The Case for the Refuge

Only 58 out of 574 tribes nationwide
have a domestic violence shelter on their reservations.

Yet Native American communities suffer domestic violence 10 times greater than the national average. Wind River Refuge will be the only safe shelter currently on the reservation and in Fremont county.

• 90-95% of all women and girls on the Wind River Reservation have been sexually violated.
• Children on the Reservation are testing with rates of PSTD as high as soldiers returning from war.
• Homicide on the Reservation is 10 times the national average. Murder is the third leading cause of death for native women ages 10-24.
• 4 in 5 Native women experience domestic violence, a rate 10 times the national average.
• 1700 phone calls came into the local sheriffs department in 2021 for domestic violence. 300 of those calls needed safe shelter.

It is estimated

that 90-95% of all women and girls and 70% of all boys on the Wind River Indian Reservation have experienced some form of sexual abuse/assault.

A November 2021 report from the Indian Law Resource Center also indicates that 4 in 5 native women experience domestic violence, a rate 10 times the national average, and that native children are being diagnosed with PTSD at the same rate as soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are currently no domestic violence shelters or safe houses

on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Fremont County Alliance Safe House reports that 60% to 70% of their shelter clients in Riverton are Native.

This shelter has been closed since mid-2020 due to flooding & is not scheduled for rebuilding/re-opening for at least two years.


A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that more than

four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime,

 including 56.1 percent who have experienced sexual violence.

Domestic violence programs nationwide also report that it is common that families often support the abuser

instead of the victim and discourage the victim from reporting the abuse.

Victims also indicate their reluctance to report domestic violence to authorities due to the fear of retaliation, lack of prosecution, potential removal of their children from their care and limited resources to ensure their own safety.

70% of native women who are victims of rape or sexual assault report their offender as non-native and

71% of victims are known by their perpetrator. In 2010 46% of people living on reservations were non-native

and in the same year U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of violent crimes that occurred in Indian country. 67% of those cases declined were sexual abuse cases.

Psalms 91:1-4

“God, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe! That's right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you. Under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.”


The 2021 Statewide Wyoming Report for Missing & Murdered Indigenous People concluded that between

2011 and September 2020, 710 indigenous persons were reported missing. Some indigenous people were reported missing more than once during the time period, resulting in a total of 1,254 missing person records for indigenous people. 85% were juvenile, and 57% were female. 10% of missing indigenous people were found within the same day they were reported missing, 50% were found within one week & 1/5 of the indigenous people reported missing were missing for 30 or more days . . . In 2016, 5,712 indigenous women and girls were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) an electronic clearinghouse of crime data used by criminal justice agencies nationwide. 50% of indigenous homicides between 1999 and 2017 are missing from the FBI supplemental homicide reports.”

It’s not surprising, then, that children and teenagers traumatized by seeing domestic violence are 11 times more likely to grow into adult abusers or victims themselves.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), meanwhile, applies to all tribal court systems that opt in.

Especially egregious cases likely will still be heard in federal courts where judges can hand down stiffer penalties. Tribal courts can impose sentences of three years per felony conviction, adding up to no more than nine years combined. The reauthorized legislation will also enhance tribal access to national criminal information databases, reestablish tribes' ability to place convicted violent offenders in the federal prison system and establish pilot programs in Alaska similar to a pilot program that the Pascua Yaqui Indian Tribe's justice system in Arizona operates.

There are 574 federally recognized Indian Tribes in the United States and 327 Indian Reservations.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

the murder rate is ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations, and according to the Association on American Indian Affairs, murder is the third leading cause of death for native women ages 10-24. It is the 5th leading cause of death for Native women ages 25-34.

Additionally, Native women are significantly more likely to experience a rape in their lifetimes compared to other women.

VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) of 2013, was recently reauthorized and updated on March 15, 2022.

Tribal courts can now prosecute all people accused of sexually assaulting and trafficking Native Americans on tribal lands. They can also try non-Native defendants charged with abusing Native children, stalking Native people, obstructing justice and assaulting tribal police. In the past, the act had only allowed tribal courts to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence, and only if tribal courts could prove an existing intimate relationship between the victim & the perpetrator & the perpetrator’s significant ties to the reservation.

Even then, the courts could only charge the perpetrator with a misdemeanor. An attack by a non-Native “stranger” was not prosecutable.

Only 13 tribal governments / reservations have become VAWA compliant, enabling them to enforce the aforementioned guidelines.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is not one of those reservations meaning that the tribal government there is still unable to prosecute non-natives for crimes of any sort. The maximum sentence in tribal courts for any crime committed on the reservation (by natives) is $1000 or a year in jail.

Stiffer sentences for more serious crimes must be referred to state or federal courts.