400 Years Later – Truthsgiving: Support Mashpee Wampanoag Peoples & learn the truth of this holiday

11/24/21

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to start with this important topic that I hope everyone can at least see a new perspective and hopefully leads to a new tradition. However, this is going to be short and sweet and filled with lots of articles, links and who to follow and support as you begin your journey of unlearning and relearning – in how to be a good relative and an ally (for non-native folks). This blog may challenge your own opinions, education and knowledge about that this holiday is and represents. I’m no expert but this is my opinion from what I’ve learned, conversations, resources I’ve read, and observed over the years. So, here we go.

“Thanksgiving” 2021 is right around the corner, during a month that acknowledges Native American, Alaska Native / Indigenous people – Native American Heritage Month. Which means, it’s been 400 years with the actual truth not being told. How ironic? Yes. It’s time for this colonial holiday to be renamed or removed. “Thanksgiving” goes by a couple different names within the Indigenous communities – “Thankstaking or Truthsgiving.” There may be more, but I haven’t seen them. I like to always look ahead and in a more positive way, so my preference is, Truthsgiving – because this is an opportunity to talk about the truth, the history, the deep colonial fangs in our communities that has continuously invalidated us, forgotten us, oppressed us and has perpetuated violence on our relatives since 1492. This holiday represents the genocide that ensued and has also made visible our strength and resilience. This is an opportunity for non-Natives to have these discussions at their dinner table and in their families, in their circles, to learn the truth, and recognize that this colonial holiday is a celebration of the genocide of Native and Black relatives.

We first need to acknowledge that the very foundation of Turtle Island (North America), so called, the United States of America began with genocide, disease, wars, pillage, violence, rape, and enslavement in 1492. People need to realize that Indigenous Peoples were enslaved and stolen from our very own homelands to Europe and other places around the world (Tisquantum Squanto was enslaved twice, escaped Europe and came back home) before slavery was brought here to North America, stealing thousands Black relatives from their own homelands to help build the Nation and economy we benefit from today. The foundation of this country, was off the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, attempts to completely eradicate our ancestors and steal our lands that were governed by our own relatives as Sovereign Nations. And when war and genocide were not great for publicity and how this country wants to be seen, other forms assimilation were created, the Boarding and Residential schools. This is where thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed or families threatened, to bring the children into the 500+ schools created across North America to “kill the Indian, save the man” by assimilating Indigenous children into society, stripping them of their culture, language and community. This country was built by enslaved Black people – who to this very day, are constantly attacked and taken from their families and communities and experiencing inter-generational trauma or new forms of trauma. Both of our communities have experienced these similar traumas and injustice due to colonization, white supremacy, systemic oppression and racism – all mechanisms and constructs and part of the U.S. caste system that we don’t benefit from and the trauma we still experience to this day that all need to be dismantled and rebuilt.

So here is a new perspective of what Thanksgiving means and represents. Due to the abundance of false narratives of Native people and inaccurate information in school textbooks, there is a certain lens that we are viewed through. These opinions and beliefs are rooted in discriminatory behaviors and attitude that are continuously perpetuated through systemic racism and white supremacy. This day is another holiday, like Columbus Day and Halloween, and other narratives, that is problematic and harmful to Native people – where these holidays normalize the stereotypes and racism we continuously experience. Native relatives and allies are taking the steps needed to correct this narrative, to decolonize these holidays and exposing the truth about these holidays so that we can remove them, replace them, and perhaps, celebrate Native people and accomplishments rather than being constantly reminded of these injustices and historical trauma. It comes down to always having to be a voice against the constant whitewashing we see written in textbooks and articles (not written by Native people). This holiday and more like it, is connected to the violent religious ideologies that have harmed Indigenous Peoples such as the Manifest Destiny and Doctrine of Discovery. Both of which, many Indigenous Peoples are advocating to rescind/remove them and some Denominations and Faith leaders have removed it from their teachings and have recognized the harm it has caused.

Many see this holiday as a time where the Pilgrims and the Indians got along and were friends. No. The Native people, depicted in this story and narrative, were and are our Mashpee Wampanoag relatives. The Wampanoag people, “People of the first light” and their ancestral lands are present day MA/Cape Cod. They lived in wigwams and longhouses, spoke Algonquian and were fishers, farmers, and hunters. Tisquantum Squanto befriended the Pilgrims and helped show them how to survive. The Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest which included gunfire and a feast – this alerted the Wampanoags, thinking there was an attack, so they came to check in on them and to protect their own relatives. Then the narrative of the “Pilgrims and Indians peacefully eating together” was birthed due to Abraham Lincoln (who by the way is guilty for the largest mass execution by hanging in U.S. history of 38 Dakota men, followed by 2 more on Christmas, known as the Dakota 38+2) wanting to promote peaceful unity during the Civil War. This celebration was proclaimed by Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony in commemoration of 700 Penobscot people (including children) was massacred as they were celebrating their annual Green Corn Dance. Sadly, this led to their lands being stolen, wars, genocide, disease, boarding schools and forced assimilation. After this declared celebration, it lead to the beheading of a Wampanoag Chief where they displayed his head for 20+ years. The trauma is still present to this day.

@camilesagee on IG

Then, in 2018, Trump stole their lands – on “Thanksgiving” day, and then have been in ongoing battles to reclaim their recognition/reservation status and then more attempts to steal their lands and sovereignty since. Now, our Mashpee relatives are in an ongoing battle with the Federal Government to protect their sovereignty, their lands, and people. The Mashpee Wampanoag people have occupied their homelands on the Cape Cod area for hundreds of years but have only had federal recognition status / reservation status for 13 YEARS!!! And in March of 2020 – they learned that the Bureau of Indian Affairs would be rescinding their reservation designation and removing the 321 acres of land from the federal trust. OUTRAGEOUS – that this was happening during the pandemic! Luckily, through campaigns and discussions, a federal Judge ruled that in favor of the Tribe and halted the government’s attempt. However, the government is appealing. The Mashpee helped the Pilgrims. They taught them how to farm and care for the lands to grow crops – then were met with disease, violence and genocide. They are reclaiming and reviving their language that hasn’t had a fluent speaker for over 150 years with their Wopanoa8aok Language Reclamation Project – http://www.wlrp.org. We have to show up and help uplift their efforts, their resilience and strength. We have to #StandWithMashpee.

@camilesagee on IG

Here is just an excerpt from Wamsutta James (Wampanoag) speech (for full speech, visit link below) – he declared this holiday, “National Day of Mourning”:
“I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction (“You must succeed – your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!”). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first – but we are termed “good citizens.” Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.
It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.”

RECLAIMING THIS DAY
I am choosing to reclaim this day to appreciate my ancestral roots and connections to each other and with the lands. I choose to see this day as a day of Mourning as our Mashpee relatives to and honor those no longer here who fought to protect their kin. I am choosing to continue the traditions my family has done by Indigenizing this colonial holiday and celebrate our existence and honor and remember our relatives and ancestors. Many I know, are conflicted about this holiday and what it misrepresents. I hear you. But it’s important to note that this time of year, has also meant that it’s time to be with our families, if we have that privilege and opportunity. So whether you choose to celebrate it or not, that isn’t up to you. And I really want to encourage you to not cancel each other out, be open, open mind – open heart, especially the Native people who do participate on this day as they choose to and for non-Natives who are learning about what this day really means and represents.

Last year, I ran a 30 mile prayer and honor run for our Mashpee relatives and our communities. And for this day, I am going to participate in the Rising Hearts Truthsgiving 4 miler (28.5 weeks pregnant too!) to honor and remember our missing and murdered Indigenous relatives; Mashpee Wampanoag relatives, honoring the resilience of our Native relatives and communities – past, present and future.

We can’t continue to romanticize and normalize racism and let the erasure of our existence continue. So, please, I encourage you to take a deep breathe, come to this space with an open mind, learn something new, and become an ally to our communities. Have these discussions at your table, in your circles, and in your home. And take action. Be proactive. Appreciate you coming to this space. I am not an expert so if I missed anything, please let me know at info@rising-hearts.org. I’m here to add my voice, consolidate resources and truth. Lila wopila tanka / many thanks for your support. Be safe. Look out for one another. Wear a mask. Social distance. And continue to learn.

DO:
1. LEARN about the Mashpee Wampanoag and help support their efforts to protect their lands, people and sovereignty.
2. On Instagram – visit the hashtag – #StandWithMashpee
3. Buy Native made items from Native owned businesses.
4. Be an ally and co-conspirator.
5. Donate to Native people, groups, campaigns, and organizations doing the heart work.
6. Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day (and any day). Celebrate Native and Alaska Native Heritage Month.
7. Honor Native people, their voices, and respect their voices and lived experiences.
8. Land acknowledgements – learn whose Indigenous lands you run on and WITH, recreate on, reside on, or visit. Then continue to learn more and how you can give BACK.
9. Read books by Native authors. Listen to Podcasts with Native voices.
10. Amplify Native voices and their heart work.
11. Dismantle your “Thanksgiving” plate. Decolonize your plate. Make Indigenous cuisine. And remember that the foods that are made for this holiday, come from Native agriculture.
12. On Truthsgiving Day – take this time to amplify Native people. Donate. Share. Honor. Celebrate.
13. Culturally appreciate Indigenous/Native culture.
14. Fast on this day.
15. If you have Native/Indigenous friends or communities near you, respectfully ask or join, to participate in how they observe or acknowledge this day. It’s an opportunity to learn and rethink this day.

DO NOT:
1. Don’t let your children participate in the pilgrims and Indians school plays or festivities. Don’t be afraid to challenge the schools.
2. Don’t let your kids complete the assignments to “pick a Native American name.” Just don’t.
3. Don’t wear headdresses.
4. Don’t culturally appropriate our traditions, ceremonies and art.
5. Don’t celebrate Columbus Day. Replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day.
6. Remove the whitewashing from textbooks and stories – that erase the true histories, meaning and lived experiences of historical events.

HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO:
SIGN UP for the 2nd annual TRUTHSGIVING 4 MILER – hosted by Rising Hearts and co-hosted with our friends, ReNew Earth Running and help us donate to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and NDN Collective #LandBack Initiative.


RESOURCES:
1. This Tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later: https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/11/04/thanksgiving-anniversary-wampanoag-indians-pilgrims/
2. Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead by Christine Nobiss: https://www.bustle.com/p/thanksgiving-promotes-whitewashed-history-so-i-organized-truthsgiving-instead-13154470
3. 9 Myths About Thanksgiving That Are Actually Problematic — And The Facts Behind Them: https://www.bustle.com/p/9-myths-about-thanksgiving-the-real-facts-behind-them-13123858
4. THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA (FRANK B.) JAMES, WAMPANOAG: http://www.uaine.org/suppressed_speech.htm
5. How to Observe Thanksgiving while Acknowledging the Holidays messed up History: https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-observe-thanksgiving-while-acknowledging-the-holidays-messed-up-history-5469889
6. “Thanksgiving Belongs to the Wampanoag Tribe via The Atlantic
7. “Our Beloved Kin: A New history of King Philip’s War” by Lisa Brooks
8. “The Thanksgiving Tribe is still fighting for food sovereignty” – https://civileats.com/2020/06/26/the-thanksgiving-tribe-is-still-fighting-for-food-sovereignty/
9. Visit Great Plains Action Society – they host a Truthsgiving event (last 5 years) to push back against the racist tropes of “Thanksgiving” and other colonial holidays. Support their work here: https://www.truthsgiving.org/
10. How Native Americans Spend Thanksgiving: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/11/23/how-native-americans-spend-thanksgiving/8628270002/
11. A Wampanoag retelling of Thanksgiving: https://indiancountrytoday.com/newscasts/steven-peters-11-04-2021
12. We have been disregarded: On 400th Anniversary of Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag People want their story told.
13. Truthsgiving: The True History of Thanksgiving – https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/truthsgiving-the-true-history-of-thanksgiving

FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM – learn about this day, how to decolonize your food, way of thinking, and Indigenous food pathways:
1
. @mashpee_wampanoag_tribe
2. @camilesagee
3. @gatherfilm (MUST WATCH – Netflix)
4. @wellforculture
5. @warxflower
6. @phaggot.planet
7. @iiyc.la
8. @indigenouswomenhike
9. @linda.black.elk
10. @twospiritwarriorqueen
11. @misscorinne86
12. @caliwolf
13. @for_the_love_of_earth
14. @nativewellness
15. @bptfoodsovereigntyprogram
16. @tankabard & @tankafund
17. @siouxchef / @natifs_org / @indigenousfoodlab
18. @nowhitesaviors
19. @seedingsovereignty
20. @rising_hearts
21. @owamni – by The Sioux Chef (Indigenous restaurant in Minneapolis, MN)
22. @courtyellowwolf

PODCASTS:
1. The Grounded Podcast by Dinée Dorame
2. All My Relations Podcast
3. This Land Podcast by Rebecca Nagle
4. Native Runners Podcast by Verna Volker of Native Women Running
5. The Matriarch Movement Podcast by Shayla Stonechild
6. The Red Justice Project Podcast
7. Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo (And Alberta Williams) (CBC Original podcast) by Connie Walker
8. I Am Podcast by Kola Shippentower Thompson
9. Stolen: The Search for Jermain Charlo (Spotify) by Connie Walker
10. Run Shoe Diaries Podcast
11. LEONARD: Political Prisoner Podcast
12. Nihizhi, Our Voices Podcast by Lyla June

FILMS:
1. Gather (on Netflix)
2. Run To Be Visible – Patagonia
3. Warrior Women film #FollowTheMatriarchs
3. Spirit of the Peaks – REI x Wondercamp Co
4. Rutherford Falls (Peacock TV)
5. Reservation Dogs (Hulu)

BOOKS:
1. Notable Native People by Dr. Adrienne Keene
2. There There by Tommy Orange
3. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
4. One Story, One Song by Richard Wagamese
5. A Two Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby
6. Not Vanishing by Chrystos
7. Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch
8. Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid
9. Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr
10. As Long As Grass Grows by Dina Gilio-Whitaker


FOR UPDATES AND CONTACT for Mashpee:
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
483 Great Neck Rd S
Mashpee, MA

Visit: http://www.mashpeewampanoagtribe-nsn.gov
Call: 508-477-0208
Email: PublicRelations@mwtribe-nsn.gov

Write to Senate Indian Affairs Committee:
https://www.mashpeewampanoagtribe-nsn.gov/standwithmashpee

Call your Senators and ask them to support and pass HR312 “The Mashpee Reservation Reaffirmation Act and HR375 “the Carcieri Fix.”

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It’s Not Just a Costume: Cultural Appropriation vs Appreciation And The Hyper-Sexualization of Native Womxn.

UPDATED: 10/29/21
Halloween is coming…and so are the costumes. This blog is to talk about Halloween costumes, cultural appropriation, insensitive actions and the long-standing violence Indigenous Peoples have faced and continue to experience. And to just say, we are still here.

Like in our dreams, Halloween is the one time you can act out your true desires unchallenged by convention, ethics, or morality. When called on any offense, the response is typically “It is just a costume, after all.” My next question, “Is it really just a costume?” In many ways, the Halloween costume you select, or admire, says a lot about you, pending on which costume you choose. Unfortunately, that choice can also say a lot.

I am Kul Wicasa Lakota. I am Indigenous to these occupied lands we call, Turtle Island. I am really proud of my people and where I come from.  I am really proud of our people and all that we have overcome and still overcoming to be here today. We have our ancestors to thank and be grateful for. I am really proud of all we are succeeding at and accomplishing!

There was a time where I was ashamed of who I was, because of my skin color.  Having dark skin my whole life really only made me stand out when I moved to a rural place in Maine.  Back in South Dakota, I was surrounded by my family and everything we did or were part of, was the norm for us. In Maine, I experienced racism and even filed a hate crime, but the group of boys got away with it. I disliked being a Lakota girl because I knew I wasn’t like everyone else. It wasn’t until college that I just thought, well, forget it, this is me, this is how I feel most comfortable and I am proud to be Lakota.  I was excited to reconnect and learn more.  I also have my Professors in college, who were Native help me with this.  My costume for 365 days of the year, which was not selected by me and which I cannot easily remove, nor do I want to, is somewhere between the invisible woman and a Rorschach ink-blot (an ambiguous design that you read into whatever you want to see, most often used in therapy and for Jay Z’s album cover). I was BORN TO BE LAKOTA.

image_from_ios

Indigenous Invisibility:

On one hand, the voices of Natives, however just and earnest, are ignored by most in our society – constantly fighting our own erasure across multiple platforms. We are invisible most of the time but when it comes to appropriating our culture and art – we are glorified for that, but never credited for it while non-Indigenous people steal our culture and designs. Indigenous visibility is not there unless there is some sort of tragedy or national headline boost.  During NoDAPL, the whole world saw and heard what was happening in Standing Rock.  They saw the injustice of what was happening and many realized that Indigenous people have been the ones on the frontlines of injustice and climate change.  But after everyone was evicted and the pipeline plowed through, desecrating sacred lands and poisoning our medicine (water), the spotlight on Natives was gone. We get blips every once in a while. We are labeled as “something else” according to CNN when we helped make history by turning out the 2020 vote. We are disrespected publicly on national television by Rick Santorum and anchors on Fox News. We are mocked by a school teacher in Riverside, CA (and many other schools across the country) who dress up in red face, wearing a headdress and acting like a fool to teach a lesson – all while an Indigenous student was present in that classroom and was subjected to that dehumanizing behavior. Many of my relatives and friends are still recovering from what happened in Standing Rock and many are continuing to fight pipelines and fight for Indigenous rights at multiple frontline fights like in Minnesota at Stop Line 3… so where is the spotlight?

I could keep going on with examples of how we are not seen, heard or recognized and involve others to tell their stories as well but to my non-native readers and supporters, this is a problem for us and if you can help center Indigenous voices and presence, please do so and don’t take up space. HOWEVER, our visibility is changing and improving! There are many of us on the frontlines, in the media, in Congress, in classrooms, on panels, dancing, singing, painting, organizing events and rallies, and in filmmaking to control the narrative. Change is happening.

Despite the structural challenges we face daily to succeed in a nation often hostile to our very existence, these challenges are ignored, or even co-opted, by the dominant culture, as well as other groups vying for the spotlight to turn toward them. On the other hand, when I am recognized as Native, people read into every stereotype possible. From feathers, to alcoholism, to getting things free, to possessing secret wisdom. I get it all, I’ve heard it all. To other non-natives, sometimes I’m the one Native person they know and my inbox and phone blow up with questions or I’m tagged to help educate others in a comment thread.  That happens to all of us. I see it happen all the time.  The emotional labor takes its toll on us.  It shouldn’t have to be our responsibility to continuously educate and stand up for ourselves and/or our people.  If we don’t, the effects of Colonialism and present day folx control our narrative. NO MORE!

So, people think they know Natives.  They think they know what we look like or are supposed to look like.  Or they think we don’t exist at all anymore.  When you have old western movies depicting us by the stereotypical images of Natives or Disney films like Pocahontas push the narrative in an overly romanticized way and hyper-sexualizing Matoaka (Pocahontas), this gives everyone else in the world the image of what Natives costumeslook like.  Savage and apparently, clothed provocatively.  When you decide to use a bastardization of my culture as your Halloween costume or to be one with nature by channeling your inner spirit animal (please don’t say this, we don’t use this term) at a festival by dressing up in headdress and costume, it tells everyone what you think of people like me, like Natives. Especially when wearing a culture as a costume, to then be followed (most of the time) with drunken buffoonery is just disgraceful.  It also encourages others to view us as a caricature, as less than, as objects. This is cultural appropriation.

Cultural Appropriation:

What does that mean? Well, Wikipedia explains it perfectly: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. Because of the presence of power imbalances that are a byproduct of colonialism and oppression, cultural appropriation is distinct from equal cult.”

Reducing a race of people whose continuous oppression is still manifested to a feathered head-dress or a little princess is more than disrespectful. It is harmful. It is more than evidence of your insensitivity. It is the endorsement of propagation of disenfranchisement and a long history of violence. You may think it’s just a costume, that it’s just all fun and games, and “no disrespect” (as I’ve heard plenty of times), but it’s much deeper than that.  We are a People that are forgotten until when appropriated to fit the modern society’s desire to engage in mockery or celebrate a sport; or to be ignorantly claimed to gain cultural benefits to further a political agenda or free education; our rights to vote are suppressed, therefore stripped of our existence yet again in 2019; and our lives are deemed expendable for profitable gains by the fossil fuel industry.  To think this is all okay, you are complicit in a system designed to oppress Indigenous Peoples’ and frontline communities. Did you think about what your actions might say about you? If you argue that “it is all in fun,” that makes this sort of insensitivity worse, doesn’t it?  I can talk much more in depth, and I could write a novel, but back to my main point… costumes.

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For $29.89… YOU can demean an entire culture and, for unlimited time only, encourage sexual assault, violence, and marginalization of an entire race of people

So, you want to be sexy Pocahontas (aka “PocaHottie”)? Let me ask you this.  Would you dress in blackface as a sexy slave and feel good about yourself?  Or dress up as a Holocaust victim? Did you know that each year literally hundreds of Native Womxn are assaulted, murdered and disappear at the hands of men who view our women as nothing but sexual flotsam? Did you know that our communities and our people have targets on us for open season? Did you know that, in many parts of the country, a non-Native who rapes and abuses women and children on the reservation and then crosses the invisible line off the reservation, is often not prosecuted and the government will not allow the tribes to prosecute these men? Not until the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, that Tribes are now starting to exercise their sovereignty to prosecute in their courts. Did you know that Pocahontas was about 10 years old when 27-year-old John Smith decided to make her his? Do you know that you are dressing like a young girl who was repeatedly violated by a 27-year-old man and you dress like this child invited it?  The story of Pocahontas is romanticized and/or hyper-sexualized to fit a Walt Disney feature film or for costumes to sell at stores.

What Indigenous Womxn Face: Did you know?

  • According to Indian Law Resource Center, 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence and more likely to be murdered, 10 times the national average (https://indianlaw.org/issue/ending-violence-against-native-women).
  • Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime than any other group. Further, according to the Department of Justice, 86% of reported cases of rape and sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women, were assaulted by non-Native men (https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/maze-of-injustice/).
  • 94% of Native women living in Seattle, WA, have stated that they have been raped or coerced into sex at least once in their life (148 surveyed: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/native-american-women-seattle-raped-coerced-sex-a8511646.html). That’s just in Seattle, WA.
  • The violent extraction of fossil fuels brings assaults on Indigenous women living near man camps.  Due to the Bakken Oil boom in North Dakota, violent crime increased by 7.2 percent when these man camps were developed, to house the workers in the fossil fuel industry (http://www.honorearth.org/man_camps_fact_sheet).
  • In 2018, the Urban Indian Health Institute and Annita Lucchesi (now the Executive Director of Sovereign Bodies Institute) released the first ever Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report. In that report, which includes data from 71 select urban cities, found 5,712 cases of missing Native women and girls in 2016, and only 116 were logged into the Department of Justice Database. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women. All of these statistics is unacceptable.  And this history of violence is directly connected to the exploitation of our culture, especially the “Pocahottie or Indian Princess” costumes. It’s not just a costume you’re wearing. You’re wearing a long history of genocide, historical trauma and erasure culture to make your one night of fun fit your narrative and selfie.

Now Back To Costumes and Hypersexualization…

What is hypersexualization? Hypersexualization refers to girls being depicted or treated as sexual objects. It also means sexuality that is inappropriately imposed on girls through media, marketing or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways.

When you hyper-sexualize a people, who are the most sexually assaulted women in our society, you are contributing to the de-personalization at the core of this issue. Think about what you do and how your actions reflect upon you, especially when you are deciding on what to get for a costume. Then, think about what you are telling other people, what they can get away with by wearing these cultural insensitive costumes. Then think of Native peoples’.  Who are you? And, before you dress like a victim of genocide and systematic oppression, maybe consider who we are. We are a vibrant and dynamic people who, despite being targeted for genocide and marginalized when those efforts failed, are still here. Despite your costume. Do you want to be complicit? Do you want everyone to know that you want to be complicit? That is what your costume tells all of us. You may think or say we are reading into this… but you’d just get a look from us, as we then look at each other, and then we are ready for some Indigenous verbal shutdown, politely of course.

