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Violence against our women kills us all

From Indian Country Today


Violence against our women kills us all


Throughout Native North America, great attention is paid to the common thread that binds our communities together – women, the lifegivers.

Sadly, from a survey of the landscape, things are not looking so good.

Despite the passage of new federal legislation that will bring direly needed resources to our communities, the violence largely has not been stemmed, and is, in fact, getting worse in some places.

At worst, Native women have been deemed disposable, literally tossed aside on roadsides and alleys like trash. Only three weeks ago, a 22-year-old woman was killed after being thrown from a fifth story window by drug dealers in downtown Vancouver, and she wasn’t the only one.

More than 583 aboriginal women in Canada have gone missing and been murdered, according to a groundbreaking report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. The actual number is much higher, according to the 3,000 family members who signed petitions last year looking for their missing mothers, daughters, sisters and aunties.

We know there are ignorant, racist and uncaring attitudes pervasive among non-Native law enforcement agencies. If Vancouver police had listened to the scores of families who sought their help in locating their relatives, at least 13 women would not have died at the hands of serial killer Robert Pickton. The mishandling of his case has spawned fresh outrage in Vancouver, as well it should.

We know our children are being stolen and prostituted in major cities across Canada and the United States – trafficked in the sex trade and silenced by their invisible station in life with practically no power to defend themselves.

We know that statistics in the United States and Canada demonstrate that Native women are beaten, verbally abused, mutilated, prostituted and murdered in skyrocketing numbers that defy reasonable explanation.

We know from U.S. Department of Justice statistics that one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes. We know there are jurisdictional problems that impede prosecutions, and too few law enforcement personnel to handle the hundreds of calls reporting acts of violence.

It’s hard to be hopeful sometimes given the overwhelming evidence. The needs are too great, it seems.

But this is not a story about defeat. We understand – like our mothers and grandmothers before us – that giving up is not an option.

Women give life, nurture children, feed our families and communities with faith, hope, prayers and hard work. They pull off heroic acts of sheer will to keep going no matter how hard things get.

Here’s what else we know. Native societies share a worldview that our women are sacred. We call them daughters of the Earth and acknowledge their special roles and responsibilities. They are a part of what keeps life and relationships in balance.

We cannot give up hope and must continue efforts to change the dysfunction and destruction that is tearing our women, families and communities down.

Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated grassroots people and those who fostered the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Violence Against Women Act, improvements in the law are happening.

New funding, training programs, additional facilities and personnel dedicated to stopping the violence are coming to aid our collective efforts.

But money and programs are not enough. It takes all of us, working smarter, together.

Change is not easy, but it is possible.

Let’s do this for the sake of our children, our nations and the generations to come.

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