Did You Know Indigenous Women Have Higher Rates of Violence Acted Against Them?

A crowd of people marching behind a large banner held by 4 people wearing masks to symbolize those who can no longer speak, that says No More Stolen Sisters on top and bottom sandwiching the letters MMIW for Women's March of 2019
Activist at Women’s March of 2019 with masks over their faces symbolizing those who can no longer speak

By Katrina Arellano

Though it is heartbreaking to hear tragedies day in and day out, talking about the experiences of others and how their lives are affected by violence is crucial to understanding the impact. Something that is not often talked of is how American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) women have higher rates of violence acted against them such as domestic violence, sexual assault, homicide and even stalking. The homicide rate of AI/AN women are second to African American women, but higher than white women. According to the Reclaiming Power and Place report, native women are 12 times more likely to experience violence in comparison to their white counterparts. All the research is accumulated over the past 30 years, documenting the statistics revolving around indigenous people on reservations, such as AI, AN, and within urban areas such as Canada and Mexico, where 71% of AI/AN live.

Info graphic of statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women by the Urban Health Institute that says #MMIW 84% of Native American and Alaskan Native women will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner. 56% of women will experience sexual violence. 55% of women will experience physical violence by an intimate partner. 48% of NA & AN women will experience stalking.
Statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women by the Urban Health Institute

According to a 2016 Research report from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), 84% of AI/AN women have experienced violence in their lifetime. To put this percentage into further perspective, this comes out to over 4 in 5 AI/AN women. While the stats on crimes against indigenous women are documented, the data on missing and murdered indigenous women does not have a database, but a likely inaccurate number of 5,712 Native women and girls are missing. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, only 116 of those cases reported were logged in the US Department of Justice’s federal missing data base. These numbers, and rather the lack of, reflect a much-overlooked epidemic and institutional racism, despite past reforms that have tried to close legal loopholes that separate the responsibilities between Tribal and State Law.  

Most of these cases are never solved which means Native women are not likely to have justice brought to them because, as stated by the Indian Law Resource Center, the “race-based criminal jurisdictional scheme created by the United States has limited the ability of Indian nations to protect Native women from violence and to provide them with meaningful remedies.” Distinguishing between tribal and federal/state law prevents these nations from having criminal authority over non-Indians simply because they are not of their tribe. The lack of criminal authority over non-Indians, the ones who commit the most acts of violence against Native women, is due to the prosecution being left to the state. Since federal and state officials have the authority over non-Indians vs. the tribes due to differences in jurisdiction and control, prosecutions are often declined. The U.S. Crime Victims Funds are not distributed equally among tribal lands as they are the rest of the states. The funds make up a billion dollars meant to update their resources and support services. According to the Department of Justice report of 2017, “from 2010 through 2014, state governments passed only 0.5 percent of the available funds to programs serving tribal victims, leaving a significant unmet need in most tribal communities.”

The lack of attention to the epidemic of violence against women was studied by the UIHI and found “the lack of quality data include underreporting, racial misclassification, poor relationships between law enforcement and American Indian and Alaska Native communities, poor record-keeping protocols, institutional racism in the media, and a lack of substantive relationships between journalists and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.” It seems these cases are not often talked about not only because of the lack of data documented, but also the lack of reporting by media outlets which come out to 95% of cases never covered by national or international media. UIHI analyzed the coverage that has taken place, concluding 50% of the 46 media outlets used violent language such as racial stereotyping, reference victim’s criminal history, victim-blaming language, or made excuses for the perpetrator. University of Kansas professor, author, and member of Muscogee Nation, Sarah Deer said,

“I think the reason that Native women may go missing at higher rates than other groups of people is very similar to the reason that they are at higher risk for domestic violence and sexual assault. The legal system is simply not functioning properly (to prevent) these types of things from happening.”

The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 was implemented as a means of ensuring Tribes can access law enforcement databases, which in turn is meant to increase public safety within Indian country and decrease violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. Without this law, the funds to solve and bring justice to the crimes were not there. Tribes want to keep their members safe, but before this law they were lacking in tribal officers, whereas now the law increases efforts to recruit, train and keep them. Implementing this law enhances the authority tribes have to prosecute and incarcerate criminals through better data collection as well as provides resources for survivors, such as legal advice. Reports show how when tribes are given more funds for training and a means of investigation, such as control over investigating and persecuting nontribal members, perpetrators were arrested and convicted more often.

