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Alaska Native Women React to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Racist Vote on VAWA – Updated

Portait of Lisa Murkowski

Alaska's Senator Lisa Murkowski continues to defend a Violence Against Women Act special rule that many call racist.

A battle is brewing in Alaska over how to interpret Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s involvement in, and final vote upon, Senate Bill 47, the Violence Against Women Act.  Murkowski was a co-sponsor of the bill, and has been proclaiming for weeks her progressive role in this important legislation. On February 27th, her main media supporter in Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch posted:

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski reached out to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) along with two of her Senate colleagues and urged the Speaker to take up the Senate-passed S.47 Violence Against Women Act reauthorization act.

The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization – which Senator Murkowski co-sponsored –passed the Senate two weeks ago with the support of 78 Senators and over 1300 organizationsrepresenting domestic and sexual violence groups like the AWAIC shelter in Anchorage. A champion of this legislation, Murkowski joined Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) in writing a letter to Boehner advocating for action on the Senate version of the bill.

Yet, as the bill approached final voting and passage, Murkowski insinuated herself into its structure regarding the vast majority of Alaska Native women:

Our senior senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, added a “Special Rule for the State of Alaska” to the VAWA. That rule effectively bars 40 percent of American tribes from being able to protect their women. Our senator excluded 229 Alaska communities from that part of the act.

The Association of Village Council Presidents and the Aleut community of St. Paul Island spoke out against the Alaska exclusion. The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council said it “objects to anti-Alaska Tribal Provisions in the Violence Against Women Act.”

The Tanana Chiefs Conference opposed it. The Native American Rights Fund led the charge against it.

The AFN wrote to the senator: “Although Alaska Natives comprise only 15.2 percent of the population of the State of Alaska, they comprise 47 percent of the victims of domestic violence and 61 percent of the victims of sexual assault.”

Murkowski ignored their requests.

The above, written by Anchorage Daily News opinion columnist Shannyn Moore, got under Murkowski’s skin.  On Facebook, she wrote:

I am discouraged by Ms. Moore’s research and I am disheartened by the attempt to score partisan points on an issue that should be above politics.

Apparently, Murkoski had second thoughts, because the comment is no longer there.  See Update.

The Native American Rights Fund issued this statement on Murkowski’s racist stance:

Almost 100 tribes in Alaska had opposed this exclusion. The Association of Village Council Presidents (A VCP), representing 56 tribes, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (ACSPI) had both issued very clear and direct press releases opposing the Alaska exclusion. The Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), representing 37 tribes, also opposed the Alaska exclusion. Taken together, this represents one sixth of the tribes in the United States that demanded the Alaska exclusion be removed. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who authored the Alaska exclusion apparently at the urging of the Alaska Attorney General’s office, rebuffed all requests to remove the exclusion.

“We are tired of the separate but equal treatment that Alaska tribes receive from courts and Congress,” said NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth. “They are tribes just like tribes in the Lower 48 and they are entitled to be treated like all other tribes. These exclusions, which have found their way into numerous bills over the years, say to Alaska’s tribes that they are different and lesser than other tribes. In the case of VAWA, it means that Alaska Native women are less deserving of protection, less important. I find that unconscionable.”

Commenters at Moore’s ADN op-ed are livid:

As an Alaska Native woman, I feel personally “targeted” by Murkowski’s move to leave so many communities (229!), mine included probably, out of the Violence Against Women’s Act. As one of her constituents, I feel that she did me a great, and very personal, disservice! I hope that those who practically moved little bits of heaven and earth to get her re-elected remember it at the next election.

It also doesn’t seem “kosher” for a governor, and Attorney General of a state, to NOT push for more safety measures to fight violence against women, anywhere. So much for Parnell’s “choose respect” campaign. Not only is his stance disrespectful to women of a certain race, it is going against the very “choose respect” stance that he says is so important in rural Alaska. All of their actions smack of blatant disrespect, in more ways than one. Elected politicians are to seek and ensure protections for their constituents, not obstruct them.

