Minnesota Law Review

Note, Native American Rape Victims: Desperately Seeking an Oliphant-Fix

Native American women suffer sexual assault at a much higher rate and with more serious consequences than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Further, such rapes are overwhelmingly committed by individuals outside the Native American community. Most non-Indian perpetrators, however, go unpunished. The Supreme Court decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe prevents tribal governments from prosecuting non-Indians, and the federal and state prosecutors who have authority often decline to prosecute. Therefore, this Note analyzes the legal underpinnings of the elimination of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants by the Court in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe. It explains that both legal and policy arguments advocate for tribal jurisdiction over perpetrators of sexual assault on reservations and explores the restoration by Congress of tribal jurisdiction over nonmember Indians following Duro v. Reina: the “Duro-fix.” The Note proposes an opt-in program that would allow tribes that are willing and capable of assuming criminal jurisdiction over perpetrators of sexual assault on reservations to do so.

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