Look at the picture above (PocaHottie costume) and look at me, compare mine to the hyper-sexualized and dehumanizing “PocaHottie” costume. 44867709_1773418209454012_5620243102301159424_nSee the difference? That “PocaHottie” costume is not how we dress.  Far from it.  This was and is a sacred time for me, as I began down the red road path of Womanhood.  A time in my life I reflect so much on and meant the world to our family and community.   There are protocols in place, there are ceremonies in place, there are cultural traditions and values in place, to make and earn our regalia. Know the difference.  Educate yourself.  Ask us questions.   Find ways to give back, and if you can, give back in a way that truly makes us feel our time is valuable, that our opinions, experiences and stories are respected. We appreciate and respect peaceful dialogue on not only this topic but a variety of others as well.  We are more than a costume. We are more than the stereotypes.  We are a community, who have suffered from 500 + years of systematic oppression and attempts of our cultural identities being stripped away from us.  We survived the Indian Boarding Schools.  We still have family who survived it and we can hear the pain from those stories.  The trauma is real.  We are continuously healing while being continuously triggered from the world that exists due to colonization. We hear and see the trauma our relatives face when our womxn are assaulted, murdered, and missing.  These are our realities.  We do exist.

Cultural Appreciation

Rather than appropriating a culture, especially Native culture, traditions, and our way of life – APPRECIATE our culture! You can do this by celebrating us.  You can do this by supporting Native/Indigenous owned businesses.  Buy Native!  Wear Native! Make sure it was made and designed by Native designers and artists, or at the very least a collaborative effort with a company and Native company/designer.  An example of this collaboration is B.Yellowtail x Faherty – Faherty was called out but called in do to better and through this collaboration, Indigenous/Native artists and designers have be front and center with new collections and clothes. Unlearn everything you think you know about Native people.  Read books by Indigenous authors.  Follow and diversify your social media accounts in who you follow. Sign up for their events that they advertise! We are calling community in to be allies an co-conspirators with us in this work.  Appreciate us, our true history, and our culture.

We are still here.  We are a reminder to the government’s very system and policies they created to eradicate us, failed. OUR EXISTENCE IS OUR RESISTANCE. OUR EXISTENCE IS COLONIZATION’S FAILURES.

Indigenous Peoples’ are beautiful and resilient. Our culture is not your costume. So, think twice about your costume if you were looking to be Pocahottie.  Be respectful. And celebrate Indigenous Peoples on Indigenous Peoples Day, not Columbus. Celebrate and honor every or any day of the year.  Celebrate and uplift Indigenous voices during Native American Heritage Month and all throughout the year. Become a good ally and create a safe space or spaces for Natives to be seen, heard, and respected.

Lila Wopila Tanka for reading! Have a great day!

If you’d like to help support aside from reading or sharing, you can donate:

Venmo: @JordanMDaniel (or PayPal by request)

Donate to Urban Indian Health Institute

Donate to Sovereign Bodies Institute

Donate to Indian Law Resource Center

Donate to National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

Donate to Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center

Donate to Sacred Circle: National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women

Donate to Mending the Sacred Hoop (it also has a longer list of other Orgs doing this work to end the violence)

** Many more to list, but please do your research to find out how you can support and if you need clarification, you can ask.

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization 2018 Update: Federal Funding Deadline of 12/21/18 Approaching and the Stepping Stones Toward Justice for Indigenous Peoples

First, this is going to be a lengthy, but in depth blog post that is incredibly important. Enjoy the read!

Second, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should always have permanent funding and not deal with the hassle and stress of having to reauthorize it every X amount of years.  It’s that simple.  It comes as no surprise, at least to me, and many womxn I know, that we, and children, should be protected from violence.  Laws should be put in place to protect us and our loved ones. Questioning our stories or needing more validations about the trauma we’ve gone through shouldn’t be needed, demanded, to get the action we need to protect us. It’s an arduous and complicated journey for our stories to be believed and to seek justice. Apparently, that’s how it works.  In the time of the #MeToo movement, VAWA, and MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls), more and more light is being shed on this troubling issue of violence and homicide in this country, and more specifically, Indian Country.  Awareness of the loop holes in the justice system designed to hold Tribal communities back and not provide protections for the victims of violence is finally being seen, but nowhere near enough (to paint a better picture, watch Wind River, it’s on Netflix).  VAWA shouldn’t have to be reauthorized every X amount of years and be used in a cat and mouse like game, where mostly Republican congressional members are using VAWA as budget leverage.  That’s exactly what happened this year.

In September, the EXACT same time Republicans are feigning concern for womxn, they are quietly using womxn and children, as political leverage. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was set to expire on September 30, and pretty much did, until December 7, 2018. (UPDATE) Now, Congress has extended Federal funding for another 2 weeks until 12/21/18. Rather than reauthorize or make VAWA permanent, Republicans have attached it to a stop-gap spending bill to use as leverage for a budget fight. This should not be partisan, but for some reason it is. Acting noble on TV and voting callous in the shadows is more than a sign of hypocrisy. Manipulating, rather than empowering efforts to curb violence against womxn is a vile and disgusting tactic by an insincere group of men who clearly do not believe it is an “issue.”

And remember this: Some of the very same men who are now on the Judiciary committee that voted to ignore Ms. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted borowitz-kavanaugh-screamingand put Judge Kavanaugh up for the Supreme Court, also voted AGAINST the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act in 2013:  Senators. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Mike Lee.  Remember them, too.

This is just a quick reminder that protections of womxn are not that important on the Hill for some members.  That delaying, what should be a permanent decision to protect womxn and children, not only their rights, but their bodies, and protection from their perpetrators, SHOULD BE taken seriously.

Contact your Congressional representatives and remind them that delaying this decision as budget leverage in the Stop-Gap spending bill…. further proves the lack of concern and believing women, means nothing compared to money. Demand they listen to your downloadvoice, to vote YES for VAWA 2018, YES for Savanna’s Act (I’ll write about this later in blog). It means the continued protection of a man, like Kavanaugh, the very kind of men womxn fear to speak up about, further belittles, degrades, and dilutes the injustices happening to womxn and children.

The Republican Party must be humbled and encouraged to serve the people, and, newsflash: WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. Send the people who consistently vote AGAINST violence against womxn a message.

So, What is VAWA?

VAWA was created to address eliminating domestic and sexual violence.  While it has been a work in progress since the time of its conception, it has been progressively getting better, in small steps. In 1994: Senator Joe Biden drafted bill, as well as working many advocates with incredible grassroots efforts, in lieu of Anita Hill hearings. It passed the House and Senate, as part of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  VAWA was then reauthorized in 2000, 2005, 2013.  Why is there a two-year gap?

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President Barack Obama signs S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, (VAWA) (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

It expired from 2011-2013. The House and Senate Republicans were against extending protections to immigrants, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community. When I learned of this fact, I wasn’t surprised, nor did I see a difference in actions from the Republicans in 2011 versus 2018.  VAWA 2013 was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and became Public Law on March 3, 2013, signed by President Barack Obama.

 

 

Here are the numbers:

  • NV: (Republican: 6 // Democrat: 1)
  • It passed the Senate on 2/12/13: 78-22
  • Who voted AGAINST VAWA 2013?
    • Barrasso (R-WY); Blunt (R-MO); Boozman (R-AR); Coburn (R-OK); Cornyn (R-TX); Cruz (R-TX); Enzi (R-WY); Graham (R-SC); Grassley (R-IA); Hatch (R-UT); Inhofe (R-OK); Johanns (R-NE); Johnson (R-WI); Lee (R-UT); McConnell (R-KY); Paul (R-KY); Risch (R-ID); Roberts (R-KS); Rubio (R-FL); Scott (R-SC); Sessions (R-AL); Thune (R-SD)

Remember when I mentioned those who voted AGAINST VAWA 2013 and the Kavanaugh hearings?  Well, I just listed who voted against VAWA 2013.  Here is who voted for Kavanaugh in September 2018, the very men questioning and degrading womxn with their votes, rather than protecting womxn, their bodies, the children, and protecting them from their perpetrators:

  • Republicans that Voted YES (49): ** BOLD = voted against VAWA 2013 reauthorization
    • Alexander (R-TN); Barrasso (R-WY); Blunt (R-MO); Boozman (R-AR); Burr (R-NC); Capito (R-WV); Cassidy (R-LA); Collins (R-ME / voted for VAWA and co-sponsored); Corker (R-TN); Cornyn (R-TX); Cotton (R-AR); Crapo (R-ID); Cruz (R-TX); Enzi (R-WY); Ernst (R-IA); Fischer (R-NE); Flake (R-AZ); Gardner (R-CO); Graham (R-SC); Grassley (R-IA); Hatch (R-UT); Heller (R-NV); Hoeven (R-ND); Hyde-Smith (R-MS); Inhofe (R-OK); Isakson (R-GA); Johnson (R-WI); Kennedy (R-LA); Kyl (R-AZ); Lankford (R-OK); Lee (R-UT); McConnell (R-KY); Moran (R-KS); Paul (R-KY); Perdue (R-GA); Portman (R-OH); Risch (R-ID); Roberts (R-KS); Rounds (R-SD); Rubio (R-FL); Sasse (R-NE); Scott (R-SC); Shelby (R-AL); Sullivan (R-AK); Thune (R-SD); Tillis (R-NC); Toomey (R-PA); Wicker (R-MS); Young (R-IN).
  • Democrats that Voted Yes (1):
    • Manchin III (D-WV)

VAWA REAUTHORIZATION 2018:

VAWA 2018 was introduced on July 26, 2018, by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and on September 19, 2018, it was referred to Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism; Homeland Security, and Investigations.  As I mentioned before, it basically expired on 9/30/18. VAWA 2018 is AT RISK of lapsing.  It was included and passed in the Defense and Health Spending Bill in September 2018, which meant it was given ONLY short-term reauthorization UNTIL December 21, 2018.  There are 173 co-sponsors of the Bill and not a single Republican has signed on.

VAWA SDVCJ: Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country

The Violence Against Women Act of 2013 affirmed that Tribes have the ability to exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ). A statute implemented in 2015, with 18 Tribes who have opted to implement SDVCJ, spanning 11 states. Tribes are using SDVCJ to fight domestic, dating, and sexual violence by prosecuting offenders in their communities. All Tribes have their own courts. Some Tribes are 638 contract, which are agreements with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to assume and exercise control of law enforcement on reservations. VAWA130213This gives Tribes authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of three classifications of crimes: domestic violence, dating violence, and violation of protection orders. Prior to VAWA, non-native/members could commit a domestic violence/dating violence crime on Tribal lands and not be held accountable for their actions due to jurisdictional constraints. Implementation and navigation of this statute has proven to be difficult in dealing with the limits of what crimes can be prosecuted on Tribal lands.  This law is empowering Tribes and is a step in recognizing Tribal Sovereignty, while providing some comfort and justice to finally hold offenders accountable, that allows the defendants rights to be recognized and upheld.

VAWA SDVCJ has given Tribes the opportunity to have important discussions and develop effective strategies, to think about what they can do to end the violence happening in their communities and to better protect victims and children.  Tribes are creating new Tribal Codes in their constitutions, updating their codes/policies/procedures and having the discussion about the need for Victim Services while working with Domestic Violence (DV)/Sexual Assault (SA) advocates, who work closely with the victims.

It’s pretty great to read “Section 1304 recognizes and affirms that a participating Tribe’s powers of self governance includes the authority to exercise SDVCJ “over all persons.”  I mean, we are Sovereign Nations, so we should be able to enforce laws and exercise this authority.  VAWA SDVCJ crimes must fall under 3 Categories: Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Violation of certain Protection Orders. A lot of violations happen in regards to Tribal Protection Orders (TPO’s), where some states, don’t recognize a TPO as valid or because it doesn’t look like the State’s protection order, they do not enforce it, therefore, putting the victim are increased risk.

