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Legal Information: Tribal

Abuse in Tribal Communities

Updated: 
May 23, 2019

Am I eligible to get a protection order?

Each Native American tribe/pueblo and Alaskan village has different laws that describe who is eligible to file for a protection order and who is not.

Generally, if you have been the victim of domestic violence by a family or household member (as defined by your tribal laws) or you have a fear of serious injury or harm by a family or household member, then you may be eligible to file for a protection order.

In order to find out what the laws in your area are, you may want to go to your tribal courthouse and ask the court clerk what the eligibility requirements are for filing for a tribal protection order. To find the contact information for the tribal court in your tribe/pueblo or village, you can look on the Tribal Court Clearinghouse website

How much does it cost to get a tribal protection order?

The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prohibits states, tribal nations, and territories that receive certain federal funding from charging fees for protection orders that deal with domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.1 Most of the tribal nations receive this funding and so, therefore, you should not be charged a fee to file or serve the order.

1 34 U.S.C. §§ 10450(a); 10461(c)(1)

Do I need a lawyer?

You can represent yourself throughout the process of seeking a tribal protection order. Many people are successful in getting protection orders on their own, yet in many situations it would be to your advantage to have an attorney to help you through this process. This is especially true if the abuser has an attorney or child custody issues are involved.

You can go to our Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals in your state. If you do not want to have an attorney or you cannot find an attorney to represent you, there may be another option. Some tribal courts allow non-attorneys who have gone through special training to practice in tribal court. You may be able to connect with someone who can help and who knows the system by contacting one of the tribal coalitions listed on the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center website.