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Legal Information: Tribal

Abuse in Tribal Communities

May 23, 2019

Is there a tribal legal definition of domestic violence?

There is not one tribal legal definition of domestic violence that applies to all tribes. Each Native American tribe/pueblo and Alaskan village can define domestic violence differently. There are a total of 573 federally-recognized Nations.1 There are 63 Nations that have state recognition only.2 Numerous others lack both federal and state recognition, however these Nations continue to affirm their sovereign status.

Generally, domestic violence is defined as a pattern of power and control within an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats of abuse, psychological abuse, abuse to property, stalking, and other forms of harassment. You can read more about the forms of abuse on our About Abuse page.

You will find a list of many Tribal Codes online at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute website. In addition, to find out what the legal definition of domestic violence is for your tribe/pueblo or village, you may want to ask the clerk of the court in your community or ask someone at a local domestic violence program.

To find the contact information for the tribal court in your tribe/pueblo or village, you can look on the Tribal Court Clearinghouse website. However, there may not be a tribal court in every tribe/pueblo or village. To find state courts, you can go to our Courthouse Locations page.

1Bureau of Indian Affairs
2 National Conference of State Legislatures