VAWA SDVCJ FACTS (All facts about VAWA SDVCJ can be found in the National Congress of American Indians SDVCJ 5 Year Report, click here and some facts below):

  • Victim must be Indian.
  • Crime must take place in Indian Country, of participating Tribe.
  • Non-Indian defendant must have “sufficient ties to the Indian Tribe,” may include: Residing in Indian Country of participating Tribe; Employed in Indian Country of participating Tribe; Spouse, intimate partner, dating partner of Tribal member, or an Indian who resides in Indian Country of participating Tribe.
  • SDVCJ under 25 U.S.C. 1304, both “dating violence” and “domestic violence” is limited to “violence committed by a person” who HAS a QUALIFYING relationship with the victim.
  • Tribes have struggled with determining what constitutes sufficient “violence committed” to support tribal jurisdiction.
  • Tribes implementing SDVCJ, required only minor changes to the jurisdiction section of their Tribal codes, therefore resulting in faster implementation of the statute.
  • Other Tribes had to re-write their Tribal Codes or amend their constitutions to comply with the statute.

Tribes who are implementing VAWA SDVCJ:

  • 2014: Pascua Yaqui Tribe (AZ), Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Tulalip Tribes in Washington.
  • 2015: Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation (ND & SD), Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation (MT), Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Michigan (LTBB), Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
  • 2016: Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi in Michigan, Sac & Fox Nation in Oklahoma, Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in ND and SD, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa in Michigan, Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana.
  • 2017: Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Washington.

Demographics:

-128 defendants // 128 victims

-90% male defendants // 10% female defendants

-90% female victims // 10% male victims

-115 male defendants // 13 female defendants

-115 female victims // 13 male victims

-8 non-US Citizen defendants

-19 victims required medical care

Prosecutions and Outcomes

-143 arrests // 74 convictions // 24 cases pending // 5 acquittals

-14 federal referrals // 73 guilty please // 21 dismissals // 19 declinations

-6 trials // 5 jury trials // 1 bench trial // 1 jury trial conviction

Major Takeaways

-0 petitions for a federal writ of Habeas Corpus

-51% incidents involved drugs or alcohol

-58% incidents involved children

-At least 73 defendants had criminal records

-125 domestic or dating cases

-34 protection order violations

-At least 33 sentenced to incarceration

-Longest incarceration of 3 years

-84 defendants account for 378 prior contacts with Tribal Police before their Tribe implemented VAWA SDVCJ

-51% defendants sent to batterer intervention or other rehabilitation programs

-Tribal Courts uphold rights of defendants and help with rehabilitation

SDVCJ Crimes NOT covered (key ones):

  • Sexual contact; Endangering welfare of a minor; Stalking; Violence Against Children (58% of incidents involved children, statute doesn’t protect children as is, until reauthorized and included in 2018 reauthorization); Violence Against Victim’s family and can’t prosecute crimes that involve drugs or alcohol

These facts are real. Actions need to be taken to protect our womxn and children. VAWA currently, is very limited with its protections but as I’ve stated before, it is a step in the right direction.  There are some amazing womxn and men, who are deeply devoted in ending the violence and finding solutions that I have had the honor of working with, that are champions of this issue.

What Improvements are Needed?

Here are some improvements that were identified at a Hill briefing back in February 2017 as well as some statements coming from Tribal leaders implementing SDVCJ in their community and lawyers: Meeting with Congressional members is essential to gain support for issues including: 1) a more defined language of the law; 2) jurisdiction expansion; 3) protection of more victims (including children); 4) required documentation of implementation (data collection/reporting); 5) clarification of what a “relationship” is since “dating” can mean a lot of things in today’s society and under this law, it hasn’t protected every “relationship” because it wasn’t exactly what it was intended to mean; 6) access to full appropriated funds; 7) access to Crimes Victim Fund (CVF); 8) support appropriations language to ensure Tribal victims are not left out under the Secure Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act (SURVIVAL Act).

Tribes need the additional and proper resources to be able to implement this law to meet the needs of their Tribal victims. Funding of SDVCJ authorized under VAWA 2013 is at $5 million, but Congress has only appropriated $2.5 million for FY 2016.  Full funding is needed for these protections.

What are the requests to ensure productive implementation?

  • More defined statutes on protecting children.
  • Expansion of jurisdiction to protect additional victims.
  • Need reporting or data collection to be covered under the law, as of now, it doesn’t require it, which Congress is always demanding evidence and best practices.
  • Broadened definition of “relationship.” As stated by Alfred Urbina (Pascua Yaqui Attorney General) and Oscar Flores (Pascua Yaqui Chief Prosecutor), the definition is old fashioned, outdated, and in today’s society, how do you define a relationship? It’s always changing and could mean a variety of things.
  • Crime Victims Fund (CVF): Indian Country is left out from programs that are funded through CVF. Supporting legislation or appropriation language that would allocate money to Tribal Nations.
  • Urging Congressional members to support language and efforts to include Tribes in CVF under the SURVIVE Act to Tribal victims are not left out.
  • Ability to charge perpetrators of other crimes committed.
  • Protection for same-sex couples: There was a case that was dismissed due to the jury stating that there wasn’t enough evidence; meanwhile, the defendant had warrants and a lengthy history. The Jury saw them as not a couple as defined by the law.
  • Need to ensure that under this law, it needs to stay non-competitive for when more Tribes begin implementation
  • What can government agencies do?
    • If there are discretionary funds, have the departments shift those funds to CVF.
    • 10% each from Office of Justice Programs and CVF to Tribal governments and to Tribal criminal justice systems

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls:

Before I end this update on VAWA 2018 and SDVCJ, one more issue that matters most to 45057896_297641680867885_4916327108134830080_nme, and leaves me with so many questions, and worries of not only for my sisters, but myself:  the growing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW / MMIWG) in Indian Country.  I want to recognize also, that this is an issue for our relatives up North in Canada, First Nations peoples’, Inuit, and Metis.  Down south, in Central and South America. For our aboriginal relatives down South and among many other Indigenous populations, that have long fell prey to colonization and systematic institutions put in place that created mechanisms to suppress and oppress those different and less fortunate. High rates of violence and homicide for our Indigenous Peoples’ occur and rarely ever makes the news.

Google the names: Savanna Greywind (found, passed on); Olivia LoneBear (found, passed on); Amanda Dakota Webster (at this moment of writing this blog, right here in this section, I was thinking of names to write, and a friend of mine just sent this to me, notifying me of another MMIW); Monica Wickre; Lakota Rae Renville; Sheena Between Lodges; Mona Lisa Two Eagle; Larissa Lone Hill (still missing); Mariah High Hawk; Christina Albertson; Pablita Stewart; Virginia Casey; Courtnie Johnson and many more.  If you want to be updated on these efforts, want to support the Indigenous communities, and appreciate art, follow @mmiwwhoismissing on Instagram and donate to their efforts as they support and seek justice for the families.

savanna-lafontaine-greywind-baby

Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, left, and her newborn daughter, Haisley Jo. (Courtesy of Ashton Matheny via Forum News Service)

Here are some troubling statistics for Indigenous womxn recently found in a study about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), for full study and findings, click here.  The data was collected through methods of law enforcement records, social media, community and family accounts, media, and State and National databases.

  • 506 cases identified with limited resources, so numbers are likely undercounted
  • 66 of those 506 cases, were domestic and sexual violence
  • Youngest victim was a baby, less than a year old
  • Oldest victim was an 83 year old elder
  • 71 urban cities, 29 states
  • 5,712 cases of MMIWG in 2016 // ONLY 116 logged into Department of Justice database
  • 3rd leading cause of death among AI/AN (American Indian/Alaska Native) women is murder
  • 71% of AI/AN’s live in urban areas
  • 128 were cases of MMIW
  • 280 were murdered Indigenous women
  • 98 cases were “unknown status”
  • 29 is the median age of MMIWG victims
  • The Invisible 153: cases that UIHI identified that don’t exist in law enforcement records

This is a growing epidemic.  Stolen sisters. Stolen children.  So much heartache, no answers, no solutions, no protections, and very little action being done.  I want to reiterate, VAWA and VAWA SDVCJ are stepping stones in the right direction in seeking justice and safety for victims of violence, and acknowledging and recognizing Tribal Sovereignty and jurisdiction, but it’s nowhere near enough.  The brutal and violent murder of Savanna Greywind in 2016, a pregnant Native woman, got some lawmakers to make some moves and create legislation, but not without the pressure and passions coming from the Tribal communities and Savanna’s family.  Her baby is alive and healthy, and will carry on Savanna’s memory, as she is the positive that came out of this horrific murder of an Indigenous sister.

Also, Indigenous womxn experience violence when fossil fuel extraction projects come near their communities, such as pipelines, due to “man camps.” These man camps are built along these pipeline routes and near Reserves (Canada) or Reservations, exposing Indigenous womxn and children to dangerous situations, that do happen more than you think.

In her memory, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and advocates, created legislation and introduced Savanna’s Act S. 1942 (H.R. 4485) on 10/5/2017.  This is a Federal Bill to direct Attorney General (AG) to review, revise, and aimed at developing law enforcement and justice protocols needed to address missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples’. It will require the Department of Justice to update their online database entry format for federal databases relevant to cases of missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples’, to include the victim’s tribal enrollment information.  Savanna’s Act will help expand Tribal access to federal crime databases and establish protocols for handling missing and murdered Native Americans with appropriate entities needing to track this data, as well as require annual reports on MMIW.  The bill has five co-sponsors, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT); Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM); Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  On November 14, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) has approved Savanna’s Act, sending to full Senate for approval and consideration.  This is great news, from valiant and passionate efforts in raising awareness of this issue, for our Tribal communities and the families that are still seeking justice and finding healing.  And now, even BETTER news, on Thursday December 6th, the United States Senate unaminously approved Savanna’s Act S. 1942 by voice vote.  Next in the legislative process, it will go to the House, but currently, it is being blocked by Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-R), then if passed, it goes to President Tweets Too Much.  While one person stands in the way of this bill being passed right now, if it passes, it serves as some good news for Indian Country and the families and friends who are affected by the MMIWG epidemic.  Hopefully, this brings accountability with the government, brings healing for the families and friends, and brings justice.

wmow-15

Constitution and 7th: Indigenous Women Bloc of Women’s March January 2017

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

There is more to discuss.  More I could write.  Talking and writing about these issues, are emotionally triggering.  But I always prefer to have these discussions when possible and appreciate those who ask questions and want to learn more about VAWA, VAWA SDVCJ, and MMIW/G.   This is an issue I think about daily.  Especially with the things that have happened to me in my life.  It’s changed my life in the sense of never being able to feel like I can let my guard down, which isn’t a fair way to live.  In terms of demanding change for the better and seeking justice, it really is up to us, the people, to put pressure on our Representatives.  We have to hold them accountable.  They work for us, or at least that is how it should be.  We need to have our voices heard, we need to vote, and we need to continue to fight for the best, for our future generations.  The mid-terms have come and gone, but the 2020 elections are around the corner, and the names I mentioned above that voted against VAWA and voted for Kavanaugh (if they already haven’t been voted out in 2018), keep in mind these voting patterns.

I hope you aren’t too exhausted from this lengthy blog, but I hope you feel a little more knowledgeable on these issues and laws,  as well as aware of what is going on.  AMAZING and valiant efforts and heart from the organizations, Tribal leaders, advocates and lawmakers who have helped make sure VAWA has been authorized and made law.  It still needs improvements, but as I have stated before, these are stepping stones in the right direction.  There is still time to call your Representatives and tell them (by December 21, 2018): to reauthorize VAWA 2018 and have permanent funding for VAWA, always; Tribal VAWA SDVCJ is working, should remain included as part of VAWA 2018 and expanded; and to support and pass Savanna’s Act (Senate passed, now it waits for House vote, then Presidential vote).  Your voice matters.  Your support is appreciated.  Lila wopila tanka (many thanks) for taking the time to read my blog.  Keep on, keeping on.  Much love, always.

Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Stopping the KXL Pipeline Important to You? Your vote can make a difference, in this fight or another.