Many other commenters expressed similar concerns.

Shopping today in Anchorage, I bumped into a longtime friend, an Alaska Native woman, employed by a large Native corporation, dependent upon Murkowski’s Senatorial largesse. Asking her about the Senator’s vote, she all but spat out, “That bitch!  She Fucked us!  Don’t quote me on this….”

Why did Murkoski fuck over Alaska Natives in this racist way?  Moore explains that it is over resources and the senator’s ties to the Parnell administration:

Let’s review a little recent Alaska history. Murkowski barely won her last election. Her write-in campaign only succeeded with a lot of help from Alaska Native corporations and the Alaska Federation of Natives. Why would she give powers to Lower 48 tribes but deny them to Alaska Natives? Why would she block the ability of Alaska Natives to protect some of their most vulnerable?

Alaska’s attorney general, Michael Geraghty, has become the principal agent of our governor’s anti-Native rights point of view. He argued to eliminate the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects Alaska Native voters. He lobbied to exclude Alaska from the VAWA.

The state of Alaska seems not to miss an opportunity to stop tribes from asserting jurisdiction over issues like Native adoption, alcohol control, subsistence hunting and fishing, etc. At every turn the state acts to circumscribe, as tightly as possible, the sovereignty of First Alaskans.

The difference between Alaska Natives and Native Americans is all about land. The Lower 48 has reservations. In Alaska, tribes don’t have reservations, so they can’t base claims of jurisdiction on reservation boundaries.

The worry for Alaskans like Parnell is: If we give Natives power over themselves, where will they stop? What if they don’t like a certain resource development — they might be able to get in the way. How could we let tribes enforce laws against non-Native predators? Oh, it could be a slippery slope, so let’s prevent Native communities from enforcing state law, and then we’ll pretend Alaska doesn’t have the money to pay for troopers to do it instead.

What’s a few rapes — as long as they happen way out there?

Out there!

Out there, where my wife goes out again in the morning, in a very small airplane, in awful weather, to mentor young teachers in villages Murkowski’s GOP friends in the Alaska GOP administration want to humble, denude, shame – and rape – again and again and again, until all their pride, individuality and resources are extinguished

I’m not sure whether I despise intentional racists more than the somewhat obtuse ones, but the results end up the same for their victims.

Thanks, Lisa.

Update: 11:50 pm AKST:  Sen. Murkowski has many facebook pages.  On another one, apparently the one she had posted the Moore comment upon, she has written in full:

It’s incredibly important to clear up the confusion created by Shannyn Moore’s piece today — and I want Alaskans to hear it directly from me. The amendment she misconstrued focused on tribal jurisdiction over non-Natives who are accused of domestic or sexual assault on reservation land. Of Alaska’s 229 federally-recognized tribes, Alaska only has one reservation: Metlakatla. My amendment was introduced to spell out in no uncertain terms that Metlakatla would receive the same rights and jurisdiction granted to Lower 48 reservations. It was inclusive language, not what Ms. Moore suggested — and it received praise from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska.

Secondly, I cannot agree more that sexual and domestic violence is a blight on our state, especially in rural areas, and that what we are doing is not enough. This is why the other language I included in the bill — but was not mentioned — was to reestablish and authorize funding for the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission to provide a permanent forum for the tribes, the state, and the federal government to work together on rural safety issues. Yes, I said ‘fund.’ Fiscal discipline is necessary to restore a sustainable future for our nation, but funding rural justice efforts is work that I will fight for as our people are losing their futures through abuse and despair.

I am discouraged by Ms. Moore’s research and I am disheartened by the attempt to score partisan points on an issue that should be above politics.

I doubt Murkowski’s sleight of hand will hold back a rejoinder from Moore.  Nor from others who are not, as is Murkowski here, “attempting to score partisan points.”

Public domain photo of Lisa Murkowski from Wikimedia Commons.

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