Native American tribe becomes first to pass hate crime law protecting LGBT people

Oglala Sioux tribe hate crime law

The Oglala Sioux Tribe may have become the first Native American tribe to introduce a hate crime law protecting LGBT+ and two spirit people.

There is no comprehensive data on law codes for the 573 federally recognised American Indian tribes, but Indian Country Today reported that it could not find any other hate crime laws that specifically mention LGBT+ and two spirit people.

The Oglala Sioux tribal council voted in favour of the law in a council meeting earlier this month.

Under tribal law, hate crimes committed by people of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are now punishable by up to one year in jail.

The Two Spirit contingent marches at San Francisco Pride in 2014. (Wiki Commons)

The tribe’s home is the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, a state which does not mention crimes targeting victims because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in its state hate crime laws. 

However federally recognised American Indian tribes are “domestic dependent nations”, and have some independence when it comes to law.

For example when same-sex marriage was legalised in the US in 2015, this did not apply to American Indian tribes, which have the right to create their own marriage laws.

The Native American Oglala Sioux Tribe became the first in South Dakota to legalise same-sex marriage in July this year. According to Indian Country Today, just 35 of the 573 federally recognised tribes have so far done the same.

Same-sex couple Monique Mousseau and Felipa De Leon, both citizens of the tribe, lobbied for the passing of both the same-sex marriage law and the hate crime law.

Mousseau told Indian Country Today: “LGBTQ folks and their families and friends on Pine Ridge often contact us for support and advice after their loved ones are attacked or commit suicide.

“Although authorities haven’t been keeping data, we know that many suicides on the reservation are related to gay-bashing and shaming.”

In 2017, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, a two spirit woman originally from the Pine Ridge reservation who belonged to the Oglala Sioux tribe, was killed in her home.

De Leon said: “I have children and grandchildren. I don’t know how they will identify themselves when they grow up but I want to know they will be safe.”