Info graphic on statistics of missing and murdered indigenous women which says 5,712 is the number of known incidents of missing and murdered Native American and Alaskan Native women of 2016. Only 116 cases were logged into the DOJ database. 67% is the number of cases between 2005-2009 that U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute of native community matters involving sexual abuse. 96% on some reservations, the number number of sexual violence against Native women committed by non-natives.
Info graphic of statistics on violence against women by the Urban Indian Health Institute

Because so many Native women go missing and are rarely found, Montana finally implemented a bill in the name of a missing Native woman, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind , 22, who was found floating in nearby water. A tragedy like this is one of many examples of state police not taking cases of missing women seriously. Though she was found dead, her body was found, which is better than not finding her at all. The Savanna Act is a federal bill meant to enforce collection of data on missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) cases between tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, but it does not address or take into consideration the difference between urban and federal jurisdiction which seems to be the basis of the problem of why violence against native women is not documented, resulting in the lack of criminal justice. Honoring Savannah Native women alike is the intention behind naming the bill after her, but according to the bill, the data on Savanna herself would not be logged under the federal government like the bill aims to do. Just last week, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, spoke with the brother of a missing women, Olivia Lone Bear, who was recently found a mile from her house, dead in a truck submerged in a lake, 9 months after the report was made. The tribe urged for the lake to be searched by the state because they did not have the means of investigating water on their own. This story is one of many which reflect the lack of respect and seriousness taken for tribal peoples. Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is the most recent step in restoring tribal jurisdiction because without further tribal authority, suspects and perpetrators will continue to go uninvestigated and therefore Native women and girls will continue to be victims at higher rates. The lack of attention to MMIW cases emanates a lack of care towards indigenous women therefore acting on the crisis of violence against them starts with seeing Native women as victims.

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Intro to the Editor

Me, the editor, in a gender bent cosplay of Ryuji Sakamato from Persona 5.

Hello there! I’m Amy Alfredson, the editor of the Women’s Center Blog. It is my pleasure to introduce myself to you in the hopes you understand a bit more about me when reading some of the articles here. I am a first year M.A. English student here at the University of Idaho. I received my B.A. in English at the University of Oregon in Eugene and came into my current personal and political ideologies there. As a developing literary critic, I like to look for queering or ambivalence of gender and sexuality in literature, specifically in novels from the 18thand 19thcenturies. I find there is no better motivation for studying and researching than being able to claim and prove a character is highly progressive in an older text. 

Slightly outside of the realm of class and studies, I participate in the U of I marching band. This is my first year marching with this band, but I have marched trumpet for the last six years in high school and at my last university. I am absolutely in love with the music we play, especially the fact that we play both Nintendo and Foo Fighters in the same field show. I’m also a beginning member of the fencing club on campus. It has been my dream for so long to learn how to fence, and it is nice to see a large presence of women in a sport that was originally created for duels between men. 

Continue reading “Intro to the Editor”

Why Aren’t More Women In STEM?

By: Madeleine Clow

Women are a quarter of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) work-force population in the Unites States. Recently the number of women in STEM has been declining. Why is this happening? A study conducted asking men and women if they thought they were intelligent enough to work in a STEM field. Only 40 percent of women were confident in pursuing a STEM career compared to 60 percent of men. Where is this psychological effect coming from? Why do women believe they are not intelligent enough to pursue a future in a STEM field?images.png

Women need to begin to believe in themselves again. We can do this by looking up to our role models. Positive strong female role models are very important for a girl contemplating pursuing a STEM field. If she sees an intelligent, capable, woman handling a career in STEM, then hopefully that will encourage her to continue to make future steps into becoming a woman in STEM. My cousin, Jacqueline Clow, is a bright young woman who pursued a career in STEM, knowing fully well the baggage that comes with it. Continue reading “Why Aren’t More Women In STEM?”

Remembering Katherine

By: Madeleine Clow

Katherine Groggett was not only a strong leader and a passionate learner, but she was a loving friend, family member, and a beautiful soul. I only personally knew Katherine briefly, but she left a glimmer of light in my life that I have so much more drive to sha-

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Katherine on her 20th birthday

re now, for her memory. Katherine came to the University of Idaho community as a freshman and new member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority Theta Tau chapter, where Katherine and I crossed paths.

