New Scholarship on Court Power and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada

The American Review of Canadian Studies has published Political Failure, Judicial Opportunity: The Supreme Court of Canada and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, available at  

Here is the abstract:  What role do courts play in public policymaking? This article finds that the Supreme Court of Canada revitalized the making of Aboriginal and treaty rights policy from 1990 to 2007. It offers an explanation of the Court’s engagement in this area and suggests that the standard Charter narrative about court power does not explain fully the role of the Court in Aboriginal and treaty rights policymaking. The account highlights how politics affect the Court and how the Court affects politics. The Court emerged as a significant and influential player in policymaking as the political process failed to accommodate Aboriginal and treaty rights, Aboriginal peoples mobilized legally, and the institutional power of the Court grew. The article’s emphasis on political failure provides a more nuanced view of the Court and how it exercises power vis-à-vis political elites and interest groups.

An earlier version of the article is available on SSRN at

New Video Campaign on Ending Violence Against Women and Redefining Native Love

New Video Campaign on Ending Violence Against Women and Redefining Native Love

October 21, 2013

(Helena, Mont.) —  The Indian Law Resource Center and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) have launched the first videos in a new campaign to raise awareness of and help end violence against Native women and girls.

The campaign is two-fold, featuring a series of “Survivor Stories” with Native women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence as well as a series of videos on the theme of “Native Love” with Native youth expressing what Native love means to them and the changes they want to see in their communities.

“With one in three Native women raped in their lifetimes, creating awareness to end violence against Indian and Alaska Native women and girls is the first and foremost priority for this campaign,” said Jana Walker, Senior Attorney and Director of the Center’s Safe Women, Strong Nations project.  “The epidemic of violence against Native women and girls cannot be tolerated.”

The first survivor story released in the series features Sheila Harjo, the First Lady of The Seminole Nation and Councilwoman.  In the video, Harjo describes the eight years of abuse she endured by her former husband.

“I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor,” declares Harjo in the video. “I now have the opportunity to share my story and let people know it can happen to anybody. It’s not drunks. It’s not the poor people. It’s not the uneducated. It’s anybody.”

Harjo has been a driving force in helping The Seminole Nation establish a domestic violence program and shelter for abused women and their children.

The “Native Love” video series raises awareness about violence against Native women and girls and is aimed at empowering tribal members, particularly young people, to speak out.  Justin Secakuku, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, shares a Hopi tradition involving white corn, and its symbolism of the value of women to give and produce life.

“Women should be appreciated, honored, and loved,” says Secakuku in the video. “In the concept of Native love, we have to respect what women have to contribute to society as a whole.”

The Indian Law Resource Center and the NIWRC will release four survivor stories and four “Native Love” stories through the end of the year.  The videos and other online resources including posters, Facebook banners, a domestic violence toolkit, FAQs, and a guide on how to share the campaign, will be available at and

“We hope to stimulate and support a national dialogue about what Native love is — and what it is not — in order to create change that will help restore safety to our Native women and girls,”  said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director of the NIWRC.  “We encourage people to watch the videos, share them through Facebook and other social media channels, and help us create change.”

The videos were co-produced by the Center and Native filmmaker Ryan Red Corn, co-founder of Buffalo Nickel Creative.  Red Corn also produced “To The Indigenous Woman” which was released by the Center in October 2011.  For more information or to download and share the videos, visit or


About the Indian Law Resource Center

The Indian Law Resource Center is a nonprofit law and advocacy organization that provides legal assistance to Indian and Alaska Native nations who are working to protect their lands, resources, human rights, environment, and cultural heritage. The Center’s principal goal is the preservation and well-being of Indian and other Native nations and tribes.  The Center, which is headquartered in Helena, Montana, and has an office in Washington, D.C., has been working for justice for indigenous peoples for 35 years. For more information, visit

About the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) is a nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, policy development, training, materials, and resource information for Indian and Alaska Native women, Native Hawaiians, and Native non-profit organizations addressing safety for Native women.  The NIWRC’s primary mission is to restore safety for Native women.  For more information,

VAWA’s Tribal Provisions Better Protect Native Women Locally

On May 8th, the House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed H.R. 4970, a stripped-down Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) that excludes a number of key provisions found in the Senate bill, including those bearing on the safety of Native women and communities. Get informed! Visit for more information on how to get involved.

