TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes will be one of the first tribes in the nation to exercise special criminal jurisdiction, allowing the tribal court to prosecute non-Indians for certain domestic violence crimes committed on the reservation.
The Tulalips are part of a pilot project permitted under the reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act.
The law, signed by President Barack Obama in March, recognizes the tribes’ sovereign authority to investigate and prosecute domestic violence crimes committed by anyone on the reservation.
The special jurisdiction takes effect in March 2015. The law also gives the U.S. attorney general discretion to grant a tribe’s request earlier through voluntary pilot projects, according to a press release.
The Tulalips applied for the project. The U.S. Justice Department concluded that the tribes’ court system has safeguards in place to protect defendants’ rights under federal law.
“Getting justice for our tribal members, where it concerns domestic and intimate partner violence, has been a long time coming,” Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon said in the release.
Sheldon also applauded the efforts of Tulalip Tribal councilwoman Deborah Parker who pushed for the reauthorization of the act.
Two other tribes — the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona and Umatilla in Oregon — also are expected to take over prosecuting domestic violence crimes.