Tribal Protection Orders

Welcome to

This website is intended to provide a clearinghouse of information and resources pertaining to tribal protection orders and tribal court enforcement.  

  • Native people experience the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States. Violent crimes in Indian country are more than twice the national average. (In some areas more than 20 times)
  • Epidemic of domestic and sexual violence in Indian country.
  • 34% of Native American women will be raped in their lifetime, 86% of them by non-Native perpetrators.
  • 39% of Native American women will be victims of domestic violence during their lifetime*

*Tribal Law and Order Act (2009) Congressional Report

What is a protection order?
Protection orders may be known by a variety of names to include injunctions, restraining orders, civil restraining order or victim protection order just to name a few. A protection order is a legal document that is available to victims of domestic violence in most jurisdictions. A protection order is a legal order issued by a court to protect a certain person from abuse.  

Statutes usually require a certain relationship between the petitioner and defendant that will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Protection orders can be either civil or criminal and protection order remedies may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending upon the law of the issuing jurisdiction.  

There are generally two types of protection orders available to victims of abuse. Ex parte orders are available in most jurisdictions in emergency situations. Ex parte orders are issued without a full hearing if the victim can demonstrate immediate danger. Permanent protection orders can be issued after the Defendant has been provided with notice and an opportunity to be heard.

The language in the protection order is very important. Assuming the protection order meets certain requirements set out in the Violence Against Women Act 2013 (VAWA 2013), specific language present in the protection order may mandate whether other jurisdictions are required by federal law (VAWA 2013) to give full faith and credit to the protection order. Further, the language regarding any violation of the protection order may be the basis for a criminal prosecution of Indians and/or non-Indians (VAWA 2013). Additionally, the language in the protection order may trigger the federal firearms statutory prohibition against possessing ammunition or firearms during the period of a valid Protection Order.  

UPDATE: Violence Against Women Act 2013 Reauthorization, Congress has clarified that tribal courts have full jurisdiction over all parties in protection order cases if the protection order was issued within the authority of the Indian tribe.

Tribal Court Authority

18 U.S.C. 2265(e) (updated 2013)
For purposes of this section, a court of an Indian tribe shall have full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders involving any person, including the authority to enforce any orders through civil contempt proceedings, to exclude violators from Indian land, and to use other appropriate mechanisms, in matters arising anywhere in the Indian country of the Indian tribe (as defined in section 1151) or otherwise within the authority of the Indian tribe.

In addition to clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction to issue protection orders in cases involving non-members, VAWA 2013 also recognizes tribal inherent criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit certain acts of domestic violence and protection order violations for those tribes meeting the requirements of VAWA 2013. See Federal Laws on this site for more information.

National Resources for Victims

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This website is a project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute. Other web resources developed by TLPI include: National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes | Tribal Court Clearinghouse | National Indian Nations Conference | Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts | Walking on Common Ground was developed with assistance from Jeffrey Cormell and Amy Krupinski.