GTB Press Release: “Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Implements Authority to Prosecute All Persons, Including Non-Indians, for Domestic Violence”


Peshawbestown, MI – During a legislative session today, the Tribal Council of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) enacted amendments to the Domestic Violence Ordinance authorizing tribal police and justice officials to investigate and prosecute domestic violence crimes committed by non-Indians on tribal lands. Non-Indians who live or work on the reservation or have a marriage or dating relationship with a Native person now may be prosecuted by GTB for domestic and dating violence crimes, and for criminal violations of certain protection orders. Individuals who commit these crimes in Indian country can be arrested by tribal police, prosecuted in the Tribal Court, and sentenced to incarceration. Crimes committed outside of Indian country, between two strangers, between two non-Indians, or by a person without sufficient ties to GTB are not covered by the law.

The law guarantees substantive and procedural protections to the accused, including the rights to a jury trial, to an attorney, and to stay proceedings in the Tribal Court to petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a court of the United States.

“The epidemic of violence against Native women has worsened as a result of tribal governments’ forced reliance on distant federal officials for justice. Domestic violence demands a local solution. At long last, we have one,” said Council Chair Sam McClellan. “Tribal law enforcement officers are no longer required to obtain federal permission to arrest a non-Indian who perpetrates domestic violence against an Indian. Bad actors who assault our women are on notice: They will be prosecuted and put in jail.”

For the first time since 1978, when the U.S. Supreme Court stripped tribal governments of their criminal authority over non-Indians in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) has authorized Indian tribes to reassert a portion of their inherent governmental authority to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence non-Indians who commit crimes in Indian country. The legislation begins the process of eliminating a jurisdictional gap on tribal lands that has for far too long endangered Native men, women, and children by tying the hands of tribal law enforcement.

Approximately twenty tribes around the United States have implemented the jurisdiction. By adding GTB to that list, the Grand Traverse Band Tribal Council demonstrates its commitment to confronting domestic violence, and to reversing the lasting damage it inflicts on Native families.