On September 25, 2019, the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe received a notice of award for The Tribal Governments Program, Purpose Area #5: Office on Violence Against Women, in the amount of $450,000. This funding is part of the grant application that YTT submitted to the US Department of Justice through the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) on February 26th, 2019.
CTAS serves as a single solicitation for existing tribal government-specific award programs administered by the COPS Office, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The CTAS solicitation is designed to assist tribes with addressing crime and public safety issues in a comprehensive manner. The CTAS award application process was inspired by and developed after consultation with tribal leaders and has been updated based on continued tribal consultations and listening sessions.
The Tribal Governments Program, Purpose Area #5 of the 2019 Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, was created in Title IX of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 and amended by subsequent legislation. The program is designed to fulfill three goals: (1) decrease the incidence of violent crime against Indian women; (2) strengthen the capacity of Indian Tribes to exercise their sovereign authority to respond to violent crimes committed against Indian women; and (3) ensure that perpetrators of violent crimes committed against Indian women are held accountable for their criminal behavior.
Currently, there is significant statewide effort to reduce violence against women. This is being addressed at the state level with the submission of bills concerning assault and sex offenses. Although these bills do not specifically target AI/AN victims, Alaska Native women account for more than half of all sexual assault victims within the state. Regional data also reveals that over 50% of women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. These efforts are supported by local data, as well. The main focus is to address violence against Native Alaskan women issues within Yakutat, specifically targeting Assault and Domestic Violence.
In addition, community residents have limited options when it comes to available services to victims. Local counseling services are available through Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services (SCAPS). However, SCAPS is a for-profit resource and therefore remains out-of-reach for some residents due to fees. The Yakutat Community Health Center has an emerging Behavioral Health Department. Although due to high rates of turnover, a full-time mental health clinician is not available within the community at this time. To address this need, the YCHC currently contracts with a psychiatrist to provide video telehealth services two days per week and travels into Yakutat on a quarterly basis. Programs like behavioral health services offered through the Yakutat Community Health Center and Sitka Counseling provide direct care to clients; however, they are limited to providing non-intensive outpatient treatments. Currently both organizations lack the infrastructure, resources and provider-capability needed to effectively respond to the needs of victims of crime.
This funding enables the Tribe to carry out its latest undertaking, known as the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Project. This project aims to remedy the current local situation by enhancing the Tribe’s ability to respond to violent crimes against Indian women, promote victim safety, and develop education and prevention strategies. Specifically, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe will utilize this funding to (1) hire one full-time domestic violence advocate; (2) co-host annual Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center training, each of which will train at least 20 community members; and (3) provide victim services and conduct outreach.
The goal of this project is to increase tribal capacity and empower our own community with resources and tools that will allow us to understand and address violence against Alaska Native women. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe will work hand in hand with the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (ANWRC), an organization dedicated to strengthening tribal government’s responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes, especially against domestic and sexual abuse and violence. The ANWRC and YTT agree to collaborate in order to complete community-wide trainings regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and infrastructure implementation. The Tribe feels it is vitally important that these issues are addressed at the tribal level with special regard to traditional and cultural views. The Tribe will also partner with the City and Borough of Yakutat, the Department of Public Safety and the Yakutat Community Health Center to plan and successfully implement this project within the community.
This project will reinforce YTT’s previous and on-going efforts in improving services for American Indian/ Alaska Native crime victims (e.g. victims of elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and substance abuse). It can be noted that towards the end of 2018, the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe procured a Crime Victim Advocate grant that is intended to bring in a crime victim advocate for victims of crime, particularly in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence. In addition to the crime victim advocate services that will be available, the Tribe has an agreement with Sitka Counseling to provide services for referred clients who have substance abuse, anger, PTSD, or other mental health conditions that are a direct result of being a victim of crime.