist, Mona Eltahawy . And in Washington D.C. , Jacqueline Pata , executive director of the National Congress of American-Indian. Jacqui , Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for inviting me. So, Jackie , you served as deputy assistant secretary for native American programs in Clinton 's housing and urban development . So, I want to talk to you about this question of VAWA , an American-Indians women. But first, just start by telling me a little bit about American-Indian lands. Where are they? How many people live there? In short, kind a give me a scope here.
JACQUELINE PATA, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN-INDIANS: OK. So, we have about 569 federally recognized tribes across the nation. We have in the reservation communities mostly in the rural remote communities, majority of that, 4.2 million native Americans across the country. I think the number is about five million now across the country. About 50 percent of them are now moving toward more urban centers . And still, we have the highest challenges with infrastructure, lowest telephone penetration rates, lack of plumbing, water and sewer, and clearly eight of the 10 most poverty stricken counties in the nation are in tribal communities .
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Jacqui , I have to tell you. As we were looking at the statistics around violence against women , the statistics around American-Indian and Alaskan native women absolutely took my breath away. Where we are looking at statistics that say that 34 percent in their lifetime will be raped or sexually assaulted and 39 percent said experience domestic violence and that native women are murdered at a rate that is 10 times the national average. So, part of the reason that I really wanted to speak to you today is my sense that if this matters to anybody, the VOWA act and this new questions around the new provisions are critically important to indigenous women.
PATA: Absolutely. There had been studies and reports, and we don't need studies and reports in the communities to be able to talk about what we see every single day. We have tremendous statistics showing you the statistics for the crime and rape and abuse to the native women and children . We need to do something about it. But the challenge is that we have to rely on the U.S. attorneys and many U.S. attorneys are five to six hours away from any of the tribal communities . So, when this happens, this violence happens in our community, we don't have a resource. Our tribal police are able to come to deal with domestic violence , but not if the perpetrator, a non- native . We have no jurisdiction over the non- natives that live within choose to live within our community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I think that for me is the piece that I just want to pause and get you the reiterate that for the audience, because this is one of the major changes that would happen under the democratic versions of the act. Because what you are saying is that you as a sovereign nation , right, the Indian community as a sovereign nations , do not have the authority to prosecute violence against Indian women if it occurs by people who are not indigenous but living there in reservation. Am I getting that right?
PATA: You are getting that right. So, we have a non- native man marries a native woman, which over 50 percent of our native women are married to or cohabitating with a non- native man, or they choose to live in a reservation in an intimate relationship , you know, solid intimate relationship with a native woman, our tribal courts, our tribal police officers do not have any authority to protect that native woman in the cases of domestic violence or to be able to have any jurisdiction over them, period.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to back up. We have only a few seconds left here. But I do want to just give you a chance to jump back in here, because you were saying that part of the problem of the Republicans facing is this question of, is it for everybody, and so, as I, you know, as I met and talked with Jacqui Pata about it, I'm thinking, yes. But, it has to be literally for everybody and not having these protections allow so many people to fall through the cracks.
PATA: I think it is obviously difficult for the Republicans who many of them who, you know, are not supportive of, you know, gay marriage or the homosexual relationships, who, may not be supportive of an undocumented immigrants being in this country to take a provision that lumps all of these groups together all at once. And I think, on Capitol Hill , that is often what the problem is, when you have additions to bills, they are usually coming together, all in one piece and taking them apart is not very easy. And Republicans are balking at having to vote for things, for some things that they don't want to vote for other things. We can have a debate whether all of them should be included or not. But, from the perspective of the Republicans and their ideological differences from the Democrats , that is the crux of the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much. Thank you, Jacqui Pata . I really appreciate you joining us from Washington just to kind of clarify where we are on this issue.
PATA: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, why after all of that, I might make an argument that will is not actually a war on women. But you didn't think that I would say that? That's up next.