 

Indigenous Peoples organizing to stop Pipelines seems new. But the valiant #NoDAPL fight in Standing Rock was not the first time that pipelines have crossed onto Treaty Lands. Nor will it be the last. Right now, we have the Kinder Morgan fight in the Pacific

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Featured on RavenTrust

Northwest and the Tribal nations and allies cohesively working together to stop it. We have Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota and the Potomac Pipeline in Maryland/Virginia/DC area.  And there are even more pipelines being planned. Native Americans are on the front lines, and are our last defense, against the stealing of land, the poisoning of water, and the destruction of sacred sites. But what can you do?

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MPR News: Enbridge Line 3

If you live in Nebraska, you can vote for Christa Yoakum, the key vote on the commission that will eventually have to approve the final routing of the pipeline. When this issue was last voted upon by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, only one vote allowed to it to go forward. That vote is now up for grabs and could be the one that permanently stops the XL pipeline. Christa Yoakum is running for Nebraska Public Service Commission and opposes the use of taking

Christa-Headshot2-with-Logo

christaforne.com

people’s land through eminent domain for the XL pipeline. If voted in, her vote could be the one needed to permanently stop the XL pipeline once and for all.

If you live somewhere else, look at the issues important to you. Just like in Nebraska, a local election for a less than glamorous office can make a huge impact! No matter where you live, voting locally, tribally,  or at the state or federal levels. Hold people accountable who did not deliver. Support people who can make the differences you believe in. Your little vote can make big things happen. Use it!

CYA at the Voting Booth!

To donate to Christa Yoakum’s campaign, go to:  https://secure.actblue.com/donate/christa-for-ne?refcode=website

 To help stop Keystone XL, go to https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/donate-to-support-bold-nebraska/

 

Violence Against Women Act Set to Expire TODAY (9/30): Republicans Attach to Stop-Gap Spending Bill for Budget Leverage

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President Barack Obama signing VAWA 2013 into law.

At the EXACT same time Republicans are feigning concern for women, they are quietly using women as political leverage. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was set to expire this weekend (September 30). Rather than reauthorize or make VAWA permanent, Republicans have attached it to a stop-gap spending bill to use as leverage for a budget fight in early December. This should not be partisan, but, for some reason it is.
Acting noble on TV and voting callous in the shadows is more than a sign of hypocrisy. Manipulating, rather than empowering, efforts to curb violence against women is a vile and disgusting tactic by an insincere group of men who clearly do not believe it is an “issue.”  REMEMBER THAT IN NOVEMBER!
And remember this:  Some of the very same men who are now on the Judiciary borowitz-kavanaugh-screamingcommittee that voted to ignore Ms. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted and put Judge Kavanaugh up for the Supreme Court, also voted AGAINST the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act in 2013:  Senators. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Mike Lee.  Remember them, too.

download

We Believe Christine Ford.

This is just a quick reminder that protections of women are not that important on the Hill.  That delaying, what should be a permanent decision to protect Women, not only their rights, but their bodies, and protection from their perpetrators, should be taken seriously.
Contact your Congressional representatives and remind them that delaying this decision as budget leverage in the Stop-Gap spending bill…. further proves the lack of concern and believing women, means nothing compared to money. It means the continued protection of a man, like Kavanaugh, the very kind of men women fear to speak up about, further belittles, degrades, and dilutes the injustices happening to women.
The Republican Party must be humbled and encouraged to serve the people, and, newsflash: WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. Send the people who consistently vote AGAINST Violence against women a message in November!! GET TO THE POLLS.
#WeBelieveYou #IBelieveHer #VAWA #ProtectWomen #GetToThePolls #Vote #YourVoteMatters
____________________________________________________________________________________________
QUICK FACTS ABOUT WHY TRIBAL VAWA SHOULD BE PERMANENTLY RE-AUTHORIZED: Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ)
“To date, 18 tribes are known to be exercising SDVCJ (throughout this report these tribes are referred to collectively as “implementing tribes”). ii Tribes are implementing SDVCJ with careful attention to the requirements of federal law and in a manner that upholds the rights of defendants. In order to exercise SDVCJ, tribes must comply with a series of federal statutory requirements that include, among other things, providing certain due process protections to non-Indian defendants. 6 Most of these implementing tribes have worked closely with a group of over 50 other tribes as part of an Inter-tribal Technical-Assistance Working Group (ITWG) on SDVCJ that has been an important forum for tribal governments to work collaboratively to develop best practices.
To date, the implementing tribes report 143 arrests of 128 non-Indian abusers. These arrests ultimately led to 74 convictions, 5 acquittals, and 24 cases currently pending. There has not been a single petition for habeas corpus review brought in federal court in an SDVCJ case. Although preliminary, the absence of habeas petitions suggests the fairness of tribal courts and the care with which tribes are implementing SDVCJ.”
For more information about the SDVCJ 5 Year Report,  visit:http://www.ncai.org/tribal-vawa

White Supremacy Isn’t New: Wake Up, Act, Defend, Protect.

I’ve been away for about a week in South Dakota.  My lala’s memorial happened on Friday so it was great to be with my family in Lakota country.  However, the posts, and organizational emails of non-violent direct actions kept me plugged in with what was about to happen Friday night and Saturday.  While trying to comprehend my own feelings about this memorial, while trying to be there for my family and enjoy the celebration of my lala’s life, my mind was also in Charlottesville over the weekend.  Here are just some of my thoughts as I am still trying to process what occurred.

White Supremacy has always existed. This isn’t breaking news. For some, that may be the case.

To abolish it, is for America to acknowledge and recognize the wrong in what’s been done in our history. This is Trump’s America, now.  This is action, behavior, and true colors showing, no longer blanketed by the bullshit and naïve thoughts that racism doesn’t exist anymore, that it ended with the Civil War or that it ended during the Civil Rights Movement.  Many people praise the actions of people like, Martin Luther King Jr, John Trudell, Amanda Blackhorse and Dorothy Height, for their voice, and courageous actions, yet when confronted with situations where minorities, people of color are targeted and hurt, they remain silent, which is just as bad.  So what we saw in Charlottesville, is nothing new, when you look at the big picture.  Yes, it was crazy, disturbing, and heartbreaking to see, in 2017, but it seemed to wake a lot of people up.  YES, wake up! Open YOUR eyes. While what happened over the weekend was horrifying and tragic, the same happened in Standing Rock, but racism and inhumane treatment came from North Dakota and the federal government.  Treaty violations, militarized police, tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, water hoses in freezing temperatures, tanks, dogs, and more…. violating human rights and on the wrong side of justice. In the wake of the elections, and then Trump becoming President, more hateful words and actions arose towards my family, friends, me, and water protectors.  What was happening was wrong.  However, more allies came.

Let me set the record straight, this isn’t an attack on all white people. I don’t blame all of you for what happened in Charlottesville, let alone in our history. The root of the problem is way beyond that. The amount of support myself, my family, and friends of color receives is amazing. My inner circle, is representative of all sorts of backgrounds, and I LOVE IT. My family raised me to see no difference in who we are as beings.  I love everyone.  I was raised traditionally.  I grew up in South Dakota until I was 10, where it wasn’t until I was older, that I realized that it was definitely one of the racist states I’ve been to/lived in, and my parents tried to protect me from that.  Then we moved to Maine, where I was out of my element, away from my family, away from my roots, and just a Lakota girl in a rural community that had some generational racism and just pure racism.  I’ve had inter-racial relationships, where rude, ignorant comments were made about our relationship.  It’s there, whether it’s out of ignorance, or plain and simple racism. Racism has been there, white supremacy is there, where both are able to exist from the protected bubble of complacency and naïve thinking that people have created for it.

The race card gets played a lot, or the fact that I am Native American, an Indigenous woman, gets placed on me before I have a chance to use my voice.  I’ve been accused of being an Indigenous woman with some sort of “white woman wrong doing to me” that I have an axe to grind apparently, all because I have a strong voice and didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation that was happening before me.  My only excuse was that I felt disrespected and that communication was lacking. That can’t be used as an excuse and it’s a bit disturbing.

I’ve always been open-minded and have always had a big heart, which I’ve learned to be a bad thing sometimes because it gets taken for granted a lot. Yet, I always forgive and continue to see beyond that.  It’s the complicit behavior in these terrorizing, inhumane, racist actions that need to stop that shouldn’t be forgiven, but we are humans, and we want a future that is better. So we keep fighting back, we keep putting ourselves out there with a big heart, trying to change the world.  It’s more non-racist white people that need to stand up though.  As Gyasi Ross mentioned over the weekend, “white racism is a white problem and it should be 100% non-racist whites who put their lives and freedom on the line to shut racists down.”  Indigenous people, people of color, minorities are fighting every day for acknowledgement, existence, respect and equality.  They are on the frontlines fighting back and risking their lives against a system and against wealth that is targeting them.  With more allies coming forward and seeing the injustice happening on social levels, but also on government, corporate, and institutional levels as well, we can truly work towards abolishing racism.

But this also brings me to mention that racism and segregation happens within our own racial groups, against each other, and against those who have wronged us.  That is a behavior that must change as well.  For Indigenous People, we have to be open-hearted. While the difficulty of that notion may be thwarted away due to generational trauma, forced assimilation, forced relocation, massacres, and termination efforts, we have every reason to be weary and have distrust in the government, and non-Indigenous people.  But we can’t hold onto to the past.  We shouldn’t forget it, but we shouldn’t have that be a driving force in our inability to move forward and strengthen our own circles, and relationships with non-Indigenous peoples. I’ve had many comments made to me by Indigenous men, saying that I am letting my people down by dating a white man, that I am committing genocide, that I am unworthy of being a Native woman.  It’s outrageous the comments I receive sometimes and it used to really bother me.  Ninety-eight percent of the time they assume that I am dating that person in the picture, well, who the hell cares.  That is my business.  Comments I’ve seen friends and family go through of “not being native enough, not being dark enough, they must not be full blood” and so forth happens a lot, and it’s not right.  These inter-racial group attacks and racism, among our own, is creating another divide within our own, where we are often sometimes holding ourselves back from progress.  We must find a way to work together and help each other.

Indigenous peoples have been fighting white supremacy since time immemorial.  We were free of it pre-1492. It’s 2017 and we are still fighting for our treaty rights and fighting to exist. When Indigenous lives are acknowledged and respected, while being held accountable for the atrocities that happened to them, which is the very foundation of America… then the rights of all lives matter.  Don’t forget how this country was created. From Indigenous genocide on a variety of levels, slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching, police brutality, KKK, a history of systematic racism exists.

If what you saw over the weekend in Charlottesville made you upset, angry, sad, hurt, and outraged, GOOD.  Feel that, because that’s what I feel when I see people being targeted, and the wrong people being protected.  That’s what I felt every day, watching my relatives in Standing Rock fighting against big money, and corruption, yet, the wrong people were being protected, nodapl1and peaceful, unarmed protectors were targeted. Like I said, feel that.  And do something about it.  Don’t sit back, don’t be complicit.  For those that know me, I organize for what I believe in.  Label me an activist or whatever, but I organize to protect and defend what I believe in.  In no way am I asking you to do the same as me or the lovely souls I work with for justice on a variety of issues, but all rooted in protecting the people.  I ask that you don’t remain silent, when you see something happening, don’t turn the channel, don’t turn your head away, or change the topic, talk about it, send letters, call your representatives, etc. Many people, some who are my friends, and people I organize with for social and environmental justice, were there that Friday night and Saturday. Many people from all backgrounds and groups were there to fight back. Doesn’t matter the color of their skin to me, they were there to defend and protect against White Supremacy.  They were there to stand up to racists, to stand against those in polo shirts, khaki shorts, confederate flags, the KKK and neo-nazi’s.  For all there this weekend, thank you.  Lila wopila tanka.

Facism and white supremacy will not survive. We will fight back.  The fight for sustainable and just solutions for a better future is something we can do, right now.

protect

The Scalping of Indian Health Services: Why We Need to care about the Healthcare Debate & Trump’s Budget

I’M BACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!

Han Mitakuyepi! Hello, my relatives!!! It’s been a long time since I last blogged, Native Nation’s Rise march on Washington a few months ago to be exact.  My life has been crazy busy.

