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Navajo Nation Victim Rights Act of 2023 amends Title 17, provides victim safeguards

WINDOW ROCK – During an Aug. 25 special session of the 25th Navajo Nation Council, Legislation No. 0053-23 was unanimously passed.

The legislation, also known as the Navajo Nation Victim Rights Act of 2023, was enacted to amend Title 17 of the Navajo Nation Code.

The victim’s right act will provide awareness and strengthen the rights of victims of sexual assault and rape, domestic violence, and other violent assaults.

Sonlatsa Jim, the legislative district assistant for the speaker’s office, served as emcee for the Aug. 31 press conference in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chamber to announce the bill’s passage.

“The Navajo Nation Victim Rights Act of 2023 is historic in amending many laws that needed to be changed to help advocates and victims across the Navajo Nation,” she said.

‘Monumental achievement’

Speaker Crystalyne Curley said she began her day with a prayer, especially since the press conference regarding the Victim Rights Act was taking place.

“It’s a very monumental achievement,” she said, expressing appreciation to Council Delegate Amber Crotty, victim advocates, volunteers, and law enforcement.

“This act, as a whole, is protecting our people: elders, family members, and our children,” she said. “This story is just too familiar to everyone and every household.”

Curley said when a crime is committed, the aftereffects of confusion, hurt, despair, and loss linger and impact families spiritually and financially.

The bill is a clear direction for the growth of the Navajo Nation, especially as Navajo women leaders, she said.

“The intent of this resolution is to provide healing and that safety net,” she said. “We hope that we can have that clear direction of healing, unity, self-esteem, and self-care for victims.”

Crotty spoke next, and she was the sponsor of the legislation, noting that work for the bill began in May 2016, after the death of Ashlynne Mike.

She said the work was a collaborative effort between tribal legislators, victim advocates, victims and survivors of crime, and law enforcement.

“This is a strong starting point to show victims and loved ones that we care as lawmakers and members of communities where these crimes have been committed,” said Crotty.

She said: “All of us have some type of trauma, whether it was in childhood or now as adults. We hold on to that trauma in our minds and in our bodies.”

The pain and suffering seen within Navajo children are from generational trauma, such as the experience of our grandparents in boarding schools, she said, or the experiences of great grandparents during the Long Walk to Hwéeldi.

“It comes out in bullying, harassment, and school violence,” she said. “We can change who we see as victims of crime and collectively work together as a nation and change the next generation.”

Read the full story in the Sept. 14 edition of the Navajo Times.

About The Author

Rick Abasta

Rick Abasta is a Navajo writer residing in Gallup, New Mexico. He was born in Ft. Defiance and raised in Window Rock and St. Michaels, Ariz.


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