 

Katherine was a junior at the University of Idaho, and studied dietetics, a nutrition science. She was incredibly dedicated to and passionate about dance, and had been most of her life.

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Katherine performing at a dance concert

She was a beautiful dancer with flawless technique and infallible talent. Katherine was currently in term as president of Tri Delta’s Theta Tau chapter, promoting to “steadfastly love one another” and support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

 

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End the Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women

By Madeleine Clow

Disclaimer: Native American Indian Tribal People do not identify themselves under one label. “The question is usually posed as, ‘do you prefer to X ,Y , Z?’ to which I am expected to choose from one and categorize who I am, further marginalizing myself, and possibly someone else. It’s always difficult to answer this question because ‘I’ do not necessarily identify with any of these terms.” – Courtney Tsotigh-Yarholar, Indian Country Today

Native American history has been riddled with genocide and pain since the introduction of colonialism. The Trail of Tears is a painful memory of the forced relocation and resettlement of the Native American people to their current reservations. Originally, 15 million Native Americans began the Trail of Tears—today, there are a total of 5 million. Contemporary Americans may not be familiar with the history of the past century of Native Americans in the United States. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Native American children were forced to attend Indian Boarding School, in order, to “kill the Indian, save the man.” More recently, in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Native American women unknowingly went through forced sterilization by the Indian Health Service, because they were deemed unable to use other forms of birth control on their own.

These malicious acts made against Native Americans caused deep distress and dejection throughout Indian nations, that continues to affect their lives today. The unemployment rate among American Indians today is 85 percent. American Indians are 500 percent more likely to die of alcoholism than the average American. The suicide rate among American Indians is 62 percent higher than the average American. Native youth have the highest rate of suicide among any other ethnic group in the United States. One in ten American Indians become victims of violent crime. A recent study showed that the vast majority of Native women in the United States have experienced sexual assault or rape. According to the Indian Law Resource Center, “More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence.” Why is this happening and what can we do to help American Indian and Alaska Native women? Continue reading “End the Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women”

Unshaved Armpits

By Kate Ringer

She is perched at the top of a steep, concrete step, the curve of her calf accentuated by the strain of her pose. There are her legs, tan and endless; a flip of a sleek ponytail; the seductive pucker of her lips as she peeks over her shoulder and leers at the camera; the strip of her flat belly, framed by her tight black crop top and the Daisy Dukes clinging to her waist; then, finally, her perfect butt, like two crescent suns emerging from the clouds of denim.

I am almost salivating, wanting to shout, “Damn, look at her butt!” but I keep my thoughts to myself.

I am not the best feminist.

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A Letter to Myself

By Makayla Sundquist

The author holds her grad cap with the words "I'm psyched" on it
Holding my psychology related grad cap. I’m obviously very punny.

As my senior year comes to a close, I am almost forced to reflect on my college experience. I have grown tremendously in four years, and because this is my last blog post, I wanted to write a letter to myself as a young college freshman. Maybe this will be relatable. Maybe you will gain insights. Maybe this letter will spark similar memories. Perhaps, you will hate it. (I hope not) Whatever you take away from this post, I am going to write it anyway.

Dear freshman Makayla,

Your high school boyfriend is going to dump you.

Goodness, had we known that we could have saved ourselves some serious heartache. It is going to tear your heart out, and destroy your self-esteem. Here is my advice…please do not go looking for attention from other men. I know it’s hard. I know you just want to feel appreciated and validated. However, they cannot give you what you need. Girl, you need to build yourself up. Focus on you. Go to coffee with your friends. Go on walks. Cherish your alone time. Getting too drunk and hanging on boys at parties is not going to fix the hole he left. Love yourself first. Self-esteem was always a hard thing for us, but as a new independent adult, that is something we have to work on. You’re really awesome, and I promise you will figure it out eventually.

Stop selling yourself short.

(Senior Makayla is still working on this, so nobody is perfect.) You are talented and athletic. You are kind and you are smart. You are creative and you are friendly. These are important qualities, so focus on them. You have a great smile. Smile more often. Negative self-talk will get us nowhere.

Continue reading “A Letter to Myself”