Genevieve Le May Abstracts

Genevieve LeMay

Ph.D. Candidate

American Indian Studies GIDP

 

2018 4W Summit on Women, Gender, and Well-Being – Our Bodies, Our Earth: Voice, Violence, and Peacemaking

Madison, Wisconsin

April 12-14, 2018

 

The Cycles of Violence Against Native Women: Historical and Current Legislation, Changing Gender Roles and Extreme Extraction explores the pervasive violence experienced by Native American women from a feminist perspective. To do so, this presentation begins with an historical analysis of colonial domination, which caused a drastic change in gender roles for Native American women.  Following this, I demonstrate the ways that United States (U.S.) legislation, policies, and laws perpetuate cycles of violence against Native American women in the U.S., focusing particularly upon the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.  This presentation will also examine how sex trafficking has increased due to environmental destruction, such as oil drilling, and fracking (Extreme Extraction) and how it intersects with the cycles of violence against Native American women.   According to the Department of Justice, violence against Native American women -- more than any other ethnic group -- is a crisis in the United States. “…American Indian and Alaskan Native women experience a higher rate of violence than any other group, including African-American men and other marginalized groups” (Deer, 2005). This violence leaves a legacy of historical trauma that is difficult to eradicate because of the colonizing-patriarchal attitudes and legal systems that continue to exist.


Abstract for Lay Audience

The right to live free from violence is one of the most fundamental and important human rights; one that is a key component in internationally recognized documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a condition that many people in the United States take for granted but is not always true for Native American women.

Without question, Native American women experience violence more frequently than non-Native women (Sokoloff and Dupont, 2005). Feminist intersectional approaches to this problem indicate these women experience a double bind of discrimination being both Native American and women. Moreover, the possibility that a woman will experience violence is likely to increase if she lives on a reservation and/or lives below the poverty line, which is common because unemployment is often high in these contexts. Furthermore, Native American historians note that traditional leadership roles for women have been devalued and often deliberately undermined by colonial forces based on Eurocentric patriarchal systems. Consequently, Native American women’s status has changed from one that was far more equitable to men, to one that is often characterized by marginalization.  

According to the Department of Justice, violence against Native American women -- more than any other ethnic group -- is a crisis in the United States. (Deer, 2005). One Justice Department report concluded that one in three American Indian and Alaskan Native women will be raped during their lives and six in ten will be physically assaulted. Statistics also reveal that 86% of the perpetrators are non-Native. Further, on some reservations the murder rate is ten times the national average (Indian Law.org 2015; Tribal Consultation/ OVW/ Department of Justice 2014; Amnesty International, 2008). This violence leaves a legacy of historical trauma that is difficult to eradicate because of the colonizing-patriarchal attitudes and legal systems that continue to exist in the U.S.

In addition, many laws and policies enacted or upheld by the United States Congress and the Supreme Court have helped to create legal systems that function to keep Native women’s experiences of violence unrecognized (Indian Law.org, 2010). When the United States government passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013 it had an opportunity to allow full sovereign powers to the 567 federally recognized tribes, so they could prosecute Native American and non-Native perpetrators within their own jurisdictions. Instead, tribes are still under the watchful eye of the United States government.   Native nations continue to feel as though the U.S. government does not hear their legitimate concerns, refuses to acknowledge how severe this issue remains, and does not grant the money necessary to implement the resources needed to support Native American women.  

Furthermore, a current issue affecting Native American women is the rising problem of sex trafficking in areas dominated by extractive industries such as oil drilling and fracking and “man camps” that house workers for months to years and resemble army barracks or large mobile home complexes (Buckely, 2014). Highly publicized performances like The Extreme Extraction and Violence Against Native Women event hosted by Winona LaDuke uncover patterns of sex trafficking in regions of extreme energy extraction and pipeline construction that not only bring devastation of the Earth but also increased violence against women.  As such, this presentation illustrates the crisis facing Native American women which very few people are aware of unless you are living in Indian Country. It also argues how sexual violence is intertwined with gender and Eurocentric legal systems which perpetuate the cycles of violence and, more specifically, how Native American women are responding to the crisis.

Last updated 5 Jun 2019