Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
South End Press | 250 pp | $18.00
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Discussion »
With the US Senate taking up the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, known as S. 47, this coming week and First Nations chiefs calling on the Canadian government to establish a National Public Commission of Inquiry on Violence Against Indigenous Women of all ages, I thought it appropriate to revisit "Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide" by Andrea Smith, Cherokee, that was published by South End Press in April 2005.
The book should be a briefing book for every member of Congress.
Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside, co-founded INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, which has become the largest feminist group in the United States.
Given the subject matter, "Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide" is not an easy book to read. Smith provides a provocative look at sexual violence against Native women, one of the most dreadful and despicable issues faced by Native today in the United States and Canada.
In the United States, in recent several decades, sexual violence against American Indian women has reached epidemic proportions. Sadly, one in three Native women will be raped, three in five will suffer domestic abuse and on some reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is 10 times the national average. The US Department of Justice reports 88 percent of the perpetrators of the crimes are non Native males.
US Attorneys declined to prosecute 52 percent of violent reservation crimes, including 67 percent of reservation based sexual assaults.
In Canada, the numbers are just as horrible.
"Aboriginal women face life-threatening, gender based violence, and disproportionately experience violent crimes because of hatred and racism," according to the Native Women's Association of Canada. Aboriginal women experience violence are 3.5 times more likely to face violence than non-Aboriginal women.
Most non Native people are totally shocked when they hear these horrific statistics.
They find the statistics disgusting and wonder why they never have heard about them.
Smith argues the devaluation of Native women since Euro-American contact has allowed for the virtual non coverage by the media about the violence against Native women. It stands to reason, when the problem is not covered by the media, people will not know about it.
Smith takes the reader back to the beginning by writing sexual violence against women has been "a tool of patriarchy and colonialism in Native communities, both historically and today."
The forward by Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe, sets the tone for Smith. She writes:
"Dignity, love and life. These principles ground social movements for justice, movements for change. We are people who are about creating, strengthening, and growing these movements."
While the short book is filled with history of colonialism, boarding schools, lack of adequate judicial protections for Native women, and even a lesson on sovereignty, among other concerns important to Native peoples, Smith offers ideas on change in Native communities that may work towards safer communities that are free of sexual violence.
Sadly, Native peoples have been acquainted with the subject matter far too long. I wish every member of the 113th Congress, especially those who oppose tribal jurisdictional provisions of legislation would take time to read "Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide" as a briefing book for an understanding of why this subject is important to and for our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters and cousins, both in the United States and Canada.
posted February 2, 2013 10:50 am est
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