WASHINGTON — At 26, Diane Millich fell in love with and married a white man, moving with him in 1998 to a home on her native Southern Ute reservation in southern Colorado where, in short order, her life was consumed by domestic violence.
Her story of beatings and threats, reconciliations and divorce — painfully common among Native American women — had a twist. Because her husband was white, the Southern Ute Tribal Police could not touch him, and because she was a Native American on tribal land, La Plata County sheriff’s deputies were powerless as well. She said she tried going to federal law enforcement, which did have jurisdiction, but that went nowhere.
After one of his beatings, she said, he even called the county sheriff himself to prove to her that he could not be stopped. Only after he stormed her office at the federal Bureau of Land Management and opened fire, wounding a co-worker, was he arrested. And even then, law enforcement had to use a tape measure to sort out jurisdiction, gauging the distance between the barrel of the gun and the point of bullet impact to persuade the local police to intervene.
. . . .
The fight is pitting a dry legal position against an emotional and politically potent one. Native American groups and women’s rights advocates say they are not special interests. They are voters, however.
“Let’s just talk politics here,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, who has been leading negotiations to end the impasse. “This will have passed the Senate. The president’s for it. And we’re holding up a domestic violence bill that should be routine because you don’t want to help Native women who are the most vulnerable over a philosophical point?”