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Old 10-05-2005, 05:36 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Protecting Indian Women

Protecting Indian Women Vital for Native Communities
Native American Times guest commentary
by Louis Gray - 10/5/2005

Kudos and Ahos to the United States Senate for passing the reauthorization of the violence against women act. For Indian women the bill is particularly important because no other class of either gender suffers more. The statistics on violence toward women are mind numbing. It is the shame of this country.

While everyone worries about the importance of gaming, protecting sovereignty, and other exalted ideas, too many of our Indian women are just trying to get through the night. They even find themselves unable to defend their own children from evil predators who see Indian communities as feeding grounds.

Those who in their sickness yearn to harm women and children talk among themselves on disturbing websites. The have identified the states with the harshest penalties, zero tolerance for registering as a sex offender and other problems in doing what they like to do. They have targeted Indian country, reservations, rancherias and communities as the very best place to prey on Native women.

Indian women were once and at times still referred to as “Squaw” which is reportedly an eastern Native word for a woman's genitals. The word is repugnant and sickening as a way of addressing Indian women. Some high school teams who had Indian mascots like Braves or Warriors once used Squaws for the female squads. Thankfully most schools changed this disrespectful practice. To be fair most did not know what the word meant. But from the standpoint of objectifying Indian women it is harmful even on it's own.

Reauthorization of the bill is in reality a band-aid on a major wound. Tribal programs addressing domestic violence is complicated and it’s going to take more than a shelter. The problem requires education and a commitment to reverse this deadly trend.

The problem is also legal. One in three Indian women are raped. One in three. That constitutes an emergency. It would immediately be addressed if it were happening to any other racial group. Indian women are given third world status in terms of being treated with respect and dignity. Indian people are the most physically assaulted racial group in the United States. More specifically, the most physically assaulted race of people assailed by other races. Accordingly, other races beat up Indian people in far greater numbers than any other racial group. Rape and murder falls under the seven major crimes Indian courts cannot prosecute. More importantly Indian courts cannot try non-Indians for crimes against their own people. And the bad guys know this.

The bad guys also know sex offenders are least likely to be asked to register as a sex offender on reservations or in Indian Country. Tribal police officials have been accused of looking the other way in too many cases regarding violence toward Indian women. Perhaps they have given up, maybe they don't respect Indian women, or perhaps the national attitude toward women and especially Indian women has created this attitude of harsh insensitivity toward females.

Indian groups, tribes, and everyone else must remember the old adage, which says, "Evil reigns so long as good people do nothing." This bill awaits President George W. Bush's signature. We encourage him sign this bill and work to make it stronger.

Women have waited long enough.


Louis Gray is a former editor of the Native American Times and a regular contributor.

NTN Article#: 7066
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