WASHINGTON — Rep. Yvette Herrell (Cherokee) is the only Native American in Congress who voted no H.R. 1620: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 on Wednesday. The bill passed the House of Representatives and will move to the Senate for consideration.

The first term Republican, who represents the 2nd congressional district in New Mexico, has not commented publicly on her reason for her no vote.

The four other Native Americans in Congress, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) – Chickasaw Nation; Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) – Ho-Chunk Nation; Rep. Kaialiʻi Kahele (D-HI) – Native Hawaiian; and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, (R-OK), Cherokee, supported the legislation.

A strong supporter of the H.R. 1620, former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) – Laguna Pueblo resigned from her congressional seat the day before Wednesday’s vote to become the 54th Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior.

Given the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic in Indian Country, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act has wide support of tribes and tribal communities and Native American organizations.

Title 9 within the legislation—specifically addressing “Safety for Indian Women”—aims to improve the issues by authorizing funding for training and equipment, allowing tribal governments access to federal criminal investigation databases, and creating a pilot project to allow “up to five Indian Tribes in Alaska to implement special Tribal criminal jurisdiction.”

Co-Chair of the National Congress of American Indians’ Task Force on Violence Against Women, Juana Majel Dixon, said the group appreciated the House prioritizing the bill.

“This is about our right, as governments, to protect our citizens from violence,” she said in a statement. “It is about the countless victims who have experienced life-changing trauma simply because federal law has tied our hands from protecting them. We cannot allow this to continue.”

New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, represented by Herrell, covers the southern half of New Mexico, including the southern fourth of Albuquerque.

Native News Online reached out to Rep. Herrell’s office for a comment on her no vote on Friday and has not received a response by press time.

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Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]