LAME DEER, Mont. –The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) filed an amicus brief on Thursday, Oct. 22 calling on the United States Supreme Court to uphold the authority of tribes to exercise civil jurisdiction over non-Indians who sexually assault and abuse Native women and children on tribal lands.
“NIWRC’s mission is to end violence against Native women,” stated NIWRC Board President Cherrah Giles. “NIWRC recognizes, however, that safety is not possible when tribal governments are stripped of the jurisdiction necessary to protect their women and children.”
On Dec. 7, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a case concerning whether the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ Tribal Court may exercise its inherent civil jurisdiction over tort claims filed in Tribal Court against a non-Indian corporation, Dollar General, whose employee supervisor allegedly sexually assaulted a young Choctaw intern working in the store that Dollar General leases from the Tribe on tribal lands.
“Dollar General seeks to avoid accountability for the conduct of its supervisor through the use of jurisdictional gymnastics, litigious tactics that could have far-reaching and devastating consequences for the ability of Indian Tribes to protect their Native women and children,” stated NIWRC’s attorney, Mary Kathryn Nagle, a Partner at Pipestem Law Firm P.C and Counsel of Record for the NIWRC amicus brief.
Lucy Rain Simpson, NIWRC executive director, noted, “At a time when the national conversation is about protecting victims of sexual assault, our brief is particularly important. Relief for the crimes of sexual assault are seldom available to Native women and children, so we are compelled to call on the Court to affirm their rights within their tribal courts to relief and protection. One in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and six in ten will be physically assaulted.”
Background on Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians:
The Dollar General store where the alleged sexual assault occurred is located on tribal trust land leased to Dollar General. Dollar General agreed to participate in a youth job-training program operated by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The current case concerns the claims brought by two parents whose child, a citizen of the tribe, was allegedly sexually assaulted by Dollar General’s store supervisor when he was working at the store.
Following the assault on the youth, he and his parents brought an action against Dollar General in tribal court, seeking monetary compensation for pain and suffering to cover the youth’s medical and trauma recovery expenses. Dollar General argued that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Tribal Court could not exercise jurisdiction over Dollar General because Dollar General is a non-Indian. After losing this argument in the Mississippi Choctaw Supreme Court, Dollar General circumvented the Tribal Court by filing a collateral challenge to the Tribe’s jurisdiction in the United States District Court, Southern District of Mississippi. After both the District Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Tribe and concluded that the Tribal Court could exercise jurisdiction over Dollar General, Dollar General filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court.