The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on its VAWA reauthorization bill soon — as early as mid week.

Commentary: Using the UN Declaration to End the Epidemic of Violence Against Native Women

Jana L. Walker is a Senior Staff Attorney and the Director of the Indian Law Resource Center’s Safe Women, Strong Nations project.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples signals a new means to change federal law and policy to restore safety to Native women, to strengthen Indian nations and advance their jurisdiction over crimes within their territories, and to end the cycle of violence in Native communities.

The right to be safe and live free from violence is one of the most fundamental and important human rights recognized internationally.  Continue reading

Commentary: Tribes Lead Efforts to Implement UN Declaration

by Robert T. Coulter*

Photo for Robert T. Coulter
Robert T. Coulter is Executive Director of the Indian Law Resource Center. He is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of Indian law.

It has been just a year since President Obama announced the Administration’s support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and promised action to implement at least some of those rights.  Across the country, tribal governments are seizing the Declaration and using it creatively to protect their lands and resources, and especially their rights to cultural and sacred sites.

For example, the Navajo Nation has used the Declaration in its efforts to protect the San Francisco Peaks, and the Seneca Nation has pointed out Article 37 (“Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties”) in its efforts to resolve a 60-year occupation of Seneca territory by the New York State Thruway that violates the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. Continue reading

Violence Against Native Women gaining global attention

Native women face greater rates of violence than any other group in the United States.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The epidemic proportions of violence against Native women in the United States continues to gain global attention.   The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a hearing on Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:15 a.m. at the General Secretariat Building of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C.  The Commission is an autonomous organ of the OAS, created by countries to protect human rights in the Americas.

Continue reading

International Commission Decision Brings New Hope to Native Women Facing Domestic Violence in the U.S.

UPDATE: The materials are here:

Read the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decision and the friend-of-the-court brief by the Indian Law Resource Center and Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An international human rights body has done something that federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, failed to do — bring justice to a domestic violence survivor.

“This decision is important for Native women who face the highest rates of sexual and physical assault of any group in the United States,” said Jana Walker, Indian Law Resource Center attorney. “Although this case did not originate in Indian Country, it has major implications for an ethnic group who rarely sees their abusers brought to justice.” Continue reading

Senate hearing on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is opportunity to work for major changes in federal policy and law

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be holding an oversight hearing:

Setting the Standard: Domestic Policy Implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.



June 9, 20112:15 pm (EST)

Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 628

Washington, D.C



The hearing will be webcast live at resources about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visit

Continue reading

COMMENTARY: Restoring Respect For the First Women of this Land

by Terri Henry*

Terri Henry is Councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians Task Force on Violence Against Women.

CHEROKEE, N.C. — It was with great honor that my nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, hosted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo.  Her visit to Cherokee was spurred by the concern that American Indian and Alaska Native women are victimized at more than double the rate of violence of any other population of women in the United States.  Fortunately, there is a growing global awareness of the voices of Native women calling for safety and justice.

With great pride we welcomed Ms. Manjoo to the Qualla Boundary to listen to our community: people that respond to the medical needs, to the 911 calls, those that investigate and prosecute, and to the Cherokee Court where women seek justice in the hope that the violence will end.  While Cherokee does not have a perfect response to these crimes we are outraged by the rape or beating of any woman, and we are committed to increasing the safety of all women who reside within our tribal community.  Most importantly we understand Cherokee women have the right as citizens of the Eastern Band to the protection of their government. Continue reading