TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Council of the Cherokee Nation on Monday approved a new anti-harassment law that extends civil protections to Cherokee citizens who are the victims of credible, unlawful threats of violence.
The new law helps to protect those who have become victims of credible threats of violence regardless of whether they have been involved in a relationship with or had a family connection to the person responsible for making the threats.
“This law, which is in line with state anti-harassment laws, provides protection against serious threats of violence by giving Cherokee citizens an opportunity to seek routine protection from the tribal courts when they need it,” said Attorney General Sara Hill. “Importantly, this includes Cherokee citizens who face credible threats of violence at the hands of someone with whom they have had no previous relationship.”
Under the new law, a Cherokee Nation judge may grant a temporary anti-harassment protection order to a petitioner if reasonable proof exists that unlawful harassment has occurred and that “great or irreparable harm” will occur if a protection order is not granted.
“This revision of Cherokee Nation law is an important tool in protecting victims of domestic violence and other forms of dangerous harassment,” said Cherokee Nation Marshal Shannon Buhl. “Through the judicial process, it protects victims and provides carefully measured and temporary restrictions on those who would threaten violence. As law enforcement officers, we are always tasked with upholding the Constitutional rights of individuals and protecting victims when we respond to calls for assistance. I applaud Chief Hoskin and Council members for enacting these important protections.”
Existing law passed by the Council in 2005 specifically protected victims of recent domestic violence, family or household members, and law enforcement and court-related positions, but did not extend protections to victims of serious harassment at the hands of strangers.
“It is absolutely crucial that we have laws in place to keep our Cherokee citizens safe,” said Deputy Speaker of the Council Victoria Vazquez. “When someone’s life is threatened, even if it’s at the hands of a stranger, we cannot turn away and ignore the seriousness of that harassment. I’m happy to see a law put into place that will allow the courts to fairly examine the evidence of the situation and act appropriately. I have no doubt that this law will save lives in our Cherokee communities.”
The law was approved by a 16-1 vote of the Tribal Council, with District 3 Council member Wes Nofire casting the lone dissenting vote.