Alaska Native women have the highest rate of rape in the country according to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. It’s an ugly statistic that many say must change, including officials in Washington D.C.
Kevin Washburn is one of the featured speakers at the National Congress of American Indians taking place at the Den’ina Center in Anchorage. Washburn is the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior. Washburn said the rate of violence against Native women has become a national problem that needs to be tackled on several levels.
“We all have some responsibilities here, the State of Alaska has some responsibilities that they may not be meeting,” said Washburn.
“Native communities themselves have some responsibilities, they need to do better. But certainly the United States Government has a trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives and it has an obligation to act to try and address this problem.”
Washburn said there are several proposals to strengthen protections for Native Woman and give tribal courts more power to prosecute crimes like domestic violence.
Federal Officials will also focus on the effects domestic violence has on children at a special hearing in Anchorage this week. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice are holding a hearing on ways to protect Native children from exposure to violence in the home.
Public testimony will be taken Wednesday from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. and Thursday from 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel.