This story originates from KYUK Public Media and was published with permission.

BETHEL — The first day of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, training began Monday in Bethel. The three-day session marks the first VAWA training in the state since Alaska’s Attorney General, Craig Richards, issued an opinion last summer that law enforcement must uphold tribal protection orders the same as state orders.

Tribal and non-tribal judicial and law enforcement officials from across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and other areas of the state have gathered to understand how VAWA applies to Alaska Native communities and to create a dialogue between tribal and non-tribal entities on enforcing protection orders across jurisdictions.

“If we issue a tribal protective order and the victim goes to Bethel or Anchorage, they’ll be protected, and the state will help them to be protected, because the tribal order will work anywhere the victim goes,” Darlene Daniel, Kongiganak Tribal Court Clerk, said. Daniel says she’s attending the training to learn how to process tribal protection orders the state will uphold.

“It’s important that our tribes get recognized, because we are there to protect our community members. And, sometimes we need the state to help us out, and this is the step in the right direction,” she said.

Lucy Williams is the Akiak Tribal Court Administrator, and says Akiak has protection orders already written and she’s there to better understand the tribal court system.

“We want to take control of our people, to adjudicate where appropriate, which is the misdemeanors,” Williams said. “It’s taking back our villages and making them safer.”

Richards Slats, Chevak Traditional Council member, says the Chevak tribe does not have protection orders written, but he’s in Bethel to learn how to make that happen.

“It’s to protect our children and our women against domestic violence, and to be able to have some say about our destiny and protecting our sovereignty,” he said.

Monique Vandall-Rieke, Tribal Justice Center director for the Association of Village Council Presidents, organized the event. She’s leading AVCP’s effort to establish a tribal court in every Y-K village, and this training moves the association towards that goal.

Vandall-Rieke says she’s collected constitutions and criminal codes from each Y-K tribe and is working with tribes to create protection orders and search warrants to ensure due process.