Violence on our rez is at an all-time high. Gang fights, domestic violence, child abuse, aggravated assaults and sexual assaults are commonplace in our homelands. Many tribal members seem to just accept the fact that violence will always be a part of living on the rez. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our children deserve better.
I’ve see graphic pictures of battered women and children on the internet. It is one thing to see online photos and quite another to see it in real life. I have seen women walking around with black eyes and swollen faces which are obviously the result of a severe beating. Many of our women have had their teeth knocked out by a domestic partner, boyfriend or husband. There are women and children who have died from injuries inflicted upon them by a man.
Even after the wounds of a beating have healed, people who have survived these attacks will still carry the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual scars resulting from abuse. Some of our people were abused as small children and they carry the physical scars of that abuse into adulthood. Abused children often grow up to be violent adults. Others have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the attacks they suffered at the hands of someone who once professed to love them.
Our small children are now witness to an enormous amount of violence. They are also victims. Some children have even lost their young lives because of the choices made by adults. Children often have front row seats to gang fights, assaults on a parent or grandparent, alcohol related car crashes and community vandalism. Some incidents witnessed as a child are forever burned into our memory. Many of us will remember a violent incident we witnessed as a child. You might have PTSD and not even know it.
Nowadays, our young children grow up as primary witnesses to the violent acts taking place on a regular basis in their homes and communities. This week the politicians in Washington, DC will vote on whether or not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). There are some powerful elected national leaders, who are charged with making the decisions affecting the lives of our children, against portions of this crucial legislation.
VAWA contains language which specifically offers protection to Native American women, immigrants and members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Apparently, some Senators and Congressmen/women are totally against extending protection to some of the most abused human beings in this country.
I did not vote for Senator John Thune, nor did I vote for Congresswoman Kristi Noem. They are Republicans from South Dakota who both oppose the VAWA as it is currently written. This state has many residents who are Native American women, immigrants or members of the LGBT community. To oppose legislation written to protect me as a Lakota Winyan from excessive violence is akin to standing against my basic human right to live in a peaceful environment without fearing for my life.
While browsing the World Wide Web over the weekend, I found a blog site owned by Jayson Brave Heart. He is one of my Facebook friends and an Oglala Lakota who grew up on the Pine Ridge Rez. He gave me permission to include parts of a piece he wrote.
Brave Heart’s words summarize the feelings many of us have regarding South Dakota’s Republican Representatives and their mission to dismantle crucial provisions of the VAWA:
“Dear white men: Move to an Indian reservation today, get an Indian girlfriend, and beat her all you want!” This is what Congresswoman Noem and her Republican lackeys want you to know. I was raised that you never hit a woman, period. As an Indian man, I was taught this was the Lakota way and the Christian way. But I guess my parents and the bible were wrong. Of all American women, Indian women need the most protection. 1 out of every 3 Native women will be raped, 39% will be victims of domestic violence. Kristi Noem thinks this is ok, but I am pretty sure rape and domestic violence are not very Christian. South Dakota’s Congresswoman Noem (R) and the House Republicans are trying to strip the protections for Native women from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this Tuesday in Congress. [On] Some Indian reservations, up to 70% of the population are non-Native. We live in a modern society with lots of interracial dating and marriage. Arcane, outdated, federal law leaves white men who live on Indian reservations, who date and marry Native women, free to beat them. Federal law has tied Native American Tribes hands behind their back, unable to protect their most precious and sacred asset, our own women. The Indian provisions in VAWA would fix this loophole and recognize Tribes’ concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government to prosecute any man who beats an Indian woman, regardless of his race. VAWA would fix this loophole. Congresswomen Noem wants this stopped! White men should be free to beat their own Indian woman! As an Indian guy, if I come to your town and beat one of your white women, I go to jail. If one of you white guys comes to my reservation and beats one of our Indian women, you get to make a joke about it in Facebook and a free beer.”
Women and families everywhere are in need of more protection against their violent partners. When a man assaults a woman he should be charged with a crime and put in jail so he can think about what he did. Jurisdiction should not matter. We can’t even get Native American men jailed for assaults against women and children so I am not sure why the powerful politicians in Washington, DC think we are going to lock up hundreds of non-Indians.
Call Kristi Noem at (202) 225-2801 and tell her to vote for the VAWA as it is written.