Editorial: Injustice for indigenous women

"In many creation stories, a woman was the first being to walk Mother Earth. In honor and reverence of this first woman, all matters of import were bestowed upon her daughters and granddaughters. Throughout history, indigenous women bore and supported life, tended to sustenance and medicines, brought forth leaders and themselves led nations. And so it is a sorrowful time, then, when we are confronted with painful reminders of a long history of the subjugation of indigenous peoples by systematically degrading women.

''From the oldest to the youngest, Native women are disrespected and treated in the most humiliating fashion, living and dying without justice or the knowledge that their granddaughters will live free of the violence they experienced.'' This passage, taken from testimony by Sacred Circle on the Violence Against Women Act, helps breathe life into the devastating statistics at the center of a groundbreaking report on violence against indigenous women.

Amnesty International's 113-page report, ''Maze of Injustice - The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA,'' released April 24, asserts that the U.S. government has ''created a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators to rape with impunity,'' and that these crimes are ''compounded by failures at every level of the justice system.'' American Indian and Alaska Native women are nearly three times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. According to the Department of Justice, nearly 90 percent of the reported cases of rapes and sexual assault of Native women are committed by non-Native men. It is a staggering legacy for women to ''fully expect to be raped,'' as one elder stated in the report, because they are Indian.

The report contains interviews with courageous survivors and advocates, including stories of abuse and injustice so vivid, the mind does not want to believe they are true. Each story illustrates why so many survivors describe their experiences seeking justice as being raped ''all over again.'' Incompetent medical personnel, non-responsive or slow-moving law enforcement, conflicting jurisdictions and underlying racism that affects court proceedings are common obstacles.

The U.S. government's chronic underfunding of tribal justice systems has critically undermined efforts to protect Native women from this terrible fate. The federal government's ''official indifference'' remains a major contributor to the marginalization and dehumanization of indigenous women. If any shame is due, it is to the United States for allowing this ethnic terrorism to persist."

Get the Story:
Incredible injustice for indigenous women (Indian Country Today 4/27)

Get the Report:
Full Report | Press Release

Online Discussion:
Violence against Native American and Alaska Native Women (April 24, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Join Voices with Native American and Alaska Native Women and Take Action to Stop the Violence - http://www.amnestyusa.org/maze

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