On November 10, 2011, the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs scheduled a legislative hearing on S. 1763, the Stand against Violence and Empower Native Women Act (SAVE Native Women Act). Best & Flanagan attorney and former United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Thomas Heffelfinger, was asked to present testimony before the United States Senate. Tom has devoted most of his 35-year career to investigating, prosecuting and defending white collar criminal misconduct and violent crime. With a focus on issues facing Native American communities, this is the sixth time since 2002 that Tom has been asked to testify on various issues related to public safety.
Protecting women and children is among the most important responsibilities of any community, including tribal communities. The SAVE Native Women Act gives tribes significant new authority to allow them to effectively protect the women in these communities.
According to Tom, the SAVE Native Women Act focuses on domestic violence, which is three times greater among Native women than among the general population. The Act gives tribes jurisdiction over all abusers, Native and non-Native, who assault Native women in tribal communities. It also requires tribes to afford individuals prosecuted in Indian Country under the new law with enhanced due process protections. This law goes to the heart of tribal sovereign responsibility: the protection of Native women and their children.