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Tribes must rely on the federal, or in some cases state, government to prosecute crimes by non-Native Americans that happen on their territory.But relying on federal or state authorities also often means having to travel hundreds of kilometres to the nearest forensic examiner or prosecutor - and federal prosecution of crimes on tribal land is rare.
But quickly the memory takes a darker turn as Lisa Brunner recounts listening to the screams of her mother as her stepfather beat her, first with his hands, and then with the butt of a shotgun.They know they can come onto our lands and rape us with impunity because they know that we can't touch them," Brunner says."The US government has created that atmosphere." Looking back Jurisdictional loopholes are only one part of the equation, however."It was a natural way to be, to become that advocate.What really triggered it was all of the violence that occurred." Indigenous women in the US experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country.According to the Government Accountability Office, between 20, 67 percent of sexual abuse cases sent to the federal government for prosecution were declined.
Justice Department officials told Al Jazeera the low prosecution rate is attributable to a lack of evidence, or issues with witnesses in the majority of cases.
Tribal governments in the US currently do not have jurisdiction over non-Native Americans who commit crimes on their land.
According to the Department of Justice, 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults against Native American women are committed by non-Native American men.
A significant portion of residents on reservations are non-Indian, largely a result of the US government's sale of tribal land to white settlers around the turn of the century.
In Mahnomen County, where Lisa lives and which lies entirely on the White Earth reservation, half the population is white.
"I was literally born into violence," says Brunner.