Kristin Ruppel, a professor in the Montana State University Native American Studies Department, generously offered her time to speak with our staff and volunteers about issues that arise when working with Native American victims. Because Indian reservations have their own tribal law and law enforcement, the situation of assisting victims of domestic violence can become quite complicated. Similarly, tribes often have jurisdiction over children who are of a certain percentage of Indian blood. We learned about the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Indian Health Services. Kristin helped us sort through some of these confusing legal issues so that we may better assist our clients when they need orders of protection or have questions about child custody.
Kristin also offered us valuable information about Native American culture, with a focus on tribes in Montana. We asked her about family dynamics and gender relations in different tribes because we understand that culture has a lot to do with a victim’s action or lack of action in response to an abusive relationship.
Thank you to Kristin for helping us understand the complexities of tribal and state jurisdictions as well as helping us to be culturally sensitive when working with Native American clients. We appreciate your willingness to share your extensive knowledge!