Topic: Violence against Indigenous & Native Peoples in America & Burma.
The roots of many modern conflicts can be traced back to exploitative, harmful policies set in place by foreign and/or dominating colonial powers. We see the effects of these policies widespread across the globe in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (King Leopold of Belgium’s “backyard”), Sudan, the United States’ reservations, Burma/Myanmar, and many other violent or contentious hotspots. The policies that prioritize things such as economic development, resource accumulation, and political autonomy over the health, wellbeing, and livelihood of local people has extremely harmful effects that last for generations. While it is impossible to address every instance of harmful, colonialist policy and impact, we are zeroing in on the dire situation in Burma as President Obama is to visit there later this month, and the issues facing native and indigenous communities in the United States as Native American Heritage Month begins.
Understanding the Issues
We in the United States have a longstanding history and tradition of colonialism, forced assimilation, and violence against American Indians. European settlers stole land, forced religious conversion, enslaved, and murdered swaths of native people in the name of capitalist conquest and white male supremacy. Just as the ripple effects of slavery are still felt by many black and African American people today, First Nations people still experience the ripple effects of colonialism, forced isolation, and resource conquest by White settlers, explorers and politicians, lack of economic opportunity and lack of support from federal or state government agencies. This has contributed to major issues like violence against native women, and high rates of suicide among native youth.
Violence Against Native Women
“Indian women are 2 ½ times more likely to be assaulted and more than twice as likely to be stalked than other women in this country. Today, one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and six in ten will be physically assaulted. Even worse, on some reservations, the murder rate for Native women is ten times the national average. Some 88% of these types of crimes are committed by non-Indians over which tribal governments lack any criminal jurisdiction under U.S. law and, according to the Census Bureau, 77% of the population residing on Indian lands and reservations is non-Indian. While federal authorities have exclusive jurisdiction over most of these crimes, U.S. attorneys, often located hundreds of miles from a reservation, are declining to prosecute 67% of sexual abuse matters referred to them from Indian country,” (indianlaw.org). Further, by the time police arrive upon a survivor’s call (which can be anywhere from half an hour to many days), her abuser has usually either fled or she has been convinced or pressured not to pursue any charges.
Native Love is a video project of the Indian Law Resource Center and the National Indegenous Women’s Resources Center. “The project is raising awareness about the epidemic levels of violence against Native women and aims to spur dialogue and positive change to help end this crisis and restore safety to Native women.” For this project, six Native people living in Alaska — Sam Alexander (Gwich’in), Princess Lucaj (Gwich’in), Allan Hayton (Gwich’in), Jessica Black (Gwich’in), Sarah James (Gwich’in), and David Farley (Omaha) reflect on the meaning of Native love.
#MMIW and #AmINext Movement in Canada
In Canada, there have been more than 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women reported in the past 30 years. The Canadian government has refused to launch an inquiry into this crisis, which prompted the creation of the #AmINext hashtag campaign in early September. “#AmINext has been used by Aboriginal Canadian women and their allies to demand answers. Many social media users utilizing the hashtag hold signs asking how many more missing and dead women it will take for the government to launch an official inquiry into the crisis. #AmINext aims to both raise awareness and pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to take action.” (Mic.com).
Cultural Appropriation, Racism, and Football
From music festival fashion to inappropriately themed “cowboys and indians” fraternity parties, appropriation of native cultural identity and traditions have plagued our communities and seriously offended tribal nations around the country. This year, there was a movement among music festivals to ban the use of headdresses as fashion statements for non-native festivalgoers, which was a major step in preventing the spread of racist fashion trends and their prevalence in the media. We have also seen costume shops all over the country popping up around Halloween time with sexualized “Pocahottie” costumes and others that demean, exoticize and trivialize native cultural traditions. Perhaps the most notable issue is the national debate addressing the deeply problematic and racist name of the Washington Redskins football team. The use of this word desensitizes our society to the violence that it represents, and it is deeply hurtful to American Indians. Cultural appropriation and racial epithets in mainstream culture are, in and of themselves, a form of violence which denies dignity and self determined representation to native cultures.
Indigenous musicians and artists
There are so many amazing native artists and musicians whose work seeks to honor and bring visibility to their heritage, culture, traditions, and identities. One of those artists is Supaman, whose video is below. “As a member of the “Apsaalooke Nation”, Supaman makes his home on the Crow reservation in Montana. The name “Supaman” hardly describes the person who is Christian Takes Gun Parrish, a humble Native American dancer and hip hop artist who has dedicated his life to empowering youth and educating listeners with a message of hope through culture and music. He is a young energetic entrepreneur with tremendous leadership abilities. His presentation style and delivery are nothing short of captivating. Known for his tremendously powerful inspirational lyrics, he is in demand nationally with the purpose of spreading a positive message throughout Indian country and abroad.”
This month we have a few possible actions for you to take. Change the Mascot is a national campaign to have the name of the Washington Redskins changed. It was started by the Oneida Indian Nation, and it calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to stop using the racial epithet and change the name of the team.
Please share the "No Honor in Racism" video as well as the Native Love video via social media, and the above video for the Change the Mascot Campaign can be shared using the hashtags #ChangetheMascot and #NoHonorinRacism. We also encourage you to do one or more of the following: