Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. NOW GR devotes much of its time on this website to talking about current events and issues that impact women’s lives. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, this article is dedicated to raising awareness about issues facing Native American women.
Due to the fact that Native American populations often live lives that are segregated from the larger population combined with romanticism about their cultures perpetrated by the media, the very real problems facing Native Americans, and Native American women in particular, are often overlooked or ignored. These problems, while similar to those faced by women nationwide, are perpetrated on a much grander scale and occur within a quagmire of confused legal jurisdiction and tribal rights.
Consider these facts:

  • 1 out of 3 Native women will be raped in her life.
  • 3 out of 4 Native women will be physically assaulted.
  • Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average.
  • Domestic violence and assault occur at 2.5 times the rate of other groups in the United States.
  • 88% of the violent crimes against native women are committed by individuals of another race.
  • Over 70% of sexual assaults are never reported.
  • Native governments are allowed to prosecute 0% of cases involving non-Indian perpetrators.

While domestic violence, assault, and rape occur throughout the general population, Native American women are particularly vulnerable to these crimes for a myriad of reasons. Alcohol use is high in reservation-based populations, as is poverty and unemployment. Education is generally less accessible and underfunded. These factors combine with tribal versus federal land rights, legal jurisdiction for prosecution, the history of the federal government’s treatment of Native American populations, and geographic and cultural isolation. All of this can result in a volatile and dichotomous situation – combining powerlessness and cultural pride, forced dependence and independence of spirit, and victimization and victimizing behaviors.
There have been some promising changes, recently, including the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which is intended to give tribal governments more power on their lands. However, there is still a long way to go. Native women still hang in a limbo of lack of legal protection and societal vulnerability.
So, this month, we challenge you to Do Something: learn more, educate yourself, talk to your friends and family about issues facing Native American women. Watch the video below and visit the following websites for more information.