Just a brief update: Haven’t announced via blogging but I have founded Rising Hearts Coalition, back in January, and been hitting the ground running since.  RHC is a women, Indigenous led organizing coalition, planning and executing peaceful, non-violent direct actions in DC (for now), for our Tribal communities.  Our biggest focus has been on #NoDAPL and fighting for environmental justice, with other focuses on education, healthcare, cultural appropriation, and Violence Against Women/Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.  We organize and mobilize the people, as well as distributing content and resources for people to reference. We schedule hill meetings for those coming to DC and help them navigate the particular way and motion DC has set. We helped organize Resistance-Inauguration events, Native Nations Rise, the People’s Climate March (Indigenous Bloc), Wells Fargo bank actions, and many other events, as well as partnering and joining other campaigns.   I have also co-founded DC ReInvest Coalition, where we are getting the city of DC to divest their funds from Wells Fargo (funding dirty infrastructure projects and has irresponsible banking practices: racial discriminatory lending, redlining, funding private prisons, etc), to keep fossil fuels in the ground, move towards Public Banking, and to reinvest in the people they represent. However, the purpose of RHC is not only be a voice and platform to elevate our causes in Indian Country, to generate awareness of the violations our communities face, but to highlight all the good that is happening too, we are here to build relationships and ensure our future generations no longer have to continue these fights.  Strength in numbers.  I believe in the people, and I believe that we can work together.  Indigenous people have always protected the land and the people.  We are in a time right now, where a lot is at stake. So not only do I advocate, or label me an “activist,” to protect and defend Indigenous rights and our sovereignty, but I advocate on everyone, mitakuye oyasin, we are all related. In protecting Unci Maka, grandmother earth, you protect the people. Which brings me to an issue, that sparked my passion, care and love for the people when I was little…. protecting our health and the services that belong to it. I saw at a young age what Indian Health Services can do, whether it was bad or good. It’s not a perfect system by any means but it has helped.  Healthcare is a right, and we are seeing a fight among many, across the nation to fight for that.

defend the sacred

My twin, my sister, and my Ina.

 

Here We Go:

While the headlines and TV News shows focus on Trump’s incessant over-compensating and bullying, American Indian and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) are under attack. The proposed Trump budget guts housing, healthcare, environmental and virtually every other federal program. Given that sovereign Native Nations work directly through the Federal government and that our communities are among the poorest in the country, these proposed cuts have an inordinately large impact for Natives. These cuts are happening in the shadows cast by a bombastic and ill equipped White House coupled by slavish and shallow attempts to awkwardly implement “conservative” policies.

Budgets and Scalping: Just a little off the top?

Misguided and non-strategic budget cutting in DC are really the culprits here. During the latter half of the Obama administration, Congress enacted a set of painful budget cuts actually designed to cause pain to core programs dear to both parties. The avoidance of these cuts, was supposed to incentivize cooperation on a budget resolution. But, predictably, the deal was subverted, primarily from the Tea Party Conservatives in the House. The Obama administration allowed the Indian Health Service (IHS) to be the only primary health provision program to be included in this mess. All other programs were held to the 5% sequester and IHS was held to the full 5 instead of 2.5%, which the money has yet to be appropriated back from Congress. Thus, IHS was subject to cuts that were neither anticipated nor strategic.  On my grandfather’s reservation, in Rosebud, death rates increased 100% the year after, and health problems were left poorly treated or not diagnosed across Indian Country. It was, and remains, a National tragedy.

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The Trump Budget is similar to the sequester in that it does not discriminate. It just cuts. The budget mandates the Department of Health and Human Services to cut its budget, and the director of HHS, a true talking points conservative, simply passed on the cuts to programs across the board (with a few exceptions that would look bad politically). IHS, historically underfunded and now hobbled by sequester cuts, is once again subject to cuts forced upon it by politics, rather than reason.

A series of recent exposes by the Wall Street Journal and a meeting of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee attest to both the sorry state of IHS as a whole, and the failure of Trump-Appointed officials to both do their homework and to advocate on behalf of Indian Country.  IHS is admittedly, not arguably, in a state of emergency. IHS services in many regions are below third, crst houseor even fourth, world standards. Seriously. Not exaggerating. At least 30% of the doctors they are potentially able to hire, are not hired. Buildings are crumbling, supplies are dwindling, and direct care is suffering. It is painful to witness, and even to read about. The IHS infrastructure and services serving entire swaths of Indian Country have been put on notice. Yet, cutting resources ensures a structural inability to reach even minimal criteria. People are dying.

Enter the Trump budget. Like the sequester, the budget cuts are not targeted, and not reasoned. Trump ONLY wants 5-6% cuts in some areas (that is a $300 million dollar cut to an already strained IHS budget).  Imagine you are hungry and a pizza costs $10 dollars.  Imagine you have $11 and your friend has $15. Now, Trump or the sequester, mandate everyone to give up 25% of your budgets. You have to cut $2.75, your friend has to give stop trumpcareup a dollar more. The problem? You only have $8.25 left. You can’t buy half a pizza. No pizza for you. Your friend lost more, but they had more to begin with. They are left with $11.25. They get pizza, and maybe even a coke. You starve. This is analogous to what is happening across Indian Country. Budgets that were already stretched to the max are being cut. Housing, health, you name it. The problem, a little from these programs paralyzes them…no one gets any pizza, or healthcare, or heating oil. Untargeted across program cuts are ultimately malevolent.

At a recent Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on President Trump’s proposed budget and its impact to the Indian Health Services’ workforce, the current acting head of IHS demonstrated both his ineptitude and the irrationality of these sort of cuts. In a flop-sweat strewn performance that would make any Native ashamed, Acting Director Admiral Michael Weahkee was unable to answer even the most basic questions about the IHS budget, or how cuts would impact Native health. Two of my favorite senators when it comes to Native issues, Tester and Murkowski, were confused, saddened, and then angered by the inept and senseless talking points spewed nonsensically from Acting Director Weahkee. Watch below. It was a dark day.

Video’s here:

Senator Tester: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=TcgGoAcDXvQ

Senator Murkowski: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1CQZZmzVT4

Healthcare Debate IS About Natives, too.

Many of my friends, while bemused by the spectacle, don’t see the link between the current debates on Obamacare and IHS funding. After all, the debate is about insurance and IHS is anything but insurance! It is quite simple: Both Republican Healthcare native-american-health-1proposals (actually 3 now), drastically cut medicaid.  Well, people on medicaid account for roughly 20% of the IHS budget:  Another inadvertent cut to IHS!!! It is a workaround funding source. But a large one. One we cannot afford to lose. So, when you hear that a bill would cut 23 million from health insurance, be aware that much of that is through de-funding Medicaid. A source IHS has used to make up for lost funding over the years.

I urge you all to pay attention to these issues. Indian Country is often the victim of negligence. The sequester, the healthcare debate, the budget are all examples of circuitous but devastating assaults on our essential programs. A little off the top is enough to kill all but the most hardy of programs. When it comes to Indian Country, and IHS, we can’t afford even a trim.

Read More on recent IHS failures and challenges:

https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-budget-calls-for-harsh-cuts-to-native-american-health-care-housing/3871211.html

http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/07/12/lawmakers-grill-indian-health-service-leader-on-failing-care.html

Stand with Strong Hearts: We Exist. We Resist. We Rise.

More than 5,000 Indigenous People and allies marched from the US Army Corps of Engineer’s National Headquarters to Lafayette Park at the White House, with a powerful reclamation message at Trump International Hotel mid-way.

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Native Nations Rise… a reformation of what used to be the American Indian Movement to fight for American Indian rights long ago, to what is now the rising Indigenous Rights Movement for those on Turtle Island and across the world. Standing Rock awakened many people to what was going on in Indian Country.  For us, nothing has changed, the injustices happening to our people and communities is nothing new, but seemed it in the eyes of non-indigenous people. We have Tribal nations uniting and allies increasing to further increase the awareness of the fight for Indigenous rights, to protect and preserve those rights, to protect all living things, and to ensure we have a voice.

March 7th, the tipi encampment was up and running.  To open up the camp, it started with a water ceremony.  We had opening remarks from Dallas Goldtooth, a welcoming/blessing from Sebi Medina-Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation, followed by a water ceremony.jpgwater blessing from Ani of Navajo Nation.  Much preparation took place for this collaborative effort to happen.  The main point of the camp and march was to unite the people, be a reminder to the Administration that we are still here, to remind the Administration of its Treaty laws, and to be a presence in a city that is the epicenter of policy decisions.  Those 5 days, were incredibly beautiful.  For me, I was beyond happy to see familiar faces and meet new ones.  I was happy to have what felt like a little piece of home, and what I felt at Standing Rock during my stay there, here in Washington, DC.  This was a historic and symbolic moment that was more than just Standing Rock and #NoDAPL.  This was about uniting the people, to continue to rise up and fight harder in their own communities and against future pipelines.

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Every morning at camp, there was a water blessing ceremony.  As tipis were being set up, many came to help lend a hand.  Organizers from all over collaborated to ensure this encampment and march meant something.  Workshops, Panels, and Artisan groups were on the schedules to ensure that we were hearing from the local DC community, as well as tipis at nightmore across the Nation and other parts of the world.  This was an opportunity to for the people to be engaged, make more friends, and for voices to be heard. We heard from our elders, the youth, and the women.  Wednesday was International Women’s Day, so there were planned events to occur to unify the women and figure out an agenda of what we need.

 

Our Past Lives Within Us, But We Continue To Thrive:

For far too long, Indigenous peoples, the first peoples have been on the short end of the stick, receiving the bare minimum.  When insulted and mocked that we are only the stereotypes non-Indigenous people think, little do they really know why those stereotypes exist in the first place, where there is some truth, sadly not by choice.  Many of us have been relocated from our original homelands, forced out west, forced to become civilized Casey Camp and Tipiand to forget who we really are as a people.  “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” is a real saying.  Our ancestors were taken from their homes, forced into boarding schools where they were forced to not speak their language, cut their hair and choose a Christian name.  Consequences would follow if not done.  Many of our ancestors tell stories of being beaten, raped, and molested by those in these boarding schools that were supposed to “help us.”  Massacres occurred to wipe us out.  There are elders to this day that can speak to what they witnessed from those massacres as they have a relative that has told their story. This has all resulted in generational trauma.  Many were forced to lands that were not farm-able, placed in food deserts, and put in a fail/fail situation, as a tactic, to get rid of the Indian.  We are not supposed to be here.  We have survived all these attempts to annihilate our culture and genetic thumbprint.  Despite the odds, we have survived.  There are many resilient Indigenous communities from across the world that have faced or are facing the similar battles we have here in the United States. But now, we say no more.  We will not be silent.  We deserve better.  And Standing Rock gave that courage to many and ignited that fire in many to unite.

Strong Voices Emerging:

What came out of Standing Rock was an awareness and momentum. If we truly want change, it’s time for the people to stand up, be a voice, continue organizing, and not be complicit.  Often I hear, “well nothing’s changed, so why bother.”  I get it.  I really do.  It’s hard not to be positive about many injustices happening to Indian Country continually. I say, HELL NO! Let’s rise to the occasion.  Let’s act.  We have many that we can lean on and learn from. That’s what is happening. We have the native youth to thank for that.  They erected the first tipi and camp to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline.  They ran over 2,000 miles from Cannonball, North Dakota to Washington, DC to generate awareness of the opposition to this pipeline. The people, who have inspired me the most, have been the youth. This is the seventh generation that has been talked about for a long time, taking the lead in a prayerful and peaceful way.  It’s also our responsibility to encourage them and help them.  Strong, resilient, and powerful voices are emerging.  I’m so happy, grateful, and excited to see this movement continue.

Strong Hearts To The Front:

Strong hearts have been climbing, marching, running, and walking to the front.  This Native Nation’s Rise March on Washington had just that.  We had the youth at the front.  We had our women to the front.  The women put up the last tipi pole that was erected inside tipiright in front of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, on the way to the White House.  A strong message was stated to Trump and the Administration of reclamation, at that hotel, with that tipi.  We are reclaiming what once was ours.  We are reminding them that we are still here.  We are reminding them of the promises signed and made, that they have continually have broken.

