A tribal seat at the table

A tribal seat at the table
(Shutterstock) HB 2091 would mandate tribal representation on the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.

Liz Gray/Reporter

HB 2091 would add members to Oklahoma Fatality Review Board

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — New life was breathed into an Oklahoma bill adding tribal representation to the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.

HB 2091 was introduced last session, but did not manage to receive a hearing in the state’s Senate.

Efforts for the bill began with a collaboration between Muscogee (Creek) Nation Family Violence Prevention Program Director Shawn Partridge, MCN Attorney General Prosecutor Shelly Harrison and Oklahoma’s tribal coalition Native Alliance Against Violence.

Partridge said one day Harrison had called her to talk about something that stood out while reviewing DVFRB’s annual report.

“She noticed on that report that an overwhelming, more than half of the DV-related homicides from the year before had actually occurred within our [MCN] jurisdictional boundaries,” she said.

Partridge said a large number had occurred in Tulsa County, due to it being a larger urban area.

Harrison asked Partridge if there was representation on the DVFRB.

“And I was like, ‘it’s funny you ask, no there is not,” she said.

DVFB has the purpose of preventing domestic violence fatalities by identifying gaps in services and providing recommendations to improve coordinated responses of individuals, organizations and the community.

According to information provided by NAAV, Native American women experience the highest rate of violence compared to any other group.

There are 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma giving it the second largest Native American population in the lower 48 states.

Partridge said Oklahoma has fluctuated over the years in terms of ranking for the number of women killed by men, reaching as high as third in the nation.

From Partridge’s perspective, those factors contribute to the need for the additional members on the board.

“In our state tribes are doing a significant amount of work in terms of responding to domestic and sexual violence,” she said. “There are many areas throughout our state, even within our own jurisdiction that our tribal advocacy program is the only services program.”

“So tribes should be at the table, they should be involved in these reviews.”

With that information, Harrison managed to reach state Rep. Terry O’Donnell’s office and set up a meeting to discuss the importance of tribal representation on the board.

Partridge said the representative’s support was not the only one they received, MCN National Council passed a resolution in support of the bill, as well as the Inter-Tribal Executive Council.

Even with support, the bill did not get a hearing set in the judiciary committee. Partridge explained the reason given to her was the teacher walkout at the time.

The bill was reintroduced by O’Donnell this year and was able to pass through the House and is sitting on the Senate side of the legislature.

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