my ancestral grandmother was kidnapped and raped by a white man at the age of 13. she was kept in an “Indian pen” and one of her children was murdered by this man. that story has haunted my family for generations and we have still not come to terms with being descendants of that horrific violence.
i am a Native woman survivor of domestic violence and rape. i can’t even tell you how many times i’ve been raped because i don’t know; i have been drugged and date raped multiple different times by multiple different men. two of those men called me Pocahontas (even though i look nothing like the Disney character!), and told me they couldn’t wait to fuck me because they thought all Indians are dead, and since we’re dying out I’m probably the last opportunity they’ll get.
i work for a Native woman’s organization that fights violence against Native women by advocating for policy changes, pushing for community dialogue on healthy relationships & violence, & supporting survivors of violence and tribal programs that provide support. i have heard & read stories, both at work and in my personal life, that made me puke. the realities of violence against Native women are so dark, sometimes to cope i have to set aside a few hours for prayer. i sit and cry and pray and cry and pray until i fall asleep exhausted. i carry each story and each photo and each girl and woman with me everywhere i go and in all the work i do. i don’t get to leave my work life at work, and i don’t want to; my work and my community and my personal life and my heart are all in the same place.
this is all to say that i am deeply invested in dialogue on violence against Native women. as a Cheyenne, i am from a culture that is often appropriated from (hipster headdresses being the most common example); that said, it still pains and disturbs me to see people casually throw out statistics on the violence that i & so many of our Native sisters have experienced in defense of the sanctity of a headdress, when so few are defending the sanctity of Native women. the 1 in 3 stat doesn’t even come close to doing justice to the realities of violence against Native women, and reciting it doesn’t do anything to support the women that make it up or end the patterns of violence set in place.
where are the NCAI commercials on the lack of justice for indigenous women? where are the trending hashtags that fight for a world in which Native women are treated with dignity and respect? where are the hordes of people in the streets demanding that the government address the widespread trafficking of Native women, create a comprehensive database of missing & murdered indigenous women, or actually pass a VAWA amendment that would grant tribes jurisdiction over ALL cases of violence against our women, and not just those in which the victim can prove it was intimate partner violence? true warriors are those who fight with their people in their hearts, who first and foremost defend the most endangered of their community—the Indian Wars of the 19th century started with the rape and murder of several Lakota women, and even when the Lakota had decided to stop fighting, they rejoined after they heard of the gendered violence at the Sand Creek massacre. don’t forget that! fighting for our nations has always been fighting for the honor and safety of our women, so step up and be a real warrior already.