Despite differences in opinions over what has happened in Standing Rock, all parties involved, what was important that I took away from last week, was that we all came to DC to be a strong, loud, collective voice.  Amidst the cheers and voices from Tribal leaders, youth, and performers, there were voices of opposition towards Standing Rock.  However, a youth of Standing Rock spoke with humility and courage, to remind the people that respect needs to be at the forefront of this movement.  No tolerance for disrespecting others, especially Native’s.  If we continue to have divide within our own, we will never win, we will be holding each other back.  How can we fix that? I don’t have the answer to that.  I do see communication, involvement of everyone, and honesty being what I would want.  Decisions have been made the last few months, which I see people not agreeing with, and that’s okay. We also don’t know the reasoning’s to those decisions made, which, maybe we should. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers.  But I do see the people coming together, to fight for indigenous and human rights. I do know, that disrespect, from non-natives and indigenous people being directed at the women, in the rally, who were trying to diffuse the situation.  I was one of them and standing right in the middle.  I saw a man flip out on an elder woman and yell at her.  Despite differences in opinions, I do not condone that behavior.  This movement has had prayer and peace at the forefront of this fight.  In our culture, you’re taught to respect women and to listen to our elders.  I saw none of that coming from the opposing voices.

We have a wonderful opportunity to strengthen this movement and sustain it. This awareness has moved from being an Indigenous Rights issue to a human rights issue.  We all deserve the best, we all deserve to have access to clean, uncontaminated water.  We all should have a say whether a pipeline goes through Tribal land or city boundaries.

I truly believe that Indigenous people are deeply rooted to our surroundings and have our 6roots deeply into the ground.  Whether we know it or feel it, I believe it’s there.  With adapting to society and going about our lives, we may have lost that connection, but Standing Rock ignited again for many. Many Indigenous people are reclaiming their identity, many who stayed in Standing Rock until the very last day; felt that they were on a new path.  Some have taken the initiative to learn their language.  Some have stopped with their alcohol and substance abuse habits the moment they came to camp.  Standing Rock, the camp life, and the people, saved the lives of many, opened the eyes of many, and changed the paths of many.  It has for me. Some have left camp with new organizations formed, Indigenous Media platforms created, and groups mobilizing to unite the people and fight other injustices happening in other communities.  I am very blessed for what I was able to experience, be part of, and given me the courage to take a more direct leadership role to generate awareness and unite us.

The people are uniting.  The people are rising.  It is beautiful to witness.  Many asked whatmid march will us uniting in DC accomplish, the pipeline is built? My answer was, the fight isn’t over.  This isn’t just about this one pipeline.  We will win, when we have recognition of who we are, and our rights acknowledged and respected. When our voices are heard in the policy decisions or permits approvals, where projects or laws are not implemented, or vice versa, we will have been recognized.  When we have a seat at the table, not to just be a check in the box, with real meaningful dialogue, we can win.

As I mentioned before, we are deeply connected to our surroundings and Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth.  When she is crying out for help, we are the first ones to hear her.  We are protectors of all things, because all things have life and that is worth protecting.  Your fight is our fight, and people are now looking to Indigenous people for guidance, especially when it comes to fighting for our natural resources.

We are still here.  We are resilient.  I am still here.  I have much to learn, but I have many I am inspired by to help me be a voice and take a stand. I am proud of all our protectors.  I am proud of those who are putting the people first over profit and corporate corruption.

I am proud to be a Lakota woman.  I am proud to be Indigenous.

tipis and WH

Orange Is The New Enemy

(views are my own)

When Win-Win?

I have been waiting to blog on the new administration. I was hoping, like others, that some of the bluster, misinformation, and threats were simply election, not governing, tactics. There were, and still are, hints of a moderate stance on certain issues. But, the people he is trading with are predominantly right-wing conservatives. They control the deals. As the DeVos nomination demonstrates, Democrats really can’t stop people who OR: Students Protest Trump's Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVoswould rather win than be correct. So, he is either ignoring or demonizing them. The Trump administration and their puppet Congress are doing what Congress does best…stopping things from happening and reversing things that have happened. Such as stripping away consumer protection, pushing pipelines, and removing regulations that keep banks in check. For whom: The rich people, the donors, and the friendly companies. Nothing for the average worker except bluster and taking credit for trends that existed before, and even in spite of, Trump and the Republican-led obstructionist Congress. No new policies yet, no refinement of policies, no progress. Just the taking of things away, from the people.  Congress gives Trump a few things, he gives them a few things. Everyone else is irrelevant.  Everyone else is “the enemy.”

I believe we have a transaction, rather than a principled, President. That can be good or bad, depending upon the mentality. Part of me wants to see someone use common sense and strong negotiation skills rather than ideology to make informed decisions. That part of me, is in mourning.

As I said, though, I was hopeful for good deals. I waited. But, maybe, though, my definition of good is different. They say “Everyone Likes a Winner.”  In fact, this is a major attraction for Trump supporters and a facade he works hard to cultivate. Trump is a winner. Fine. I wonder though, “Is there a way to win without making so many people lose?” The tone of this administration so far is one of a bully, not a protector. Strength with no wisdom. The goal is winning at all costs and punishing opposition, either by word or deed. If the immigration ban is any sign, he acts before thinking of the bigger picture. By the way, he probably could have gotten that, or most of it, if he had waited and did it differently. He threatens those who disagree. He threatened to “ruin the career” of a Senator with who he disagreed in public yesterday and I am sure the trolls hit that Senator’s social media accounts as they do everyone Trump calls out. There is no such thing as “the loyal opposition.” There is no inkling of considering all sides to make the best possible decision.  No sense of even an attempt at balance or fairness. Just winning and increased ratings. No balancing of interests and no attempts to minimize collateral damage, or even consult/consider alternative and less harmful solutions.  Just winning at all costs. Sometimes, they say, winning is losing. This will not end well for anyone.

When a judge does not agree with something, they trash the judiciary. This is harmful to democracy as the constitution codifies 3 co-equal and complementary branches of government and the system of checks and balances envisioned by the framers. When a journalist points out a blatant lie in a Presidential statement, the entire profession of journalism is attacked, again weakening the role of a free press in a healthy democracy. More damage. It’s like a Superman movie, lots of ruble and destroyed buildings. Where is the thought to fly the bomb into space to minimize the damage to innocent lives?

These past few weeks are full of actions clearly done with a belligerent spirit. There were no attempts, as far as I know, by anyone associated with the new administration to consult with various interests and attempt to develop solutions that MINIMIZE damage. Just win and brag. Challenge, misinform, deny, accuse. Very macho. Very single minded. Very destructive. Destroy the city, win the fight.

For someone who claims to represent ALL Americans, Trump sure is hurting a lot of people. Can’t the same things be done with some style and care? I am not a business person. Just a  Political Science major who has dedicated her adult life, so far, to helping my people thrive in a world that often ignores their very existence. But, in a Democracy, shouldn’t we value and protect our fellow citizens? Even if they disagree? It seems that we only value those with whom we agree. The rest are evil and deserve the pain and ridicule heaped on them by a dirty fighter. While I do not agree with many things these wealthy white guys have done, I can see why they might do what they do. What I cannot comprehend is the WAY it is being done…unless the goal is a totalitarian one.

The goal seems more than winning. The goal seems to be to make losers.

When I saw the executive order to push for DAPL, just four days into this new Administration, and to ignore the mandate for an Environmental Impact Statement, I was,wh-rally of course, disheartened. But I was even more saddened at the way it was done. As far as I know, the President’s team did not take the time to understand the opposition, to reach out to the Standing Rock Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, other parties involved, or to attempt to develop options that work for everyone. One side, in its extreme, wants no pipelines, ever. One side wants to do whatever it wants to make money. In the middle is a Tribe trying to protect its primary water source and way of life. There doesn’t have to be absolute losers or absolute winners. That middle goal, protecting a water source, could be accomplished with some creativity. But, the decision was political and impulsive. It was rushed, probably uninformed, and definitely one-sided. The blatant disrespect in the WAY it was done can do nothing but engender hostility and damage any potential for future collaboration. All of these things are damaging the potential for peaceful collaboration. We now know we have an enemy in the White House. This guy prides himself onevil comparisons to President Andrew Jackson, the one who sought to exterminate Native Americans.

From our point of view there can be no other view. From his point of view, however, there is another, more insidious, interpretation. We are less than an enemy. We were treated as though we did not exist. It was more than disrespect. It was as though we weren’t even worthy of a thought and definitely not worthy of negotiation. Simply irrelevant. It is sad and demoralizing. It will not end well.

Humility is a value in our culture. Mistaking humility for weakness is a shallow misinterpretation. My ancestors negotiated treaties with me in mind, not just them. They gave up important things in their life to insure I would be here today. I am more committed than ever to standing up for what is right. I am more committed than ever to making sure we are heard, respected, and relevant. I will not hate the man. He will be gone and we will still be here as we always have. Even Andrew Jackson finally got THAT message.

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Still Here,

Protector.

Protect The Sacred: Preserving & Improving VAWA 2013

One in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime, and three in five will be physically assaulted. Native women are more than twice as likely to be stalked than other women and, even worse, Native women are being murdered at a rate ten times the national average. Due to under-reporting, the actual numbers are almost certainly higher. While data on violence against Native girls is sorely lacking, a recent national survey found violence against Native girls may be disproportionately high as well.”

These facts are real. Actions need to be taken to protect our women and children. VAWA currently, is very limited with it’s protection.  But there are some amazing women, and men, that are champions of this issue.

So, what is VAWA 2013?

Enabling criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians became legal in March 2015 when Tribes across the country were allowed to implement VAWA 2013, as long as the following statutory requirements were met:

  • Victim must be Indian
  • Crime must take place in Indian Country of participating Tribe
  • Non-Indian defendant must have “sufficient ties to the Indian Tribe,” may include:
    • Residing in Indian Country of participating Tribe
    • Employed in Indian Country of participating Tribe
    • Spouse, intimate partner, dating partner of Tribal member, or an Indian who resides in Indian Country of participating Tribe

What’s happening?

Last Spring, just a reminder update, four U.S. House Representatives sponsored a Congressional briefing on the: Violence Against Women & Implementation of VAWA 2013 Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ).  The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the Indian Law Resource Center, and the National Congress of American Indians co-sponsored the event.  The co-hosts were, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY), Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN), Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI), and Congressmen Xavier Beccera (CA).

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President Barack Obama signs S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, (VAWA), which reauthorizes several Violence Against Women Act grant programs through FY 2018; and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 through FY 2017, in the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“No one should have to live in fear of violence, especially in her home, and VAWA affirms that belief.”

Background

The Violence Against Women Act of 2013 affirmed that Tribes have the ability to exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ). As of January 1, 2016, eight Tribes have implemented SDVCJ over non-Indians. This gives Tribes authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of three classifications of crimes: domestic violence, dating violence, and violation of protection orders. Prior to VAWA, non-native/members could commit a domestic violence/dating violence crime on Tribal lands and not be held accountable for their actions due to jurisdictional constraints

Congressional Representatives have recognized the progress made since the initiation of VAWA 2013 and were in agreement that there is still a long way to go for the system to work as intended, be implemented across all Tribal Nations, and to improve the law in the appropriations process.  The development of best practices is also needed in this process.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a champion of VAWA, really stressed best practices on implementation, and the need to expand jurisdiction to include the protection of children.

Congressman Xavier Becerra noted that this was “great to apply across the board for women.” He mentioned that there is a lot of accomplish and revise in the law, but stated that “this is just the beginning.” While sitting there, it was great to hear a member of Congress talk about how crazy it is that Tribes are just getting recognized to implement and protect Native women.  It’s 2016 and Native women, have more so, restricted rights.  It’s 2016 and Tribes, Indigenous people across the world, are still fighting for basic human rights, while still standing ground against those who think we don’t matter.

In February 2014, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, as part of the Department of Justice Pilot Project, began exercising SDVCJ.  By September 2015, the Tribe has made 21 SDVCJ arrests and noticed that since implementation of SDVCJ, non-Indians make up roughly, 25% of the Tribe’s domestic violence cases.  Pascua Yaqui Chairman, Peter Yucupicio stated: “It is now clear that the law should be expanded to protect additional victims and Tribes across the Nations should be provided with the proper resources to implement the law.” While the creation and intentions of VAWA 2013 have been good, there are still flaws.  Yucupicio also stressed that “VAWA jurisdiction is still limited to certain crimes, does not protect victims of stranger rape, and does not protect children or other family members.”

The Tulalip Tribes began exercising SDVCJ in February 2014 as part of the DOJ Pilot Project.  Nearly two years later, Tulalip has made 11 SDVCJ arrests, 6 guilty pleas, 1 federal guilty plea, 2 dismissals and 2 pending. Chairman Melvin Sheldon, Jr. of the Tribe noted that “every life is important and every victim’s voice should be heard.” And that couldn’t be truer.  While the issue of rape, sexual and domestic assault on Native women is heartbreaking, it’s a huge issue for women in general, across the world.

Roughly forty Tribes are or have participated in the Inter-Tribal Working Group on SDVCJ and are in the process towards implementation, with about twenty Tribes ready to implement within the next year. Although to me, that is great news, but there are 567 federally recognized Tribes, and assault on Native women is happening everywhere, on and off the reservation.

In June 2016, Indian Law Resource Center took action to address violence on Indigenous women to the Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Council at the United Nations. Also in 2016, the Department of Justice and National Institute of Justice Report release “Violence Against Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men 2010 Findings from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” (You may have to be on the computer to view this report).

What’s Next?

Currently, significant progress has been made.  However, there are large gaps that are in need of bridging.  As with many other laws, VAWA is very vague with respect to protecting the full range of victims associated with these crimes.  An important need is the protection of the children involved in these crimes that the law doesn’t currently protect.  Four cases from the eight early adopting Tribes included children who were pulled from the home.  Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI), champion of VAWA, stated how important it is to protect the children since the law doesn’t currently.  Meeting with Congressional members is essential to gain support for issues including: 1) a more defined language of the law; 2) jurisdiction expansion; 3) protection of more victims (including children); 4) required documentation of implementation (data collection/reporting); 5) clarification of what a “relationship” is since “dating” can mean a lot of things in today’s society and under this law, it hasn’t protected every “relationship” because it wasn’t exactly what it was intended to mean; 6) access to full appropriated funds; 7) access to Crimes Victim Fund (CVF); 8) support appropriations language to ensure Tribal victims are not left out under the Secure Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act (SURVIVAL Act).  Tribes need the additional and proper resources to be able to implement this law to meet the needs of their Tribal victims. Funding of SDVCJ authorized under VAWA 2013 is at $5 million, but Congress has only appropriated $2.5 million for FY 2016.

What are the requests to ensure productive implementation?

  • More defined statutes on protecting children
  • Expansion of jurisdiction to protect additional victims
  • Need reporting or data collection to be covered under the law, as of now, it doesn’t require it, which Congress is always demanding evidence and best practices
  • Broadened definition of “relationship.” As stated by Alfred Urbina (Pascua Yaqui Attorney General) and Oscar Flores (Pascua Yaqui Chief Prosecutor), the definition is old fashioned, outdated, and in today’s society, how do you define a relationship? It’s always changing and could mean a variety of things
  • Costs money to implement law: need access to money. (For Tulalip, they used their own Tribal revenue, while Congress authorized $25 million to implement the law through 2018, they have yet to appropriate the funds)
  • Crime Victims Fund (CVF): Indian Country is left out from programs that are funded through CVF. Supporting legislation or appropriation language that would allocate money to Tribal Nations.
  • Urging Congressional members to support language and efforts to include Tribes in CVF under the SURVIVE Act to Tribal victims are not left out. (Last year, that language didn’t make the final bill through the Senate)
  • Ability to charge perpetrators of other crimes committed
  • Protection for same-sex couples: There was a case that was dismissed due to the jury stating that there wasn’t enough evidence; meanwhile, the defendant had warrants and a lengthy history. The Jury saw them as not a couple as defined by the law.
  • Need to ensure that under this law, it needs to stay non-competitive for when more Tribes begin implementation
  • What can government agencies do?
    • If there are discretionary funds, have the departments shift those funds to CVF.
  • 10% each from Office of Justice Programs and CVF to Tribal governments and to Tribal criminal justice systems

The Stories:

Briefly, I will share my story, as well as provide two more stories, from two Native women, that I love dearly: My Ina (mother) and my best friend, my mitankela/sister, Victoria.

Words from my Ina:

“My story.  I was going to nursing school & met this guy.  We clicked & had a great time.  The more time we spent, the less time I spent with my friends.  The name calling started, the monitoring of my calls, & the constant stalking, keeping me away from my family.  One of the many horrific times in my life was when I was on my way back to school from home.  This truck side swiped me so I stopped to trade insurance information.  Instead, I was raped by a drunk man.  I was able to get away after he had finished & drove back to school.  I got to my apartment & he was upset that I was late & I told him that I was raped.  He said I deserved it.  And he proceeded to take me upstairs and have sex with me to get the other guy’s scent off of me.  The next day I reported it, but nothing ever came from it.

Another story:  I was a freshman in high school & became great friends with this guy!  We had great times, playing jokes on people.  I was invited to his party that he was throwing inathat Friday night.  I was excited because everyone that I knew from high school was going to be at this party.  I went against my parent’s wishes (I actually snuck out).  Everyone was having a great time.  I had too much to drink & passed out in one of the rooms.  I wake up to some pain & see my best friend raping me.  I through him off & couldn’t find my clothes, so I grabbed a sheet to cover myself.  I walked down stairs and he was standing there with a grin on his face.  I went home and told my Mom.  She took me to the doctor where I was checked out.  We filed a report on him.  He was picked up.  In juvenile court, he denied everything, and was never punished.  I had to deal with him my freshman year.  I ended up leaving school for another because of the humiliation.  It was at my new school where I attempted to kill myself.  My dorm mates found me and I was rushed to the hospital. There really hasn’t been an act to protect women from any assault.  VAWA would’ve been so helpful to my recovery from these horrid events.”- Ina

  • My Ina is my superhero. I was very little when I saw my mom get beat up, and I was helpless in the situation, hiding under a table or in a room, and felt absolutely horrible for not knowing how to use a telephone to dial 911.  Despite seeing this, I have seen the trauma it has caused her.  I understand more, now that I am older.  And it breaks my heart.  BUT, she’s a rockstar and despite what has happened to her, she became a pediatric nurse, graduated from undergrad and graduate school, all with a baby Jordan at her hip and being a pain in the butt perhaps.  This woman, who has faced a lot, is part of these statistics that Native women encounter.  She’s more than a number, she is my mother, and seeing her push herself, and her strength, has definitely been something I’ve been trying to emulate since I was little.

My sister’s story:

“I remember the day VAWA13 passed. It was an emotional day full of rejoicing with those close to me. I remembered the multiple emails and letters we sent to our congressional members urging them to pass it, the many calls and the many stories we heard from victims in Indian Country. It was a great day.

Growing up on and off the reservation, domestic and sexual violence is almost second nature. Going to school with bruises on my body would be a chance to test my acting skills. My brothers and I became experts at hiding when we were told to run. We became veryvictoria protective over our mother and each other. When you grow up living in fear, living in pain, it makes it really easy to create a persona that the world sees that isn’t true. That internal pain that a child has to live with and somehow still grow from, it’s detrimental.

So what does VAWA mean to me? It is optimism. VAWA means strength. It is hope that one day my strong native brothers and sisters no longer have to live in fear. VAWA is a chance to grow without pain and to know that my children won’t have to suffer like many of us have.”

  • This girl, my homefry, my bae, my bestie, my sister, my wonderful best friend, is truly amazing. When we first met and started talking, it was these stories that brought us together. We not only shared the hardships we’ve faced, the accomplishments we’ve had, but we shared our dreams of what we want for Indian Country.  This girl amazes me and she is doing so well in life.  It breaks my heart that she went through this because I can see how it has affected her, even to this day.  She’s killing it though here in DC, and this Gila River girl is about to graduate Georgetown University with her Master’s Degree.  Can’t wait to take on the world with my mitankela (sister).

My Story:

When VAWA passed, it was a day to remember. Watching President Obama sign S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, was emotional. I teared up. Me being the type of person always wanting to help but always feeling helpless, I finally felt like this law will help protect those I can’t.  Albeit, there is much more to improve upon and accomplish, but it’s a step in the right direction. We as native women, have a story to tell. Mine, I kept silent for years, and this happened during my senior year of high school.  And from a jordanprevious blog that I wrote on eating disorders, my problem with eating came from this one toxic relationship. I didn’t have bruises to show. I had shame, low self-esteem, and severe trust issues.  And I thought, “how could someone I care about, who is supposed to care about me, treat me like this?” But I justified it with, “he’s having a hard time himself, I must deserve this, I must help him get better.” I suffered through verbal, mental, and physical abuse.  It wasn’t a daily or weekly occurrence, but it happened more than the “this happened just once, he was drunk.”  It’s amazing to see how we justify and rationalize things, especially other people’s actions.  Even today I have my issues.  Granted, I just started sharing my story, but until 2 years ago, I couldn’t even talk/think about it without feeling sick to my stomach. All of our stories are different; they are things that should not have happened. But this is no competition; this is an issue of protecting Native women.  Who, in our culture, are sacred.  Yeah that’s right, we are lady bosses! However, it’s our duty, women AND men, to fight for our rights and protect the sacred, and to advocate for legislation that will hold those offenders, accountable.

In Conclusion:

I have seen horrible violence happen as a young kid, I have heard the stories from family and friends, and I have seen the evidence on the person who was hurt.  I have felt it.  Being assaulted, being a victim of rape, is something that you carry with you. There is also other kinds of violence a woman may face, a child may face. However, with VAWA 2013, it only covers a portion of that. It can ruin a woman’s life. But, it doesn’t have to.  You can take the control back. You can build yourself up. You may be a little wounded, but being that statistic doesn’t have to define you.  It can empower you, and you can be a voice to help put a stop to it.  Your trust in men can carry on from man to man that you decide to date.  The pain, the anger, and the emotional instability may reside in you for a lifetime.  But, I have seen these victims grow stronger.  My family and friends have grown stronger.  I have grown stronger.  The most important thing that we can all do, in regards to ending violence against women, is sticking together, speaking up, and honoring our sacred.  I wish I could take the pain away or made sure this never happened but I can help be a voice for you, along with many other inspirational women and men, who are here in DC, and all over the country, speaking up about this issue. I really wish, and hope that one day, we aren’t just seen as a separate group when legislation is created.  People of Indian Country are often left out of the conversation, put on the back burner, and given the scraps.  I truly believe things are changing for once, and as long as we stick together and keep moving forward with our voices, we can continue to create change for us, and for our future generations. That is what Chief Sitting Bull wanted, and that is what we are here today, to do.

The Native Women’s voice is crucial. VAWA is under attack in the federal courts and specifically the Supreme Court. There was great victory in 2013 to restore tribal jurisdiction but it only covered a small portion.  During the Dollar General case, Justice Kennedy thinks tribal jurisdiction over nonnatives is unconstitutional. When it comes to pipelines, our Indigenous women are suffering and being assaulted by workers that reside in the “man-camps.” So us fighting to stop the pipelines, not only shows our love of the earth, and our resources that we need to protect, but we need to protect our women.  Click here for Honor The Earth “fact sheet.” However, Tribal courts are exercising jurisdiction of non-natives and the protection of our women, has begun.

Greater efforts by our men are happening, they are part of the solutions too.  The women are taking the lead and maintaining these efforts to protect our Tribal Sovereignty. Now, we must prepare, and help, to advocate for VAWA 2018, re-authorization. Day 1 of this “new presidency,” it was made clear that potential cuts to the Department of Justice, as well as many other programs, includes all 25 grants/pilot projects that aim to protect women and end the violence, in the Office on Violence Against Women.  While the numbers in dollar amounts seems small, it will have a significant impact on our women. The fight to resist this new regime….. continues. Be sure to check out Indian Law Resource Center and National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center for more updates and information. So let’s do this.

I’ll end with this: you’re awesome, you’re beautiful, you deserve the best, you deserve to be heard, and I love you. Mitakuye Oyasin!

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